Tom Lohr is a futurist and hates cleaning. He is still waiting for his flying car.
Welcome to the 21st Century
I love living in the 21st century. There has never been so much access to information, entertainment, and communication. One of the best aspects of living in yesterday's future is the availability of machines to do some of our more mundane chores. Washing machines, dishwashers, garage door openers, and security systems have reached unprecedented levels of efficiency. While these task-relieving gizmos have been around awhile, there is one that has is a relative newcomer.
The Roomba floor cleaning robot vacuum, made by iRobot, has been around a few decades now, but it has reached a combination point of price and reliability that makes owning one a great investment. My first Roomba, which I owned about 15 years ago, lasted about a year and did a decent job. When I finally got around to getting a new one about two years ago, I was amazed at how much they have improved. Not only are the batteries longer lasting, they do a better job of cleaning. If you ever wondered just how well a Roomba cleans your floors, you can take a look at a Roomba efficiency test here.
Robots Are People Too
Despite the mind boggling technology that goes into designing a large hockey puck looking machine to do the vacuuming for you, the Roomba is a machine, and machines require maintenance. Ignore routine maintenance on your Roomba and it will let you know its displeasure at your lack of attention. My reminder came during a mid-room cleaning. Hazel (my Roomba's name, she is valued member of the family), stopped cleaning and spoke to me in her sweet robot voice stating that her battery needed charged. Typically, it could clean several rooms on a single charge, but that day, she couldn't even finish one. The cause was that its brushes, wheels, and hubs were so clogged with hair, thread, and other things it had found on the floor that it was expending a huge amount of energy just to push itself around. The moving parts were resisting and drained the battery.
The solution was simple. A thorough cleaning of the undercarriage brought my Roomba back from the brink of death. Afterwards, cleaning it twice a month has kept Hazel happy and on the job. How hard was it to complete a cleaning of my Roomba to keep it working at top efficiency? While a little gross, the process was easy to complete. You can do it yourself as well. Here are the steps.
Turn Your Roomba Over
The underside of the Roomba is the business end that cleans your floors. It is a sophisticated ballet of brushes that sweep debris to the vacuum suction portion and fills the dustbin.
Remove the Dustbin and Clean the Filter
Pull the dustbin out of the back of your Roomba. This is the compartment that collects the dust and debris and you empty after each cleaning. Do this first so that the dustbin filter has time to dry. Once the dustbin is out, remove the white fiber filter and rinse it off in the sink. Set it aside to dry.
Remove the Brushes
There are two cylindrical brushes (one rubber and one bristle) that work in tandem to corral the debris on your floor. They are held in place by a plastic retaining frame with yellow tabs. Gently squeeze the two tabs on the frame and remove it. After the retaining frame is removed, pull each brush gently to the side and lift out of the Roomba.
Remove the Yellow Brush End Caps
Each brush has a yellow end cap on the end. Pull each off. On the end of the brush and on the end cap will be a swirl of dust and hair (mainly hair). It is easy to pull the bulk of it off with your fingers, but on the brush itself, it may be wound so tightly around the hub that you may have to use the tip of a knife to cut the hair in order to release its tight grip on the hub of the brush. The opposite end of the brush does not have an end cap, but it requires the same removal of hair and debris.
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Remove and Clean the Front Wheel
If you hear a strange noise from under your Roomba as it scoots across a hard surface, chances are the front wheel axel and hubs are suffering from the same hair clogging issues as the brushes. The wheel is easily removed by grabbing the wheel assembly and pulling straight up. To remove the actual wheel, push on the wheel towards the back side of the wheel assembly and the wheel will pop out. The hair and dust are easy to remove from each side of the wheel axel To replace, the wheel snaps back into the assembly, and the assembly is placed back into the Roomba with a gentle push.
Remove and Clean the Edge Brush
An important part of getting your rooms spic and span is gathering the debris that hides alongside the baseboards and in corners. The front, three-armed, rotating brush sweeps wall hugging debris in front of the Roomba to be sucked up as the robot passes over it.
To remove the edge brush, you will need a small phillips head screw driver. Take out the small screw and place in a cup so you do not lose it (it is very small). Pull out the edge brush assembly and remove the hair that has wrapped around its hub on the body of the Roomba. Set the edge brush back into its place and replace the screw.
All parts will eventually wear out. The brushes and filters, while long lasting, have a limited life span. Giving your Roomba a complete brush replacement should be done every other year or so, though your mileage may vary. Replacement parts are inexpensive and will give your robot an efficiency boost (the link to the parts are for the Roomba model that most people own. Check your model number before ordering). To replace, simply follow the cleaning instructions. Instead of cleaning the old parts, just replace with new components.
Once you have replaced all of the clean parts, put the filter back into the dustbin after it has dried. Put the dustbin back into the rear of the Roomba and set the robot on its charger.
The entire process should take no longer than 15 minutes. Dedicating a quarter of an hour twice a month will keep you chore-busting robot moving freely and efficiently. The iRobot Roomba takes care of you, and you should take care of it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 02, 2019:
This is a very useful, detailed and well-illustrated article. They should have got you to write the instruction manual.