Compact and light, yet heavy on cleaning power
As a robotics company, it's iRobot's job to come up with new and exciting robots that make meaningful, positive changes to our lives. After all what good would a robot be that doesn't help make our lives better? The iRobot Braava Jet 240 robot mop isn't iRobot's newest product, but it's one that addresses a need that people have to deal with in their busy lives, just as iRobot's other products attempt to do. With three different functions, a dry, damp and wet mop, the Braava Jet 240 performs all the duties you would expect of a mopping robot. Does this one stand up to a good manual cleaning, or will it end up as a dusty $199 shelf piece? Let's take a look.
In the Box
The Braava Jet is a slightly different product from iRobot's Roomba line, and as such the contents of the box differ a bit from the Roomba series. Of course the vacuum sits right up at the top of the box, prominently placed to pique your curiosity upon opening the box for the first time. Just behind the Braava Jet 240 itself are a set of 6 cleaning pads, two of each kind; dry, damp and wet. These are to give you immediate functionality out of the box, but more will need to be ordered for future use. You'll also find the wall charger, removable battery and a set of manuals and warranty pamphlets inside the box.
Hardware and Design
Everything about the iRobot Braava Jet is designed very differently from the Roomba line, and that all starts with the shape and size. The Braava Jet features a square shape with rounded corners to make navigation a bit easier, and since it's designed to hug the corners, the square shape makes more sense here. Up top you'll find a single large Clean button, which doubles as the power button as well. On either side of this button, and just below, you'll find a series of status LEDs; on the left and right two blue bars indicating Virtual Wall Mode has been activated, and a single circular LED for power status. A large handle sits up top which makes carrying the Braava Jet 240 around the house easier, and keeping wet pieces from being handled too. Underneath this handle is a blue switch for ejecting the current cleaning pad, and on the opposite side a rubber blue plug to fill and drain water for mopping functions. The Braava only weighs a mere 2.7 lbs (1.25 kg), and measures in at 3.3 in (84 mm) high by 7 in (178 mm) wide, meaning it can fit into most small spaces and be stored with ease.
Along the back you'll find a removable Lithium-Ion rechargable battery, something that's very different from the Roomba series, which features an internal battery and automatic charging. Due to the nature of the Braava Jet 240, it makes more sense to have this removable battery than a dock that it charges on. iRobot includes the dock, which plugs into any standard wall outlet, and has a green/amber LED to let you know what the battery's charging status is. Around the front is a single spray nozzle for spraying water onto floors. Underneath the vacuum is a set of soft padded wheels, very different from the Roomba's hard rubber wheels, which rotate a few degrees on a pitch axis for navigating slightly uneven floors.
Jutting up to the front and back of the bottom are a series of sensors designed for navigation and keeping the Braava from falling off ledges. Behind the front sensors sits the large area where pads are placed. This slot fits pads in with a snap and reads the simple punch-out identifiers on each pad, letting the Braava automatically choose the cleaning type based on the pad inserted. This plate will vibrate depending on the cleaning mode in order to help loosen particles on the floor and give a better clean. iRobot sells disposable packs of 10 dry pads, damp pads or wet pads for $7.99. Folks looking to save some money in the long run and be a little more environmentally friendly can opt for a washable pad of each type, dry, damp or wet, which are $19.99 for a 2-pack of each type, or $29.99 for a singles pack of all three types. These are rated to last through 50 washes before degrading, as they are made of cloth and are more heavily textured than the disposable types.
The Braava Jet 240 uses the "old" style of bump-and-go navigation that's been around since the inception of the Roomba series. iRobot recommends placing the Braava Jet 240 in the bottom left corner of the room that you would like to clean, as the robot will make right-hand turns as it makes its way around the room in grid-like fashion. Walls and objects are identified when the Braava Jet runs into them, sometimes with a bit of force, while other times it will slow down if it detects a larger object approaching, such as a wall. Once it clears the center of the room in the grid, it moves to cover the edges, as well as any spots inside that have been missed. Without a camera, laser-guided navigation or other method, it's entirely possible that the Braava Jet could miss some small sections of the room when comparing it to a robot that has these navigational features.
In reality though I was impressed with how much of the room the Braava was able to clean. Even the tight, hard to reach places like the space between the refrigerator and the cabinet, or the toilet and the wall got cleaned without much issue. I did find the Braava Jet 240 stuck between the fridge and the wall one time, but every other time I used the mop it was able to navigate in and out of the space without problems. iRobot has designed the small Braava Jet 240 with small rooms in mind as well, as it's designed to only clean around 200 square feet at a time. This means it's not designed like a Roomba, where it starts at a home base and makes its way fully around the home without need for intervention. Rather the Braava is meant to clean whole rooms at a time instead, as the pads need to be changed out for different cleaning modes, making it rather difficult to be fully automated.
iRobot includes a Virtual Wall system with the Braava, but it doesn't work anything like the Virtual Wall system of the Roomba. Instead of using the lighthouse-style towers that the Roomba ships with, the Braava's virtual wall is created directly behind the vacuum, where ever it is placed in the room. For instance if you only want your kitchen cleaned but don't want the Braava wandering into the living room or dining room, you would place the Braava with its back facing the room you don't want it to enter, and then activate the Virtual Wall mode.
This virtual wall will keep the Braava from passing the mark, an easy way to differentiate from rooms that don't have doors or any kind of good separation line, like a step or other raised transition strip. It's only so effective because it's only a single barrier, meaning if you need to block off more than one area you're going to have to do it in a physical way, such as placing a gate or box in its way. Even without a Virtual Wall setup though, the Braava Jet is made to stop when it hits a surface like carpet, meaning you won't have to worry about it trying to mop an area rug or carpeted room.
The Braava Jet 240 cleans much more like a Swiffer-style mop than a traditional wet mop will, for reference. In general it's good to vacuum the area first using your preferred method, followed by a dry sweep with one of the Braava Jet dry pads. Like a Swiffer, this dry pad is made with materials that produce static electricity and will suck any hairs and other small particles right onto the pad. Dry sweeping is performed in straight lines, moving throughout the room in a simple grid pattern at full speed. This is great for grabbing the dust and other smaller particles that a vacuum generally won't on a hard surface, and in general the Braava does an exemplary job at picking up these particles on both wood and tile, as tested in my home.
iRobot recommends using this dry sweep in conjunction with the damp pads for daily cleaning of rooms, as they get most of the regular grime and dust that makes its way around the home on a regular basis. Either the damp or wet mopping modes require hot water to be added to the Braava to operate most efficiently, although cool water will still work better than none. Filling the reservoir is simple; just pop up the blue plug that's located underneath the handle and fill it up with water. A small metal filter is located between the tank and the spout, keeping any large particles from entering the Braava and possibly clogging it up.
Emptying the tank is a simple matter of unplugging the cork and tipping it over. There's no indicator on the Braava itself for how full the tank is, but it's a small tank anyway and should always be filled up prior to using any wet mode anyway, nullifying any issues that might arise with an empty tank. The Braava will only use the water when a wet or damp pad is attached, which is identified automatically, so there's no worry about messing up a dry mop with water since the Braava won't use water at all with such a pad.
Just as it sounds, the damp mop mode uses less water than the wet mop mode, but it also behaves differently too. The mop moves a little more slowly in damp mode than it does in dry sweep mode, but still moves in straight lines across the virtual grid the Braava creates in the room. Unlike the dry sweep mode, the pad vibrates to help loosen any particles or spots that might be on the floor. The Braava sprays water every so often, keeping the floor and the pad damp, but doesn't spray so much so as to keep the floor wet for several minutes as it passes along the surface. The damp mop is orange and coated in a cleaning solution that's water soluble, meaning as it gets wet it will sanitize the floor.
The wet mop works quite a bit differently than either of the other two modes, and it's a twofold change in behavior that's seen. Navigation is still worked in the same grid fashion as before, however now the pad vibrates harder (it's more audible too) and the mop works in a curved fashion. As a rule the mop will curve to the left a bit, back up, and then curve to the right, covering an area more than once as it mops. In addition to this you'll find that the first couple of sweeps are consistently sprayed every time, ensuring that the wet mopping pad stays wet the entire time. Subsequent sweeps will alternate sprays between every 2 or 3 sweeps to keep things wet, but not soaking.
All of these modes are slated to cover around 200 square feet per pad, but the dry pad will go a little longer than this depending on how dirty your floors might be, and how complicated your home layout is. The damp and wet mops are about as effective as a single-pass with a Swiffer-style pad-mop would be, but the obvious impossibility of scrubbing a single section will mean this is less effective with certain spots. iRobot packed in a spot cleaning mode, as you'll find on the Roomba line and most robot cleaning products, and it's this spot clean mode that's here to help make up for any deficiencies the regular mode might have.
Spot cleaning mode is designed to clean a 4x4 ft square, and it starts by placing the robot in the middle of the bottom side of the square. Starting spot clean mode with a full tank of water is essential, as that's the key to how long it's going to clean an area. The robot works its way around this square, absolutely soaking it and subsequently scrubbing the entire area many times over. When all is said and done the wet pad is truly soaked and the floor quite clean. We tested this on muddy footprints that we tracked onto tile floor, and in a short period of a few minutes the floor was nearly spotless; only a small dime-sized shape worth of mud was left in the deepest grout line in the tile.
The iRobot Home app has improved over the years, as should be expected, but the way it connects to the Braava Jet 240 has not. The Braava uses Bluetooth to communicate with the iRobot Home app on your phone, instead of the WiFi-based solutions of the connected Roomba series. While it's certainly better than nothing, Bluetooth can be a finicky method of connecting, as anyone with a smartphone likely knows. Pairing was about the same as any other Bluetooth device out there, and took a few retries to get the pairing to stick. Once it's paired it still takes some time to connect to the app after starting the robot up, something that's a pretty stark contrast to the quick connect-anywhere mentality of the Roomba series.
Having this connection with the mop certainly helps control things though, and it helps keep track of the mop's status, as well as giving easy access to the spot cleaning modes and the available settings. The app lets you name your little robot for affectionate reasons only, but nothing is functionally different with a name. The main screen gives you visual information on whether or not a job is running, if Virtual Wall mode is enabled or not, what type of pad the Braava is using, and of course a giant cleaning button for toggling jobs. Below is a shortcut to the Roomba store to purchase supplies, a spot cleaning button and the options menu. The app will also automatically check for updates and allow you to update the Braava Jet 240 right through the Bluetooth connection, although since it's Bluetooth it's terribly slow. It took about 10 minutes or so for the update to complete, and the first time it failed since my phone fell asleep.
As the Braava Jet 240 is only designed for fairly short range cleaning, the options in the app are a little more limited than with a full-time connected robot. In the app you can change the name, toggle between Metric and Imperial measurement units, and adjust how much water is used for each type of pad. iRobot breaks these down between the disposable and reusable wet and damp pads, meaning you can toggle between a small, medium or large quantity of water used in the cleaning cycle for each type of pad.
Maintenance and Battery Life
Battery life on the Braava Jet 240 is better than advertised, and often times I found it running out of water far more often than battery juice. iRobot pins the battery life at around 150 square feet for wet mode, and over 200 square feet for dry mode. The Braava would easily work its way through three full sized rooms before needing a top-up in dry mode, and got about 2 full sized rooms in wet mode. Charging is painless too, as you don't even need to move the Braava if you don't want to. iRobot sells an extra battery and charger pack for $50, meaning you could easily double the cleaning area with a fairly small investment.
The unit ships with a wall charger and removable battery, so popping the battery in the charger and back into the mop is pretty effortless, especially since it's a simple locking mechanism with no clip to release. iRobot says the battery could take up to 2 hours to charge, but I found it was far less, more like an hour or so if the battery is really drained. Still this breakup and small amount of coverage could lead to annoyances with some folks, and it's here where iRobot's larger mops might be a better value, especially at only around $50 more MSRP.
Maintenance of the Braava Jet 240 is far less than any robot vacuum, and this is mostly because the only thing that truly gets dirty are the pads. As the main pads are disposable, keeping the Braava clean is as simple as discarding the dirty pad and locking another one in. Pads clip in with a simple pop too, and are only released by the handle, meaning you won't even get the mop messy when releasing these. The washable pads will certainly take more time to deal with though, and depending on wetness level have the possibility to drip a bit more than the disposable ones.
iRobot has made another great product here, but it's one with several limitations that need to be understood before jumping in. First off this isn't a fully automated mopping machine, rather it's designed to do the mopping for you when you set it in a room. Second it's only designed to clean between 1 and 3 rooms depending on the mode and the size of your dwelling. An extra battery will double the space cleaned, but it's still not designed to tackle an entire house in one shot. Smaller apartment dwellers with lots of tile or hardwood will certainly find this perfect for cleaning the whole place.
Even in larger homes it's still convenient for spot cleaning sections of the home that need a touch up, all while giving you precious time to deal with other cares of life. Tougher messes can usually be dealt with thanks to the built-in spot cleaning mode, but occasionally you might run across one that requires manual scraping or wiping up. Still the $199 price tag is hard to turn down for any gadget enthusiast who's looking to add a few extra robots into their life. It's a product that's compact and light, yet heavy on cleaning power, and it's the effectiveness of the product and the overall cost that allows us to fully recommend it despite some limitations.