irobot scooba 385 – a review after 4 months of use

cleaning robots are on the advance, and even here in traditional austria, more and more people start to get interested in one or the other brand. however, unlike vacuuming robots such as the irobot roomba series, wet-floor-wiping robots are somewhat controversial and met with general suspicion.
i’ve been enjoying the services of the irobot scooba 385 (or: “the little one”) since the end of december, and would like to share my long-term experience in the following review.

irobot scooba 385: the official product photo of this floor wiping robot

brief description
irobot is a company specialising in cleaner-robots, and the scooba series is (to my knowledge) the first family of wet-cleaning robots in their portfolio. the scooba 385 is a robot designed to wipe stone floors, (sealed) hardwood floors, vinyl or laminate floors of up to 40 square meters.

various sensors make it possible to avoid stairheads, table legs etc. if you want to limit the cleaning area, there’s also a battery operated “virtual wall” which is included in the package.
scooba has a little vacuum module to remove dust and minor pollutions before applying water, but it’s still necessary to vacuum before. conveniently, irobot also has a few robots variable of that in their product range. ;)
it randomly switches betweeen three different navigation modes to cover as much of the floor as possible: spiralling, following the borders and just going straight.

the robot itself basically consists of the lower locomotive portion and the upper removable water tanks (clean and dirty water are separated). in between, it fits a sizeable rechargeable battery. there’s also a little mesh filter and rubber gasket, as well as the brush element at the lower side of the robot. these three parts can (and need to) be removed and rinsed with water.
for each run, scooba is filled with an amount of water/cleaning solution that is equivalent to the area: 1 liter for 40 m², 0.5 liters for 20 m² etc. the wiping robot will continue cleaning until the clean water tank is empty, which means you can give your room a little extra cleaning by filling in more water.
you can have your floors cleaned with the special irobot cleaning solution, white vinegar, or just warm water. so far, i’ve opted for the second option.

first impression
the first time i tried to run the scooba 385, the results were subpar. at most: on a pre-vacuumed laminate floor, it left a wide, wet trail as it circled around the room. while the floor looked a bit cleaner, the tank for the dirty water was nearly empty at the end, which meant that scooba had just sprayed the floor with water.
looking into the manual, i found out that there are two removable parts with rubber gaskets. before every cleaning run, you need to make sure they’re correctly in place, or else the robot can’t build up suction.

happily ever after
the result of a good wiping run: a clean, almost dry floor (scooba 385 review) keeping this little point of information in mind, the robot has since served me very well. it still amazes me how dark the water of the dirty tank turns out after just one or two weeks of normal flat use.
i’ve used it with various floor types, including laminate and tiled floors. obviously, the tile seams make it harder for the robot to reabsorb all the water, but it’s done a fantastic job even under these conditions.
many reviews are (semi-)negative because of the amount of water that stays behind. in my experience – and if used correctly (see “first impression”) – it leaves the floor even a bit dryer than after a good mopping.

the scooba 385 leaves hardly any water behind on this laminate floor. (scooba 385 review) just clear the floor and let the scooba do its work (scooba 385 review) the dirty water tank is pretty dirty when first cleaning with the scooba. this shows how much cleaner it works. (scooba 385 review) the scooba keeps clean and dirty water in separate tanks. this means that, unlike with a mop, it doesn't spread any dirt. (scooba 385 review)

weak points
despite the very good cleaning results, there are some notes i’d like to include for the “you didn’t tell me…” section.

  • being a motorized, vacuuming and water spraying/reasborbing tool, the scooba 385 is unlikely your most quiet tool. closing the door behind you when you leave the robot to its work covers that problem, though.
  • minor issue: the robot can't get all the way into the corners, so they have to be cleaned ahead (scooba 385 review) since it’s a round, circular shape, the robot has its problems with the very corners. expect a bit of dust there.
  • as mentioned in “first impression”, it is vitally important to make sure that the filter and rubber gasket are correctly fitted into their places. otherwise, it can’t suck up the dirty water.
  • scooba does encounter some though spots, e.g. just in front of the stove when not cleaned for some time. it’s the same with an ordinary mop, where you also have to resort to a using the rough side of a sponge to get it really clean.
  • i’ll add more here, if anything else comes to my mind

all in all, i’m impressed with how clean the scooba 385 gets my floors. i woudln’t want to give it away anymore. it does face some minor difficulties, but for me the advantages outweigh the weak points.
also, it’s fascinating how it can cover the entire floor with its seemingly chaotic routes through a room. :)

the irobot scooba 385 is currently priced at 375 euros at amazon.

5 thoughts on “irobot scooba 385 – a review after 4 months of use

  1. Can the scooba be filled with individually water (without irobot cleaning solution)? Thank you.

  2. apparently there’s not much difference: different colour, the internal tubing system “doesn’t clog as easily”, LED pictogrammes and the buttons seem to have been slightly altered, too. according to irobot, most of the improvements “improvements are internal”.

  3. At leat you need Water + Vinegar. Just water may not work – depending on the quality of water.

    Vinegar keeps the inner plumbing free from clogging and also makes the water conduct electricity though which Scooba detects water in the tank. If Vinegar is not added I always get a Check Tank Error.

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