iRobot Roomba Combo J7+ robot vacuum and mop review

Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum and Mop review: spring cleaning

Able to clean around the stuff you’ve left on the floor, the Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum and Mop aims to keep your home spick and span.

From the birth of the robotics age, our robo-servants have fallen into two main categories: highly-skilled robots which can perform a task better than a human, and lowly robots which do a subpar job of handling those dull, dirty and even dangerous jobs that we’d rather not do ourselves.

Robot vacuum cleaners usually fall into the second category. Cleaning the house is a job most of us would rather avoid, but a robot certainly can’t do as good a job as an actual person (well, at least as a capable person who is trying to half-arse it). But if you don’t have the time or energy to clean, and you don’t want to pay a human to do the job, then you might be satisfied with the efforts of a robot cleaner.

Of course, building a simple vacuum cleaner to wander aimlessly around your home is the easy part. The hard part is making it smart enough to do a decent job, especially when it is forced to navigate a maze of obstacles around your home. That’s where iRobot’s Roomba Combo j7+ knows a few tricks that could make it a more practical addition to your home.

Roomba robot and dock

First impressions

As the name suggests, the Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum and Mop is a two-in-one device that can both vacuum up dirt and wipe up spills. This is a first for iRobot and, while that makes it twice as handy, it also makes its job twice as complex.

The first challenge is finding a good home for its large base station. While needing to be near a power point, it requires some clearance at the front and sides.

The base station is somewhat bulky, but that’s with good reason. Along with charging the Roomba, it’s also designed to automatically empty the dust container. Of course, that still means that you need to empty the base station. Thankfully the base station features a large dust bag with room for a spare, so it’s easy to empty but be prepared to pay for replacement bags. Depending on the size and state of your home, one dust bag should be good for around 60 days.

Setting up the Roomba requires the iRobot iOS or Android app but, before its first clean, you should let it do a trial run so it can start to build a map of your home. As it explores, you can see its ability to navigate around the furniture.

The robot can turn on the spot in very small increments, so in theory, it should be able to find its way out of any tight space it finds its way into. If the battery runs low when cleaning, it heads back to its base for a recharge and then picks up cleaning where it left off. 

After the Roomba returns to base you can view the map, divide it into rooms and give each room a name. This detailed layout means you can instruct it to clean specific rooms and even create schedules that ensure high-traffic areas are cleaned more often. That said, over time it remembers which areas get the dirtiest and ensures they get a more thorough cleaning.

The onboard sensors ensure it automatically stops short of falling down the stairs, but the map also lets you create virtual barriers to stop it from straying into areas where it’s not wanted. That’s handy if you tend to leave things on the floor in some areas, or you just don’t want it bumping into something delicate.

Along with the app, you can also use Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri to boss around the vacuum cleaner. If you like to keep things simple, you can just press the cleaning button on the top of the Roomba, although you can disable it if pets or kids grow fond of pressing it. 

Roomba Combo j7+ specifications

DimensionsDiameter 34 cm, Height 9.25 cm
Base: Height 40cm, Depth: 33 cm, Width 30cm 
Weight3.18 kg
Base: 5.89 kg
Dirt capacity400 ml (dry)
Base bag: 2.4 l (dry)
Water capacity240 ml
Battery2410 mAh Li-ion
Run time90 minutes
Warranty1 year
Australian websiteiRobot
OtherRead more appliance reviews on GadgetGuy
Roomba top view

Roomba Combo j7+ performance


Before it can mop the floors, the Roomba needs you to attach the cleaning pad and fill the water tank. It comes with two washable pads and a bottle of hard floor cleaning solution to add to the water tank.

True to its name, the Roomba Combo j7+ defaults to both vac and mop, but you can select just vac. Thankfully, acoustic sensors automatically detect when it’s on carpet and it refrains from mopping it, plus it adjusts the suction when vacuuming carpet to get a deeper clean.

One surprise is that the mop water tank is small and requires manual refilling, as the base station won’t top it up for you. This seems to defeat the purpose of a supposedly autonomous cleaning robot. You could reduce the inconvenience by setting it to only mop once a week, but that might not cut it when dealing with muddy footprints during the winter. If you spend slightly more, the Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni does include an automatic water tank refill feature.

One of the Roomba Combo j7+’s big selling features is that when it’s not mopping it automatically retracts its cleaning pad up to the top of its chassis, rather than just lifting it slightly about the floor or requiring you to remove the pad when it’s not in use. This ensures that the pad doesn’t come in contact with the carpet or leave a wet trail throughout the house.

Another traditional challenge with robot vacuum cleaners is that they rely on you not leaving your stuff lying all over the floor. While this Roomba can’t pick up your stuff, its obstacle detection allows it to avoid things on the floor – taking advantage of a camera on the front and three ultrasonic sensors on its underside.

Surprisingly, obstacle detection is disabled by default. Once turned on, the Roomba’s ability to avoid objects improves over time thanks to sensor data and the ability for you to review images of what it can see. You can mark them as a “Temporary Obstacle” like a pair of shoes, a “Keep Out Zone” like a power cable or “No obstacle here” if it’s made a mistake. There’s the option to add each ruling to the database.

iRobot also offers a poop-evasion guarantee, to ensure that any presents your pets leave lying on the floor aren’t smeared around the house.

Roomba underneath view


Put to work, the Roomba Combo j7+ tries its best to do a thorough job, but understandably still can’t match the efforts of a person.

Thankfully, it’s a lot quieter than a normal vacuum cleaner, so you don’t have to shout over it. It’s about as loud as if someone was vacuuming in the next room and you had the door closed.

Be warned, when the Roomba Combo j7+ goes back to recharge the base sucks out the dirt and it’s as loud as a real vacuum cleaner. It’s certainly not something you would want it to do in the middle of the night.

As for mopping, the Roomba is very good at avoiding carpet because the mop is on the back of the unit. As soon as the front of the unit encounters carpet, the cleaning pad is lifted up out of the way. 

When it comes to navigation, the Roomba has little trouble working its way under or around furniture. Like other robot vacuum cleaners, its width means that it can struggle to get between the legs of some chairs, so you might want to move your dining chairs away from the table so it can clean underneath. 

With object detection disabled, the Roomba fails to notice most obstacles that aren’t furniture. Thankfully, it’s low enough to the ground that even small objects like Lego blocks tend to get pushed along rather than sucked underneath.

Turn on object detection and it performs much better, although it’s still a bit hit-and-miss as to whether it navigates around an object or ploughs into it. It seems to improve our time but struggles to see very small objects like Lego blocks.

The fact it relies on the camera means it can still get tangled up in power cables hidden in the dark under the couch. You certainly wouldn’t leave the Roomba unsupervised until you’d seen it do a few runs of the house, so you knew exactly where it would run into trouble.

The biggest problem is that, while the Roomba is quite meticulous when going back and forth across the room, it still struggles with edges and corners. It features a spinning corner brush designed for exactly this purpose, but the results are disappointing.

Even when the Roomba works its way along the edge of a wall or into a corner, you’ll still find dust and crumbs left behind. To be fair, all robot vacuum cleaners have the same shortcoming. Even so, it’s very disappointing to look at your kitchen and realise you still need to go around the edge of the bench with a brush and pan.

Unfortunately, the Roomba Combo j7+ is a better vacuum cleaner than a mop. While it handles a little spilt milk with ease, it struggles to remove even a light fresh smear of Vegemite.

GadgetGuy’s take

Mostly eliminating the need to tidy up before it runs, the Roomba Combo j7+ is a tempting option for those of us who like to keep housework to a minimum. It reduces your workload, but it doesn’t eliminate it.

The trouble is that, like all robot cleaners, it’s designed to regularly give your home a light going over. You’d refuse to pay a human housekeeper who did such a hotch-potch job. The Roomba relies on the fact that you’ll still occasionally break out the broom and mop to deal with those stubborn spots and hard-to-reach places, especially when you’re looking to impress guests.

If you’re trying to completely escape the housework, you’ll be frustrated. Considering the price tag, you wouldn’t be happy with the same results from other household appliances – like a dishwasher that fails to leave your dishes spotless and expects you to finish the job.

That said, the dishwasher analogy is apt in that, even if you own a dishwasher, you’re still forced to wash some delicate things by hand. Otherwise, they pile up as an unsightly mess in the sink (just like those crumbs in the corner). If you view your robot cleaner as an assistant that saves you some time and effort, rather than completely setting you free of housework, then you’re more likely to be satisfied with its efforts.

Would I buy the Roomba Combo j7+?

Maybe, if I was cash-rich, time-poor and could live with the fact I still needed to do some cleaning myself.

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Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum and Mop review: spring cleaning
The Roomba Combo j7+ Robot Vacuum and Mop navigates around the stuff you leave on the floor, so you don't need to tidy before it cleans.
Value for money
Ease of use
Vacuums and mops
Lifts mop when on carpet
Navigates around objects
Fails to clean along the edge of walls and in corners