Robot vacuums have come a long way in a few short years, evolving to the point where they are affordable and can serve as suitable alternatives to upright vacuums for many households. But while robot vacuums can remove the dust and debris from floors, the user still has to mop hard floor surfaces regularly for a complete clean, and the technology and engineering in robot mops hasn’t caught up to that of robot vacuums.
iLife, a popular robot vacuum brand, recently came out with the. It’s different from many mopping and sweeping robots because it scrubs the floors with clean water, and then it sucks up the dirty water. I tested the W400 for 80 hours to see how well it performs.
Setup and first use
When I opened the box, I found the W400 floor washing robot, two rotating soft scrubber brushes (one for immediate install and one backup), two water tanks (one for clean water and one for dirty water), a cleaning tool, a squeegee that installs on the robot, and a remote control with batteries included.
The robot was easy to put together, and I had it set up in about 5 minutes. I charged the robot (the battery takes about 4.5 to 5 hours to charge from completely drained) and I filled the clean water tank with tap water from my sink. I pressed the “path” button on the remote, and the robot said aloud, “cleaning will start soon.”
Let the cleaning began.
Sparkling Clean Floors with no Chemicals
I have waterproof vinyl floors in my kitchen that look like wood. I immediately noticed a difference as the W400 Shinebot cleaned each area of the kitchen floor. In path mode, it traveled in a straight line back and forth, moistening and scrubbing each section of the floor, and then squeegeeing and sucking up the dirty water as it traveled.
I purposefully made a mess to see how the robot would handle it, spilling several blobs of ketchup and mustard on the floor. I walked away for a few moments, and the robot had already scrubbed the mess clean by the time I returned. I decided to spill some red wine on the floor as well. I watched the robot completely clean the wine in one pass.
The user manual says not to use any chemicals in the clean water tank, and only use clean tap water. I was impressed with how well the robot cleaned and shined my floors with just water. After it finished, I dumped the dirty water tank. The water smelled absolutely putrid and was tinged brown. All of that was on my floor just moments before.
It’s great that the W400 separates the clean water (0.85 liter tank capacity) and dirty water (0.9 liter tank capacity) and that it scrubs the floors clean, but this means you’ll have to put in a bit more work each time you use the Floor Washing Robot.
Before each use, as long as the robot is charged, I had to fill the clean water tank. That wasn’t difficult. However, the post-wash maintenance was a pain. I had to disassemble the water tanks and soft scrub brush from the machine, empty out the clean water tank, empty the dirty water tank, thoroughly rinse out the dirty water tank, rinse off the filter, and then thoroughly clean the soft scrub brush. I then had to charge and reassemble to robot.
This process only took five minutes, which isn’t much. It does, however, negate the convenience of owning a robot vacuum in the first place.
Mapping, or lack thereof
Another frustration I experienced with the W400 is the manner in which is navigates. It has four main cleaning modes: area mode, path mode, spot mode, or edge mode. The edge mode is supposed to clean around edges and corners, where a lot of funk accumulated in a room. The spot and area modes are designed to clean smaller areas like bathrooms, or to clean up small concentrated messes. The path mode is for larger rooms, like a kitchen.
While the robot does well with smaller areas in spot mode and area mode, it has a hard time with large areas. This is likely because it lacks visual mapping. It travels in an S-pattern, which sometimes repeats over the same area, and it has trouble navigating from one room to the next.
Fortunately, it has a handle, so I could pick it up and move it to another location. However, I had to pause and restart the bot each time I move it.
On the plus side, the robot does well with area rugs. It doesn’t climb over them and it can avoid most obstacles. The W400 has nine sets of OBS detectors in the front to help it locate obstacles, and three sets of cliff detectors to prevent it from falling down stairs.
Missing a few key features
In addition to visual mapping, other features the W400 could benefit from include automatic return to dock, app control, and smart home connectivity. I’ve reviewed other iLife cleaning robots before, and there seems to be a theme developing. They have excellent cleaning performance, but poor or absent app control and smart home connectivity.
Use the robot, or just Swiffer?
The iLife W400’s ability to automatically scrub the crap out of your hard floors without any human power was impressive. My floors looked close to new. I can’t manage that even when I try to mop by hand.
It wasn’t as convenient as I hoped, however. I had to fill the tank, clean out the tanks and filter afterwards, and clean the brush. Then, on top of that, the robot doesn’t seamlessly cover every spot in a large multi-room area when it roams free on path mode.
Come mop day, I found myself staring at the W400, staring at the Swiffer WetJet, and then back at the W400 again, and pondering which one would be less of a pain to use. The W400 Shinebot won, but the fact I still consider using an inexpensive human-powered device over a robot says something about the W400’s required regular maintenance.
Should you buy the W400? If you like having really, really clean floors (so clean that you can keep all of your white socks nice and white), then the setup and cleanup process might be worth it. However, if you’re looking for a robot that will clean your floors without you having to lift a finger, the W400 isn’t going to do that for you.
If you like having really, really clean floors (so clean that you can keep all of your white socks nice and white), then the setup and cleanup process might be worth it. However, if you’re looking for a robot that will clean your floors without you having to lift a finger, the W400 isn’t going to do that for you.
The iLife W400 Floor Washing Robot comes with a one-year limited warranty.
I have mixed feelings about the W400. It has plenty of cleaning power. In a single pass, it scrubs red wine, ketchup, and other wet messes. It does exceptionally well in small areas like bathrooms where navigation isn’t a concern. However, the cleaning performance, while important, doesn’t outweigh the fact that the robot is missing essential functionality. I can forgive the lack of smart home integration to an extent, and I can even forgive the lack of app control. However, the most serious problems with the W400 are its lack of an automatic return to dock, and that it requires too much from the customer after each use.
Is there a better alternative?
There are other robots on the market that will mop your floors, like an iRobot Braava robot. But most of these mopping robots use a mopping pad. The W400 has better cleaning performance than any alternative on the market, as it wets, scrubs, squeegees, and sucks up the water on each area of the floor it passes over.
While it’ll be tough to find a better floor cleaning robot, you can easily find an alternative with better navigation and with features like return to dock, app control, and smart home compatibility.
How long will it last?
The iLife 400 robot is sturdy and well-built, so there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t last a few years with proper care and maintenance.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you like having really, really clean floors (so clean that you can keep all of your white socks nice and white), then the setup and cleanup process might be worth it to you. However, if you’re looking for a robot that will clean your floors without you having to lift a finger, the W400 isn’t going to do that for you.