Cutting-edge technology for the monotonous job of floor cleaning

Kya deLongchamps gets down and dirty this week testing technology and other assorted kit for floor cleaning.

Cutting-edge technology for the monotonous job of floor cleaning

I am an Irish country-dwelling mother. My whole blasted house, bar the bedrooms and bathrooms, is open plan and traversed by several prickly-footed out-of-control JRTs.

Their fat absorbent paws suck through the fields, woodlands, muck heaps and more.

They cannon through the dog door in one snarling mob, slide up to, and collide with the fridge.

Closed doors are exploded inward using the head of their smallest recruit.

I’m wound a little tight, and having wood and tile floors, I clean — daily.

So, this season was an exciting one for Kya — personally thrilling.

Enter the new iRobot Braava 390t mopping robot, designed for ‘everyday dirt and grime’ in large spaces.

iRobot, the brilliant child of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has already cleaned up the market with its Roomba line of robot vacuums.

The new Braava robot mop from iRobot. Available in two sizes for larger or smaller homes. Delivering a damp or dry clean, it features a North Star GPS system. From €249.99, www.shop.irobot.ie

The new Braava robot mop from iRobot. Available in two sizes for larger or smaller homes. Delivering a damp or dry clean, it features a North Star GPS system. From €249.99, www.shop.irobot.ie

My bruised credit card on the desk, fingers poised to stab out an order, I settled in for the introductory video. Oh, the agony of disappointment.

Perhaps something was lost in transatlantic translation. Let’s say, I was completely misled by the word ‘mop’.

Mop is not a wipe of a dampened cloth.

It’s an extensive, intensive clean — a reaching, sometimes bleaching swipe, defeating the tracks of mucky, sticky invaders and the germ load that defies the initial loose grit n’ hair round-up with the vacuum.

Mop/ robot — surely this had to be something cranked around the room by a mechanical valet with the stature of CP30? The Braava is the size of a two-slice toaster.

The smile was mopped from the face of this old Irish domestic.

If the cat lives in a tree and your children flit softly over the wide-plank in virgin chamois leather ballet shoes, the Braava, would be, rather.

The promotional ad features a gorgeous, relaxed brunette inhabitant of Stepford, elegantly chopping asparagus and folding silk shirts in her already fantastically clean house. Jack Russel heads are probably stuffed on the wall.

To be fair, the North Star GPS system of Braava, which bounces its signal off the roof creating an individual room ‘map’ is impressive and it can sneak beneath sofas and up to baseboards using smart sensors.

The system can use wet or dry mopping (a minute spit of water, likely to make Irish homemakers with legions of boots, roar with laughter).

My snaggle-toothed pups would love to ride around on top of the Braava, but it’s otherwise completely useless for my situation.

Despite the urging of the designers, it will not be ‘joining my robot fleet’ but for the immaculate who need the occasional splash of Chablis lifted from the travertine, maybe.

The Braava has microfibre cloths, but the machine will also work with disposable dry mop cleaning cloths such as Swiffer pads (thank you, lads). €369.99.

A smaller iRobot Braava machine, the 240t can handle larger spaces:, €249.99. www.shop.irobot.ie

Mopping relies on the repeated pick-up, dispersal and return to the bucket, of a certain amount of liquid.

Too much or too little can ruin the job. In the case of wood flooring and even standard laminate sectional floors, it’s crucial to not over-wet.

Working between the boards, moisture can cause the supporting materials to warp and even lift.

Linoleum, marmoleum and sealed concrete, while more forgiving are a nuisance if left pooled from an overly-sodden mop, and in the worst cases, this can be getting down on the knees, to dry up.

Old-style, cotton-headed mops are not only joint killers to twist out, but have the reputation of simply moving the same body of dirty water around the room.

Look for lighter micro-fibre heads which while not as robust, can be used wet or dry and are easier to muscle. €18-€20 complete with bucket.

Minky Mops (Argos) include a heel-scrub and rub-dots for tough marks. €27.99.

For real drive, a heavier head in a loop cotton mop is the choice of professional cleaners, and can be used to polish tile to a sparkle.

For many years I worked my V groove plank flooring with the highly popular foam Dosco Major mop.

It wrung out so efficiently, retaining just enough cleaners in water, to glance over the floor, giving a gentle but damp-dry rub in places.

It’s a quality, hefty wand with two firm rollers operated by a pull-up handle over the wedge-shaped foam head forcing out the water.

The killer is the price, €24.99 for the complete Major sans bucket, with refills (and the heads do deteriorate and tear with heavy use) at a sodden €11.99, half the price of a whole new mop.

An Addis cloth mop refill is just €6.99, with square head mop refills at €8.99 for most brands.

If you like a square sponge, choose a heavy wand and test the vice like agony of the squeeze. Our choice is the Addis Mettalic Super Dry at €18.99 complete at Woodies DIY.

Flat microfibre cloth mops boast a smooth floor action without the stutter of a sponge mop, but cleaning the pads puts you into more direct contact with the dirt collected.

Wood flooring can be maintained without a fully ‘wet’ mop using regularly damp dusting following a full and thorough vacuum.

To dispense with the bucket, try the Vileda 1-2 Spray mop with microfibre, washing washable head and integrated spray handle, €31.99.

I’m waltzing around my challenged square footage with a brand new, fluffy headed ‘spin mop’.

Excess water is flung out from the head using centrifugal force on a revolving spindle in the dedicated bucket.

With a dense loop head, it not only delivers an excellent clean, but is fun to use and the bucket can be closed and left on stand-by.

Choose a quality branded spin mop with press or pedal action, and look out for the newer models with 360-degree turning heads, and twin buckets, ensuring the water you use slap-to-slap is always clean.

From €30 from suppliers including www.spinmop.ie

Leifheit Clean and Twist mops are expensive but designed for sensitive wood floors combining soft microfibre cloths’ systems and that dizzy spin-dry action.

€69.99 with rolling cart, Argos.

ALL STEAMED UP

Electrically-powered, steam mops. although a greater investment offer versatility, and a deep, chemical-free clean.

These cleaners super-heat water, generating steam, safely killing bacteria and melting dirt in their path.

Steamed up: There are several varieties of steam mops on the market. Picture: Vax

Steamed up: There are several varieties of steam mops on the market. Picture: Vax

Electrically-powered, steam mops. although a greater investment offer versatility, and a deep, chemical-free clean.

These cleaners super-heat water, generating steam, safely killing bacteria and melting dirt in their path.

They are great for textured hard flooring where mops can stutter and they do clean carpets too.

Some operate as handheld cleaners to shine windows, sanitise the bathroom, steam clean a mattress and de-gunk the stove top.

Steam mops should heat up almost instantly and not drip. Look for mop periods of at least 15 minutes.

You may prefer continuous action over trigger action steam in a bigger open area, and remember only use them on sealed wood flooring.

Here’s our pick of the best steaming up the market this winter

Dirt Devil DDS04-E01 5 in 1 Steam Mop

Entry level. A good brand at a great price, with 15 minutes of performance between fills, this little machine can do light carpet cleans and detaches for wall tiling, taps and more. Ideal for apartments. €54.99. Argos.

Karcher SC2 Steam Cleaner

A mid-range in pricier cylinder types from steam expert Karcher. Boasts its innovative ‘lamellae’ floor tool cleans up to 35% more effectively and a detachable tank for continuous use in a bigger home. €165, Littlewoods.

Vax S7 multi-cleaner.

A winning brand with consumers, this Vex machine offers a hand-held steamer as well as a powerful 1600W upright, 30-second heat up, plenty of accessories and features including a detailer nozzle and scraper tool and a cooler base (ensure you let your machine cool out of the way of youngsters).

€60, www.powercity.ie

H20X5 from Thane.

Single-control operation to vary steam in a two-in-one machine that easily detaches into a handheld for windows and surface treatment. This machine also includes a garment steamer and carpet glider.

€99.99, www.h2o-x5.thane.ie

Solutions, solutions

There are a number of choices for cleaning the floor from water to the harsher chemical answers.

Above all, ensure you never over-wet a timber or laminate floor, and don’t leave a trace of acidic cleansers, or additives intended to be rinsed off on the surface.

Bleach degrades grout – go easy, a splash only. Look for any pooling after steaming or traditional mopping.

Water

For steaming and everyday mopping, pure unadulterated tap (hand hot) water is all that’s required.

Manufacturers do offer their own liquid additives intended to deal with lime-scale inside steam machines, to add fragrance and to increase their germ killing power to over 99%.

Some are astonishingly expensive. Vax Citrus Burst (1l) offers 20 applications for €17.68, a rather sodden 88c a time, www.vaxparts.ie

Natural strength

Water to white vinegar spritzed in equal measures offers a good spot cleaning solution using a fabric or rag-headed mop.

The vinegar acts as a mild disinfectant. Clean again with water to finish.

Be careful of using oil as an ingredient in natural recipes. It can sit up on sealed flooring and be slippery.

Lemon juice will bleach raw boards — go easy with waxed or bare surfaces, and dry with a towel if needs be.

Just a splash

To save money add only as much cleaning solution as you find necessary to give that warm water and elbow grease a touch of extra muscle on grease and grime.

Cif offers excellent pricing and consistently high customer reviews, with its Wood Cleaning solution in Chamomile suited to all finished floors types and cupboard doors, just €1.75 currently at Tesco.

Viking Direct stocks its Direct to Floor solution in Orchid, great for quick clean ups on smaller areas, €4.25 for 750mls, www.vikingdirect.ie

Why not just make up your own water/vinegar SOS solution to keep on hand instead?

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