My first Roomba: Discovery For Pets

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My first Roomba: Discovery For Pets

Postby Adara » February 18th, 2007, 9:43 pm

I have a cat.

Her litter box is in the master bathroom.

I have dark green carpet in the master bedroom.

Litter is not dark green.

Now, as I am a normal, lazy human being, I've pretty much grown accustomed to having litter tracked all over the bedroom floor.

The problem is, I'm trying to sell my home, and buyers tend to find trails of cat litter to be a turn-off. (Silly buyers.) So, in order to keep my condo in sellable condition, I need to vacuum every morning.

This lastest about a week.

Then I bought a Swiffer Carpet Flick, and Swiffer Carpet Flicked each morning. The Swiffer Carpet Flick did, in fact, pick up cat litter and cat hair, but the Carpet Flick is limited by the fact that the technology at its heart is a sticky piece of cardboard. It's sort of like one of those lint-rollers -- except it's flat and made for your floor. When the cardboard is full, the sticky stuff won't pick anything else up. I was going through a Carpet Flick "Replacement Cartridge" (aka "new piece of sticky cardboard") on a pretty much daily basis.

And then I heard about the Roomba Discovery for Pets. Seemed ideal. Even read a positive review or two over here. Decided to take the plunge and invest in one. I've had it for just about two months now. I'm very happy with it -- which is to say, if I'd still been Swiffering or vacuuming every morning, I'd go out of my freakin' mind. But it also has some very definite limits.

The good: It does what I need it to do. Which is to say, every morning, I set it up to vacuum my bedroom (and attached bathroom). It cheerfully vacuums up all litter and cat hair. It makes the transition from carpet to tile floor without a problem. Every morning, when I leave for work, I know my bedroom will be nice and clean for any prospective buyers who may come looking at my condo.

The stuff nobody tells you: It's a very high-maintenance piece of machinery. The manual advises cleaning the damn thing EVERY THREE USES. And I'm not just talking about a thirty-second empty-the-bin clean. I'm talking about flipping it over, removing the brushes, de-hairing the brushes, removing the little end-cap-jobs from the brushes, cleaning off all the hair that has accumulated there, etc. First couple times I cleaned it, I wondered whether it wouldn't have been faster for me to just vacuum myself, but I have sorta gotten into a rhythm with it. To be honest, I've also started cleaning it a bit less often -- as I've noticed that, since I run it every day over the same area, it tends to accumulate less dirt and hair. I'm letting it go about a week between cleanings. So far, no harm done.

It also does not work on (how to put this delicately) low-end carpet. The dark green carpet in my bedroom is good, top-of-the-line carpet I put in a couple years back. The beige colored carpet in the rest of my condo is not-exactly-bottom-of-the-line (but definitely less expensive) stuff I picked up at Home Depot at had installed for the sole purpose of selling the condo. When I ran the Discovery over THIS carpet, the bin was full (after a single use) of beige carpet fuzz. In fact, that FRONT of the Roomba was full of beige carpet fuzz, and the fuzz had gotten into the little sensor openings near the front of the Roomba, causing the Roomba to stop in the middle of the floor and beep mournfully for assistance.

People also don't tell you that you've gotta Roomba-proof any room it's going to use. This involves removing all loose cords from its path. (Either pick them up, or jam them into spaces too small for Roomba to get into.) Roomba also got caught in a closet door track (and its up-and-down movements made it look like it was doing something mildly obscene there) -- so if I'm ever going to use Roomba in that room again, I've got to put up a virtual wall in front of that track.

The final thing they don't tell you is that Roomba navigates by plowing into things. It's ok when those items are sturdy and aren't going anywhere -- like furniture or cabinets. Not so good when the items can move when pushed -- like bathroom scales, or cats. (My cat is not afraid of Roomba. Sometimes, I wish she was. "It's coming right for you!")

The bad: Set up the virtual walls -- they tell you -- on the far side of the doorway you don't want the Roomba going into, so that it will clean right up to the wall. OK. So, back when I was first experimenting with Roomba, I wanted him to clean down the hallway. There's a kitchen off the hallway, and I didn't want Roomba going in there because I was afraid he'd plow into the cat's water dish. So I set up a virtual wall on the inside of the kitchen entryway. Roomba cleaned on down the hallway. Roomba tried to enter the kitchen, but bumped up against the virtual wall. Except ... since the kitchen has a tile floor, the kitchen floor is a bit LOWER than the carpeted hallway, and by the time Roomba realized it had hit a virtual wall, enough of Roomba was already in the kitchen that gravity took over and Roomba fell right in, crashing through the virtual wall. (I've never tried Roomba on stairs, but this experience did not give me much faith in Roomba's Stair Sensor.) At this point, Roomba kept right on cleaning in the kitchen -- it seemed to make a beeline for the cat's water dish, which it proceeded to plow into, thereby splashing water on itself. Of course, now it was trapped INSIDE the kitchen by the virtual wall. I think Roomba needs some sort of fail-safe that makes it stop and beep for assistance when it happens to crash through a virtual wall, but I guess that's not in its programming.

Despite the Unfortunate Incident With the Water Dish, and the Things Nobody Told Me That I Had To Learn For Myself, I really do adore my Discovery for Pets. It is terrific to have a litter-free bedroom on a regular basis, and I'm sure that -- even after I've moved -- I will continue using Roomba regularly to clean whatever happens to be my cat's high-traffic area. Weekly brush cleanings are fairly easy to keep up with (psst, the tip of a steak knife does wonders for removing hair caught around the beater brush), and making a room roombable has not been that difficult.

And I do think Real Estate agents should keep several hundred on-hand and give them out with every listing agreement. Because they are absolutely perfect for keeping your home in pristine "selling" condition for months on end, without driving you batty.
Posts: 26
Joined: February 18th, 2007, 8:52 pm

Postby tim2omaha » February 19th, 2007, 7:10 pm

Adara...I've got to tell you, this is one of the best and most amusing reviews of the Roomba I've read. While I share many of your experiences, I really don't find the maintenance to be much of a bother. It comes apart quickly and cleans easily. The time I spend cleaning it is not nearly what I spent cleaning up after my two Goldens. They really spread lots of hair.

I really like the Pet unit and would recommend it to anyone. Yep, there is maintenance, but it's really not too bad. Some of the stuff on the chat seems a bit overkill for maintaining it, but I've hot the lifetime warranty, so what the heck.

I would love to read more of your experiences with Roomba. It's quite entertaining.

It seems like you have accepted the little guy as we have....kinda family now.
Posts: 25
Joined: February 19th, 2007, 6:58 pm

Postby Adara » February 21st, 2007, 11:34 pm


Yeah, the little guy is definitely part of the family now -- although I haven't actually named him anything other than "Roomba." I called him "Little One" once by accident -- it's a nickname I generally use for the cat and I was afraid she might be offended. Because, y'know, when you get right down to it, the cat is ALWAYS gonna rank ahead of the robot vacuum -- no matter how helpful he is.

I did forget to mention one other downside of using Roomba on the looser-weave carpet -- the Crop Circles. I knew in advance that Roomba wouldn't vacuum in nice, tidy lines like a human-propelled vac, but I wasn't at all ready for the sequence of circles, arcs, and cloverleaf freeway onramps that magically appeared on the living room carpet after Rooma had made his rounds. It really looked like I had a textured carpet in there -- I'm sure it made an impression on the folks who came by for the Open House.
Posts: 26
Joined: February 18th, 2007, 8:52 pm

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