With a wide range of styles and functions available, if you throw a stone it’s not hard to hit a robot vacuum that promises the ability to both vacuum and mop. What makes iRobot’s Roomba Combo j7+ stand out as a robot vacuum is how it approaches these two functions.
Unlike other two-in-one robot vacuums, where you need to manually attach the mopping pads, the Combo j7+ uses a retractable one. Now, when the Roomba enters an area with hard flooring (be it tiles or wooden floorboards), it will automatically lower its mopping pad to start cleaning.
So, does the Roomba Combo j7+ robovac suck or does it suck?
Setting up and running the Combo j7+
Out of the box, the Combo j7 is pretty sleek and unassuming to look at. It’s about a foot wide and not very heavy (which is good, because you’ll need to flip it over to take out the water tank).
I’ve seen a few other robovac auto-empty stations that are quite tall, but I found the one that came with the Combo’s to be compact enough that it doesn’t draw that much attention to itself. My partner and I only had to slightly adjust a shelf in our living room to make space for the Clean Base, which is just short enough that it fits under a power point. It’s recommended that you leave a certain amount of space around the Clean Base clear, so the Roomba can properly navigate its way home (the Combo j7+ includes the Clean Base, while the Combo j7 is just the robovac).
Before having the Combo j7+ make its first clean, iRobot recommends letting it make two mapping runs, to let it generate a smart map of your home in the companion app. I let it do this, with each run taking about an hour, with the end result being a pretty accurate layout of our living room, dining room, bathroom and kitchen. After that, I fired up the robovac and let it clean the entire apartment, which took just over an hour to complete (and that’s with a double pass).
When running, the robovac isn’t too loud, although when it empties itself into the clean station, it sounds like an aeroplane engine powering up. It scares the crap out of me each time.
The curse of living somewhere that’s 90% carpet is that it’s easy for dust and grit to collect if I don’t stay on top of cleaning, which usually causes hell with my allergies. I’ve been pretty happy with the end results of the Combo’s cleans and keeping it to a regular schedule means I’m less inclined to accidentally trigger any sneezing fits. While the Roomba can’t get fully into corners (the curse of the robovac), the side cleaner brush does a good job of hitting those dusty edges and feeding it into the Combo’s cleaning head. Its edge and surface detection is solid. The step onto our balcony from our living could make for a nasty fall, but the Combo j7+ has fully avoided hurling itself off it every time it approached it.
How does it go as a mop?
While I have no complaints about its vacuuming abilities, I’m not totally sold on its mopping. While the mopping isn’t bad, it’s just fine. While it does a good job of scrubbing off any dirt or shoeprints from the white tiles, I found that it struggled a bit with more stubborn stains. I’ve needed to do multiple passes on high to really get it clean. I don’t know if this is a case of the pad not being big enough, or having enough pressure applied so it can really pull up those dirty spots.
To circle back to its edge detection, the Combo j7+ hasn’t sprayed water on any carpeted surfaces. When it would lean over the edge of the kitchen into the living room, it would sense the change in surface and either back itself up or retract the mop. The Combo j7+ has a 240mL tank of water, which you can easily pop out to fill up. Plus, not having to touch a sopping wet pad to remove the mopping attachment is definitely a plus.
If you are looking for a robovac, especially for the mopping feature, I’d recommend weighing up the size of your home beforehand. I live in an apartment where the only tiled rooms are the kitchen and bathroom – relatively smaller spaces so I don’t need to top up the water that frequently. I can’t imagine using this to clean a larger place with minimal carpet (be it tiles or hardwood).
The smart stuff
The Combo is constantly updating the map when making cleaning runs, but you can also set it to make more solo mapping runs if you want. Part of its mapping function is that it lets you set dividers for each room, allowing you to get a bit more specific when it comes to tidying certain areas. Breaking down the house by rooms is a handy feature, and the app is intuitive enough to give decent suggestions on where to create borders.
Each job provides data for the area cleaned, which includes whether or not there were any particularly filthy areas (called “Dirt Events”) and the duration of cleaning. If the Combo cleans a particularly dirty area, the app will give you a prompt that suggests marking this place as a “Clean Zone”, so the robovac will know to be extra thorough on its next cleaning run. The Combo suggested marking the area around our kitchen benches after it cleaned our kitchen after dinner one night, which was a handy suggestion that we took onboard.
You’re also able to set “Keep Out Zones” that the Combo will automatically avoid when cleaning. For example, the robovac is just short enough to fit under our TV cabinet and on one of its first runs, it went under there and made a mess of our cables. After marking this space as a Keep Out Zone, the Combo now skips that area entirely. While I didn’t set one, you also have the option to mark parts of your map as a “No Mop Zone”.
Initially, we didn’t have my home office added to the map, so we used that as a test when it came to adding a new room for the map. The Roomba did struggle a little bit here, as when I initially placed the Combo in the office, it couldn’t figure out where it was to make its way home to the Clean Base. It partially mapped out the room, but I eventually had to carry it back to the cradle because it gave up. However, I later ran another mapping run and the Roomba had no problem figuring out its way home.
As an additional note, I found setting up voice assistant control (via Google Assistant) was very easy to do as well, and really helped to add to the hands-free aspect of the Roomba.
And, yes, we did name it Dua Sweepa.
The Combo’s obstacle detection ability, which helps the robovac to perceive obstacles and improve its cleaning intelligence, had to be turned on. I also had to opt-in separately for obstacle image updates, which I had to turn on by going into a previous cleaning run and activating the feature. Turning these features on wasn’t a massive hassle, but it seems weird to partially obscure them when they’re essential features when it comes to improving the Roomba’s cleaning process.
Those aforementioned images are designed to help the Combo become smarter by improving its ability to better detect obstacles, and whether it should avoid areas in the future. With this feedback, you’re able to teach your robovac the difference between temporary objects like a shoe and a laptop charging cable, or more permanent ones like the base of a lamp. The app even offers to send the robovac back out to do a “Tidy Up” job over the areas it skipped due to temporary obstacles (assuming you’ve since moved any of these objects).
The companion app gives you the option to select whether or not you want to contribute any images to the iRobot database, which will be deleted from the app in 30 days. According to the app’s terms and conditions, no employees or representatives will have access to the images that aren’t explicitly shared and the images will be automatically deleted from iRobot’s servers after 30 days.
Should you buy the Roomba Combo j7+ robot vacuum?
In my first impressions of the iRobot Roomba Combo j7+, I mentioned that when it comes to smart automation, I want something that I barely need to think about or interact with – that it needs to blend seamlessly into my day-to-day life. In those regards, I think the Combo j7+ succeeds.
The convenience of the Combo j7+ cannot be understated. It’s an extra hour that can now be better spent elsewhere (read: watch three to four episodes of King of the Hill). It does a solid job when it comes to vacuuming, and maintains a consistent clean throughout its jobs. Being able to set and forget a scheduled clean is great – and the voice-assisted controls are nicely intuitive. It’d be great if the cleaning base could also top up the water, giving it total hands-free capabilities.
What impressed me the most was the companion app, which I found easy to use, and the Roomba’s smarts are a massive highlight. While there were some moments where the robovac seemed a bit confused about its surroundings, it learnt from that job and didn’t repeat its mistakes the next time.
The convenience of not having to manually change out the mopping pads is nice, but the end results when cleaning could be better. While I think it does a decent enough job that I’d still recommend it, its mopping skills aren’t the strongest feature of the Combo j7+. However, considering this is the first version of this retractable mop feature, I’m excited to see where the technology goes from here.
Where can you buy the Roomba Combo j7+ robot vacuum?
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