10 Effective Ways on How To Prevent Roomba From Getting Stuck

Photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash

Note: This is a guest post written by Michael Wanjiru – Do you have an iRobot Roomba robot vacuum in your home or office? For those of us with this little helper, you do know it does a great cleaning job. But as a good owner, you should also play your part to ensure it completes the cleaning cycle. One of the ways to “play your part” is to know how to prevent Roomba from getting stuck before completing to cleaning.

Sadly, a robot vacuum (not just Roomba) getting stuck mid-cleaning is nothing new. If yours haven’t, don’t celebrate yet. It still may be at risk of getting stuck unless you take the necessary precautions.

Why/ How Your Roomba May Get Stuck During Cleaning?

First, there’s no denying that iRobot Roomba is one of the most advanced robots that will clean your house thoroughly, intelligently, and for a long time. But like any other machine, it still has its downsides, one of them being stuck while cleaning.

The various scenarios this may happen include:

– Roomba is Getting Stuck Under Furniture

The most common situation of a Roomba and most other robot vacuums getting stuck is under furniture- mostly cabinets and couches. It happens when the furniture has a low ground clearance height or the robot is thicker at the center than the front.

For instance, the iRobot Roomba i7 and Roomba S9 have a thickness of about 3.5 inches. If the space below your furniture is also at 3.5 inches, the little guy will get stuck. The reason for this is that the top of iRobot robot vacuums have a beveled edge. So, as the slimmer edge tries to force itself into the tiny space, the thicker part won’t pass and get stuck.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck From Dirty Wheels

The second reason your Roomba may get stuck is when the wheels clog with dirt (and debris) and can’t turn.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck From Worn-Out Wheels

Similar to your car, a robot vacuum will need traction on its rear side wheels to push forward. If the tiny tires have eaten up all their threads, the Roomba will lose grip on the floor. Thus, it ends up stuck in one position since they (side wheels) are the only ones with a spinning motor.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck From Poor Lighting Condition

Different robot vacuums have varying methods to navigate the floors (detect and evade obstacles) when cleaning. If the vacuum cleaner has an infrared navigation system, it can work in low-light conditions.

However, the Roomba with a local visualization (camera) navigation usually relies on white light to navigate and evade obstacles. If you send the device to clean in darkness, it will just get stranded and lost.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck From Too Thick/ Shaggy Carpet

Another scenario a Roomba vacuum cleaner may get stuck is on a thick or shaggy carpet. It can happen when the auto-adjust cleaning head doesn’t work well.

If the carpet is the shaggy kind, some protruding strings may entangle around the wheels, preventing them from moving.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck Between Cables/ Cords On the Floor

Are you the kind who has chargers, computer cables, and electrical cords lying everywhere on the floor? You should know these cords and cables can also block the cleaning path of your Roomba. And in case unable to find its way out, it will just get stuck.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck In Cluttered Floors

Similarly, leaving things like clothes and shoes all over the floor can also leave your Roomba robot vacuum stuck. The issue can occur when the mess traps the robot in the middle or clothes and shoelaces entangle the wheels.

– Roomba is Getting Stuck after Malfunctioning

When your Roomba malfunctions mid-cleaning, it will also stop running and get stuck at whatever position it was last. The malfunction that left your robot vacuum stuck could be mechanical (damaged component) or technical (a bug or incorrect configuration).

– Roomba is Getting Stuck In A Tightly Packed Room

Your Roomba will also get stuck when you have it clean in a partially crowded room. A perfect example is when you include its cleaning routines in the corridors narrower than its width.

– The Roomba is getting stuck in dark carpets or floors

Finally, some robot vacuums, including Roombas, can still get stuck on dark floors, carpets, and rugs even without obstacles. What happens is that there are drop sensors that prevent the machine from going down the stairs and cliffs. But when the drop sensors encounter black/ dark patches, they also interpret them as potential cliffs.

One instance I’ve seen is a carpet that has squared patterns with black edges or long stripes. When the robot vacuum approaches these areas with dark edges, the drop sensor doesn’t receive the reflected light.

When this sensor doesn’t receive reflected light, it just assumes the edges or stripes are a cliff. Thus, prompting the robot to turn back and look for other (clear) path. If the dark borderline goes all around without breaking, your robot vacuum gets trapped circling in the center.

Easy Hacks On How To Prevent Roomba From Getting Stuck

Now, the tricks to prevent Roomba from getting stuck will be to address the exact issue you may be experiencing. In other words, this section covers the solutions to the scenarios I’ve just listed above:

Solution For a Roomba Getting Stuck Under Furniture

The trick to prevent Roomba from getting stuck under furniture is to make sure it either fits comfortably or doesn’t pass.

To make the robot vacuum cleaner fit under the furniture, you can increase its clearance height. For furniture like couches, tables, and beds, you can increase the height underneath by using furniture raisers.

Meanwhile, preventing Roomba from getting stuck under permanently fixed furniture, like a kitchen cabinet, requires ensuring the robot doesn’t pass. The various ways you can do that include:

  1. Install rubber feet bumpers (or furniture leveling feet) along the furniture front rail. When the Roomba attempts to go under, it will hit them and turn back
  2. Add a layer/ layers of double-sided foam mounting tape along the bottom of the furniture front rail (or toe-kick of the cabinet)
  3. Add foam mounting tape on the top of the bumper to make sure the Roomba doesn’t fit under the furniture. I’ve also seen people increase the height of the Roomba by gluing a bottle cap on the bumper.
  4. Set the iRobot virtual wall barrier along the base of the furniture as it tends to get stuck. The virtual wall will create a block that prevents Roomba from passing through.
  5. Use the iRobot Home app to set up “Keep Out Zones” for the areas along the furniture base where the Roomba tends to get stuck.
  6. Babysit the Roomba vacuum while it cleans. Yes, it beats the whole idea of having a smart cleaning servant under your wings. However, babysitting can help stop the Roomba from going where it will get stuck. Or else, you can remove it when stuck and redirect it to another cleaning path.

Solution For A Roomba Getting Stuck from Dirty Wheels

In this case, you should clean your Roomba regularly, including removing the dirt, fiber, and hair caught in the wheels. Also, don’t forget to lubricate the wheel axle.

How To Prevent Roomba from Getting Stuck On-Out Wheels

The solution here is to simply replace the worn-out tires of the side wheels of your Roomba with a fresh pair. A set of these tires only costs about $15 or about fifty bucks for a whole wheel module (with a tire).

How to Prevent Roomba from Getting Stuck in Poor Lighting Conditions

If you have the iRobot Roomba i7 with a navigation camera, your rooms should be well-lighted during cleaning hours.

When cleaning during the day, drawing the curtains around the house could provide the natural light the camera needs to see. Then, where the robot cleans at night, leave the lights around the house on- or install floor lighting.

Tip: A robot vacuum with an infrared navigation system, like Roomba i3, can clean in low-light conditions without an issue.

Solution for a Roomba Getting stuck on thick or Shaggy Carpet

First, here you must make sure you buy a great robot vacuum for thick pile carpets and rugs. If you already have an older Roomba that seems to struggle in such conditions, make sure it doesn’t step on the surface.

To do this, you only need to remove the thick carpet/ rug from the cleaning path of the smart vacuum cleaner. And for that, either roll the carpet (or physically remove it there) or set up a virtual wall or “keep out zones”.

Furthermore, setting up pool noodles, or anything the robot vacuum can’t climb, around the carpet will also help.

Solution for a Roomba Getting Stuck Between Cables Trap

In this case, you’ll only need to keep your floors free of cables during the cleaning hours. Of course, some robot vacuums, like Roomba J5, claim to have cord detection. But this feature isn’t always dependable.

Another option I could recommend is setting up the cords and cables of power extension, PC, home theater, etc.) neatly. Try what I have done: clipping the cables along the baseboard.

Solution for a Roomba Getting Stuck on Your Laundry Mess

Similarly, keep the floors free of clothes, shoes, and shoelaces during the cleaning day. It’s also nice to remove mobile obstacles like toys if you’d like a thorough cleaning.

Solution for a Roomba Getting Stuck from a Malfunction

If your Roomba robot vacuum got stuck after a component failure, repair or replace the piece. Then, where the robot failed because of a technical issue, first make sure you update the firmware to address common bugs.

In case an update doesn’t resolve the technical malfunction, reset your iRobot robot vacuum to factory default.

Solution for a Roomba Getting Stuck in Tight Spaces

A nice fix to prevent Roomba from getting stuck between narrow spaces is to prevent it from going there. If it’s a narrow corridor, you can block the path with iRobot virtual walls, a “keep out zones” feature, or pool noodles.

Alternatively, you can close the door that leads to that narrow corridor during the cleaning days.

How to Prevent Roomba from Getting Stuck In Dark Carpets/ Rugs

The best way how to prevent Roomba from getting stuck in a dark carpet/rug is also to keep it out. Use virtual walls, keep-out-zones feature, pool noodles, and anything the robot vacuum can’t climb to block around all the entries.

If you’d prefer the Roomba vacuum to clean all parts of your floors, convince it the dark patterns/ patches aren’t cliffs. And for that, the idea is to help the areas send the signal from the infrared cliff detection transmitter back to the receiver.

The first way you can trick the cliff detection receiver this way will be to put a scotch tape over all four sensors. If scotch tape alone doesn’t work, add a layer of white paper tower (or several layers) until it works.

Alternatively, you can open up your Roomba vacuum and tape together the infrared cliff detection transmitter and receiver LEDs.

It’s worth noting tricking the cliff sensors of your Roomba in either of these two ways will render them ineffective. So, they won’t be able to detect an actual cliff or stairs anymore.

Never Move the Homebase of Your Roomba Mid-Cleaning

Well, that’s how to prevent Roomba from getting stuck around your house before finishing cleaning. Besides the babysitting option, all the other hacks are applicable when planning to leave the robot vacuum on its own.

All the hacks are effortless to do on your own, and most also don’t require buying anything. For where you need furniture raisers or bumpers, you could improvise with something around the house.

Another thing, your Roomba Vacuum can get lost and stuck in one of your rooms if unable to track its Homebase. When it happens, it’s often if you change the Homebase position from where the robot started to clean.

So, leave the Homebase of your Roomba as it’s when the robot has already left for its cleaning routine. Otherwise, the machine may want but fail to recharge mid-cleaning, and then you come back to floors dirty.

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