In Search of the Perfect Vacuum

October 9, 2009 | By | Comments (1)

Friends, I have a confession to make. My name is Erin and I am a little OCD when it comes to cleaning. Nothing makes me happier than a clean and organized home. A place for everything and everything in its place. That’s my motto. Some weeks I achieve this with ease. Other times, it’s a struggle to get both the breakfast crumbs wiped off the kitchen counter and my bed made and still make it to the office on time. (Yesterday I just closed the door to my bedroom and left the mess behind).

About two weeks ago, my son created such a mess in my kitchen that it broke the vacuum cleaner. Our vacuum was a hand-me-down from my husband’s grandfather (who died over 10 years ago). How that thing managed to still get the job done is beyond me. Clearly, it was time for an upgrade. I haven’t shopped for a vacuum, well, ever. And I’m amazed by how many models and price points there are.

If I didn’t write about technology, I would probably just drive to Target and buy the first pretty vacuum I saw. Instead, I’ve decided to share with you my hunt for the perfect vacuum. And it starts with iRobot’s Roomba 560 (retail price: $350).

The Roomba is what I have long envisioned to be the perfect cleaning tool: a robot that does the cleaning for you. Turn it on, walk away, and before you know it, your floors and carpets are clean. While it’s cleaning, you can bake an apple cake, fold a load of laundry and change the sheets on the bed. Roomba calculates the optimal cleaning path as it cleans, and determines when to use its various cleaning behaviors. It gets under furniture and tables (you would not believe the dust bunnies it retrieved from under my couch) and it’s anti-tangle system means it won’t get caught on cords, carpet fringe, or tassels (although it did shred up the tassels on my oriental rug).

Roomba3 You can take the Roomba out of its box, charge it overnight, and run it the next morning with ease. My first impression of the Roomba was it behaved like a drunk frat boy: bumping up against walls, wandering around in circles, criss-crossing the floor and missing the one stray cheerio I left in its path. It took me a few times to figure out how best to use the Roomba so it would clean one room at a time. I live in a standard, center-entrance colonial with rooms on both sides of the front hall and a kitchen that connects them across the back. The Roomba takes about 25 minutes to clean an average-sized room (not sure what constitutes average) so it takes nearly three times that to fully clean my kitchen, dining room and front hall. And it’s not exactly quiet.

The Roomba worked great in my family room, which can be closed off behind two french doors. I started the robot on a Sunday morning before church and when I returned home, it was done cleaning. When I asked my husband how he liked the Roomba he replied, “I love it. I don’t have to do anything.”

Which sums up my experience, too. But then my OCD creeps in and I have to admit I don’t feel entirely confident turning my cleaning over to a non-human. And you would still need some sort of hand-held vacuum to quickly and efficiently tackle those pesky kid-inspired messes like cereal spills, glitter and sand.

So is the Roomba the right vacuum for me? At $350, the jury’s still out. I have to return the unit to iRobot this week and I suspect I’ll miss the cheery robot musical tones that tell me all is clean in my world.

Next up: Dyson.

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