Combinations of robot mops and vacuums are common these days, but often they can’t do both: they either stain your rugs, don’t scrub your floors thoroughly, or worse, wet your rugs because They cannot get out of their own way.
So, in a pleasant but not entirely unexpected surprise, iRobot, the company that started the robotic cleaning craze, has also cracked the code on the combo vacuum and mop with its new Roomba Combo j7+ ($1,100), our last round of testing The best robot vacuum cleaner. It’s the first hybrid we’ve tested, and it does an excellent job of both vacuuming and mopping, with the robotic arm effectively moving the mop pad out of the way when it senses carpet.
A hybrid robot that does a great job of mopping and vacuuming
Roomba Combo j7+ is an ingenious combination of vacuum cleaner and mop. With a robotic arm that can lift even the mopping pad over the tallest pile rugs, it’s the first combo robot we’ve tested that does all that well, taking care of all the toughest cleaning jobs at the touch of a button.
That’s why this new technology is so important. In my previous tests of other combo mop/vac robots like the Deebot X1 Omni and the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra, I had to make compromises to come close to the Roomba Combo J7+’s hands-free user experience.
Like many robot vacuums, the Deebot X1 only has an internal dust bucket. That means when you want to mop, you need to take that trash can out of the robot and replace it with the included water tank. Because the tanks are separate, I can never get the unit to mop and vacuum at the same time. Even though the Roborock S7 has enough room for two water tanks, the robot’s arms don’t always rise above the carpet, which leaves my carpet soggy — which again leaves me having to mop and vacuum separately.
The Combo j7+ has proven to be the ideal solution for homes with a mix of hard floors and carpets, especially if you have higher pile carpets. The robotic arm rises on top of the robot, allowing the back to dry completely and allowing the vacuum to pick up pet hair and dust. A single internal dust bucket holds dust and water.
This is your sweeping robot, you can drag it if you want
While the Combo j7+ can operate in vacuum-only mode, it automatically switches to vacuum and mop mode by sliding the mopping pad onto the robotic arm on top of the unit.
That said, when I first used the vacuum, the app asked me if I wanted to add a mop pad and filled the tank with water and some detergent. I did both and it automatically transitioned to combination vacuum and mop mode. I gave it away, curious to see how it went through my front door – it was hardwood floors with a rug in between. It starts by vacuuming the carpet, then deploys a robotic arm to lower the mopping pad to tackle the floor space.
Also, the magic of the Combo j7+ is that the mop will only drop when the robot detects a hard surface such as wood or tile. If it feels carpet, it backs off. I picked it up a few times and moved it to the other side of the room to see if it would come back over the carpet, but it never did. Instead, it worked.
Familiar iRobot design and details
Aside from the robotic arms (which you can’t see unless they move the mop pad from the top rear of the device), the Combo j7+ looks almost identical to our favorite robot vacuum, the j7+. The design is sleek and modern, featuring a matte black plastic body and a brushed aluminum round top with the iRobot logo in the center. There’s just one button on the vacuum that lets you start and pause the vacuum or long-press it to send it home. Below, you’ll find iRobot’s dual rubber brushes, which do a great job of keeping pet hair at bay.
Like other iRobot vacuums with a “plus” in their name, the j7+ includes The Clean Base, iRobot’s version of the base/dock. It also includes a trash can, which allows the robot to empty its contents into a bag while charging. While it made an odd noise as it emptied, like a jet engine flying overhead, it did so quickly enough. I especially appreciate that trash bags can hold debris for about two months before needing to be replaced, depending on how often you clean your floors and whether you have pets that shed a lot. Because the less I have to do, the better.
The Clean Base is quite large at 13″ x 12″ x 14″, so you’ll need to find a space that will accommodate it. Ideally, you want to leave about 1 foot of space on either side of the base for the robot to move itself into place. I put it in a corner of my guest room with 8 inches on each side and it’s easy to get in and out of. The robot itself is 13.3″ x 13.3″ x 3.4″ tall and fits easily under my living room sofa and other low furniture.
Other combo robot mops/vacs I tested made me feel like I was dragging a wet rag around the house, mostly because they only use water from the tank. iRobot is one of the few brands that lets you add a floor cleaner (the company recommends Bona Floor Cleaner Solutions), and it can make a big difference.
If you’re looking for a deeper clean, you can make adjustments in the app. In my kitchen, for example, I set it to mop twice on the Ultra setting, which reduces the most water. The downside of this is that I have to refill the tank when it inevitably runs out, which is fine if it’s mopping while I’m home (I’ll get an alert on my phone), but if I decide to Not so good to make it clean while I’m out.
On the hardwood floor in my living room, I set it to only execute once in standard mode. For rooms that need a lighter clean, I can change it to Eco (minimum water) mode.
For any robot vacuum to navigate your home while better avoiding obstacles like dining chairs, kitchen stools, etc., it needs a proper and accurate map. The Combo j7+ achieves this by adding more sensors than the original j7+, a front-facing camera, and iRobot OS 5.0.
Many of the robots I tested took hours to map my home, sometimes with dead batteries and had to go back to base to recharge to continue working. But I found iRobot’s mapping to be excellent, providing a complete map of my 1,500-square-foot home in just an hour and a half. New sensors help it distinguish between carpet and floor areas.
If you use it, the Combo j7+ will continue to learn about your space, suggest locations that may require additional cleaning runs, and prompt you to add “cleaning zones” and “no-go zones” to the map. For example, I created a “cat litter cleaning area” in my guest bathroom where I can do nifty things like have my voice assistant (Alexa, Google, or Siri) send iRobot (There are also dedicated voice commands for mopping and vacuuming, so you can tell it to mop the kitchen floor or vacuum the bedroom.) I also set up a virtual no-go zone around the kitchen bar stools. For some reason, the robot got stuck on the raised bottom of the stool, so the virtual wall prevented it from trying to climb up.
The camera also helps the robot learn and detect obstacles in its path, such as going around headphones and light wires on the floor, or even a pair of shoes that I missed. The camera takes pictures of the items it sees, so after a run, you’re asked to review the pictures and let the robot know if the headset is a temporary or permanent obstacle. Of course, machine learning still falls short: it once identified a cat under my bed as an obstacle. However, all my answers do help it get smarter with each cleaning run.
While my cat uses a litter box, iRobot does offer the Official Pet Owner Promise, or POOP, which it claims can detect and keep pets from accidentally getting dirty. If the unthinkable happens and the robot fails to recognize it as an obstacle, causing a bigger mess that I won’t describe, iRobot promises to replace the robot for free. And, oops.
My biggest complaint is the size of the mop pad. Both the Roborock and the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni have mop pads that are twice as large, so they can cover more space faster. Because the iRobot Combo stows the mop while vacuuming, its mop footprint is significantly smaller.
Also, since the water tank shares space with the dirt tank, it is also smaller and requires more frequent refilling. But for me, it’s a small price to pay for the convenience and reliability of a robot that can vacuum and mop flawlessly with the push of a button on my phone (or say a voice command).
I also found the Clean Base docking system, while smaller and more attractive than some competing products, to be less comprehensive. While it automatically sucks out robotic debris, it doesn’t clean the mopping pad. For me, that’s a compromise I can live with, and have no problem manually removing and washing the mop pad (in the sink or washing machine) after each cleaning job. The Combo j7+ comes with two microfiber mop pads, and you can buy an additional 2-pack online for $20.
One thing I’d like to see iRobot add is a “do not empty” feature that prevents the robot from emptying the bin after each cleaning. Because it’s so loud, I’d rather do it manually when it’s convenient than when someone is dozing off or I’m on a Zoom work call.
With the Combo j7+, iRobot has taken my favorite robot vacuum and made it even better by adding a very suitable mopping feature. The retractable robotic arm, combined with obstacle avoidance, advanced mapping technology and a relatively small footprint, make it the best mop/vac combo I’ve tested to date.
Not only does it get the job done with minimal intervention, but it does an excellent job of keeping cat hair off the floor and keeping the rugs from getting wet. Plus, its tall arm height makes it an excellent choice for those with high-pile rugs.
Of course, at $1,100, you’re paying more for these advanced features. So if you already own a great smart robot vacuum, you might prefer to add iRobot’s less expensive standalone robot mop, the iRobot Braava Jet 240 ($200), to your cleaning arsenal.
But if you’re looking for a product that can both vacuum and mop without looking like it got lost in a sci-fi movie set, look no further than the Combo j7+ robot.