Do the Roombas really work?

Do the iRobot Roombas really work? Priceless information.

Updated on 12/21/18
7 minute read

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iRobot's Roomba vacuum robot is a cool gadget. No doubt about that. They go around the house, doing work we usually don't like doing. Perfect. But do the Roombas really work? Is there more to know before buying?

I gathered some information, tips, pictures, and personal experience knowledge and I would like to share those with you. Keep reading. 

Roombas are made by the "iRobot" company. The robot vacuum cleaners have been around since the early 2000s. Since then, technology is improved and many models came out on the market.

If you are planning to buy one or you are on the fence about that, Here is some information you will find useful.



Do the Roombas really work?

Yes, they do work. 

They actually vacuum the floor and clean dust and particles. 

Check out this article on Reuters. More and more people believe in the product and buy Roombas. 

iRobot Roomba is a highly searched topic. People show more and more interest in this small robotic vacuum cleaner.

According to Google Trends results, interest in Roombas is constantly rising since 2004.

Take a look at this graph:

Roomba interest over time

This picture I took, of the robot vacuum cleaner filter after a cleaning cycle, shows the result of a regular cycle. The dust had to come from somewhere right? 

dirty Roomba filter after a cleaning cycle.

That is not all, the Roombas are independent and will automatically search for places to clean at your house. As long as the way is not blocked, you are fine. 

This is something to consider since things in the way of the robot might make it stop running the route and go somewhere else. So there is preparation needed before the robot is to run a cleaning sequence.   

Some people say that they lift all their dining area chairs on the table since the Roomba cannot always fit between the chairs` legs. 

Generally speaking, Roombas do work. iRobot Roomba comes in many models but the functionality is pretty much the same.


Keep reading to find out more valuable information such as:

How many years does a Roomba battery last?

How many years does a Roomba last?

How long should I run my Roomba?

Roombas and cleaning carpets

Does a Roomba work on a hardwood floor?

Which Roomba should I buy?


How long does it take for a Roomba to clean?

It depends. The Roomba will try cleaning all accessible spaces.

Before I jump into numbers, let's discuss what is the cleaning cycle's duration affected by:

  1. How obstacles free is the area. Areas with no obstacles will cause the Roomba to stop and recalculate the route less thus making it finish faster. 
  2. How big is the area? This is straightforward. As bigger spaces get, the longer it will take to clean. Has nothing to do specifically with the Roomba. Also, the Roomba will clean more than one room if available and access is not blocked.
  3. How fully charged the battery is. If a cleaning cycle starts while the battery is not fully charged, the Roomba will stop mid-cycle, charge the battery and continue. The charging time may be added to the overall cleaning time.
  4. How dirty is the floor? If the floor is really dirty, the Roomba's filter might get blocked so no air can flow through it. Cleaning the filter is necessary in this situation in order to continue the cleaning cycle. 

Let's talk about real life numbers and not general scenarios.

Here is the deal:

My Roomba, at full speed, travels a meter in 4 seconds, so after a short calculation, the speed of the Roomba is approximately 0.9 KPH or 0.6MPH.

This may change between models and surface types (like carpets). This is what I have learned in my case, regular stone/ceramic tiles floor. 

At that speed, We can say the Roomba can clean 1 square meter or 11 square foot in 16 seconds.

Now, take the numbers, multiply it to get the room or house size in square meter or feet, and multiply that by 16 seconds. 

this numbers are roughly calculated and may change due to many reasons. I think they are a good estimate though. 


How many years does a Roomba last


Like any other product, it depends on the nature of use, frequency, and intensity. 

Roombas are robots. They are made of many small parts that are working together. 

Any failure in a part may cause it to stop. The biggest number of parts, the bigger the chance of a failure. 

Usually, the battery lasts for a few years. Especially the original one. 

There is a need every couple of years for replacing brushes, potentially wheels, filters and, sensors cleaning

Roombas may still last but clean less effectively.

As long as the Roomba is maintained properly, and used within the limits of reason, a Roomba can last up to 10 years.   


Using the Roomba virtual wall

The Roomba vacuum cleaner comes with a virtual wall. A virtual wall is a device that signals the Roomba not to pass a certain line or get near a certain area. It has 2 operating options.

The battery life of the virtual wall depends on the usage. If you leave it on all the time, it will last a few months. If you only turn it on when the Roomba cleans, it will last longer. 

The virtual wall opens easily for battery replacement. Like any other electronic device.

You can place the virtual wall anywhere. Choose whether you want to create a line barrier or an area barrier and you are good to go.

iRobot Roomba virtual wall barrier

iRobt Roomba virtual wall - side of the device, battery replacement, open the virtual wall.


How long should I run my Roomba?

The best approach, in my opinion, is to let it finish the cleaning cycle.

It will take care of recharging itself if the cycle is relatively long.

The only thing you should consider is cleaning the filter during the cleaning cycle if the floor is really dirty or the cycle is really long. 

The Roomba will alert you if the filter is full. If you are not there to clean it on the spot, the Roomba will not continue the cycle in order to prevent damage to the vacuum system.

Roomba recharging indicator light


Roombas and cleaning carpets

Does the Roomba work on carpet?

Roombas are designed to work on carpets. 

Are we done then? NO.

The Roomba's starting point

If the entire floor is covered with carpet, so there is no real problem.

The Roomba starts on top of the carpet, it will run smoothly on top of the carpet, collecting most of the dirt and hair from it.

If the carpet covers some parts of the floor, then the Roomba may treat it as an obstacle. Especially if the carpet is thick.  

The Roomba starts from a hard floor area, reaches the carpet and potentially has difficulties to go on top of the carpet for cleaning. 


The carpet thickness

does Roomba work on thick carpet?

Another factor to consider, even if the carpet covers all the floor, is the carpet's thickness and its fibers structure.

Carpets with long fibers can be a problem for a Roomba. 

Long fibers can entangle in the brushes and rolls of the vacuum cleaner. 

Long fibers can reduce the suction area since the fibers are sucked instead of the air. 



Does a Roomba work on a hardwood floor?

Yes, it does. 

The Roomba is designed to clean various types of floors from wood floors to stone. 

It will easily clean hardwood without damaging the floor.

The wheels and brushes of the Roomba are strong but gentle enough not to damage any surface. 

Mentioning floors, the Roomba can not clean multiple floors. The vacuum cleaner can not climb stairs or obstacles that are more than a few centimeters high. 


How often should I run my Roomba?

Depends on your needs. I run it twice a week. I make sure I clean the filter and remove hairs and fibers from the wheels and brushes so it cleans effectively.

It is also recommended to clean between runs, since it may prolong the life of the vacuum cleaner. 


How long does it take to fully charge a Roomba?

Like any battery, it depends on the maintenance of the battery, storing conditions, how old the battery is, etc.

From my personal experience, it takes around 2 hours for the Roomba to charge.

If it is between cleaning cycles, no problem. Sometimes if the Roomba runs for a long time, it needs to recharge during the cleaning cycle so the charging time adds up to the cleaning cycle time. 


How many years does a Roomba battery last?

I think that the right way to look at it is by charging cycles and not years. I mean, what if you use the vacuum cleaner every day? Comparing to a person that never uses it? 

It also depends on the maintenance of the battery. If you keep a good maintenance routine it will prolong the life of the battery. 

Generally speaking, the battery can run for around 400 charging cycles.

So let's assume the battery is depleted once on every cleaning cycle, and you run the Roomba twice a week. That means that the battery will last for 200 weeks which is roughly 4 years. Again, depends on your use and battery maintenance.

Like other products, original batteries last more and usually are better quality batteries. They also cost more.

Other generic batteries may cost significantly less, but you don't always know what you get, how many cycles will it last, etc. 

Notice that if you store the Roomba, I recommend following the tip in the above link so you keep your battery fresh and good for when you plan to use it again.


Does Roombas Work with dog hair?


It is important to consider a few things.

If your pet's hair is short, I don't see any problem with  Roomba vacuuming the hair easily.

Longer hair may pose a problem though. 

Like human long hair, the strands can entangle in the wheels, the rolls and the brushes of the Roomba. 

The hair may coil and get into places that requires unscrewing the brush or wheel in order to remove the hair.  

So the Roomba will clean it no doubt, but it requires more maintenance on your side to remove those hairs from all the rotating parts at the bottom of the vacuum cleaner.

Here is a link that explains how to tackle at least some of the maintenance parts.


How do you clean a Roomba filter?

Like many other filters, there are several ways to properly clean a filter. 

I use an air compressor. Take a look at this one:

Air compressor for cleaning Roomba filter.

I spray the filter with air until no dust is coming out of it. I take caution, not to over blast the filter with air since it may damage the filter. 

I believe the manufacturer recommends only shaking the filter out of dust as suggested here. This is obviously another way of doing that. 

In another vacuum cleaner I have (not a robot), I used to wash the filter with water. It used to work perfectly fine for years. In fact, I still do. 

Filter materials change so in all cases, I recommend following the manufacturer instructions and tips so you won't damage the filter and the Roomba.

Over time, filters wear out. Even if maintained correctly. Not to worry though. Roombas filters are not so expensive and can be easily replaced.

Related: How to choose the best all around air compressor?


How do you know when the Roomba is charged?

This is pretty simple. It has a green light that indicates it is fully charged.


If it is currently charging, you will see a light indicator similar to this light:

Charged Roomba indicator light.

If the Roomba has no indicators showing and it is docked, click the "start" button once. I will light all the relevant indications once you do so. 

Indicators and behaviors may change between models.


How do you turn on a Roomba

3 main possibilities: 

If you are physically next to the Roomba, click the "start" button twice.

Another option is via the application. Both the device and the Roomba should connect to Wi-Fi.  

Last option is when the Roomba is scheduled for cleaning cycle so it will start itself when scheduled.


Can you replace the battery in a Roomba?

Defiantly yes.

Changing the battery in a Roomba requires the technical level of working with a screwdriver.

It may change from model to model, but generally, a battery change is not a complicated task to do.

The Roomba's batteries are not typically expensive, they go around 10%-20% of the Roomba price itself, unlike other things that the battery price is very high in comparison to the product itself.

Like other products, original batteries last more and usually are better quality batteries. They also cost more.

Generic batteries may cost significantly less, but you don't always know what you get, how many cycles will it last, etc. 


I gathered some instructional videos (YouTube) and link so you can easily follow and change the battery.  

Replace the 500-600 series battery

Replace the 700-800-900 series battery.

Tips for replacing batteries in a Roomba: 

  1. Always maintain your product according to the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines.
  2. Consider buying original replacements for any device you use. 
  3. Make sure you choose the right battery for the right Roomba series (i.e. 400, 500, 600, 700, etc).
  4. Roombas batteries usually last 400 cleaning cycles (rough estimation). If you think the battery is dead way before 400 cycles, there might be a malfunction in the product and the battery is OK. 
  5. Always store the Roomba and its battery according to manufacturer's instructions.


How do you get the Roomba to dock

Simply by pressing the "dock" or "home" button. The button is part of the control panel of the robot. 

Roomba dock button


How do you clean the Roomba?

First, I recommend finding your model number, go to the manufacturer's site and read the instructions.

This is a good tip since guides online may be outdated. You may find yourself braking something if the robot vacuum cleaner way of removing the wheel for cleaning was changed. Here is an example page from the 600 series.

What I do personally, besides following the manufacturer instructions, I blast air on the Roomba with my air compressor from the outside and the insides after I remove the dustbin.

I do it carefully, air streams can have a lot of power and may damage the potentially delicate parts of the vacuum robot. 

When I clean my robot, I place it on a stable surface, on a kitchen towel or soft layer of a sort and carefully clean the wheels and bins.

The filter I clean outdoors since as I mentioned, I use an air compressor and I don't want all the dust to spread around the house.



Which Roomba should I buy?

There is no one model. 

I recommend that you go with one of the latest models, the technology is always improving and you want to stay in front of it. 

Look for best selling models, that have nice reviews.

Look for models that suffer from a lot of malfunctions. You will find them online with no problem.

I use the 960 model and I am happy with it. But this may change in time. New models are always on the way. 


To Conclude

Do Roombas work?

The Roombas really do work. 

True, they are not a complete solution for cleaning your house. 

I have seen many people that buy one, run it once or twice and then never use it again. It is up to you. 


is a Roomba worth it?

It really depends on your expectations and what you are looking for. If you are looking for a single solution for cleaning your house, in my opinion, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for something that will help you maintain a clean house, the Roomba is a nice addition.

In my personal opinion, Roomba is worth it. Provided that you know the limitation and what to expect of it.

Maintaining the Roomba correctly, running it at regular times and preparing the area for full cleaning potential will get you a nice result. 

Above are some Roombas on Amazon. You can search for specific series in the search bar.