The Floor Mopping Robot – Braava 380t Reviewed
The Braava 380t is the current generation of iRobot’s floor sweeping and mopping robots. It is designed for consumers who want to keep the floor clean in between manual mopping sessions.
It is not able to pick up dust and debris like a vacuum, it just pushes them around with the cleaning cloth, trapping them in the process. It is also not able to deep clean grout lines like a good old manual scrubbing can.
What’s the difference between a Braava, Scooba, and Roomba?
- The Braava is dry and wet mopper, much like Swiffer, for hard surfaces.
- The Scooba is a floor scrubber for hard surfaces.
- The Roomba is a vacuum for carpets and hard surfaces.
A Little Background…
The Braava used be called the Mint. In 2012, iRobot purchased Evolution Robotics, the original makers of the Mint. This is why the navigation technology used in the Braava takes a completely different approach from that of the Roomba and Scooba.
What comes in the box?
- The Braava 380t Unit
- NorthStar Navigation Cube + Batteries
- Turbo Charge Cradle + Adapeter
- Multi-Purpose Pad + Dry sweeping cloth
- Pro-Clean Pad + Wet mopping cloth + Extra Wick
- Owner’s Manual
How well does it work?
Have you ever used a Swiffer dry or wet mop? That is essentially what the Braava does, except it allows you to skip the actual mopping part. You do have to manually attach the cleaning cloth before it mops and take it off to be cleaned after it mops. Being able to skip the middle labor-intensive part is the best feature of the Braava.
It works exactly as described. It won’t be able to scrub stubborn stains out of the floors. But with regular use, it will keep your floors very clean.
The water reservoir pad that comes with the Braava keeps moistening the cleaning cloth as it mops, so you don’t have to worry about the cloth drying out like a Swiffer mop.
Unlike the Roomba, which is able to auto-dock at its charging station, the Braava needs to be picked up and manually placed on the charging dock. This design decision makes sense, because you have to change the cleaning cloth on the Braava anyway, requiring you to pick it up.
Not being able to auto-dock is an inconvenience, but the Braava is significantly cheaper than any of the current generation Roombas. They also serve two different needs, one is a vacuum, the other is a mop.
Now for some commonly asked questions.
What material is the mopping cloth it comes packed with?
The included cloths are microfiber and machine-washable.
Can I use my own disposable cloths?
Yes. As long as the cloths are approximately the right size, you can use any cloth you like, disposable or not.
What is the water reservoir?
If you’ve ever used a Swiffer to wipe the floor, you know how quickly the pre-soaked pad dries up, requiring you to change it out. The mopping pad that comes with the Braava has a water reservoir that holds water or cleaning solution to keep the mopping cloth constantly replenished.
Will it work on hardwood floors? What about tile? vinyl? linoleum? limestone? laminate?
Yes, think of the Braava like an automatic Swiffer wet mop. If you would use a Swiffer, the Braava will also work on that surface.
What is the “NorthStar Navigation Cube”?
Think of it as an indoor GPS unit for your Braava, it builds a map of your house and outlines the edges so that the Braava knows where to clean. You place the Cube somewhere on a table or bookshelf in the room you’d like to clean, and the Cube guides the Braava.
Unlike the Roomba, which has the navigation unit built in, the original designers put the Braava’s navigating brain in the NorthStar Cube.
Each cube is able to guide the Braava in a radius of about 25 feet around the cube. Beyond that, the Braava will not be able to mop properly.
If you have a large house, you can move the cube from room to room, or purchase additional cubes. The Braava 380t is compatible with multiple cubes, unlike the cheaper Braava 320.
So I have to buy additional NorthStar Cubes?
Even though you can buy multiples cubes, it’s not really necessary. You already have to pick up the Braava anyways, it’s not that much more work to move the cube to the next room.
Despite being compatible with multiple cubes, it will stop mopping after 350 square feet in wet mopping mode. This is a design feature to ensure that the cleaning cloth is wet enough to clean properly.
In dry (aka sweeping) mode, it will clean up to 2000 sq. ft., provided there are enough NorthStar Cubes to guide it.
Will this work with area rugs?
The Braava detects area rugs and carpet (as long as they are higher than the hard surface). It will avoid sweeping and mopping those areas. For carpet that is flush with the hard surface, the Braava won’t know to stop at the edge, which means you need to block it with some type of physical barrier (like a piece of cardboard).
What cleaning solution should I use with the Braava?
You can use any mild cleaning solution that you would use on your floor. My favorite is white vinegar diluted 1:30 with water. It is cheap, non-toxic, and fights mold and germs. Just plain water will also work if the floor is not too dirty.
I want to use disposable cloths, what kinds of cloths will it work with?
According to iRobot’s instruction manual, the Braava is compatible with most disposable dry and pre-moistened cleaning cloths, including Swiffer or Target brand cloths. One notable exception is Swiffer WetJet Refills.
How well does it clean hair that is on the ground?
Its performance with hair is mediocre. It does push the hair around into a large tangle that you can pick up manually. The Roomba is much better at picking up hair and debris from the floor. If there is a lot of hair in your home, I would get a Roomba instead. For those on a budget, the Roomba 860 is my favorite.
How long does the Braava take to charge?
Approximately 2 hours on the Turbo Charge Cradle.
What is the difference between the Sweep Mode and Mop Mode?
Sweep mode uses a dry cloth, Mop mode uses a wet cloth. It is recommended that you first use the Sweep mode to pick up loose debris, then follow up with Mop mode to thoroughly clean the floor.
How loud is the Braava?
It is very, very quiet. Unlike the Roomba, which needs a motor for vacuum suction, the Braava’s motor is only responsible for turning the wheels of the unit, making it much more quiet. Unless you are listening for it, you most likely won’t hear the Braava.
Braava 380t vs 320 – What are the differences, which one should you buy?
The Braava 320 is a stripped down version of the 380t. It has a smaller battery, yet takes much longer to charge because it doesn’t come with a turbo charge cradle.. It doesn’t come with a “Pro-Clean” water-reservoir pad, meaning you will have to constantly change the mopping cloth to keep it moist. Avoid the 320.
If you are looking for a machine to help keep your floor tidy between major cleanings, the Braava 380t is perfect. It won’t completely replace your mop, since the sweeping and mopping action is relatively gentle compare to a good old fashioned manual mopping.
Having said that, it is much easier to run the Braava than to manually mop the floor. This means that you will be using the Braava more often than you will mop with your own two hands.
Owners either seem to completely love the Braava 380t or utterly hate it. The only difference between the two groups is their expectation. The Braava might not be for you if you are looking for a complete mop replacement.
It is only good for keeping the floor clean in between major cleanings. Also, a lot of users did not know they had to take the cube and the Braava from room to room.
If you don’t mind changing the cleaning cloths after the Braava is done and don’t mind having to manually mop from time to time, this might be for you. Otherwise, a robotic vacuum like the Roomba 860 might better suit your needs.
What to like:
- Extremely quiet
- Long lasting battery
- Takes the grunt work out of mopping
What not to like:
- No auto-dock feature
- No scheduling ability
- Does not take the work out of changing the cleaning cloth before and after