iRobot Braava Jet is a robot maid for your bathroom floor

iRobot's Roomba robots already suck: now they can spit, too. The iRobot Braava Jet isn't rude, though, it's actually intended for bathroom and kitchen floors, as well as rooms with wood and laminate surfaces. Cheaper than its vacuum siblings, it's also considerably smaller so that it can dart behind your toilet. I cornered it in a bathroom to see how it worked.

Just as it's physical smaller than iRobot's typical robo-vacuums, so the Braava Jet has a pared-back intelligence. There's no smartphone connectivity, or WiFi hook-up for your smart home, or even a fancy docking station where it will auto-recharge.

Instead, you recharge the battery yourself in the included wall adapter, and click it into place at the back of the robot manually. That, iRobot tells me, is because the natural home for the Braava Jet isn't out in the open, but instead tucked underneath the kitchen or bathroom sink: the company only envisages it being brought out periodically, whenever there's cleaning to be done.

That process is simple, too. iRobot has three different types of pad – one for dry sweeping, one for damp cleaning, and one for wet cleaning – and the robot automatically recognizes which has been slotted into place by the cut-out holes on the cardboard mounting plate.

Then, it's a case of putting the Braava Jet in the corner of the room and hitting the power button. How it then scuttles around depends on what pad is installed.

If you've used the dry pad, then you get a progressive back-and-forth of the room, the Braava Jet building a map of the space as it goes, gathering up dust, hair, and general floor scuzz. Should it bump into a bathroom scale, a trash can, or the bath, it'll back up slightly and then gingerly test its way around, figuring out what's where.

For the wet and damp modes, as well as installing the pads – which are impregnated with a mildly scented cleaning fluid – you fill the Braava Jet's water tank, found under the carry handle. Then, as it scoots, it spritzes out water just in front of it.

In damp mode, there's less water used and the cleaning cycle is, as a result, quicker. Wet mode is the most thorough but also most time-consuming. Either way, the robot doesn't just spray willy-nilly: instead, it first drives forward, testing the path to make sure there's nothing in the way, then backs up to wet the area just tested before giving it a scrub with its vibrating cleaning head.

Whichever the pad, it'll carry on until it decides the room has been fully covered or until the battery runs out. A full charge is good for up to 200 square-feet in damp or dry mode, and up to 150 square-feet in wet mode. Once done, it returns to its starting position (though it's worth noting that there's no way of telling if it stopped mid-cycle, since indicator lights are sparse).

A release switch also under the handle allows you to eject the used pad – it's one per session – without touching it.

The mapping is actually clever than it looks. For a start, the Braava Jet doesn't just go hurtling forward with giddy abandon; if it thinks there's a possibility of an obstacle being in the way, based on what it already encountered, it'll slow down just before that predicted point to avoid damage.

Where the Roomba vacuums can be paired with "virtual walls" to demarcate zones they shouldn't stray into, the Braava Jet's corral is more simplistic. Back it up in line to the point you don't want it to move beyond – in line with the bathroom door, for instance – and hold down the power button, and two blue lines light up to show the boundary has been set.

The robot itself is $199 and on sale now, and comes with two of each of the cleaning pads; refills come as a pack of 10 for $7.99. Alternatively, iRobot will offer a reusable, washable cleaning pad, at $19.99 for two.

I spent a little time with the Braava Jet as it worked, and it seemed fairly successful. A coffee spill was absorbed straight into padding of the wet sweeper, rather than smeared across the tiled floor, and there wasn't a slick of water left behind, either.

As with any domestic robot of this sort, exactly how thorough it will be – and how hands-off – will depend on the complexity of the room and how much it has to either negotiate around or ride over. Still, if mopping the bathroom floor isn't your idea of fun (and, frankly, it's not mine) then the iRobot Braava Jet might be worth considering.