Most of us wouldn’t drink floor cleaner, no matter what kind of floral scents are added to it. No one wants their pets or children to do so, either — but both four-legged friends and two-legged kids that are still crawling tend to ignore wet floors, which begs the question: Is it safe for a child or a pet to walk or crawl over a freshly mopped floor and potentially ingest the solution?
Specifically, let’s say you have a robot mop on an automatic schedule. It cleans while you’re away, and then your cat walks across the wet floor. Offended in a way that only cats can be, it licks its now-wet paw to clean itself. Is there any risk to your pet?
Most robot mops only use water
Although different companies might use different mechanisms, they share one thing in common: Water. Harsh chemicals can break down the tubing that carries water through the mop, which is why manufacturers say water alone (combined with a slightly abrasive scrubbing pad) is enough to clean most floors.
So, most robot mops do not use harsh chemicals to clean the floor. Take the Braava Jet, for example. In most cases, the abrasive cleaning pad and plain tap water (or diluted water) are enough to clean the floor. The purpose of a robot mop is not to disinfect, but to clean dirt and debris from hardwood or laminate floors.
There is a specific type of cleaner that can be used called the Braava Jet Hard Floor Cleaning Solution. In fact, the instructions for the Braava jet specifically say “do not use any other cleaning solutions.” The cleaner does not include any safety warnings, and the intended purpose appears to be to “add a fresh scent.”
A quick glance at user reviews reveal a large number of self-described pet owners that use the solution on a regular basis and who have reported no ill effects. The cleaner is said to be pet-safe, which implies that it is also safe for children. The reason is that the cleaner itself is intended to be diluted inside the reservoir and not applied directly to the floor on its own.
Although the formula is proprietary, we found an ingredient list with three chemicals: Decanamine, N-dimethyl, and N-oxide. The exact concentration and combination of these chemicals is unknown, but none are lethal.
The largest threat the cleaner poses, according to iRobot, is temporary irritation on skin or eye contact. If a child or pet ingests it, their mouths should be rinsed out and medical attention sought if symptoms occur.
Keep in mind that this is for direct exposure to the undiluted solution. If used in the proper application, the Braava Jet Hard Floor Cleaning Solution should pose no threat.
However, a study from the Chemical Entities of Biological Interest lists this particular combination as a corrosive irritant and environmental hazard. Even though the combination should be relatively safe, it is a cleaning agent, and as such, proper care should be taken. Keep it out of reach of children and keep a close eye on pets if you use it.
Will it spray into food and water bowls?
Another concern many pet parents have is that the robot mop will douse their pet’s food and water bowls with cleaning spray. Again, if you are cleaning the floor with only water, this isn’t a problem.
There’s an easy solution, though. Many different kinds of robot mops allow you to create a virtual wall the mop will not pass. This allows you to delineate a space into smaller sections for more efficient cleaning, but it also makes it possible to wall off certain areas — such as where the food and water bowls are.
Even if your brand of robot mop does not have this feature built into the app, there are often accessories that create no-go zones and force the device to navigate around them.
Are robot-mopped floors safe for kids and pets?
In most cases, there is no danger to a child or a pet walking or crawling across a floor your robot mop just cleaned, especially if the reservoir contained only water. The cleaning pad on the bottom of the mop will absorb the majority of moisture, anyway.
Even if you use a capful of vinegar in your cleaning solution, there is still no danger — at worst, it might taste like vinegar if licked.
The cleaning solution is designed to be pet safe, but there is concern with any unfamiliar chemical. A potential solution is this: Only use water for scheduled cleaning. If you want to use the cleaning solution on your floor, do it while you’re at home and can keep an eye on both your pets and your children.
But if your animals are anything like mine, the robot mop on its own will be enough to keep them off the floor and wary of going into the kitchen for a long time after it has finished its task.