Roomba Robotic Vacuums and the Braava Robotic Mops–FAQs

Sam Harris
written by Sam Harris
created on April 13, 2020
updated on May 7, 2020

iRobot is the company behind the Roomba robotic vacuums and the Braava robotic mops. Here are answers to questions you may have about a Roomba or the Braava.

Q: What does the Roomba do?

A: Roombas are little machines from a company called iRobot that autonomously clean dust, dirt, and other debris off of floor surfaces. More than 30 Roombas are available from different vendors at the time of this writing.

Q: Does a Roomba work with Apple Home?

A: iRobot Home, Roomba’s app, is compatible with Alexa and Google Home. It currently doesn’t work with Apple Home.

Q: What happens if a Roomba runs into a cat puke or dog poop?

A: Here’s a visual presentation of what happens when a Roomba runs into a cat puke or dog turd:

If you can’t bring yourself to watching the above video. Well, let’s just say Roomba will smear cat puke and dog poop everywhere. Clearly not a pleasant experience. Even so, is the trouble of cleaning out the mess [on the floor and in the unit], and the possibility of the Roomba permanently getting damaged, which kind of explains why you should to prep the house before releasing Roomba into the wild.

Q: Do Roombas work in the dark?

A: Roombas, especially older models, may have trouble vacuuming dark floors or in darker environments. The camera navigation of the Roomba is mostly responsible for this limitation.

Q: Does a Roomba know when a room is clean?

A: The various Roomba series have dirt detecting sensors. Hence, a Roomba might know when a room is clean.

Q: Does a Roomba run the layout of a house, knows when it is done, or clean room by room?

A: Roomba 900 series and up can run the layout of a house, clean room by room, know where they last cleaned and where to resume cleaning. As such, mapping Roombas know when the cleaning job is completed. Additionally, with the Roomba i7 and s9, you can save up to 10-floor maps (cool feature for split-level homes) and select room(s) for cleaning via the iRobot app, Alexa or Google Home. 

Q: How long does it take Roomba to learn your house?

A: How long a Roomba will take to learn a space, otherwise known as mapping, will vary based on the layout and size of the home in question. Contact iRobot if you suspect you have complicated floor plans or a space of more than 2000 sq ft.

Q: Does Roomba remember the floor plan?

A: Roombas with the mapping function (i7 and s9), because they create and save maps (up to 10), are capable of remembering floor plans.

Q: Is there a self-emptying Roomba?

A: The Roomba i7+ and the s9+ as of the time of this writing are two self-emptying Roombas from iRobot. Their self-emptying bases, which can be bought separately, ensure automatic and convenient dirt disposal (a nice feature for pet owners and people with allergies).

Q: Can Roomba climb stairs

A: The Roomba–and as a matter of fact, all robot vacuums–can’t climb stairs. They do, however, have cliff detecting sensors to prevent a crash.

Q: Does a Roomba need WiFi?

A: A Roomba doesn’t need WiFi to clean floors. Roomba comes with straightforward controls and settings to include the clean and dock buttons.  If for effortless, optimal & customized cleaning though–which is the brain behind some cool functions to include scheduled cleaning, room cleaning, keep-out zones, voice controls, etc.–then, yes, WiFi is a necessity.

Q: Do Roombas break easily?

A: Quality is one of the strong points of iRobot’s products over competitors. I’ve had a Roomba for five years and know people who have had theirs for eight years and longer. By implication, Roombas–in the unlikely event of a dud–are durable automatic cleaning machines that shouldn’t break easily.

Q: Does Roomba scratch laminate floors?

A: If the Roomba in question isn’t defective. Provided there are no problems with the wheels or if tracked in rocks don’t slip into the wheels then get dragged along. Roomba shouldn’t scratch your laminate floor.

Related: Reviews of the best robot vacuums for hard floors

Q: Does Roomba work on carpet?

A: Roomba is compatible with most floor types. Even better on the carpet, especially with specific models such as the 960, 980 and S9.

Q: How many years does a Roomba last?

A: The useful life of a Roomba depends on some factors to include seller (authorized or not?); user; frequency of maintenance; quality of replenishment parts, etc. 

Q: What is the best Roomba?

A: The i7+, in my opinion, is the best Roomba to date. The standout features of the i7+ include auto dirt emptying, auto evacuation and resumption, mapping, smart navigation, and recently, quick recharge and resume.

Q: How much does the Roomba cost?

A: Roombas vary in price from $200 to upwards of $1000. The cost usually depends on the conditions (new vs. refurbished? selling with or without a deal?) and features of the Roomba. Beginner Roomba (e, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th generations) with entry-level features and without a deal typically sells for $300.  The intermediate Roomba (960 and 980) without a deal ranges in price between $400 – $700. The advanced Roomba (i7 and s9) without their clean bases or a deal could sell for $500 – $1000.

Q: Is the Roomba worth the money?

A: Roomba offers convenience and time-saving and has the potential to improve the quality of one’s life. Given this, I think they’re worth buying.

Q: How do you know when your Roomba needs a new battery?

A: All Roombas come with a recommended runtime, which ranges between 45 to 120 minutes depending on the model, floor size, layout, level of maintenance, and volume of the pile. If you notice battery life has diminished significantly (compared to what it used to be) or the machine is no longer holding a charge–having considered some of the variables as mentioned above–then perhaps it’s time for a new battery?  Read this post if you’re interested in other needing-replacement signs of a Roomba battery. Watch this video for tricks to maximize your Roomba battery life:

Q: How often does a Roomba battery need to be replaced?

A: Roomba battery may need to be replaced between a period of six months and three years, depending on the level of use and the quality of the cell. If a Roomba will be unused for a long time, removing the battery is strongly recommended.

Q: Do you still have to vacuum with a Roomba?

A: The high-end Roombas (960, 980, i7, and s9) can, to a great extent, reduce the need for regular vacuuming. Regardless, you may still have to vacuum, especially if you have older models (pre-900 series) or plush carpets.

Q: Are Roombas loud?

A: Depends on the Roomba. Several factors influence the noise level on a Roomba to include but not limited to suction, design, and the floor surface (carpets vs. wood floors). Regardless, the 780 and i7 are some of the quietest Roombas, while the s9 is one of the loudest.

Q: Will Roomba fall off the stairs?

A: Provided the sensors aren’t blocked, Roomba shouldn’t fall off stairs. All Roombas have sensors for detecting cliffs.

Q: How often should you use your Roomba?

A: Use your Roomba as often as your cleaning needs permit. People have used their Roomba as few as two times a week, and as much as eight times a day. If your cleaning needs entail pet fur, for instance, and because their dust cup is usually small (0.6 liter is the biggest I’ve seen on a Roomba), you want to run it more regularly, say every day. Delaying to run the Roomba as at when due will put you at risk of a dirty floor and bot. A nasty bot will increase maintenance work. But then again running the Roomba frequently put a strain on the battery, as such a legit worry about how many cells you’d be chewing your way through.

Q: Is there a Roomba that mops?

A: Roomba is a name synonymous with iRobot robot vacuums. Braava is a name compatible with the line of iRobot robot mops. Therefore, there is a mopping Braava, but there isn’t a mopping Roomba.

Q: Is iRobot or Shark better?

A: Shark robot vacuums are cheaper, no doubt. iRobot products may not be affordable, but they are better than Shark in terms of product and customer support. Moreover, Roombas are popular. Replenishment kits, it turns out, are cheap and readily available, plus there’s a lot of information for troubleshooting/repair.

Q: How many rooms can a Roomba clean?

A: The number of rooms a Roomba can clean will be indicated on its smart map. Hence it’s safe to say the number of places a Roomba can clean will depend on the Roomba in question.  Older models (400, 500, 600, 700, and 800) have limitations in features. Bump and run navigation, for one. The lack of an auto-resume function is another. Roombas in this category will attempt to clean as many open rooms or as many areas as have not been designated to be avoided.  The newer Roombas (960, 980, i7, and s9), on the other hand, make allowance for more rooms with better vacuuming output. Roombas in this category come equipped with advanced navigation (iAdapt 2.0 and up) and mapping (VSLAM) capability.

Q: Can you tell Roomba to clean a specific room?

A: Yes, you can tell the Roomba to clean a specific room within your house. The select room function, which iRobot called Directed Room Cleaning, is available in the Roomba i7 and s9.

Q: Why does my Roomba stay in one room?

A: Floor transitions, threshold height, battery power, dock positioning are a few reasons your Roomba may have decided to stay in a particular room. Read this article for a better understanding of how each of those variables affects the performance of a Roomba.

Q: Does Roomba return to base when full?

A: The self-emptying Roombas (i7+ and s9+) return to their Home Bases when full. Other Roombas do not return to their bases when full; they simply continue cleaning. This is the default settings on all non-self-emptying Roombas. Follow the instructions in this article if you want your Roomba to stop vacuuming when full.

Q: Will Roomba damage a piece of furniture?

A: Pretty much all pre-900 Roomba models, of course, due to the nature of their navigation, have an increased tendency of scuffing furniture legs and baseboards.

Q: What happens when Roomba gets stuck?

A: Vacuuming stops. However, Roomba will call in help when it gets stuck. It’s worth mentioning that Roomba would behave differently under different jamming conditions. Moreso, newer Roomba models get stuck less often.

Q: Is there a Roomba that vacuums and mops?

A: The likes of Roborock, iLife, and Ecovacs have vacuum and mop floor robots. As of the time of this writing, there isn’t a Roomba that vacuums and mops.

Q: Can a Roomba replace a vacuum?

A: Roombas and upright vacuums are two cleaning machines intended for different users and cleaning tasks/situations–which is why they might not be a perfect substitute for each other. Roombas are ideal for maintaining clean floors/going longer in between vacuuming. Upright vacuums because of their suction power and brushes are best for deep cleaning of carpets/rugs.

Q: Is Roomba good for hard floors?

A: Roombas are excellently suited for use as hardwood floor robot vacuums. That’s because the wheels of Roomba models are made out of high-quality materials that are securely fitted and glide almost effortlessly over wood floors. Some of these models also come with settings that allow users to set cleaning modes. The lowest mode should be adopted for hard floors.

Q: Will a Roomba go over a threshold?

A: The ability of a Roomba to go over a threshold depends on many factors, few of which includes:

  • The height of the threshold. A one-inch threshold is probably going to make your Roomba stop and turn in another direction.
  • The shape of the threshold. If your threshold is rounded, it would probably be ok but maybe not if it’s a sharp angle.
  • Gradient and the floor surface. Different materials have different friction coefficients.
  • Roomba’s direction and speed. That is, if Roomba is on relatively high speed and running right into the threshold, it would most likely clamber over the threshold.
  • Roombas’ individual differences. If Roomba gets stuck, however, you can just move it to a different spot if you’re there while it is vacuuming.

Q: Will a Roomba pick pets hair on hard floors?

A: Most Roomba series have dual brush rolls and side brushes. The edge sweeping brushes of the Roomba gathers pet hair and other debris on wood floors, tiles or laminates, pushes the same to the path of the two center brushes, before eventually getting sucked in.

Related: Best floor robots for hardwood floors and pet hair

Q: Will Roomba damage wood floors?

A: Not necessarily, a Roomba shouldn’t damage your wood floors. Scratches are the most common damage Roombas does to wood floors. While I haven’t experienced scratches from using my robot vacuum cleaners on my wood floor; I have however bumped into a couple of online discussions where folks were lamenting about how Roombas [690, 960, 980] destroyed their wood floors. It’s not cool because, you know, often, a robot vacuum in this category is not only destroying the floor–it’s destroying itself as well. Meaning, sooner or later you’d be replacing the unit or its parts (comes at a price, especially if the robot vacuum in question has a premium price tag). That, without forgetting to mention that you’d still have to pay to fix the mess created by the cleaning bot. Before I jump into what you can do about a robot vacuum that’s creating messes on your hardwood, let me briefly describe the “why.”

Q: Why is a Roomba creating scratches on my hardwood floor?

A: If you’re experiencing scratches on the wood part of a room, there’s a higher possibility that the driving wheels are not rolling with the movement of the robotic cleaner, rather it’s getting dragged along therefore causing stripes on your floor. Or the back wheel of your robot vacuum could be very soft, leading to how grains of sand or dirt gets stuck in it and then get dragged across the floor.

Q: Does Roomba work on dark wood floors?

A: From users’ feedbacks and its website, Roomba may not work, or work as well, on dark wood floors or black surfaces. This is because of the attached sensors which will often interpret dark surfaces as edges or stairs. Even so, iRobot remarks:

There’s no adjustment to correct this behavior.

They further warned that attempting to block the cliff sensors could create “unsafe operating conditions.”

Q: Does a Roomba require maintenance?

A: Robot vacuums center and side brushes frequently get tangled with pets hair. The areas around the wheels and center brushes can get quite messy too. Not only that, filters and sensors occasionally gets blocked. For these reasons and more is why a Roomba, and in fact all floor robots, require upkeep.

Q: What kind of maintenance does a Roomba require?

A: Except for the part where you don’t have to manually empty the bins of the Roomba i7+ and s9+. Upkeep on Roombas is pretty much the same as other robot vacuums.

  • Switching parts as recommended by iRobot
  • Emptying the dust cup as often as necessary
  • Removing tangled hair on the side and center brushes
  • Wiping the sensors and areas around the device’s brushes and wheels
  • Cleaning out the filter
  • Getting the latest firmware updates as soon as they get released
  • Not really a maintenance activity per se but if you want a thorough cleaning you’ll need to move all small items (shoes, cords, etc.) off the floor. Large items too. (I usually put my dining room chairs up. That way, my Roomba can do the entire area under my dining table.) After a week of use, you will figure out common problem areas for Roomba & learned to pick up accordingly so it gets to be able to clean adequately.

Your turn

Today’s article tried to provide the most accurate answers to commonly asked questions about Roomba robot vacuums. Have Roomba-specific question(s) not mentioned or maybe you want to suggest additions or edits? Use the comments box.

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