Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roomba repair - cleaning techniques

For 3rd and 4th Generation Roomba  

CAUTION !  What described here can damage your Roomba if you don't know what you are doing, and it also make void the warranty !
I'm not liable in case of problems following these suggestions. YOU are responsible about what you are doing.

The most recurring problem for Roomba, is related to the cleaning job is supposed to do.
Dust, hair, strings, ecc., after some time, especially if the unit is not maintained properly, can create problems.
So the first thing to do when repairing a Roomba, is to have it cleaned up.
There are different cleaning techniques, some of them can be applied sequentially to the unit, depending how much dirt is the robot.
I'm describing here the techniques I'm currently using to clean up a third or fourth generation Roomba.

Blowing the unit
The first thing is to blow the unit with compressed air or, like me that I don't have compressed air, with an electric blower.
Better to do that in an open space, not in the house, since usually is coming out a LOT of dust.
I usually open the garage door, then I prepare the Roomba removing the battery, the dust bin and the brushes.
Then I place the Roomba to be cleaned on the floor, "as is" (i.e. I don't take it apart yet) and start to blow everywhere, up and down, trying to direct the airflow in every accessible place.
Also, place the Roomba upside down to clean up the wheels and the bottom of the deck.
Usually clouds of dust and hairball can escape the unit, so better to wear a mask.

Apply the same treatment to the dust bin, removing the filter and direct the air flow also in the vacuum propeller.

Vacuuming the unit
After the initial blowing, the second stage of the cleaning, require to take apart the unit.
Remove the bumper, the top case and the rotating lateral brush.
Doing so many internal parts become exposed, and it is possible to vacuum the unit, in order to remove pieces of dust still attached to the internal parts.
It is typical to have airballs mixed with dust on the deck and dust stuck in little spaces, not accessible from the outside.

With "not so dirty" Roomba, the blowing and the vacuum are enough to have the unit clean.
In these cases is enough a wet cloth or some cleaning cloth products, to remove the dust and have back the unit like new.

Same treatment to the dust bin. Just be sure to remove the filter first.

Unfortunately many Roomba never received a decent maintenance during their life.
For these units is mandatory to proceed to the third cleaning phase.

Washing the unit
For very dirty units, it is necessary to wash them.
Depending what you have available, there are different techniques.
Having an old dishwasher available, it is possible to put Roomba in it and perform a short cycle.
I have an utility sink in garage, so what I usually do is to fill up a basin, big enough to contain the Roomba, with warm soapy water.
I use a car wash soap, in order to remove also some external greasy dirt, and a mild brush, to gently stroke in every accessible unit part.

For very dirty Roomba is maybe better to detach the deck from the unit and having it washed separately.
Put the Roomba in the warm water, agitate the water (so to allow a deep penetration) and use the brush (gently !!!) on electronics and mechanical parts.
Then rinse accurately the unit with fresh water.

The trick is then to dry the unit as fast as possible.
After moving the Roomba up and down for a while, in order to remove as much water as possibile, I normally use the blower as first drying step, so to force the water out from inside.
Then I place the unit under the sun (here in Arkansas is quite powerful) for few hours.
An alternative could be to use a dryer, of course assuming the dryer has a stable internal platform (many dryers have that option).
Is not a good idea to place the Roomba in the drum !!!

The same technique can be applied to the dust bin, unless is a dust bin with the Empty indicator.
This kind of dust bin is called Intellibin.
These dust bins have an extra electronic powered by an independent battery.
So DON'T WASH the dust bin unless you remove first the battery.
Unfortunately to remove the battery, you have to totally take apart the dust bin !


Here a video that shows how to perform a "vacuum type" of cleaning, i.e. opening the Roomba and cleaning the inside.
The video has the soundtrack in Italian but I think it can be helpful anyway.
The time necessary to do a decent job, assuming to have a little bit of experience in opening and closing the Roomba, is around 30 minutes more or less.


  1. Good description, just a note about rinse of electronic parts:
    after mild soap cleansing use fresh water to remove soap,
    submerge again in fresh clean water, stir for a minute or two then apply air blower for first pass
    last stage to all electronic washed bake for half an hour into a dryer near 60°C.
    An Heat pump low temp drynage is better, never exceed 60°C or all electrolytic capacitor go away.
    One day I promise I try register. See you.