While there's a robust market for robot vacuums, mopping robots have yet to sweep the nation in the same way. There's an obvious reason for that — if a robot vacuum gets stuck on a rug, any damage is usually minor and robotically self-inflicted. Let a robot mop loose in the house and an errant move could result in floor or rug damage.
At $169.99, iRobot's Braava jet 240 is a relatively inexpensive robot mop that also dusts floors. While iRobot includes helpful technology designed to keep the robot from going rogue on a rug, we still wouldn't let it roam our home completely unsupervised.
Compared with its robot vacuum brethren, the iRobot Braava jet 240 is shockingly small; its packaging is so small that when the box initially arrived, we suspected the wrong item had been delivered. The diminutive robot measures 6.7 x 7 x 3.3 inches, almost half the size of one of iRobot's vacuums. The Braava jet is also markedly smaller than the $249 iLife Shinebot W400, which looms over it at 11.1 x 11.5 x 4.7 inches. The W400 also weighs a hefty 7.72 pounds empty, while the Braava jet is a scant 2.7 pounds. The Braava jet 240's nearly square shape and short stature make it ideal for cleaning along corners and under kitchen cabinets.
The Braava jet 240 has a sturdy handle built into the top that conceals water tank access and the cleaning pad eject button. It folds flat and surrounds the combination power and Clean button in the center. The front side of the robot houses the water sprayer. Flip it around and you'll find an easily removable battery that's charged separately from the unit.
The underside of the Braava jet 240 houses the cleaning pad attachment clips and two small rubber wheels. Slide in a cleaning pad until it clicks and the robot will read the pad type and clean accordingly.
Cleaning pad prices
There are three types of proprietary cleaning pads made by iRobot that work with the Braava jet 240: a white, dry sweeping pad; an orange, damp sweeping pad; and a blue, wet mopping pad. The whole concept is not unlike wet/dry Swiffer sheets, except that reusable, washable pads are available in addition to disposable ones.
iRobot sells both the disposable and reusable pads for the Braava jet 240, and the robot itself comes with two disposable versions of each pad. A pack of 10 disposable dry, damp or wet pads is available for $7.99. A full set of three washable mopping pads will set you back $29.99.
One gripe with the disposable pads is that they currently aren't available in a variety pack. iRobot even recommends using the dry sweeping pad prior to using the wet pads, so it would make sense for the company to sell a mixed pack. Paying $8 for 10 pads isn't a bad value proposition, but shelling out $24 just to be able to use the mop as intended isn't great — particularly if you're only using the wet mopping pads in a small area like a bathroom.
By comparison, the iLife W400 uses a single brush roll that's meant to be rinsed after each use, in conjunction with a dirty-water tank that handles the floor grime.
Prepping the Braava jet 240 to mop was fairly straightforward. I filled the water tank with warm tap water, clicked in a cleaning pad and inserted the battery. iRobot advises users to fill the water tank by holding the Braava jet down and to the left, as this funnels the water into the robot. Because the Braava jet 240 is solid white plastic, I was unable to tell how full the tank was — until water bubbled back out. By comparison, the translucent water tank of the iLife W400 holds significantly more liquid.
Unlike many robot vacuum cleaners, the Braava jet 240 doesn't use "bot boundary" strips on your floor or customizable maps on your phone to delineate where the bot is allowed to travel.
Instead, the Braava jet 240 creates an invisible line that the bot won't cross. There are two small, rectangular blue lights on top of the Braava jet 240. Press and hold the Clean button and the lights illuminate, indicating where the bot has drawn its invisible line on your floor. While the Braava jet 240 is mopping, it remembers where this virtual line exists and won't venture past it. We used this feature to stop the bot from traveling between our kitchen and dining room. It respected the 5-foot-wide virtual line, never crossing it. This feature resets with each cleaning.
In addition to sending the Braava jet 240 on cleaning runs throughout the first floor of my house, (which has a mostly open floor plan), I tested the cleaning prowess of the iRobot Braava jet 240 using each of the sample pads in a 70-square-foot area of hardwood floor in my kitchen.
While I anticipated the mop's small size would lead to very long cleaning times, I was pleasantly surprised. The Braava jet 240's white, dry sweeping pad dusted the 70-square-foot kitchen area in 10 minutes and 8 seconds, while the orange, damp sweeping pad completed the task in 18 minutes and 51 seconds.
The blue wet pad, which is meant to thoroughly mop floors, cleaned the area in 31 minutes and 9 seconds. The Braava Jet 240's wet-mopping mode is most similar to the iLife W400's mopping capability. That robot finished the same 70-square-foot area in just 13 minutes and 44 seconds. Comparatively, our floors were noticeably wetter when the W400 finished.
The Braava jet 240 uses a spray-and-mop method for cleaning, meaning it moves forward roughly 12 inches, then goes backward, sprays and moves back and forth over the area before proceeding further. It's a solid method for preventing excess water on floors, but it also results in the mopping pad being almost too dry when the Braava jet 240 starts a cleaning. Conversely, much like any mop, the cleaning pad is full of dirt by the end of a mopping cycle.
The iLife W400 uses a plush rotating brush, clean and dirty water tanks and a squeegee that follows behind the brush in its floor-cleaning mission. The system is more cumbersome to maintain than the Braava jet 240's cleaning-agent-infused pads with their click-clean-dispose convenience.
Much like a puppy, the biggest concern with any robot mop is, "Will it go on the rug?" The iRobot Braava jet 240 was well-behaved and carefully avoided "accidents" on our rugs, but it did catch on a thin rug between the cleaning pad and the robot itself. The bot never sprayed, but it did continue to try and push into the rug. Unlike a robot vacuum, robot mops definitely need more supervision and hand-holding.
But does it clean floors well? The iRobot Braava jet 240 did a decent job picking up light dirt from our floors and erasing the water drop marks around our dog's water bowl. But after cleaning, we were still able to wipe up a fair amount of dirt with a wet paper towel. The iLife W400 did a better job picking up surface dirt, and we liked that the dirty water was sucked up by the bot. We got the sense that while the Braava jet 240 collects dirt on its pad, it's also just pushing some dirt around while it works. We would use the Braava jet 240 for a quick cleaning before having guests over, as the scented pads have a nice "This home was recently cleaned" smell to them. However, the Braava jet 240 couldn't fully clean a spot in front of our fridge that had been there for a few days. In other words, this robot won't replace your old trusty mop and bucket, but it certainly cuts down the frequency with which you'll need to pull them out.
The disposable-or-reusable-pad method isn't new in the home-cleaning space, but it does work. For those with allergies, the Braava jet, especially in dry-sweeping mode, is essentially robotically pushing dust and dander around after the pad is full. We preferred the iLife W400's soft roller combined with clean and dirty water tanks for a slightly deeper clean. Instead of the dirt hitching a ride on a pad, it's deposited into the dirty tank.
The $169 iRobot Braava jet 240 does a decent job cleaning, especially considering its small footprint. We liked how well it cleaned edges and left a fresh scent after cleaning. While it's not going to replace a mop, bucket and elbow grease, this robot mop is great for light floor cleanings. The $249 iLife Shinebot W400 does a better job lifting dirt from floors, but this larger bot requires a cumbersome cleanup when it's done.
We'd be more excited about the Braava jet's value if it didn't require purchasing additional cleaning pads, but the convenience of either click-and-dropping a disposable pad right in the garbage or tossing a reusable one in the laundry is hard to beat. If you choose the disposable pads, expect to spend $24 to $48 a year, depending on how often you clean. It's not too long before the W400 becomes the better value in addition to being the better floor cleaner.