There are a number of perks to having a robot vacuum, the biggest being you can clean your home without actually having to do anything yourself. You do pay for that convenience, though, as most robo-vacs cost just as much as elite handheld ones do. iRobot decided to try something different with the Braava Jet: it's half the size of its other Roomba vacuums, it costs just $199, and it doesn't actually vacuum—it mops.
The company made the Braava Jet with a certain kind of user in mind, one that likely doesn't live in a huge home, has primarily hardwood or tile floors, and doesn't want to dig deep into their wallets for an automatic vacuum. Though it's ideal for those living in small apartments, others should carefully consider their options before investing in this mopping robot.
Design: A cute, compact cleaner
The IROBOT BRAAVA JET 240 MOPPING ROBOT might be the cutest robot that iRobot has ever made. Measuring 6.7" × 7.0" × 3.3" and weighing 2.7 pounds, the tiny square mopping robot is slightly smaller than a lunchbox, and it even has a handle like one, too. The device is mostly white with a few accents of ocean blue, particularly on the backlit "clean" button that sits prominently on its top. Blue also highlights the precision spray hole, on the side of the robot, where water shoots out to dampen the floor ahead of the Braava Jet's path.
Lifting up the handle reveals two mechanisms: a silicone flap that covers the robot's water reservoir and a sliding button that releases the pad from the bottom. That's a really handy feature, as you never have to touch a dirty cleaning pad: simply pull the button back and the pad releases, hopefully into a garbage can below. The only time you'd have to touch a pad is if you separately purchased the washable pads ($20 for two) that can be thrown into a washing machine and reused. An important note about that: the disposable pads ($8 for 10) come with a water-activated cleaning solution inside of them (which is how they can clean your floors with just water in the reservoir). The washable pads contain no detergents or solution in them—while iRobot says those pads can remove dirt and dust with only water added, there is a list of approved cleaning solution recipes on iRobot's website, and some Redditors have discussed other methods as well.
No matter which pads you have, all of them slide onto the underside of the Braava Jet to the vibrating cleaning head. The disposable pads have a pleasant soapy scent to them that lingers faintly in the room where you put the Braava Jet to work. It's much like the way laundry detergent gives your clothing that gentle, freshly washed smell—not overpowering, but enough to know you just cleaned them. When the robot moves along your floors, the pad not only grabs everything in its path, but the cleaning head moves back and forth to "scrub" the floor beneath it, too. Granted, it doesn't provide the elbow grease of your own arm scrubbing the kitchen floor, but it does offer more friction to wipe away stains.
I appreciate how compact the Braava Jet is; I can leave it in the corner of my small bathroom and it won't get in the way of my daily routine. The handle makes it convenient to tote from room to room as well (I used it in my kitchen and bathroom exclusively), and unlike other robots like the Neato Botvac, it doesn't have a charging dock. The battery is removable and comes with a dock that plugs into an AC adapter when you need to recharge it. The lack of dock allows the robot to take up less space in your home, and you can store it anywhere you want.
Features: Mopping, sweeping, and everything in between
The Braava Jet is designed to clean dirty hardwood floors, tile, and stone. Depending on the type of pad you attach to it, the device knows which cleaning mode to be in. The blue pads are for wet mopping, when the Braava Jet uses the most water and runs over each section of floor three times; orange pads are for damp cleaning, which is a mix of mopping with less water and picking up dry debris; and the white pads are for dry sweeping, which doesn't use any water and only picks up dirt and dust. I like that the Braava Jet knows immediately which mode to be in just by the pads—it takes the guesswork out of choosing how much of a clean you want for that specific session.
After you start a cleaning session, there's nothing else for you to do but wait. The device guide instructs you to set the robot about a foot away from any walls, in the left-most corner of the room you're cleaning. That helps it create a "virtual wall" behind it, so that the robot knows not to go behind that spot in the room and just focus on the areas in front of and to the right of it. Then, simply press the clean button on the robot twice and it will start.
The first time I used the Braava Jet to clean my kitchen, I was mesmerized by it. Partially because it's a cute little robot that was scooting around my kitchen floor, but also because I wanted to see how well a relatively inexpensive cleaner would clean the small nooks and crannies of my kitchen. The Bravva Jet is small enough to fit in the space between the floor and the start of my lower kitchen cabinets, so it got in those hard-to-reach areas easily. It was kind of like watching a mini bumper car slowly working its way through a fairly uncomplicated track, as the Bravva Jet would softly bump into things like my oven or refrigerator, wait a second, back up slightly, then continue to clean on a parallel route.
The robot does map out the room so it knows where it has cleaned and where it still needs to clean by the objects and obstacles it runs into, including appliances and walls. I appreciated that when the Braava Jet did hit things like my oven, it would recalculate and clean directly up against the object that it hit. It doesn't back an inch or two away, it literally runs itself up against the obstacle to clean the area around it. Considering the cleaning portion of the Braava Jet (the rectangular pad) is only about half the width of the entire device, it's helpful because it shows the robot is programmed to actually clean as much space as it can, rather than just running over all of the flooring in the room.
Cleaning my kitchen and bathroom floors with the Braava Jet made them cleaner than they ever have been. Typically I sweep each room a few times a week, but the Braava Jet got into the smaller places that are harder for my broom to reach. I liked the damp cleaning pad the best because it's a great combination of wet mopping and dry sweeping—it picked up more dirt and hair from the floor than wet mopping did, while still cleaning the floor better than dry sweeping. I will say that the Braava Jet still couldn't clean all of my floors, since it was too big to fit into places like the area next to and behind my toilet. But no robotic vacuum, unless it's the size of a baseball, will be able to do that.
I also only had to refill the reservoir every three cleanings or so. Neither my kitchen nor my bathroom is very big, so the Braava Jet could run a few cycles before it needed more water. For reference, iRobot claims the Braava Jet can sweep a 250-square-foot room and mop a 200-square-foot room in one session. Each cycle I ran lasted about 10 minutes, and the Braava Jet's battery was down to about 50 percent after five cycles. Overall, the Braava Jet is a great alternative to sweeping and hand-washing the floors in my apartment, although the recurring payments for more pads would make me pause before buying it. However, the Braava Jet would pay for itself after a few cycles for anyone who has mostly or all hardwood floors in their home. Anyone with large homes, though, would get more use out of the $299 Braava 300 that can sweep up to a 1,000-square-foot room and mop up to 350 square feet.