The 3 Best Robot Mops 2021 | Reviews by Wirecutter

2021-12-25 02:22:23 By : Mr. Simpson Lu

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A good robot mop is like an automatic Swiffer: It won’t make your floors sparkle, but it will wipe up splatters and some grime, and it can be a handy, low-effort tidy-up tool for busy areas like your kitchen, bathroom, and mudroom. We tested 10 different bot-mops, and we think that the first one you should consider is the small, simple, smart-enough iRobot Braava Jet 240.

We tested 10 different models at home over five months, and we analyzed more than 6,000 owner reviews for further insights.

The best robot mops work about as well as a wet Swiffer: great for stains and splatters, and decent on some greasy, grimy stuff.

Some models can clean huge spaces, but we think they’re best suited for kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways.

A bunch of robot vacuums come with clip-on mops, though they don’t clean stuck-on stuff like dedicated mop bots can.

This small, quiet bot automatically wipes down one or two rooms at a time, with less fuss and better results than other robot mops. It also costs less than most, and it may be more durable. If you run it regularly, your busiest rooms will never get too grimy.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

The iRobot Braava Jet 240 is slightly more effective at removing stains and grime than other robot mops we tested, and it’s a little simpler to use, too. You attach a cleaning pad (disposable or reusable; iRobot makes both types), fill the small reservoir with water (and, optionally, cleaning solution), plop it down near the edge of the room you want to clean, and press the start button, and it handles the rest. The small bot—measuring only 7 by 6.7 inches—moves quietly in an orderly back-and-forth pattern and usually doesn’t miss any patches of flooring. The Braava Jet 240 isn’t as quick, clever, or controllable as some other robots; it’s meant to wet-mop only one large room or two small rooms at a time (something like 150 to 200 square feet), and you can’t program how it navigates. But in a lot of homes, it’ll be all the robot you need, because you probably don’t need to mop most of your rooms often. iRobot also has a very good reputation for making durable, repairable products, as well as for keeping spare parts available for ages. Like all robot mops, the Braava Jet 240 is safe to use on any kind of sealed hard flooring.

With many of the same great qualities as the smaller Braava Jet 240, the Braava Jet m6 has a bigger battery and water tank, plus a sophisticated navigation system that lets it clean larger areas and even specific rooms on command. It struggles with rug edges and thresholds, though.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $350.

If you want to use a smart-home app to control when and where your robot mop cleans, or want to be able to mop multiple rooms at a time (up to 1,000 square feet), you could upgrade to the iRobot Braava Jet m6. It’s essentially a smarter, larger version of the Braava Jet 240. The navigation system is the key upgrade: The m6 uses a camera that helps it learn the layout of your home after two or three cleaning sessions per level (and it can learn multiple levels). After it’s been “trained,” you can use an app to tell the bot to clean specific rooms while skipping others. You don’t have to use these advanced navigation controls if you don’t want to, though it’s also kind of the point of paying to upgrade to the m6. (A few other robot mops have smart navigation systems that work well, too, though those models either cost much more or don’t clean as well as the m6.)

Like any robot mop, the m6 is not quite an auto-magical, hands-off experience: You still need to change the pads and fill the reservoir after every cleaning session (and remember to sometimes order fresh supplies or wash the reusable pads). Rugs and thresholds can also trip up the m6 as it tries to navigate between rooms—a side effect of its above-average cleaning performance, since the cleaning pad hugs the ground tighter than on other bots. There are a host of reasons why the m6 might end up disappointing you, but if you have a home that’s well suited to its limitations and you buy it with appropriate expectations, it can be worth the price. And there’s no other robot mop with this combination of smart navigation and above-average cleaning performance, from a brand with an established track record for durability and long-term support.

The S5 Max is one among loads of great robots that can both vacuum and (kind of) mop, but Roborock has a better reputation than other combo-bot brands. If you’re looking into getting a robot vacuum anyway, and your mopping needs are modest, the S5 Max could be a good choice.

You can find plenty of combined or hybrid vacuum-mop robots. But don’t count on a combo bot to wipe away most splatters and greasy buildup: They don’t apply as much downward pressure or scrubbing action as a dedicated robot mop does, and most models are meant to work only with water—no detergent. But if your floors tend to stay pretty clean, or if you mop or Swiffer by hand regularly anyway and just want some help staying tidy between those deeper cleanings—and you’re looking for a robot vacuum anyway—you could consider a combo. Look for a model with lidar navigation (you can recognize this feature by the circle-shaped bump on top of the bot’s body), which is excellent for speedy, whole-home navigation.

The Roborock S5 Max is a notable example of a combo bot, with ever-so-slightly smarter navigation and greater control than on many others like it, from a brand with a decent track record for customer support. But there are plenty of other combo models that are very similar, and we don’t have a strong preference for any particular one.

This small, quiet bot automatically wipes down one or two rooms at a time, with less fuss and better results than other robot mops. It also costs less than most, and it may be more durable. If you run it regularly, your busiest rooms will never get too grimy.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

With many of the same great qualities as the smaller Braava Jet 240, the Braava Jet m6 has a bigger battery and water tank, plus a sophisticated navigation system that lets it clean larger areas and even specific rooms on command. It struggles with rug edges and thresholds, though.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $350.

The S5 Max is one among loads of great robots that can both vacuum and (kind of) mop, but Roborock has a better reputation than other combo-bot brands. If you’re looking into getting a robot vacuum anyway, and your mopping needs are modest, the S5 Max could be a good choice.

For this guide, I tested 10 robot mops. Six of them were dedicated mop-only robots, while four were vacuum-mop combo robots with more advanced mopping features than on typical combo robots. Most of the testing took place between late spring and early fall of 2021, though I had tested a few of these gadgets earlier.

I also drew on my experience testing about a dozen other vacuum-mop combo robots for Wirecutter’s guide to robot vacuums, which I’ve written since 2013. I’d treated those robots as vacuums that happened to have optional mops, and I tried out their mopping features from time to time but didn’t pay too much attention to them.

I’ve also written or edited Wirecutter guides to a bunch of other floor-care products, including traditional vacuums of all types, carpet cleaners, and (coming soon) upright vacuum-mop combos.

In addition, Wirecutter recently analyzed more than 6,000 Amazon customer reviews for 10 different robot mops and vacuum-mop combos (most of which we also tested), with the assistance of an artificial-intelligence-driven tool called FindOurView. It gave us loads of detail about the features that owners appreciate most, as well as a statistical breakdown of the kinds of features and bot behaviors that owners tend to find especially delightful or frustrating.

A robot mop is an almost-automatic replacement for a Swiffer WetJet or other spray mop: a convenient way to wipe away stuck-on splats of food and to keep grime from building up, without the physical labor of pushing a mop.

Bots are especially useful for maintaining a baseline level of cleanliness in high-traffic, extra-messy rooms like kitchens, bathrooms, mudrooms, and entryways. If you run a bot regularly, you’ll get to enjoy a near-constant state of unsticky, unstained floors, without the nagging sense that you’ll need to find time to clean them by hand. You’ll eventually have to bust out a traditional mop or bucket and brush to deal with some spots that the robot mop can’t reach (like edges) or scrub sufficiently (like grout lines). But you can put off that kind of tedious deep cleaning for much longer than you would without the robot.

Good robot mops are also easy to set up, and they shouldn’t need babysitting while they work. There are some important differences in the ways that they navigate around your home, but the best one for you depends on your needs and the layout of your space. (We’ll get into these differences below.)

Like any wet-mopping products that use water or mild detergent, robot mops are safe to use on sealed bare floor surfaces, including most finished wood, sealed stone tiles, laminate, vinyl, and linoleum.

If you’re hoping for truly hands-free mopping automation, you might be disappointed. You’ll still need to do a bit of setup and cleanup around most (if not all) cleaning sessions. Depending on the model and how large of an area it’s cleaning, regular chores might include replacing the cleaning pad, refilling the reservoir, or carrying the robot between its charger and the room you’d like it to clean. If you don’t keep up with this maintenance, the robot won’t work well, and it can even become kind of smelly and unhygienic. That said, the experience is still less of a hassle than the setup and cleanup for a traditional mop. The cadence of care is pretty similar to that of a Swiffer or an upright vac-mop combo like the Bissell CrossWave.

You can use a robot mop if you have rugs or carpets in your house, but some models are better than others at navigating around rugs. If you plan to use a simple robot mop (like our top pick, the iRobot Braava Jet 240) to clean only one bare-floored room at a time, this is a nonissue. Things get more complicated if you want your robot to clean a larger area with a mix of rugs and hard floors. If that’s the case, the right fit for your home depends on how much of your floor is covered, how the rugs are laid out, and how much you care if your rugs get a little damp sometimes. There are no hard rules here, but the gist is that mop-only robots tend to struggle more in homes with lots of rugs than vacuum-mop combo robots do.

As with any kind of mopping tool, you really ought to vacuum or at least sweep before you run a robot mop, so it doesn’t just push around solid debris and spread grime. Some models, like both of the iRobot Braava bots we recommend, can work as dry dust mops and can pick up very lightweight solid debris such as hair and, uh, dust. But their dust-mop modes can’t collect heavier debris such as food crumbs, yard waste, road grit, cat litter, and so on.

Do robot mops have a place in the stable of modern floor-care tools? Yes, though they aren’t clearly superior to the other options.

While I was testing robot mops, I was also testing some upright vacuum-mop combos like the Bissell CrossWave. Plus, I own a Swiffer WetJet (and a short stack of washable pads for it). So I had access to three different types of convenience-oriented mopping tools for almost six months—and I actually found myself rotating among all three types pretty consistently, with no strong, enduring preference for any one. You can choose whichever method seems like it’ll be the best fit for your budget and preferences.

Here are the cases for most of today’s popular wet-cleaning tools:

This is a diverse category, with a few different approaches to cleaning and navigation. But regardless of the differences, all robot mops should be pretty good at the following:

Orderly navigation: Most robot mops move around a space in an orderly, deliberate pattern, without missing patches of flooring. This means that you can mostly count on the bot to clean an area thoroughly, which is what you want for a messy, high-traffic room (like a kitchen, bathroom, or mudroom). We recommend only those robot mops with some version of an orderly navigation system.

A few bots navigate randomly, which can be frustrating if you want your dirtiest rooms wiped down reliably. If you can’t close the doors on the room you’d like to clean (to prevent the robot from wandering off), you’ll need to give the bot a lot of time to get the job done—and it won’t always succeed in a single session. With so many better navigators available for just a bit more money, we don’t think these random-nav robot mops are worth it. (Astute readers might notice that Wirecutter recommends some robot vacuums that use random navigation. We stand by that advice because aimless vacuuming isn’t as pointless as aimless mopping.)

Among robot mops with orderly navigation, some can navigate from room to room and clean larger areas, while others are better for cleaning a single room at a time. Both types have value, depending on how you plan to use yours.

If you just want a robot to clean a couple of busy, messy rooms (kitchen, bathrooms, mudroom) a few times per week, and don’t mind carrying the bot between those rooms, you can get a simpler robot, like our top pick, the iRobot Braava Jet 240.

If you’d prefer something closer to a hands-off experience, with the option to automatically clean any (or every) room at any time, you need a bot with a bigger cleaning pad and reservoir, a longer-lasting battery, and a navigation system that’s smart enough to learn your home’s layout, like our upgrade pick, the iRobot Braava Jet m6, or a vacuum-mop combo robot with a lidar navigation system like the Roborock S5 Max. (You can recognize lidar bots by the bump on top, which is actually a turret that shoots invisible lasers to find walls and some obstacles.) These bots can be especially great in homes with predominantly bare floors and flat, unobstructed transitions between rooms.

But homes with lots of rugs or thresholds are trickier for most robot mops to handle, even the higher-end models. Mop-only models, including the Braava Jet m6, struggle the most in this environment. Those obstacles might as well be walls or stairs: There’s no way through or over. The bots can only navigate around the obstacles via rug-free, level paths, and some bots cannot self-navigate to any rooms or patches of floor that are cut off by these common features. Combo bots are better at crossing rugs and thresholds, but they get rugs a little damp in the process and still don’t always work flawlessly. So the more rugs and thresholds your home has, the weaker the case for upgrading to a higher-end robot, because it won’t be able to work to its full potential.

Stain and grime removal: Most robot mops wipe floors with absorbent cleaning pads, and the best ones also use detergent, a jet to squirt the cleaning solution in front of the bot, a scrubbing motion of some sort, and downward pressure on the floor with the pad. These models are able to wipe away many stuck-on stains and some grimy buildup.

If you aren’t counting on your robot mop to wipe away really tough stains—maybe just a little mud, say, or splashes of black coffee—you can get away with a weaker system. We like some robots that use only water and a one-pass, low-pressure wiping motion that’ll work fine for this level of cleaning.

Even if you have to pay extra for a bot and supplies from a reputable brand, you may save money in the long run because you get to use the same robot for longer.

Affordable, readily available supplies: Most robot mops have a similar cadence of care: Remove the used pad or dump the dirty-water tank shortly after the end of a cleaning session, refill the reservoir with water and maybe a small amount of concentrated detergent (good luck trying not to spill a little!), and attach a fresh pad. Then there’s the rigmarole of washing the pads (if they’re reusable) or ordering replacements for disposable pads and cleaning solution anytime you run out. Our take is that no robot mop model has a real advantage in ease of maintenance.

What does differ is that it’s easier with certain brands’ bots to find and buy extra pads and cleaning solution, or even spare parts. Some brands barely support their models beyond the initial sale—and sometimes they even vanish from the internet after a few months, so you might have a hard time finding fresh supplies for those bots. Don’t overlook this point! Even if you have to pay extra for a bot and supplies from a reputable brand, you may save money in the long run because you get to use the same robot for longer.

Durability: This is a big unknown, because most of the robot mops you can buy today haven’t been around for long. iRobot (which makes the Braava line) is one exception, so we gave its bots a bit of an edge in our assessments because of that. The company has a good track record for making durable and repairable products, as well as for keeping replacement parts in stock for a very, very long time. (iRobot still sells supplies for the original Roomba robot vacuum, which came out in 2002.) The other reputable labels (such as Roborock) have been common in the US for only a couple of years; we simply don’t know what to expect from them, let alone the slew of lesser-known brands.

I brought in 10 robot mops with some idea of what would make them good, and then I figured out during testing what actually made them good. These are the ones I tested:

Over the course of about five months, I used each of these models for at least a week at a time as my primary mop at home, to clean my tiled bathroom and my vinyl-floored kitchen/mudroom. If a model worked well, I’d use it for a few more weeks, at which point I’d try it on wood floors, too. Once I narrowed the list down to the best few models, I did some side-by-side testing to see how well they each dealt with tough stains like stuck-on globs of marinara, maple syrup, or goopy egg.

My house is busy, with two adults working from home full-time, a 3-year-old with a strong independent streak (but whose coordination and manners are still a work in progress), and an aging long-haired cat. As I’ve learned from testing robot vacuums, this is a challenging home for many robots to navigate, with tall, wide thresholds that bots often get stuck trying to climb over (MP4). I also have a few area rugs that are big enough to cover most of the floor in a room but small enough that they leave islands of bare flooring that are particularly tricky for robot mops to navigate around.

This small, quiet bot automatically wipes down one or two rooms at a time, with less fuss and better results than other robot mops. It also costs less than most, and it may be more durable. If you run it regularly, your busiest rooms will never get too grimy.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $170.

The iRobot Braava Jet 240 is a great robot mop because it’s simple to use, less expensive than most, and still smart enough and effective enough to do a good job tidying up the rooms that you need to mop most often, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways. You can buy a smarter, faster robot if you want one, but you probably don’t need it.

After testing 10 robots, we found that the Braava Jet 240 was as good as any of them at mopping floors. It works like an automatic version of a flat spray mop (basically a Swiffer WetJet), tidying up floors through the combined efforts of a textured and absorbent pad, water, detergent, and a few different kinds of scrubbing action (downward pressure, vibration, and a back-and-forth motion). It can’t suck up solid debris or puddles of liquid, but we found in our testing that it can remove most food-based or other biological splatters, and even some stuck-on grime. (In our testing, we mostly used the blue wet-mop pads, which automatically set the Braava Jet 240 to its strongest cleaning mode—more details on the pads and modes shortly.) Owner reviews tend to speak positively about the Braava Jet 240’s cleaning ability, especially when the reviewers recognize that the bot is meant to keep floors tidy, not to deep-clean them.

We think that for most people, the Braava Jet 240 is the lowest-hassle robot mop to live with. In most kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways, you can trust the Braava Jet 240 to do its job without much hand-holding. That means you’ll be more likely to run it regularly, and that kind of consistency is the key to keeping your floors clean. It’s dead simple to set up, and fresh cleaning supplies are widely available at many major online and in-person retailers. Based on our testing and our research into customer reviews, we believe that the Braava Jet 240 is more likely than other mop bots to successfully clean a room without getting stuck on a mop trap (such as a threshold or rug edge) or wandering off randomly.

The ideal cleaning cadence will vary from household to household. For what it’s worth, I found that running the Braava Jet 240 two or three times per week in my kitchen/mudroom worked well, and once per week in my bathroom was fine. Remember: You should plan to vacuum or sweep before you run your mop if there’s any large, hard debris like cat litter or crumbs.

One of the keys to the Braava Jet 240’s glorious simplicity is that it has one button: Clean. You attach a pad, fill the reservoir, put the bot down in the room you’d like it to clean (preferably along a wall, facing the center of the room), and press Clean, and it figures out the rest. There’s an “off-menu” trick called Virtual Wall, which creates an invisible barrier that the bot won’t cross and is useful if you find that the robot tends to wander out of the area you want it to clean. You can technically turn the Virtual Wall on or off with the iRobot app (via Bluetooth) if you’re within a few feet of the bot. But the single button does the bulk of the work here.

The Braava Jet 240 does have different “modes,” but they’re determined by the cleaning pads: The bot sees a simple code, pre-punched into the pad’s backing, and automatically adjusts its behavior accordingly. It’s an elegant system. The blue pads activate the wet-mop mode, in which the bot sprays lots of liquid and moves in a deliberate, back-and-forth scrubbing motion. (This seems to be the most widely used mode, based on the relative popularity of the pads on Amazon’s best-seller list.) The orange pads turn on the damp-mop mode, which uses less water and moves faster (and predictably isn’t as good at cleaning stuck-on splatters). The white pads turn on the dust-mop mode, which runs dry but quickly picks up clingy debris.

iRobot sells all three types of pads in both disposable (with dry detergent already added to the pads) and machine-washable, reusable versions (which work better if you add iRobot’s detergent to the reservoir). The disposables are moderately expensive at roughly $8 for a pack of 10. You can maybe—maybe—use those pads for two sessions each depending on the room size, but the costs and waste add up, especially if you run the bot regularly. Reusable pads are likely to lead to a lower cost of ownership, even if you pay for a few sets for the sake of convenience. We didn’t run extensive side-by-side testing with both types of pads, but going by our casual around-the-house use, we can say that the disposable and reusable pads seem to clean similarly well as long as you use detergent with the reusable versions.

The Braava Jet 240 navigates in predictable, back-and-forth rows around a room, so it usually doesn’t miss patches of flooring or waste too much time going over the same spots again and again. It reliably finds its way around obstacles like furniture legs, figures out where the walls are, and tries to clean near them in a deliberate pattern. It also moves pretty quietly, with the background whirr of the wheels and water jet settling into a constant rhythm as the bot works. It isn’t the most advanced navigation system you can get in a household robot, and it has its limitations (more on those shortly). But it’s much more reliable than the random navigation that the lowest-end robot mops use—and, in a lot of homes, it’s likely to be nearly as practical and less error-prone than the fancier navigation systems that promise greater automation.

The iRobot Braava Jet 240 might not be quite as sophisticated or automatic as you’d expect a robot cleaner to be circa 2021.

It doesn’t have a charging dock, so you’ll need to remember to remove the battery and plug it into a wall charger after most cleaning sessions. Because it doesn’t learn the layout of your home, it starts with a blank slate at the beginning of every cleaning session. You’ll have to carry it to whichever room you’d like it to clean and start it by hand, and its small battery and water tank can clean only 150 to 200 square feet at a time (plenty for one room, often not enough for two). It has no scheduling function, nor any real smart-home functionality. And it never actually knows where one room stops and the next begins, so it might sneak beyond the boundaries of your kitchen or wherever if there aren’t any doors or barriers (though it’s still very good at cleaning the intended area first).

But again, the Braava Jet 240 is enough robot for the most important mopping jobs: kitchens, bathrooms, and entryways. If you would like a robot that can cover more ground, more automatically, you can certainly upgrade to a higher-end model like the Braava Jet m6. But we think a lot of people will be perfectly satisfied with the Braava Jet 240’s capabilities.

To be fair, navigation is one of the most common complaints that owners have about the Braava Jet 240. According to an AI-assisted analysis of about 1,500 recent reviews of the Braava Jet 240 on Amazon, common complaints include that it misses spots (5% of reviewers), it goes over the same spots multiple times (5%), it gets stuck in some places (4%), and owners feel like they need to watch it (4%). But compared with other robot mops that we looked at, the Braava Jet 240 actually has fewer complaints related to navigation than most models. For example, Bissell SpinWave reviewers complain at much higher rates about that bot getting stuck (18%) and missing spots (13%). The iLife Shinebot W450 doesn’t go where it’s supposed to, according to 15% of reviewers. And iRobot’s other Braava models (including our upgrade pick, the m6) have much higher rates of navigation-related complaints, too.

Like a lot of other robot mops, the Braava Jet 240 doesn’t clean grout lines, is lousy at cleaning edges along walls and cabinets and furniture legs, and has a tiny opening for the water reservoir, which makes it tough to add the recommended bottle-cap-sized dose of cleaning solution without spilling.

With many of the same great qualities as the smaller Braava Jet 240, the Braava Jet m6 has a bigger battery and water tank, plus a sophisticated navigation system that lets it clean larger areas and even specific rooms on command. It struggles with rug edges and thresholds, though.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $350.

The iRobot Braava Jet m6 is like a bigger, smarter version of the Braava Jet 240, with the same cleaning ability and some similar elements in its navigation system and interface. In the right home, it can cover more ground and work more automatically than the smaller Braava thanks to smart, app-supported navigation. But the upgraded features can’t solve every problem that the Braava Jet 240 has, and this bot may be a straight-up disappointment in homes with thresholds and lots of area rugs.

If you want to mop large areas regularly, though, the m6 can be a worthy upgrade. Compared with the Braava Jet 240, the m6 has a wider cleaning pad, a larger reservoir, and a longer-lasting battery, so it can clean more space, faster. In a single session, iRobot claims, the m6 should be able to clean about five times the area of the Braava Jet 240 (1,000 square feet versus 200). So if you want to mop your kitchen, and your dining room, and the kids’ playroom, and so on, weekly or even a few times per week, the m6 can do that much more easily than the Braava Jet 240, which is built to clean only one room at a time. We suspect that most people don’t need to wet-mop that many rooms that often, so the extra capabilities might be overkill, but it’s an option if you need it.

The upgraded navigation system in the m6 holds the promise of greater control and even automation. In practice, however, it’s a mixed bag.

The navigation system uses a camera to learn the layout of your home, which it then turns into an interactive “smart map” in the iRobot app. From the app, you can command the m6 to clean specific rooms and skip others, and it’ll handle all the navigation on its own—you don’t need to carry it around like the Braava Jet 240. It’s a clever system, and we’ve found in our own testing as well as analysis of customer reviews that it works well in most homes most of the time. (It’s the same system as in some of iRobot’s higher-end Roomba robot vacuums, which have been available for years and have largely positive reviews.) You can train the m6 to learn multiple floors in your home, too, and you don’t need to purchase multiple docks (though the engineers haven’t figured out how to get it to climb stairs yet). You can also adjust a few cleaning settings through the app, such as the amount of water the m6 sprays per squirt.

iRobot suggests that the m6 will navigate most homes seamlessly, but in the real world it often falls short of what owners have been led to expect.

However, the m6 can struggle to travel between rooms when it has to cross thresholds or maneuver around rugs. Basically, any kind of height transition is a problem for the m6 (probably because it hugs the ground so tightly in order to clean better). You should count on it to clean only flat areas with contiguous bare floors. (You could consider a combo bot like the Roborock S5 Max if you want a model that’s better at handling height transitions, but such bots don’t clean quite as well.) The app includes a tool that you can set up to try to help the m6 cross thresholds. But in our AI-assisted review analysis, 15% of owners who wrote reviews on Amazon (out of 1,000 reviews we analyzed) complained that the bot still couldn’t cross them.

Even if your home is conducive to smooth, hands-off navigation, you still have to touch the bot nearly every time you use it to replace the cleaning pads and top off the reservoir. It’s not some kind of magical machine, and the advanced mapping system can’t automate away the mild tedium of maintaining the robot.

It’s concerning that there are so many negative reviews for this robot: 34% of the 1,000 most recent reviews on Amazon came with a lowly one-star rating (out of five), and another 21% rated it just two or three stars. We dug into the specific complaints, and the dissatisfaction with the m6’s general navigation stood out: 13% of m6 reviewers wrote that it got stuck a lot in general (triple the number of Braava Jet 240 owners who said the same), while 9% wrote that the m6 struggled to clean all the areas they wanted it to clean (about double the rate for the Braava Jet 240). iRobot suggests that the m6 will navigate most homes seamlessly, but in the real world it often falls short of what owners have been led to expect.

However, in the right homes and with the right expectations, the m6 is actually really good at what it does. Like the rest of our picks, the Braava Jet m6 comes with a one-year warranty.

The S5 Max is one among loads of great robots that can both vacuum and (kind of) mop, but Roborock has a better reputation than other combo-bot brands. If you’re looking into getting a robot vacuum anyway, and your mopping needs are modest, the S5 Max could be a good choice.

If you’re thinking about getting a robot vacuum cleaner anyway, you might consider buying a hybrid or combo vacuum-mop. They’re essentially robot vacuums that come with an optional clip-on mop and a water reservoir. Most of these models just drag a microfiber cloth across the floor as they vacuum, using only water (no detergent) dribbled into the pad from a reservoir (instead of being sprayed onto the floor).

This type of combo robot can be good for wiping up the occasional drink splatter or thin layer of dust that a broom or a weak vacuum tends to leave behind. Essentially, they’re best in homes where the floors don’t get very dirty very often: Maybe you don’t cook on the stovetop much, or the people (or pets) in your household aren’t especially messy, so you rarely need to scrub away stuck-on food or grime.

Tons of these robots are available. We’d recommend a model with lidar-based navigation (a circular turret on top of the bot is a clear sign it uses lidar); it’s a quick and accurate system that relies on invisible lasers to help the robot navigate your home in an efficient, orderly pattern, avoiding many obstacles along the way. The customer reviews for bots with lidar navigation systems are overwhelmingly positive, with a noticeably higher rate of satisfaction than those for robot vacuums and mops with other types of navigation systems, according to the AI-assisted analysis we ran.

The Roborock S5 Max is a good example of a vacuum-mop combo robot. We don’t have a strong preference for Roborock compared with other models from brands like EcoVacs or Proscenic or the half-dozen others we’ve tried, because most of them work similarly. (Several of these brands seem to use many of the same components and software in their robots, based on what we’ve learned from our testing, talking to industry sources, and scanning the popular wholesale storefront Alibaba.) But Roborock as a brand has earned a solid reputation for making above-average robot vacuums, with above-average customer service relative to other brands that make affordable lidar bots. And reviews suggest that its mops (which simply clip on to its robot vacuums as an optional feature) are as good as those of any combo bot. But if you find a different robot vacuum-mop with lidar navigation for a tempting price, it’ll probably perform fine.

Let’s use the Roborock S5 Max as a representative example. Among other tweakable settings, the S5 Max lets you control the mop’s moisture level, room by room, through the smartphone app. You can ramp it up to the highest level in the kitchen, for example, and then turn it off in rooms with rugs. The bot will still drag the damp cloth across the rug, but we’ve found that it’s not very troublesome—you might notice that your rugs feel a little damp if you walk across them in bare feet right after the robot crosses, but they aren’t soaked, and they’ll dry quickly. (Many other combo units have this moisture-adjustment feature, but several do not. Without the control, water drips into their pads at a steady, non-adjustable pace—which can mean more dampness on rugs if the bots cross them, though it’s still not a catastrophe.)

The main downside is that combo robots don’t clean as well as dedicated robot mops, since the combos are meant to use only water and usually don’t scrub back and forth or with much downward force. Drips of coffee and a dusty footprint? Sure, a combo bot will work fine. But anything oily or grimy, not so much. You’ll still need a stronger mop for those kinds of soils, whether it’s a robot, a Swiffer, or a traditional mop. In customer reviews, only a few percentage points’ worth of combo-bot owners even comment on the mopping features, and it’s usually just a neutral acknowledgement that the mop exists and works okay but doesn’t replace a real mop.

A bunch of combo bots have mopping features that are more advanced than those of the Roborock S5 Max and others like it, aimed at boosting the bots’ utility as all-around floor-cleaning machines. These features, such as vibrating pads or pads that lift themselves away from rugs, tend to make a small, positive difference, but it’s a stretch to say that any of them are worth paying extra money for. A dedicated mop of any sort—robot, Swiffer, string mop, whatever—just cleans much better, and with less fuss, than trying to adapt a combo bot for dedicated mopping duty.

The top-of-the-line Roborock S7, for example, automatically lifts its mop a few millimeters when the robot senses that it’s on a carpet. The feature technically works most of the time, though I still felt some isolated dampness around the edges of my rugs after using it—a lot like I did with other vac-mop combo bots.

Certain higher-end combo bots also add a little extra scrubbing action, such as a vibrating pad (Shark AI Robot Vacmop, Roborock S7) or a more deliberate wiping pattern (too many to list). These tricks make the combo mops slightly more effective than simpler bots. But they still don’t clean stuck-on soils, and they leave plenty of grime that stronger cleaning bots pick up easily.

Even the combo bots that are approved to work with detergent aren’t as effective as a dedicated robot mop. The most advanced model we tried was the Shark AI Robot Vacmop, which picked up more sticky, grimy stuff than the other combo bots did. But in following Shark’s dosing recommendations, we found that it also left behind a ton of residue. And it still didn’t work as well as dedicated mops, we think, because it didn’t scrub with as much downward pressure. The Shark also doesn’t cross rugs at all with its mop bracket attached, so that can pose a navigational challenge in some homes.

One question we haven’t answered is whether it’s safe to use a bit of detergent in robots that are recommended for use only with water. We simply don’t know right now.

So if you’re interested in a vacuum-mop combo, our advice would be to keep it simple. And if you find yourself struggling to figure out whether such a machine would be good enough and flexible enough to work well in your home, it probably isn’t. Instead of spending extra on a fancier combo model, just buy a dedicated robot vacuum and a dedicated robot mop, even if they’re both relatively simple. You might even save some money that way.

The Narwal T10 promises to be even more automatic than a regular robot mop, and it basically delivers on that promise. If your budget is large, and you really want to do as little work as possible to keep your floors wiped, the Narwal might be worth the investment. But it’s pretty rough around the edges for something that’s so expensive (normally $1,100). You could buy an excellent robot vacuum and an excellent robot mop for less money total than the Narwal, and they’d be almost as automatic and much more effective.

As with the iRobot Braava Jet m6, you’ll get the most out of the Narwal if you want to regularly mop a large area (more than just the kitchen, bathroom, and mudroom). What’s unique about the Narwal is the giant dock, which holds two 1.3-gallon water tanks: one for unused cleaning solution, to dampen the robot’s microfiber pads prior to cleaning, and one for dirty liquid, sucked out of those same microfiber pads after cleaning.

Here’s how it works: The dock soaks the bot’s pads with fresh cleaning solution. The bot drives away, cleans a small area (50 to 70 square feet), and then returns to the dock, which sucks the now-dirty liquid off the pads and replaces it with fresh cleaning solution. The bot drives back to where it left off and repeats the process until it can’t find any new areas to clean. (Or, if you’ve set up the smart-map system, until it finishes cleaning the rooms you told it to.) Once it returns to the dock, a quiet fan runs at a low speed to dry the pads.

This pad-replenishment system helps the Narwal avoid a few of the problems that most robot mops (including all our picks) have: The pads get too dirty or damp to be useful after cleaning just one or two rooms, and you must remember to replace them after every session. In general, the Narwal can clean the same types of messes as other robot vacuums but over a wider area, because it keeps replenishing its cleaning pads.

The navigation system also does a great job of plotting an efficient and accurate path around your home, and—at least in theory, after some setup—it gives you a ton of control, through an app, over where and when and how the robot cleans.

But in the real world, the nav system has some serious flaws. The app that controls much of the advanced navigation features is glitchy, laggy, and unintuitive next to other bots’ apps. Despite the high price, the Narwal robot has no built-in carpet-awareness features, so it’ll just mop your rugs unless you draw “keep-out zones” in the app by hand, guessing—to a pixel—where your rugs lie on the low-resolution, 2D map. Plenty of robots that cost a lot less than the Narwal make it much easier to avoid carpets.

As with any other dedicated robot mop, you’ll still need to pre-vacuum. The Narwal does come with a vacuum attachment, but it has no brush roll, so the pickup is mediocre (especially on rugs). Also, since you need to manually install that attachment every time you want to use it, the whole system feels a lot less automatic.

For some people, it might be challenging to fill and empty the tanks, which weigh about 8 pounds each when full. And, as with any robot from a small company, we’re worried that it might be hard to find spare parts or even replacement detergent strips for the Narwal as time goes on.

The iRobot Braava 380t is an ooooold robot mop, pretty outdated as of 2021. The navigation system was cutting-edge years ago, when the 380t was one of the few robots that didn’t just bonk around semi-randomly. It still basically works, but it relies on a separate navigation cube, which is a little clumsy by today’s standards (and is just one more part that you can accidentally misplace). The cleaning performance is mediocre, as well: When we tested the even older (now-discontinued) Braava 320, it did fine wiping up light stains, like a vacuum-mop combo bot. Based on our analysis of customer reviews, we can say that the 380t works similarly, though one of the most common complaints is that it dispenses cleaning solution at such a slow rate that it’s often better to just pre-wet the pad before you attach it to the bot. There also seems to be a higher rate of complaints about reliability than for other iRobot products.

It’s fun to watch the Samsung Jetbot Mop glide across the floor on its rotating pads, rarely getting stuck, never following a path that makes sense but looking so whimsical while it works that you might not care. That might explain why the owner ratings for the Jetbot Mop are actually a tick higher than those for most of the other robot mops we’ve looked at—it looks good, even though it does very little. The Jetbot Mop can barely clean any stains, at least not when it’s used as directed. You’re not meant to use any detergent, and the scrubbing action from the pads is weak, so it barely makes a dent on food splatters or stuck-on grime. We’ve also spotted a few bots on Amazon that look identical to this Samsung, including the EveryBot Edge Mocha. We aren’t sure what the deal is—namely, whether some manufacturer licensed the Samsung brand for the bot or somebody is knocking it off—but we would expect that they would all perform similarly.

The iLife Shinebot W450 is the only true wet-dry vacuum-mop robot currently available, as far as we’ve been able to find. Unlike most robot mops, it cleans with a spinning brush roll and suction, and it has a built-in reservoir filled with cleaning solution, plus a tank for dirty water and debris. We found that in some ways, it cleans a little better than the pad-type robot mops (including every other model we’ve covered in this guide). The Shinebot certainly left floors looking shinier than the other robot mops we used, probably due to the brush roll’s polishing action, and because it sucks up some of the cleaning liquid from your floors, rather than smearing it until it gets absorbed. There are two main problems with this robot: First, the navigation is unreliable. In some rooms, it’s thorough and orderly. In others, it misses huge patches. We found this in our own testing, and it’s echoed in customer reviews. (We were never able to connect the W450 to Wi-Fi to use the companion app, either.) Second, maintenance is a pain. There’s no great way to thoroughly clean the dirty-liquid tank, which also fills up with solid debris like hair. There’s a foam filter you’re supposed to wash regularly, but it’s easy to overlook. iRobot used to sell a similar product called the Scooba, which was often criticized for its maintenance requirements—or for not working properly if you skipped the maintenance. We worry that the Shinebot will run into similar problems.

You can also find loads of vacuum-mop combo robots with random navigation, which is okay for vacuuming small spaces but not ideal for mopping. We selected one of these models, the Bissell SpinWave Wet and Dry Robotic Vacuum, for testing because it has the best mopping specs of the field, including rotating scrubber pads and compatibility with detergent rather than just water. It cleaned fine but tended to leave a little residue behind when we used detergent. The real downside is the random navigation system, which is an inefficient way to clean a must-mop area like the kitchen. It also had trouble with rugs, sometimes getting hung up on the edges and sometimes climbing right up onto the rug and then mopping it (not what we wanted).

Liam McCabe is a senior staff writer for Wirecutter, and has covered the wild world of appliances since 2011. After testing dozens of robot vacuums, he is neither worried about AI nor holding his breath for self-driving cars. He enjoys visiting factories and learning about regulatory loopholes, and has flooded our testing area only three times.

We’ve tested dozens of robot vacuums, and recommend the sturdy, strong, smart-enough Roomba i3 first, followed closely by the super-clever Roborock S4 Max.

by Tim Heffernan and Liam McCabe

Pets shed constantly, and the only vacuum that can keep up with all that hair is a robot vacuum, but a good all-around traditional vacuum can also help.

For a dependable, versatile, and affordable cleaner, we prefer a bagless upright, but we have recommendations for other types of vacuums as well.

After testing the iRobot Roomba i7+ since 2018, we still think its the most refined, smoothest robot vacuum experience you can get—if you can afford it.

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