Here are our tips on how to prepare your house so your vacuum robot won’t get into trouble
One of the most popular tech devices of the 21st century (apart from smartphones and tablets) has to be robotic vacuums. Since debuting in 2002, iRobot’s Roomba line has sold over 20 million units worldwide. Each year, new models are developed from various manufacturers. And each year, the devices get more autonomous.
That doesn’t mean your top-of-the-line robot vacuum is completely hands-free, however. Even the most advanced models can get stuck, tangled, or lost. To run a robot vac safely and efficiently, you’ll need to invest a little time in preparing your home for your new floor cleaning buddy.
Tip #1: Leave room for the dock
The docking station serves as both a charging base and a homing beacon for your robot vacuum. It uses that signal as a reference point to navigate throughout your home. In order for the robot to find its dock when needed, there should be plenty of space in front of it and on each side.
Make sure your charging dock is placed in an uncluttered area away from any stairs. Keep at least 4 feet in front of the dock clear and 1.5 to 3 feet on either side of it. Examples of good locations are up against a wall in an open area such as the corner of your living room or foyer.
So long as your vacuum has clear and easy access to its dock, it won’t get lost and sound the signal of doom from within the bowels of your house.
Tip #2: Declutter & vacuum
Robot vacuums are mostly maintenance cleaners. That means they function best after a thorough manual cleaning with an upright vacuum or broom. They’re not for deep cleaning, but once your floor IS deep-cleaned, they’ll do a great job of keeping all that surface dirt from getting ground into the floor. With regular use of your robot vacuum, you may only need to break out your upright once or twice a month.
It’s important with robot vacuums, just like uprights, that you declutter the floor before use. Pick up all those little objects like Legos, socks, rocks, toys, grocery bags, and so forth so they don’t damage your robot.
Tip #3: Loose cords and cables are a no-no
Robot vacuums getting tangled up in charging cables is one of the top complaints you’ll see in product reviews. Do a sweep before running the vacuum and pick up any loose charging cables, power cords, shoestrings, ribbons, long tassels on rugs, and basically anything that is stringlike. These items can get wrapped around wheels and the spinning brushes, which can damage both the item and your vacuum.
Trouble spots to focus your search on:
- Side tables
- TV entertainment centers
- Home offices
- Shoe racks
- Kids’ rooms
- Throw rugs with tassels (pick them up or tuck the tassels beneath the rug)
Another tangling hazard you may not think about is hair, both pet and human. Customers have reported their vacuums getting tangled in their pets’ long coats if the vacuum happens to get too close. There’s even a story about a South Korean woman who got her hair tangled up in a vacuum as she slept on the floor.
Tip #4: Set up your robot properly
Another major problem robot owners have is initial setup, particularly with the WiFi/Bluetooth connections. If you have poor WiFi and Bluetooth signal (or none at all), the most advanced models that rely on app controls will be vastly limited in how you can control them. Or they may not work at all.
If you do have good WiFi and Bluetooth connections, be sure to follow all the setup instructions to a T. Otherwise you may miss that your machine requires a 2G rather than a 5G connection, for instance.
Also, make sure the battery is fully charged. Initial charging can take several hours. Beyond that, make sure every part is installed properly and that none of the parts have plastic wrappings, etc. that need to be removed.
Tip #5: Water and other hazards
Pet water dishes, plant containers, and other liquid-containing items should be moved or blocked so the robot vacuum doesn’t plow into them. If the inner workings of your robot vacuum get wet, it can do permanent damage to the machine. Not to mention, it can also void the warranty due to owner neglect.
This also applies to more unsavory substances such as pet urine and feces. The vacuum will roll right on through those messes and then smear them all over your floor. If you have a kitten, puppy, or incontinent older pet, it’s best to put them in a crate or closed room if you plan to run the vacuum while you’re away from home.
Other hazards include fire dangers such as space heaters and candles. Don’t leave heaters running while your vacuum is operating, especially if you’re not in the same room. The vacuum can push the heater over or against a couch or drapes, which can start a fire. With candles, make sure they’re up on tables and away from the edge while burning.
Tip #6: Set boundaries
Many robot vacuums come with some type of boundary marker. These may come in the form of magnetic strips, infrared barrier devices, and virtual barriers that you set through mobile apps. Take advantage of these if available!
Examples of places you may want to put barriers:
- Baby’s room
- Entertainment center
- Pet food area
- Litter box
- Christmas tree
If nothing else, you can always close doors, use baby gates, and even pillows or cardboard to block off no-go areas.
Tip #7: Be patient
Robot vacuums with advanced navigation may require a few cycles before they learn the layout of your house to form an internal map. Until they learn and store a thorough floor plan, you can expect the machine to miss some areas and bump its way around like it’s a bit tipsy. Give it a few cycles and you should see an improvement in both speed and performance.
One thing you can do to help matters is to leave your furniture where it is. Now’s not the time to rearrange the living room. Your robot will have to redo its stored maps every time you move big things around.
Beyond these preparation measures, you’ll want to take good care of your robot and follow all maintenance instructions closely. Keep that owner’s manual handy!
But first, make sure you have the highest quality robot vacuum you can find that works for your home and lifestyle. Browse the greatest reviews to find your perfect match. You’ll be able to compare the specs, pros and cons, and see what kind of maintenance to expect.