Hands On: Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner

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At first glance, the robotic sweeper seems a little ridiculous -- ridiculously awesome!


Nov. 16, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Remember the days when you actually had to use a broom? It might as well have been one of those Flintstone models that was fashioned out of a live bird. Today, we have robots to do our dirty work—literally!

The Massachusetts-based company iRobot really automated the art of vacuuming. Now, the Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner is hoping to suck up some of that market, although not literally. See, the Mint doesn’t actually vacuum anything—a lot like some significant others out there. Instead, it’s designed to do hardwood, tile, linoleum, and every other non-carpeted surface. It’s more like a robot Swiffer

That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s sort of expensive. While many would pay more than the Mint’s $249 MSRP to keep the floors clean, it’s going to be hard to compete with the iRobots of the world at that price. However, can it compete on the floor? After a bit of testing, I’m happy to say, it did survive my mess.

Mint Unboxed
Out of the box, Mint is a boxy little device with its equally boxy little NorthStar Cube GPS. Per the device’s instructions, the Mint was charged overnight, via the included power adapter.

Before the Mint can clean, it needs the proper tools, or at least one: a cleaning pad. After all, you wouldn’t try to dust with your elbow, would you? The unit came with a few dry pads and I just happened to have an unopened box of Swiffer dry sweeping pads collecting its own private layer of dust. Generic pads can be used, as well as wet ones and reusable cloths. The pad holder on the front is magnetic, so it’s easy to remove and tuck in a cloth.

Once the Mint was juiced and loaded, there was a matter of the NorthStar Cube. This palm-sized device acts as the Mint’s eyes, projecting an IR map for the Mint to follow. It also requires a pair of C batteries to do so. It’s best to set the NorthStar in the middle of the room, with a clear view of the ceiling. My living room has more than its fair share of furniture, but that never seemed to bother the NorthStar or its Mint counterpart.

Let the Cleaning Begin!
The Mint can begin its cleaning journey anywhere inside a room. It’s probably best not to start it near pets or under tables, but the Mint does adapt pretty easily. I found it best to start the device on one side of the room. From there, the Mint just makes the rounds, going back and forth, collecting what you claim to be “clean,” until it hits an obstacle and needs to take an alternate route.

Many of my rooms are partitioned, and the Mint knew its boundaries. It stayed in the prime cleaning spots, whether it was the hardwood in the hallway, the living room, or the tile in our kitchen.

The Mint did get stuck on more than a few occasions. I have obstacles around the dining room table, as well as next to the couch. However, I exercised some tough (and lazy!) love, refusing to help the little guy. The Mint did persevere, though, finding its way out after a few minutes.

Another nice perk is that the Mint is whisper quiet. With the exception of listening to the little guy run into walls, stairs and throw rugs, there were a few beeps and bloops, which had to be “frustration” noises. Really, can you blame it? My floors were downright disgusting (see image below).

Do We Like It?
Overall, the Mint performed surprisingly well. On first use, I blew through two Swiffer pads on the living room alone. This is not the fault of the Mint, as much as it is a testament to my poor cleaning skills. It’s important to note that if you have a messy room, you might want to change out the cleaning pad at some point during the cleaning process. Otherwise, the Mint just pushes everything around, and even collects dirt on top of the poor little guy. It also makes for a messy time when you finally do change the pads.

That said, the device never stopped and even took multiple laps around the room to try to find missed areas. It did miss a few spots, but way less that I usually do.

It’s hard to pooh-pooh semi-clean floors on a regular basis. Ah—a girl can dream, right? Well, not if you have the Mint. The Mint is a fun little device that could give Pig-Pen a run for his money (and dirt!). At this point, the only downside is really the price. I love that there’s iRobot competition, but not at iRobot prices.

At $249, the Mint is a pricey piece of machinery, without even factoring in the cost of the pads. At those prices, it would be nice if the device could pick a few things up (so I don’t have to!) or have some type of increased functionality, such as timers and/or a charging station that the Mint could return to after a hard day’s work.



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