Tag Archives: Cleaning

Mint Robot Cleaner Review

Later note – Announced August 22, 2013, iRobot is now selling the Mint 4200 re-branded as the Braava 320.

We’ve been excited to try out a Mint sweeper robot since we saw the news that Evolution Robotics had come out with one. Our verdict? Except for one or two annoying flaws, the Mint Robot Cleaner is a great product. (Later note: In mid-2011, Evolution came out with a new Mint model. See our in-depth review of the Mint 5200, here.) Here’s what the Mint cleaner looked like after sweeping the floor under our bed, which was dust-bunny city.


Mint Robot Sweeps up Dust Bunnies!

The Mint arrives in a large box, which is filled mostly with styrofoam, and opens up like a clamshell. While this ensures that the robot will arrive in one piece, I felt like it was a little excessive and not exactly environmentally conscious. The items you get in the box are: The Mint robot itself, the Evolution Robotics Northstar beacon, a charger for the robot, washable microfiber dusting pads, and the batteries for the beacon. The Northstar beacon runs on two C cells, and I have to applaud Evolution Robotics for including them in the kit! I hate it when I’m opening a new product and find that I have to make a trip to the store before I can use it.

Also in the box is a manual, registration card, and a quick start instruction page. I really enjoy quickstart pages, because they get you going with a minimum of fuss and muss. You can get the robot sweeping the floor, and the read the manual later, while you’re watching it clean for you. Both the manual and the quick start page are very clear and easy to understand. Here are the sections in the manual.

  • Safety Instructions
  • Mint’s Features
  • Mint’s Button and Lights
  • How Mint Cleans
  • Sweep and Mop Modes
  • Operating Mint
  • Battery and Charging
  • Maintenance
  • Customer Support
  • Trouble Shooting
  • Limited Warranty

In the box with the Mint Cleaner are two microfiber cleaning cloths for dry use, and one wet cloth for mopping. These are washable and more eco-friendly that using Swiffer Pads. Although the robot is designed to use Swiffer Pads. The pads (and the Swiffers) do a great job of grabbing dirt, dust, fuzzy things, grit, and hair off of the floor. One of the worries that I had about the Mint was that it would just sort of push the dirt around and leave it in corners or up against the floor boards. This is not the case. The dirt sticks to the pads and bam, you can throw them out (in the case of Swiffer Pads) or wash them in the washer.

The one frustration I have with the Mint cleaner is that where you plug the charger in is on the bottom of the robot, so you have to set it on its end (or flip it over) to plug it in. That’s the end of my gripes!

In comparison with a Roomba, there are some things that stand out. An iRobot Roomba is much noisier than the Mint. Much much noisier. When we use a Roomba, we turn it on and leave the house, because we’d rather not have to listen to it! To be fair, the Roomba is probably better at cleaning overall, just because it’s a vacuum cleaner. Also, a Roomba will do carpets. The Mint won’t do carpets. So it only runs around any area rugs, welcome mats, and hallway runners you might have in your house or apartment. It doesn’t go up on them. For a house like mine, that isn’t a problem, but some people will probably factor that in. On the plus side, the Mint will clean a room much faster.

I’m really happy with the Mint robot cleaner. You just take the Northstar beacon, turn it on and put it on a counter or table facing the center of the room. Then you grab the robot, put it on the floor, turn it on, and hit either the wet button for mopping or the dry button for sweeping. Evolution says that the robot uses the Northstar Beacon like GPS to keep track of where it is in the room, and maps the room as it goes.


It does a great job, works almost silently, cleans the rooms very quickly, and is fun to use and watch. It’s very methodical as it goes around your furniture and walls. The dirt sticks to the cleaning pad, so you’re not just spreading it around the room. In my house, the robot can clean almost the entire first floor on one charge. That’s about 800 square feet. The Mint fits under furniture, so it cleans in a lot of the places you won’t bother to go.

Editor’s Note: What follows is additional information after spending a couple of weeks with the Mint Cleaner.

DW and I are still very happy with our Mint Cleaner, and have named it Fido. We put Fido on cleaning duty twice a week, Wednesdays and Sundays. Something that has become clear is that with continued use, the floors get cleaner and stay cleaner. That’s pretty cool.

We use two pads to clean about 800 square feet and this is what they look like after:
Mint Microfiber Pads after cleaning
Consider that this is after a couple of weeks using the Mint twice a week. This is after 800 square feet including a tile bathroom and tile kitchen. The rest is hard wood floors. Two adults. No kids, no pets.

We have a few more grumbles with the Mint:

How the top of the Mint Cleaner is angled. It seems like an esthetic decision, and all it does is make the Mint unable to get under some furniture that it would otherwise be able to fit under (not that this is a big complaint – the robot is very short. But even still).

Something that doesn’t seem to do much good is mopping. We have had it mop our kitchen twice a week for a couple of weeks, and it doesn’t really seem to do a lot. We use the included mopping pad and water. So maybe it would help to use a wet Swiffer or some soap? Maybe if we were messier people it would make a big difference, but the floor looks and feels about the same for us.

The Mint Cleaner could use a hanging/charging system. Something you might mount on a wall next to a power outlet. I don’t think it needs a home base, but it would be good to have something that you could hang the Mint in that would be secure enough that you could remove the cleaning pad without having to grab it with your other hand.

Here are some new good things we’ve noticed:

Something you DO notice after you’ve been using the Mint to clean your floors, is how the areas it can’t get to are pretty dirty. I don’t do this every time, but every couple of times I have it clean a room, I’ll move some of the chairs out of the room, or rearrange something so that the Mint can get at an area that it will miss otherwise.

Some great ideas and engineering: I love the handle on the back for picking it up. That was a great design decision. DW has long hair, and the engineers at Mint definitely figured out how to keep hair from getting twisted up around the Mint Cleaner’s wheels. This is awesome!

We’ve definitely gone from “Turn it on and watch” to “Set it and forget it.” The Mint robot does a great job of navigating around the room, getting into and out of tight spaces, and beeping when it’s done. So you just put it in the next room and go back to what you were reading, or watching.

Buy the Mint Automatic Hard Floor Cleaner at Amazon.

Get the Braava 320 Floor Mopping Robot at Amazon.

More information

Mint Review at Robot Buying Guide
Mint Info at Engadget

iRobot Roomba 530 Features

iRobot Roomba 530 vacuum cleanerThe 500 Series Roombas feature technologies that aren’t available in the 400 series. They run longer on a battery charge, and are compatible with some of the more advanced accessories. The counter-rotating brushes, which pick up larger debris, run faster and have an improved design. The robot comes with better filters that stop more dust and allergens. iRobot made improvements to the spinning side brush so that it gets into corners better. The larger dust bin allows for more use between emptying. Technology for keeping the Roomba from getting tangles on cables, carpet fringe, and rug tassels as been improved upon. The iRobot Roomba 530 comes with a self-charging base and two virtual walls. The difference between the 530 and the 532 Pet Series is the 530 doesn’t come with: Extra High Capacity Sweeper Bin, Extra Brushes and Filters, and Extra Cleaning Tool.

What comes in the box:

  • The Roomba 530
  • 2 Compact Virtual Walls
  • Home Base for Self-Charging
  • Extra Filter
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Three Hour Charging Power Supply
  • 1 Year Warranty

As with all Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, the 530 will sense cliffs and drop-offs so that it won’t fall down steps. This robot can detect areas with more dirt and will circle over them to clean the area more thoroughly. You can also use the “spot clean” feature, where you tell the robot to clean up a small area quickly. This is great for spills or spots that need more frequent cleaning. The Roomba robots use filters to capture dust, pollen, and other allergens in your home, and vacuum each floor completely, going under furniture where it can. The dust bin is bagless. Roombas use a multi-stage cleaning technology to vacuum floors. First, a spinning brush grabs debris and pulls it toward the vacuum intake. Counter-rotating bristle brushes “beat” the floor and grab larger particles of dirt. Next, a powerful vacuum sucks up finer particles. On carpet, the brushes will work deep into the fibers to get at pet hair and dirt under the surface.

  • Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Charging Time: 3 Hours
  • Detects Dirt: Yes
  • Spot Mode: Yes
  • Max Mode: No
  • Self-Charging Home Base Compatible: Yes
  • On-Board Scheduling: No
  • Light-Touch Bumpers: Yes
  • Advanced Anti-Tangle Technology: Yes
  • Improved Edge and Corner Cleaning: Yes
  • Room-to-Room Navigation: No
  • High Capacity Bin: Optional
  • Wireless Control: No
  • Lighthouse Technology: No
  • Virtual Walls Included: 2
  • Lighthouses Included: 0
  • Wireless Command Center Included: No
  • Extra Brushes: No
  • Carrying Case: No
  • Extra Filters Included: 1
  • Bonus Accessory Kit: No

In the Future, a Robot Gecko Will Clean Your Windows

Gecko Cleaning Robot on Glass Surface

Serbot AG, a Swiss robotics firm is designing what looks like a Scooba robot with legs for cleaning large solar panels. To accomplish this goal, they used parts manufactured by Festo. I don’t usually get into large pictures on this site, but this thing is really cool looking, and it’s rare to find such a cool looking thing that is also a cleaning robot.

I’ve never thought about this, but apparently keeping large solar panels clean is a real pain and can be dangerous. They get covered with leaves, dust, pollen, pollution, and everything else that falls on them. Solar farms often have to clean them at night, and I guess it’s not as simple as turning a hose on them. The photovoltaic panels are delicate, slippery, and usually tilted at an angle. As more and more solar farms are built with more and more solar panels, cleaning them is going to be a real issue.

This sounds like a great place to apply some robot elbow-grease. You just build (or buy) an army of these little suction-cup footed robots and equip them with brushes, wipers, and maybe a spray bottle and a vacuum hose? The cleaning robots are made with twenty suction-cup feet on two kidney-shaped carrier frames. As you can see from the photos, the carrier frames are chain tracks, which are attached by a bridge. I would guess that’s where you connect the cleaning devices. To move, the robot rotates the feet around the carrier frames. It looks to me like the feet in the center of the device are the ones that will be engaged with the surface it is cleaning.

Gekko Cleaning Robot Closeup

The robot is designed to know that it has reached the end of a solar panel by feel. Basically, if it can’t get a grip, it withdraws. While this sounds like a cool idea, I wonder why they can’t use something more sophisticated? They solved the problem of how to keep suction by making sure the robot is always moving. The feet which are in contact with the surface at any given time only keep suction for two seconds. This makes it so the robots can travel without using so much energy to hang on.

Photo Source: Festo