Roomba vs Scooba

In this article I wanted to do a quick comparison between one of the mid-level Roomba’s vs. the Scooba floor cleaner and highlight the pros and cons of each device.  I hope you find it helpful.

Roomba 650

The Roomba 650 is easy to use and designed to vacuum wood floors, tile, and carpet of almost any length. When using the 650, you only need to plug in the Roomba to it’s charging station and allow it to charge overnight. After a full charge, you can either utilize the Roomba by configuring a timed cleaning schedule, or simply by pressing the start/stop button on the top of the device. The 650 has an easily accessible interface, with all it’s buttons on the top. Using these buttons you can start or stop the vacuum, or set up its clock and a cleaning schedule.


roomba650wallWhile the Roomba is convenient, it is definitely not perfect. Often it takes longer for the 650 to vacuum a single room that it would if I vacuumed it myself. I can usually vaccum my living room in about five minutes, while the Roomba takes a little less than fifteen. It also sometimes vacuums an individual area multiple times as it changes directions. But this is not due to a lack of efficiency, this design allows it to clean my floors better than I could. By going over the same spot multiple times from different angles, the Roomba 650 picks up more dirt than the average vacuum. Even though I could have vacuumed the room in five minutes, after fifteen my robot vacuum cleaned the floor much better than I could have by hand. It took another twenty-five minutes for the Roomba to finish its cleaning schedule, so its total cleaning time was about 40 minutes. After cleaning, the Roomba 650 automatically returned to its charging station.

The Roomba ships with two additional filters, its charging station and a Virtual Wall device. The Virtual Wall uses infrared emitters to set up invisible barriers in places that you do not want the Roomba to go. I put one at the top of my stairs to keep the Roomba from falling down them. I was happy with how well the Roomba 650 performed (read details in my Roomba 650 review), but there are some issues I saw with the device.

roomba650underneathAfter the Roomba finished its cleaning schedule, I opened the dust bin to and found that it was relatively small, and ready to burst from all the dirt, pet fur and dust. I have two cats, so I need to vacuum a lot, which means I had to empty the dust bin more often than I liked.

Even if you don’t need to vacuum as often as me, you will still undoubtedly have to empty the dustbin at least once before the 650 finishes its full cycle if you have pets. Still, if the Roomba cleans everyday, there should be less dirt, dust and fur on the floors, which would mean that it should eventually be able to hold anything it vacuums up.

When the Roomba 650 had to move from different types of floors–like carpeted areas to wood or tile floors–it moved surprising well. However, when it came into contact with any wires, cables or cords, it came across some problems. The robot would attempt to ride over the cables, and vacuum them up, after which it would drive away in a different direction. Considering I have a lot of cables on the floor in my office, this was a slight issue. Additionally, many small, tight spaces were inaccessible because of robot’s size. It would not clean a lot of corners, and it was unable to clean my stairs. So all in all, you will have to still clean the small spots in the house to make up for the areas that the Roomba misses.

roomba650cleanEven withstanding its imperfections, the Roomba is still immensely valuable. Purchasing a robot such as the Roomba 650 doesn’t guarantee that you won’t ever have to clean your house again, but it does mean that you can spend less time cleaning, which is just as important in my book. Because of this, I can spend more time reading a book or playing with my kids. Such a return on the time I spend doing leisure activities is well worth the money the Roomba costs.

You can buy the Roomba 650 here for around $399.

Scooba 390

Yet at $499 the larger, more expensive, Scooba 390 proved much less useful than the Roomba. The Scooba vacuums and mops tile, hardwood and cement floors. Its limitations, however, exceeded its usefulness. While the Roomba allowed me the free time that I would have otherwise used to vacuum my house, I spent so much time maintaining and preparing the Scooba 390 that I would have been better off merely wash the floors by hand.

roomba 650 vs scooba 390Whereas the Roomba came with a charging station, the Scooba had no such device. Instead it needs to be plugged in, and unplugged before it can be used. As such, I was worried that the Scooba might not be charged when I wanted to use it, since I would have to actually remember to charge it.

I also had to fill the Scooba’s water tank before using it and empty it after it finished cleaning. This needed to be done every time I use the Scooba, adding another inconvenience. As well, the Scooba’s manufacturer states that using regular cleaners in the Scooba 390, such as Mr. Clean or Pinesol, can damage the device. Instead, you have to use iRobot’s floor cleaner, which is much more expensive, and harder to obtain.


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1 Comment

  • Kevin August 14, 2014 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Thank you, this was a helpful comparison! I see iRobot has upgraded the Scooba to a 450 model, I wonder if this has fixed any of the “cons” you listed above. Either way, I appreciate the detailed comparison.

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