Robot window cleaners haven’t earned their way into our homes the way robot vacuums have, despite the similar promise of relieving us from a hated chore. The Ecovacs Winbot X underscores why. While it does its job fairly well, the technology can be clumsy and temperamental, and ultimately, the performance just doesn’t justify the price tag.
The Winbot X is composed of two devices: the robot itself, and a “safety pod” that operates as a stationary tether to help keep the mop from falling off the window.
The Winbot measures 10.7 by 10.7 inches and weighs about four pounds. A large Start/Pause button with an LED indicator is embedded in its handle. The socket for attaching the safety pod is adjacent to this.
On the business side of the Winbot are a squeegee, suction fan, and a square cleaning pad that wraps around the edges of the robot. A pair of driving treads and four edge-detection sensors enable the Winbot to navigate the window. At the bottom are its power switch and status indicator lights for the Winbot and the safety pod.
The safety pod is a circular unit with an 8.2-foot retractable cable attached to a suction cup that’s about five inches in diameter. It has its own power switch and a pairing button for syncing with the mop. The two devices come pre-synched, but some “malfunctions” can require you to disconnect and re-sync them.
The Winbot X also comes with a remote control, four replacement cleaning pads, and a bottle of Ecovacs Professional Cleaning Solution.
Setup and usage
Before you can use the Winbot X, you must charge the 3000mAh Lithium Ion battery. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach capacity and provides up to 50 minutes of cleaning time, according to Ecovacs. Most windows take a fraction of that time to complete, so you can get several cleanings from a full charge. The safety pod comes with a pair of AAA batteries preinstalled.
There are some parameters to be aware of when using the Winbot X: Windows must be be at least 19.7 by 19.7 inches and have a frame no narrower than 0.2 inches. Ecovacs also advises you to consult glass manufacturers’ care instructions before using the Winbot X on frosted textured, patterned, or coated glass, as Winbot could damage such finishes.
I decided to use Winbot on a pair of standard-sized sliding glass patio doors, which were fogged with water spots, smudges, and fingerprints.
To prepare for a cleaning, you attach a cleaning pad to the bottom of the Winbot, give it seven or eight squirts of the cleaning solution, and wipe off any excess moisture with a dry cloth. You then switch on the Winbot and the safety pod, and connect the two with safety pod’s tether. The safety pod’s suction cup must be cleaned before each use to ensure a secure attachment to the window (a microfiber cloth is provided for this). It’s also a good idea to clean the patch of window where you plan to place the safety pod with a dry cloth.
I placed the safety pod in the upper right corner of the window and the Winbot’s indicator light turned green to indicate a secure attachment. I then placed the mop in the middle of the window and pressed its start button to begin cleaning.
The Winbot X has two cleaning modes: Auto, recommended for regular cleanings, automatically chooses the most suitable cleaning path—either an N- or Z-pattern—depending on the shape of the window. Deep-cleaning mode, which can only be selected from the remote control, cleans in both patterns for a more thorough scrubbing. You can also manually direct the mop using the directional pad on the remote.
In Auto mode, it took about 10 minutes for the Winbot X to clean each patio door, and slightly longer in Deep Cleaning mode. That’s also about how long it would probably take for me to do the job by hand. Still, it meant I was able to get about four to five cleanings out of each full battery charge. I found early on, though, that the cleaning pads often required more than the recommended eight squirts of solution to get off the most stubborn grime. The robot did a decent job on surface smudges, though.
The problem with the cleanings was the frequent need to attend to the robot. The Winbot will stop cleaning and beep when it encounters any one of several problems, and its status light will turn from green to solid red.
This happened almost immediately during my first cleaning. While I was reading the troubleshooting guide to determine the possible cause, the safety pod suddenly crashed to the ground. It turns out the safety pod’s loss of suction is a common cause for a “continuous red” alert, as it happened several more times in the course of my test cleanings.
I quickly learned to just push the safety pod against the glass to re-secure it whenever the Winbot stopped, and then I could restart the cleaning without further incident. Ironically, I felt much more confident in the Winbot X’s gravity-defying abilities. Thanks to its powerful vacuum suction, the appliance never so much as slipped an inch, and I had to give it a pretty strong yank to remove it from the window after a cleaning job.
The Winbot X is certainly a novel idea, I’m just not sure it’s a viable one. On the plus side, it’s easy to set up and operate, and it did at least as good a job cleaning my window’s as I would have. But the time I had to spend resetting it after after each stoppage wiped out any sense that I was being relieved of labor.
Then there’s the matter of the window-size limitations, which makes the Winbot X impractical for most apartment, condo, and even townhouse dwellers. Add in the consumables you’ll need to buy again and again (cleaning pads and replacement fluids), and the price tag for having a robot clean you windows becomes significant. Your money would probably be better spent hiring a human to do the job.