How does a Roomba work on carpet?


Most of the images we see of Roombas and other robot vacuums in action have them rolling over hard floors, cleaning up pet kibble or dust bunnies. Images of bots on carpets are rarer, although they also exist. This leads to a lot of questions from first-time buyers. Can Roombas work on carpet? Do you need another type of robot vacuum just for carpets? Will carpet damage a Roomba if it’s not made for it?

Fortunately, most robot vacuums are designed to work on carpets and hard floors, although there are a few exceptions. Let’s tackle these questions with an FAQ on how robot vacuums and carpets interact.

How do robot vacuums work on carpets?

Robot vacuums can work on carpets, especially low profile carpets with a low pile height. Many models are created with self-adjusting cleaning heads or adjustable heights that can move over carpet more easily and can even adjust the suction between carpets and hard floors for the best results.

Robot vacuums without these features may be able to handle carpets, but that’s not guaranteed. If you have a lot of carpet in your home, always look for robot vacuums that say they are designed for carpet or have modes specifically for carpet.

Roombas come with edge brushes and rubber brushes which tend to work best on hard surfaces. After all, you’re not sweeping your carpet. However, the rubber bottom brush design can help pick up debris on carpets, and the suction power of all robot vacuums can help suck up dust, dander, and dirt.

However, Roombas and other robovacs aren’t exactly full-scale vacuums. And while their suction might be strong for their size, they might not be able to clean as deep into your carpet as a full-scale vacuum with a powerful cleaning head. If you have ground-in dirt or other debris that has gotten into your carpet pile, a robot vacuum may not be able to handle it. That’s why it’s important to occasionally clean carpets with a larger vacuum cleaner.

If the mat has a low profile, this shouldn’t be a problem with Roombas that have auto-adjust features. The robot vacuum will simply jump onto the carpet and keep moving forward. Roombas’ sensors are smart enough to avoid things like toys, shoes, and even pets that may be on the carpet while they’re working.

In many homes, the transition from hard floor to carpet is minimal. However, if the construction of the floor has resulted in a significant height difference in the surface, some robot vacuums may struggle. Today’s robot vacuums can overcome heights of up to three-quarters of an inch, but if your carpet height is more than about a quarter-inch, you should try testing a robot vacuum first (see return options if you order online) and ask an expert about a particular vacuum. Some vacuum cleaners will have a harder time than others.

Roomba 890 robot vacuum cleaner connected to Wi-Fi.

Carpets are different from rugs. They tend to be taller than carpets, they often have fringe that can confuse robot vacuums, and they’re often hairier than carpets, making them difficult to clean.

In most cases, carpets are best handled with a traditional vacuum cleaner and/or a good shake outdoors. Roombas can usually handle low-profile carpeting very well, but sometimes it automatically avoids carpeting, detecting it as an obstacle. To prevent robot vacuums from getting stuck on carpets, you can set numerical limits through the Roomba app (other robot vacuum apps may have this feature, but it’s not guaranteed).

High-end Roombas can handle high-pile carpets, but other robot vacuums may not do as good a job. Look for robots with powerful suction, dual impellers, or similar features that will work well on thicker carpets. Once a rug reaches shaggy or fluffy status, it’s too thick for a robot vacuum to tackle, so you’ll need to find other cleaning options.

As we mentioned above, taller, thicker rugs and carpets, especially those with fringe, can feel like obstacles for your Roomba. In these cases, Roombas will bypass the carpets. However, there is another important exception – black rugs or other very dark colored rugs. These dark colors disturb many robot vacuum sensors. Robot vacuums often read them as a potential trip hazard or other challenge and will refuse to go on the carpet even if it is level with the rest of the floor.

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