Monday, October 02, 2006

$400 Robot vs $14 Mop-and-Bucket

We live in a world of iPods, multiple e-mail accounts, DVDs and PCs. But sometimes old school, low-tech tools save more time and money than newer gadgets.

A $14 mop-and-bucket pair outmaneuvered ''Scooba,'' a $400 floor-cleaning robot, during a recent performance test undertaken by Consumer Union, a nonprofit consumer watchdog organization. In nearly every category, the mop and bucket raced past the robot, according to results published in the fall issue of ShopSmart, a new guide from Consumer Reports/Consumer Union.

The robot cleaned 83 percent of the floor in 40 minutes, compared to 100 percent clean-up results in only 10 minutes from the mop and bucket.

Scooba demanded less manual effort than its low-tech counterpart. But, given the $384 price difference, I'd rather burn calories than money.

Inspired by that price and performance difference, I hunted down other examples of frugal, low-tech solutions to modern life.

• Exfoliating, skin-care products. Products in this genre can cost anywhere from $10 to $1,000 per ounce to slough off old cells that leave our faces looking dry and lined. But skin experts and supermodel Christie Brinkley recommend textured washclothes and shower mitts ($1 to $2) to gently remove rough dry skin. I've tried this tip and it works.

• Baby Wipe case versus the sealable bags: Drugstores and baby accessory boutiques sell various types of portable containers for baby wipes. I've tried a few of the pricier options, but Ziplock-style plastic bags have my vote.

• Individual servings versus do-it-yourself packages. Plastic bags or re-usable hard plastic containers -- stuffed with snacks -- are cheaper than snacks sold individually wrapped.

• ''Light'' juice versus regular juice. A container of so-called ''light grape juice,'' my husband recently purchased had less sugar and fewer calories. But the ''all-new'' formula for this particular ''light'' brand was just regular grape juice with 30 percent more water. We would have gotten more for our money by buying the regular formula and adding our own water.

• Teeth whitening products versus peroxide. For less than a dollar per bottle, a toothbrush dipped in a mix of half peroxide and water is an effective teeth-whitening solution. Dental floss dipped into the solution targets hard to reach spaces.


Scott said...

I've been closely watching Roomba and Scooba. They are exciting products and I'd be eager to use them when they came out.

So far though I agree with the conclusion that the price to performance equation makes them losers for now.

Kira said...

What I really want is a robotic lawnmower. Of course, first I need a lawn.