Roomba Combo j9+ review: The ideal robot vacuum and mop


I miss having clean floors. I’ve been using a variety of Roombas over the years to help out with vacuuming, but ever since my wife and I had our second child in 2022, mopping has become an afterthought. And really, vacuuming can only clean your floor so much. I missed the shimmer of a mopped hardwood floor and the smell of Murphy Oil cleaner lingering in the air. Instead, I’ve been living with even more toys, crumbs and an assortment of bodily waste (which three cats contribute to) on my flooring and carpets. Don’t judge me (or any parent!), I’m tired.

When Engadget’s own Daniel Cooper extolled the virtues of iRobot’s first combination robot vacuum and mop, I was intrigued. I’d already grown to love my Roombas, especially after they gained the ability to dump their own waste into their charging docks. But for them to mop as well? That just sounded like an impossible dream. So when iRobot announced its second combination flagship, the Roomba Combo j9+, I leapt at the chance to test it. (Sorry, Dan.)

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iRobot

The Roomba Combo j9+ is the ideal robotic vacuum and mop. It can easily suck up dirt while also wiping down your floors, and now it’s smart enough to refill its own water tank.

Pros

  • Excellent vacuuming performance
  • Mops well on its own
  • Great obstacle (and poop) detection
  • Clean base is well designed
  • Solid battery life
Cons

  • Expensive
  • Mopping pad isn’t great for sticky messes

$999 at Amazon

I’ve tested iRobot’s Braava Jet m6 mopping robot, which was announced in 2019 and was notable for being able to work alongside the Roomba s9+. But it would have cost me $499 and required clunky setup and maintenance. Plus, it was yet another device that needed to live somewhere in my home. It was ultimately easier for me to just run the Roomba and mop by hand whenever I needed to.

Roomba Combo j9+ with Clean Base
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Roomba Combo j9+ (and the j7+ before it) promises a far smoother experience: It can simultaneously vacuum and mop without much additional effort on your part. All you need to do is add some water and cleaning solution to its large reservoir (stored neatly in the redesigned Clean Base) and attach a mop pad. The company developed a unique mop arm that can automatically move up and down when needed, which helps to avoid leaving your carpets wet with residue.

Maintenance is fairly simple too: Wash the mop pads after a few runs, add more water when necessary, and make sure the Roomba’s bristles aren’t getting tangled with hair. Once the Clean Base is full, swapping its custom waste bags takes only a few seconds.

While we liked the Roomba Combo j7+ well enough, the new model solves some of the issues we encountered. It can automatically refill its water tank from the Clean Base, whereas the j7+ required you to manually add liquid to the robot. The Combo j9+ also offers stronger vacuum suctioning, which allows it to pick up smaller debris and complete jobs with fewer cleaning passes. Its new Clean Base also looks like a piece of furniture, with a wood top that you can use like a regular table. Its door swings open from the front and offers space for additional waste bags, accessories and a large reservoir for cleaning liquid.

Roomba Combo j9+ trash bag
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

iRobot claims the j9+ Clean Base allows for 30 days of hands-free mopping and 60-days of hands-free vacuuming, figures that seem exceedingly ambitious for most users. In my testing, I needed to look at the Roomba’s bristles at least once a week to deal with extraneous hair and random toys. And I definitely had to change the mop pad after two or three runs — after all, there’s no such thing as clean floors with a dirty mop.

Like the Roomba j7+ and s9 before it, as well as just about every Roomba ever made, you’ll want to clear your floors of small debris and potential hazards before starting a run. As a Roomba user since 2005, I’ve grown to accept that they’re not magical cleaning devices. You will need to put in a bit of work to help them run best. But the key is it’s still easier than manually vacuuming and sweeping your floors and it’s significantly cheaper than a cleaning service.

Thanks to iRobot’s OS 7, along with its camera and wide array of sensors, the Roomba Combo j9+ is far better at automatically mapping your home than previous models. After two runs, it tagged my kitchen, dining area and living room correctly, though I had to hop into the iRobot app to differentiate between my living room and family room. The mapping might seem unnecessary if you’re using a Roomba for the first time (you can also disable it entirely), but it is the heart of the vacuum’s routines. Instead of cleaning your entire home, you can program it to just clean the kitchen and dining room. If you connect your app to Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, you can also use voice commands to direct your robot to specific locations.

After getting in hot water over its earlier plans to sell home mapping data, iRobot made an about face, gave up on that idea and started emphasizing privacy. The company says your mapping data is stored in the iRobot Cloud for processing (something you can also disable), which is a “secure” environment with “strict access controls, data encryption at rest and in transit, and periodic audits to ensure access is only given to those who require it.”

In 2020, MIT Technology Review reported that development versions of the Roomba J7 captured images of a woman sitting on a toilet and a child playing on the floor, which made their way to a library used by the labeling service Scale AI. iRobot said that the people using those devices had agreed to have their data captured — they weren’t regular consumers. One downside of using any cloud-connected device, especially one that aims to learn about your home, is that it’ll require sharing some data. It’s up to you to determine if that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for more convenience.

Roomba Combo j9+ mop pad
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When it comes to cleaning, the Roomba Combo j9+ practically mesmerized me as it balanced vacuuming and mopping duties. At the start of every mopping job, the robot emerged from the Clean Base, turned around and studiously refilled its liquid tank. It’s like watching R2D2 go to the bathroom in reverse. Since it was starting every job on my wood floor, the Roomba then lowered its mopping pad from its top (it has a ‘lil mop hat!) and spun up its vacuum. Then, it proceeded to move forward, sucking up dirt while the scrubbing pad cleaned right behind, a virtuoso show of autonomous cleaning acrobatics.

If you don’t need a full cleaning, you could also use the iRobot app to have the j9+ just vacuum or mop (useful if you’ve just gone to town on your floors with a manual vac). The iRobot app lets you control the number of cleaning passes per job (one, two or “room-size”, which tackles large rooms once and smaller spaces two to three times), as well as the amount of water for every mopping job (eco, standard or ultra). You can also choose between low, medium and high suction options (which get progressively louder, as you’d expect).

Roomba Combo j9+
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The iRobot app also lets you turn the Roomba’s obstacle detection on and off, though you’ll likely never want to disable it. In my testing, the Roomba Combo j9+ managed to avoid shoes, toys and other objects in its path. It also quietly came to a halt whenever my kids or cats stepped in front of it. iRobot’s promise to avoid pet poop (the aptly named Pet Owner Official Promise) also applies to the j9+. If the company’s poop-optimized computer vision algorithms somehow miss a dog or cat mess in your home, iRobot says it will send you a new Roomba at no charge within the first year of purchase. The company will only send out one replacement, though, and the guarantee doesn’t apply to non-solid waste (including diarrhea) or poop from another animal.

Before you ask, yes, I tested this. I placed a bit of cat poop in front of the j9+ and watched with worry as it approached the stinker. Thankfully, it stopped about six inches away and immediately backed off, as if it was terrified of the horrors it was about to inflict on itself. My floors were grateful, as was I.

Roomba Combo j9+ poop avoiding

The Roomba Combo j9+ performed admirably as a mop. It wasn’t always perfect, and I could occasionally make out streaks, but it still looked a lot better than when relying on mere vacuuming. After my first cleaning session, my floors beamed in the sunlight with a glow I hadn’t seen in months. And best of all, it required very little effort on my part, aside from a bit of tidying up. Even my notoriously picky mom noticed my floors sparkled more when they visited right after the Roomba worked its magic.

According to iRobot, the j9+ features twice the scrubbing performance of the j7+. While I couldn’t test the difference directly, I can confirm it’s a stubborn little bot when it comes to tough situations like dried litter paw prints and caked-in dirt. It managed to fully clean up those messes, but I’d be wary of letting it tackle anything worse, at least not without changing the mopping pad right afterwards. The j9+ may be able to avoid streaking poop around your house, but having your floors painted with a muddy mop can also be awful.

Roomba Combo j9+
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

A rogue j9+ could do plenty of damage around your home, since its battery life has also been improved. It typically cleared my first floor in around two hours without needing a charging break. At one point, it ran for two and a half hours without a sweat. That should make this Roomba pretty capable even if you have a large home. A full floor cleaning took between 30 minutes and an hour longer than the j7+, but that makes sense since it’s also mopping and being more diligent about vacuuming.

At $1,400, the Roomba Combo J9+ is too expensive for most people looking to buy their first robovac. Even when iRobot is running a sale (we’ve seen it drop the price down to $999), the Combo j9+ is pretty pricey, but that cut does make the j9+ more palatable for longtime Roomba owners who’ve learned how to fit the bot into their cleaning routines. iRobot isn’t completely out of line with its pricing: The competing Roborock S7 Max Ultra offers similar vacuum and mopping features and typically sells for $1,299 (it’s also on sale for $999 at the moment).

There’s still no robot vacuum equivalent to the Jetson’s Rosie the Robot, but the Roomba Combo j9+ is the closest we’ve got so far. iRobot has built upon its excellent robot vacuum platform to deliver something that can finally mop your floors without a sweat. And while it may seem a tad exorbitant, the cost may be worth it for parents who, like me, forgot what truly clean floors looked like.



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