Robot vacuums guide and tips

Clean Ahead Plus Other Tips for Using a Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

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Remote control Roomba

When you read online comments from owners of robotic vacuums, there are two types of owners you’ll generally find.

One type, and this is the most common, have lots of praise for their vacuum cleaners. They say their vacuum cleaners pick up debris quickly, weave around furniture with ease and make home cleaning a breeze.

The other type is customers who have had nothing but frustrations from their robot vacuums. The unit misses some spots, gets stuck all around the house and maintenance is a headache.

There are a few who are on the fence with comments like this one from a Reddit user who says, “They’re dumb as a doorknob but does a good job of keeping your place decently clean, especially if you have pets.

If you are one of the frustrated robotic vacuum owners, this 5-minute robotic vacuums guide has a few tips to make your life easier. These tips are collected from feedback from satisfied owners, manufacturer recommendations and my own experience reviewing dozens of robotic vacuum cleaners.

1. Clean up Ahead of the Robot

Robot vacuums guide - clear clutter first

Unfortunately, we still don’t have robot vacuum cleaners that will pick up clothes or kids’ toys from the floor.

Robot vacuum cleaners work best on a cleared floor with as much open space as possible. If you set the robot vacuum cleaner loose on the floor without clearing it first, it will inevitably get stuck.

Pick up clothes, toys, grocery bags and any other stuff on the floor before you start cleaning. You then won’t have to keep rescuing it every few minutes.

2. 2. Set it up Properly

iRobot user manual

Perhaps the reason your vacuum cleaner is not working properly is because you missed something during set up.

Even if you have used another robotic vacuum cleaner before, read the manufacturer instructions before doing anything.

Most manuals recommend setting up the home base in an open area with adequate clearance at the front and sides. This allows the unit to self-charge once it finishes cleaning or the battery gets low.

If you’ve just bought a new robotic vacuum cleaner and it won’t work, check whether the battery is fully charged. In most cases you have to charge the battery for several hours before you start cleaning.

If the setup involved Bluetooth or WiFi connection, check that you followed all the steps. The manufacturer troubleshooting guide is handy for such situations.

Other things to check are that the home base is not setup too close to the stairs or a dark rug or carpet and that there is no missing part in the vacuum cleaner such as cleaning brushes or sensors.

3. Maintain it Regularly

Something as simple as a dusty sensor can trouble you to no end. That’s why it’s important to have a regular maintenance schedule for your vacuum cleaner. And not just the weekly or monthly cleanings the manual recommends but also regular checks now and then.

After every cleaning as you remove the collected debris, take a quick look around the outside of the unit. Check the sensors and wipe them with a dry cloth to remove any dust that may have accumulated on them.

Check whether there is a component that feels loose or looks out of whack.

You can often catch problems before they get bigger thus ensuring your vacuum cleaner keeps working well and lasts long.

4. Give it time

If your robotic vacuum cleaner uses intelligent software and sensors to navigate your home, it’ll need a few sessions to learn the layout of your floor.

Newer robot vacuum models have features to help them move around better. For instance, some Neato models have something called Persistent, Actionable Maps. Basically, the robot remembers the way around your home after the first few cleanings.

So don’t be frustrated if in the first few days it seems to be doing a poor work of cleaning, hitting walls and missing pots. Give it a few more tries and see if it improves.

5. Just Charge it Yourself

A roomba charging home base
A Roomba charging home base

One of the best features of most robotic vacuum cleaners is their self-charging feature. Once you set up the home base, the vacuum cleaner can automatically navigate to it and charge itself if the battery goes low or it finishes cleaning.

This is also one of the most frustrating features. In many cases, it doesn’t work even in top robotic vacuums. At best, it will work less than half the time. The rest of the time it gets stuck on the way back. Even if it does find the home base it’s unable to plug in.

You can try this feature on your robotic vacuum cleaner and see how well it works. But get ready to lift the vacuum cleaner and take it to the charging base yourself. If it comes with a remote control, you can just navigate it to the home base.

If you have set an auto-schedule, make sure the robot is fully charged before you leave home in the morning. This way, it won’t die halfway through the cleaning and get stuck under the chair yet again.

If All Else Fails…

Call the manufacturer customer support and explain your troubles. They might tell you what you are doing wrong or whether it’s the unit that is faulty. If that doesn’t help, see our robotic vacuums guide for better robots that won’t make you feel like pulling your hair out.

About the author

Vicky Nicholls is the Sr. Researcher and Writer for

Vicky is a full-time professional writer who spends most of her time covering the real-world impact of the latest technologies on consumers' lives around the world. She writes full-time for a number of leading review and editorial publications on the web.

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