While the actual process of cleaning my windows is no big deal, the very idea of it inspires procrastination. The step-ladders, the Windex, the aching shoulders, the dull drudgery. I keep wishing for a magic genie to appear and handle the chore.
Enter the genie: the Winbot, a dedicated window-cleaning robot from Chinese company Ecovacs Robotics.
Winbot is a five-pound box that latches itself to your glass panes with an industrial-strength suction mechanism. Then, based on what its minuscule sensors detect, it scoots around on its caterpillar feet to wash and dry your windows.
You start by spraying a bit of Ecovacs’ formula cleaner on the front pad. Then, attach the included microfiber pads at either end of the robot’s belly. As it moves, the front pad scrubs and the belly pads handle the drying. There’s also a squeegee in between the cleaning and the drying pads.
Once it’s set up, you put the Winbot in the middle of the window, power it on, and the device calculates the distances to the window’s edges. Then off it goes, zig-zagging along back and forth, up and down, cleaning the glass to a streakless shine in about five minutes.
There are two models, one for regular windows with frames ($300) and a model for fancier windows without frames ($400) that’s more expensive since it uses extra sensors to keep from running off the edges.
It is not cordless — although the robot has an emergency battery pack to keep it from falling off the window, it draws its power via a fifteen-foot cable that plugs into any socket. If your windows are near a power outlet, great. Otherwise, you will need to use the included 59-inch extension cable, which has a proprietary connector. The extension cable is necessary because the power cord attaches to a power brick, and if you don’t have an extender, that brick will dangle below the Winbot as it cleans, weighing it down and possibly upsetting the suction mechanism. Also, Winbot only works with clear, smooth glass — no frost, no stickers, no grooves. But if Winbot doesn’t get a heavily soiled area clean, an included remote control lets you redirect it to where it needs to go again.
Initial setup involves charging the 400mAh backup batteries (which took me about four hours), applying the Velcro-attached microfiber pads to the Winbot, and delicately spraying the front pad with Ecovacs’ cleaning formula. You can only use the company’s own formula — it claims that ammonia- or acid-based solutions will upset the robot’s sensors — but there’s a bottle in the box.
Depending on how large your windows are, Winbot can take from five minutes to “whatever” to finish its job. But that’s not counting the time it takes to move the device to each side of the window and calibrate it for the pane’s dimensions. Also, if you live above the ground level, you’ll need the “Safety Pod” accessory — an anchor of sorts that keeps the Winbot from taking a fatal tumble to the ground — to use it on the outside of your house.
At this point, it’s becoming pretty clear: if you were to clean the glass yourself, it would take less time and involve much less of a hassle. So I had to ask myself, is it worth spending between $300 and $400 for the robot to accomplish what I’m too lazy to do myself?
The answer is easy: Don’t throw out the Windex just yet.
UPDATE, MARCH 22: The original version of this review inaccurately stated that the extension cord was an additional purchase. The company has confirmed that the extension cord comes in the box.