Thinking about making robots do my housework.
June 2, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Lately I've been considering getting a Roomba or a Neato, but I need to know if it'll try to suck up dog toys.

My dog is a toy fanatic and is happiest when his toys are scattered around the house (see background of this picture). I'm actually pretty ok with this. I'm less ok with the dust bunnies and dog hair that constantly coat my floor, and I'm super lazy and hate that I actually have to vacuum it myself every day if I want to have clean feet. And also now that it's open windows season, I'm getting outdoor grit blown into my house.

So, enter the robo vacuum.

However, I need to know how likely the various makes/models will be to suck up Truman's toys. Will it see that there's a duck stuffy in front if it and make a path around it, or will duck stuffy be read as floor filth and be vacuumed over? (Special snowflake: my dog uses a litter box, and kicked out litter is my #1 source of floor mess annoyance. Having the roomba in vacuuming around the litterboxes is important to me. HOWEVER, maybe about once every 2-3 weeks, my dog will miss the litterbox and drop a turd on the floor. WILL THE ROOMBA TRY TO EAT DOG POOP? I assume that would be bad.)

Ideally (assuming my dog isn't freaked out by the thing) this would be running while I was at work, so keeping the floor free of toys is not possible. I saw this previous question, and the ease with which the roombas can traverse heights makes me think it would happily try to roll over something that'll gum up the works.
posted by phunniemee to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Will the roomba try to eat dog poop? "

Yes it will.

Source: Former Roomba Owner. Roomba has now been replaced by a biweekly maid service.
posted by olivetree at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2014

Response by poster: God damnit.

posted by phunniemee at 10:10 AM on June 2, 2014

The Roomba has a bump sensor, so it definitely won't go around the toys, as they are too soft and light to trigger the bump sensor. The Neato has that and a scanning rangefinder, so it will actually detect (and in theory, avoid) certain small objects. Some particularly flat things will go undetected, though. Both are garbage vacuums, in my opinion, so they won't actually succeed at sucking up any toys. They will, however, succeed at smearing poop everywhere.

If the poop is always near the litterbox, you can use the virtual walls that come with the Roomba (or the magnetic strips that come with the Neato) to make the vacuum avoid that area entirely.
posted by Behemoth at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can speak for the Neato. The ears on that stuffed rabbit thing and the sock would both get sucked up and cause the Neato to stop vacuuming and start beeping, which is how it asks for help. A turd? Totally going to suck that up.

So, what I do (with two cats now), is only activate Henry (that's what I call the Neato) manually when I've done a quick pick up of the various things that would harsh Henry's mellow. It's just a 30 second or so part of my morning routine now.

Other kinds of toys shouldn't be a problem. I have little bell filled balls lying around all over the place and Henry just pushes those aside. Same with my cats' food dishes. It's mostly fabric stuff that can get pulled in. Shoelaces would be the worst.

So yeah, it's not automatic in a pet filled house with a bit of clutter, but it's a heck of a lot easier than vacuuming by hand and since I do it almost daily, the place is kept pretty clean when it comes to particulates.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:15 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, the Neato does have virtual walls that can be deployed.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:15 AM on June 2, 2014

We have the Roomba 650 model, I believe? It does eat cat toys from time to time. It's pretty tough, though: stuff will get tangled up in there but not break it. If things get jammed up, it'll just stop and bloop out an error message until you come along to fix it, and the brushes are easy to remove so you can readily extricate stuff.

Cat toys are a lot smaller than dog toys, though. In contrast to the cat toys, we have flip-flops by the door, and the Roomba just pushes them around the room. I suspect it will do this to dog toys. It may do the same to dog poop, which would be even worse than eating it. You could always use the virtual wall thing to avoid this, but then it won't have access to the litter.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:16 AM on June 2, 2014

Unless they've gotten much better in the couple of years since I bought mine, the roomba will totally eat dog toys. It'll push some toys around but it'll eat a sock or a stuffed animal. You really have to clean up before you roomba. I love my roomba but I'm often too lazy to use it. To do the living room I have to pick up all the kid toys and move the poang chair out (it gets caught on the base). I also move out the chair that's too sort for the roomba to get under. It does better in the kitchen because there's not as much to get caught on. It doesn't get caught on wires too often and it get the floor way cleaner than I can get it with sweeping, but I do have to pick up. Also I have to empty it and pull out all the thread and hair it picks up. (I have long hair and I sew a lot.) It was good for pet hair when we had a cat. It did once knock a glass Christmas ornament off the tree and immediately vacuumed up the shards, so at least it cleans up after itself. It'll also do nice things like find the set of keys that have been lost under the sofa for a week.
posted by artychoke at 10:17 AM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Our Roomba was constantly clogged with hair from our constantly shedding golden retriever. The unpleasantness of cleaning it was worse than vacuuming. We gave up on it after a few months. I don't recall dog toys ever being a problem.

This was a few years ago. Hair sucking technology has hopefully improved..
posted by samhyland at 10:20 AM on June 2, 2014

As a fellow lazy person, I'll second what samhyland said, the Roomba is actually more of a pain than its worth. Emptying the tray daily and unclogging the pet hair that gets tangled around the brush is worse than vacuuming.
posted by MsMolly at 10:24 AM on June 2, 2014

The Roomba pet edition has worked pretty well so far in my 3-dog household. He (Roomba) doesn't eat dog toys, but he has tried to swallow electronics cords on the carpet in our office. We have mostly hardwoods downstairs, and Roomba is very effective there. I no longer see tumbleweeds of hair blowing across the floor. Learn how to set up the virtual walls and you will be all set.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:33 AM on June 2, 2014

Instead of a Roomba, get a Dyson DC35 Digital Slim vacuum or similar. We use ours much more often than the big vacuum because it's always at hand.
posted by kindall at 10:37 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, perhaps Roombas have gotten significantly better in the last couple years, but the time I spent cleaning hair and debris out of the rollers on mine, and generally keeping it in working order, was at least equal to the time I spent vacuuming. And I found vacuuming considerably less unpleasant (at least in part due to my annoyance at all the effort I was expending to maintain the thing that was supposed to take over the effort of vacuuming, but it was kind of intrinsically unpleasant as well.)
posted by Naberius at 1:04 PM on June 2, 2014

I have two roombas, they don't tend to eat the many toys I have however, turds are another story. I foster so I often have dogs learning house training, roomba has had several turd incidents. The dry turds are not as bad but um yeah it gets incredibly gross. Still, I have multiple dogs and polished concrete floors so it's worth it. When I had carpet, roomba seemed to get tired really quickly and wasn't as useful.
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:26 PM on June 2, 2014

I've just come across this while researching a new vacuum purchase and thought I would throw in my 2cents worth.

We use a Mint robot to sweep the hardwood every two days. It means rolling up rugs and clearing the floor of toys but it does a decent job of moderating the cat fur and dander mess so we only have to do a big clean every couple of weeks. (Rolling up the rugs got annoying so we just got rid of rug)

It's cheap and reliable - we have had ours for almost a year now with nary a blip and it is quiet since it sweeps rather than vacuums so you can run it while you are home and not have to worry about poop smearing and eating (unless you just leave poop lying around like that family in the Queen of Versailles documentary). I've never had to clean the rollers or anything - and we have swept up at least 100 cat pelts worth of fur.

The only drawback is that it will leave occasionally large dust bunnies on edges of carpets or couch legs but these are easily spotted and gathered up once it is done.
posted by srboisvert at 9:38 AM on July 20, 2014

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