Robotic vacuums are commonly used to clean floors and carpets without having to be physically operated by users. However, some concerns have been raised about their ability to clean surfaces without damaging them.
Robotic vacuums are designed to clean wooden floors without scratching them. However, if grains of sand or bits of plastic get stuck to the wheels of the robotic vacuum, it could scratch the wooden floor as it moves across the room. The front caster wheel could also jam and be dragged across the floor sideways, which could scratch wooden floors.
It’s important to keep a tab on robotic vacuums and avoid leaving them unattended for long periods of time.
The wheels of a robot vacuum
The most popular robot vacuum is the Roomba by iRobot.
The Roomba was introduced in 2002 and is currently available in many different models. These models often differ on the quality of their build material, the complexity of their sensors, and the smartness of their cleaning AI.
All Roombas come with two tractor style rubber wheels near its sides. Each of these wheels is driven by an independent motor. They also feature a third plastic wheel near the front of the device. This plastic wheel is used to swivel and rotate the device as it operates.
The rubber side wheels are designed to be gentle when moving across various surfaces under normal operating circumstances.
Will the Roomba scratch wooden floors?
Roombas are equipped with two counter-rotating brushes and a large spinning side brush. Neither of these brushes is capable of scratching wooden floors. However, the Roomba’s wheels may scratch wooden floors under certain circumstances.
Grains of sand or bits of plastic can get stuck to the Roomba’s rubber side wheels over time. The sharpness of these foreign objects combined with the weight of the Roomba (each one weighs over 7 lbs) can cause the device to scratch softer surfaces it moves across.
There have been many reports of Roomba’s scratching hardwood or engineered hardwood floors due to this reason.
Roombas can also scratch wooden floors if their front wheel ever gets stuck. The front caster wheel is meant to swivel and rotate freely to allow the device to rotate, but it can jam if hair gets caught in the mechanism, or if foreign objects lodge between the wheel and its housing.
When the front wheel jams, it may not be able to freely rotate. In this scenario, the front wheel may be stuck perpendicular to the Roomba’s direction of movement, causing the front wheel to drag across the floor and scratch it as the device operates.
This situation occurs so frequently that the Roomba’s manufacturer has made the front wheel removable, in order to dislodge any foreign objects that could be jamming it.
Cleaning the Roomba’s wheels to prevent scratches
Stuck Roomba wheels can scratch wooden floors, so they should be cleaned regularly. The Roomba’s wheels are relatively easy to clean and can be kept smooth and functional with a bit of maintenance.
Roombas will usually notify users whenever they encounter a problem, so it’s easy to know when a problem does occur. Once users are aware of these issues, they can address them to avoid having their floors and carpets damaged by the device.
If the Roombas emits a single beep, it indicates that the device is stuck or that its side-wheel isn’t in contact with the ground. To correct the issue, the Roomba should be taken to another room and activated again.
If the problem persists, it could mean that there is an issue with the side wheels. To correct the problem, flip the Roomba onto its back and inspect the side wheels. Look for any foreign objects that may have gotten stuck in the wheel mechanism.
Pet hair commonly gets wound up in the wheel mechanism. Over time, these strands of hair could tighten around the wheel and prevent it from rotating. The wheels can be pushed up and down gently to remove obstructions, and pet hair can be dug out using a sharp object.
Once these foreign objects have been removed, the device can be put back into position and activated.
If the device beeps a total of five times, it indicates that the side wheels’ grooves need to be cleaned. Like before, the device should be flipped onto it back so that the wheels can be inspected.
Look for any pebbles or bits of glass or plastic that could have embedded themselves in the grooves of the side wheel. These can be cleared out using a pointed (but not sharp) tool, or using a can of compressed air.
If the device beeps a total of seven times, it means that the sides are failing to rotate properly. Turn the device over on its back once more and look for any obstructions. If no obstructions can be found, the side wheels should be pushed up and down gently.
These side wheels can also be rotated by hand to check them. The Roomba’s side wheels should be able to rotate freely without much resistance. If the wheels can’t be moved by hand, the device should be placed upright on the floor and pushed manually to get the wheels in motion.
These problems may come up occasionally. However, if they become more frequent over time, the manufacturer recommends that the wheels should be replaced with newer ones.
Preventing the front wheel from scratching wooden floors
The Roomba’s front wheel is what scratches floors most commonly. This front wheel is made from a type of plastic, whereas the Roomba’s side wheels are made from rubber.
Unlike the side wheels that can only move forward and backward, the front wheel of the Roomba has the ability to swivel around to help the device rotate. It’s similar to a caster wheel on a trolley.
However, similar to a caster wheel on a trolley, this wheel’s swiveling mechanism can get jammed and cause the wheel to be dragged across the floor at an angle when the device moves forward.
Dragging plastic (such as the front wheel of the Roomba) across any semi-soft surface like hardwood can cause it to leave scratches. To correct the issue, the front wheel should be inspected thoroughly to identify any obstructions or foreign objects.
The entire wheel can be popped out and checked if no obstructions are overtly visible.
If the front wheel is able to swivel freely but is still scratching wooden floors, it may have to be modified.
To reduce the odds of the front wheel scratching surfaces, the plastic portion of the wheel could be wrapped in metal tape.
Another option is to place a thick and wide rubber band around the front of the wheel. However, it’s important to make sure that the wheel can still swivel freely after making these modifications.
Are Roombas more likely to scratch wooden floors than other vacuum cleaners?
It’s difficult to say if Roombas are more prone to scratching wooden floors compared to upright or canister vacuum cleaners.
Many canister vacuum cleaners also feature swiveling wheels that could get jammed. So it’s entirely possible for canister vacuums to scratch wooden floors. However, the circumstances would depend on the material that the swivelling wheel is made from, and the weight of the vacuum unit itself.
Canister vacuums with swivelling wheels made from hard plastic paired with heavy canister tanks are far more likely to scratch floors than an ordinary Roomba.
The Roomba can be a useful device for people who do not want to physically exert themselves while vacuuming, so it will continue to be a popular device in homes. However, these devices should always be used with caution to ensure that they do not damage your floors.
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the suitability of Roombas for cleaning wooden floors.
Should I risk using a Roomba on a wooden floor? A Roomba can be used on a wooden floor provided that the device is in proper working order. If the device wheels are prone to jamming, it could scratch the wooden floor and ruin its appearance.
Will a Roomba scratch a wooden floor if left unattended? A Roomba can scratch wooden floors if left unattended for extended periods of time. Grains of sand or bits of plastic could get stuck in the side wheels’ grooves if the device is left unattended for too long. These foreign objects can then scratch the wooden floor as the device moves across the room.
Does modifying the front wheel to reduce scratching work as a long term solution? Wrapping the plastic front wheel with metal tape or rubber bands isn’t a long term fix for the device. The metal tape or rubber bands will eventually wear out or come off, exposing the hard plastic underneath. A front wheel that is constantly scratching surfaces should be replaced with a new one.