How to Clean a Roomba

How to clean Roomba

iRobot products aren’t cheap (even their “budget” options are on the high end of the price spectrum), so keeping them in tip-top shape makes sense to maximize your investment.

And in this article, I’ll show you practical steps in cleaning different components, from the brush roll and side brush to the wheels.

I’ve tested most iRobot products, from the entry-level Roomba 694 to the top-spec S9+ and J7+, and most of them require similar steps in cleaning, which I’ll enumerate in this article.

Instead of writing an extensive step-by-step manual as I did with individual guides, I’ll categorize the cleaning into sections focusing on different components.

Tools Needed

Here are the tools you’ll need – the primary one is a Philips screwdriver, a staple for Roomba products across the board. Folks will need this to remove the side brush and base plate to access the bolts of various components like the side wheels and brush roll assembly.

The other tools listed below are optional, depending on your preferences.

  1. Philips screwdriver: It’s a must-have tool for people who want to clean their Roomba robot thoroughly – a must-have for removing bolts to access the inner components.
  2. Microfiber towel: I love the grabby texture of these towels in removing dust and debris accumulation on various components. Have a few in handy for cleaning different parts.
  3. Scissors: A must-have tool for owners of the older Roomba models (600-series) with the bristled brush and blade brushes for removing hair from them.
  4. Brush [optional]: You use a paintbrush or any flat brush, which is handy in dislodging dirt inside the dustbin or bin sensor, and filter.
  5. Cotton buds [optional]: If you have some lying around, it’s another handy tool for cleaning the drop-sensors.
  6. Face mask [optional]: Wear a face mask if you have allergies.
  7. Gloves [optional]: Another optional tool for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty.
  8. Handheld vacuum [optional]: It’s not necessary, but a handy(and time-saving) tool for cleaning the dustbin and filter.

How to Clean Roomba Brushes [Primary and Side Brushes]

Roomba E5 and 694 brush roll comparison

The first component (and most frequent) component to clean is the brushes – side and primary brushes.

There are two primary brushes for iRobot products – the traditional blade and bristled combo and the rubber extractors without the bristles.

Between the two, it’s harder to clean the bristled version since it’s a hair magnet.

Roomba 694 cleaning seven inch hair

Hair will either wrap on the bristled brush or the axles (check the photo above).

It’s almost impossible to remove the hair without cutting them off using a scissor.

If you own one of these older Roomba models (675 or 694), using a scissor will be the most efficient method of cleaning hair from the brush.

After cutting the strands, it’s easier to pull everything out. Also, don’t forget to remove hair from the axles.

In contrast, cleaning the rubber extractors is easier without using any tools since there’s nothing for the hair to stick to without the bristles.

Roomba I3 hair on axles after 5-inch test

It often comes off just by pulling it off using your fingers. An extra step (if you want to take it further) is using a slightly damp microfiber towel to wipe the surface to remove any dust on it.

The hair on the axles comes off easily without needing any tools, but don’t forget this step to prevent unnecessary friction and wear.

Don’t forget the side brush.

All Roomba side brushes have a three-pronged design with bristled tips (aside from the S9).

There may be some variances in color, but it’s made from the same rubber and bristle material with a different dye.

Cleaning the Roomba side brush is the same across the board. The first step is loosening the single bolt with a Philips screwdriver.

Roomba J7 side brush bolt

Once you’ve taken it off, detach the brush from its base and remove any hair accumulation since it’ll cause premature wear on the side brush motor.

Wipe the brush if there’s any dust buildup and reattach it to the robot.

How to Clean Roomba Brush Cage

Roomba J7 brush assembly

One of the most neglected parts of any Roomba is the brush roll cage, which houses the counter-rotating brushes.

Lots of dirt and grime can accumulate on this part, especially the axle area where the brushes spin. This part also houses the acoustic “dirt detect” sensor.

Roomba dirt detect sensor

There are two ways to go about cleaning – the non-invasive method, where you only clean the exposed parts underneath, or the invasive method involving removing the base plate and several bolts holding the brush roll housing.

The first step is removing the counter-rotating brushes and removing hair or dust accumulation.

Roomba cleaning brush

After cleaning the two primary brushes, the next step is cleaning the brush cage (or assembly) holding them.

With the brushes out of the way, you’ll have easy access to the brush cage assembly.

You could use a handheld with a brush attachment to clean it or wipe it down with a clean microfiber towel to remove any accumulation, especially on the “dirt detect” sensor.

In most instances, the steps above will be enough, but folks can take cleaning further and clean the inner components underneath.

Again, the first step is removing the bolts holding the base plate.

Most Roomba products will have the bolt pattern since nearly all models have a round frame except for the S9+ – the only option in the iRobot lineup with a D-shape body.

Roomba S9 base plate bolts

Once you’ve loosened all the bolts, gently lift the base plate. Please note there’s no need to loosen the screws all the way, just enough to remove the cover.

Roomba S9 base plate out

With the base plate out, remove the screws holding the brush cage.

Roomba brush cage bolts

There will be variances depending on the Roomba model, but these will be in similar locations in most round-framed Roombas.

The Roomba 980 and J7 have a similar bolt pattern, and since the J7 uses the same frame as the E and I series, the bolts will be in the exact location in these models.

Roomba J7 brush assembly bolt location

You’ll need a mini-Philips screwdriver to remove these.

Once the bolts are out, lift the brush assembly, then clean with a microfiber towel.

Here’s a close look at the Roomba J7 brush roll assembly.

Roomba J7 brush assembly out

Most of the other next-generation Roombas (E5, I2, I3, I4, I6, I7, and I8) will have similar designs with a similar bolt pattern, so removing these will require the same process.

The brush assembly of the S9 is different since it uses the D-shape frame.

Roomba S9 roller assembly out

Avoid using water to clean this part since it has electrical components, like the S9, where the brush roll motor is located underneath.

Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off dust and debris buildup, which goes a long way in prolonging its service life.

Roomba S9 roller assembly out

Once you’re done cleaning everything, put everything back in reverse order, then tighten the bolts.

How to Clean Roomba Filters

Roomba J7 filter

Before diving into cleaning Roomba filters, let’s first differentiate the filters in various models.

The 600-series models use a flat filter element, so there’s less surface area, and it doesn’t sift dirt as well.

How to clean Roomba 690 filter

Newer Roomba models – E, I, S, and J7 series use a pleated filter with a larger surface area.

Roomba I6+ HEPA filter

A third type is found in the 900 series (960 and 980), which is similar to the smaller E, I, J, and S9 series with a pleated surface, only larger.

Roomba 980 HEPA filter

Cleaning these two filters will be slightly different, but it’s straightforward.

For the older 600-series filters with the flat filter element, you could use a brush to remove the buildup over a trash bin. 

Since it doesn’t have a pleated surface, this step alone is enough to remove surface dust accumulation.

However, cleaning the pleated filters found in the 900, E, I, J, and S series robots will be different.

Unlike in the 600-series, where debris is exposed on the surface, the dust hides beneath the folds, and you’ll need to force them out by tapping the filter on a solid surface or using a brush to force it out.

Doing the former (tapping it on a solid surface) is the quicker method and works in getting most of the accumulation out.

You could lay a newspaper on the surface to catch the debris and make cleanup more straightforward.

Another method is using a handheld vacuum with a brush attachment, which would entail an extra cost, but if you have one lying around, it’s a good way of fast-tracking the process.

How to Clean Roomba Wheels

Roomba J7 side wheels

Robot vacuum wheels are one of the most neglected components in these machines.

Most folks tend to gloss over this component, but these are critical in a robot’s function as they are responsible for its movement and navigation.

Since you’re reading this article, you’re now aware of this, and I’ll show you the steps to keep these components clean and the robot functioning at its peak.

I’ve written a comprehensive guide on cleaning the Roomba wheels, so head over to that article for a more detailed process.

Like cleaning the brush cage, there are two levels to cleaning Roomba wheels – surface cleaning and more thorough cleaning that involves removing the base plate.

The first method is faster, and you’ll only need a (slightly) damp microfiber towel to clean the rubber side wheels and caster wheels.

One plus with iRobot products is that the caster wheels are detachable, making this task faster.

Roomba I3 clean front caster wheel

The microfiber’s grabby nature makes it the perfect tool for the task. You could disassemble the caster wheel if you’re a neat freak.

Roomba 980 pin out from caster wheel

It’s a similar process with the side wheels – wipe it down with a microfiber towel to remove dust and grime accumulation on the rubber surface.

How to Clean Roomba Wheels

One plus with these Roomba wheels is it doesn’t have any grooves on the tires, so tiny particles don’t get wedged in these areas – one less thing to worry about during maintenance.

Let’s say you’ve been busy and rarely cleaned the wheels (or worse, never done any maintenance). I’d advise you to take the more invasive approach, which takes longer but will help remove any built-up debris and help prolong the robot vacuum’s life.

The first step is removing the base plate, which involves

loosening the bolts.

Roomba J7 base plate boltsOnce you’ve loosened all the screws, lift out the base plate to gain access to the bolts holding the wheels.

Use a mini-Philips screwdriver to loosen the bolts holding both side wheels.

There are usually two bolts holding these wheels. Loosen them until you can lift the wheel out – there’s no need to remove them altogether.

Once it’s out, you could use a microfiber towel or a handheld vacuum with a brush tool (if available) to clean any accumulation that builds up over time.

Roomba E5 side wheel out

After cleaning both side wheels, reattach then tighten the bolts. Don’t forget to put back the base plate and tighten all the bolts snugly.

How to Clean Roomba Bin

How to empty Roomba S9 dustbin

The dustbin may be the easiest item to clean in any Roomba product, but the steps will vary depending on the model.

The Roomba S9 is the easiest, with the scissor-type hinges on the side, providing 100% access to the inner components.

Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off any debris buildup inside. Also, the S9 dustbin is washable since the motor isn’t part of the assembly, but remove the filter since it isn’t washable.

The next easiest is the Roomba 600-series (614, 675, 690, and 690) with the wide swing door.

Roomba 675 dustbin a close look inside

You could see how much access there is with the open door and the filter taken out.

The turbine in the middle represents the motor, so this dustbin isn’t washable. You could use a microfiber towel, brush tool, or a handheld vacuum with a brush attachment to clean this area.

How to clean Roomba 690 dust bin step 2

The Roomba 960 and 980 also provide reasonable access to the inside of the dustbin with the wide pull-down door.

Again, since the motor is inside the bin, it’s not washable, so you’ll need to use a microfiber cloth or brush to clean the insides.

Roomba 960 and 980 dustbin

The Roomba 800 has a similar design to the 900 series, so if you own this model, the same steps apply to these robots.

Lastly is the Roomba E, I, and J series robots with the narrowest opening of the bunch.

Roomba J7 and I3 dustbins

Fortunately, the motor isn’t inside the dustbin, so these containers are washable, and iRobot recommends using warm water to rinse off debris.

Again, ensure that the filter is detached before putting it under the faucet.

Please wait for it to dry thoroughly before reattaching it to the robot. One way to speed up the process is by drying it with a microfiber towel.

Before I move to the next component, one thing that folks must do for these robots is to empty the dustbin after every single run (if you own a variant without the clean base station).

Doing this step prevents debris from regurgitating from the dustbin, creating a bigger mess, and preventing dust mites from breeding.

How to Clean Roomba Bin Sensors

Roomba full bin sensor

Roomba robots have bin sensors that alert consumers if the dustbin is full.

Specific models like the J7, I6, and I3 (plus other I-series models) have these two sensors protruding outside the inlet from the extractors.

Roomba full bin sensor

When these two are dirty, it can trigger a full bin error code even if the dustbin is empty.

Cleaning this is simple – use a clean microfiber towel to wipe it to remove any excess dust and debris sticking to them.

In other models like this Roomba 980, these sensors may look different.

Roomba 980 full bin sensor

It’s smaller than the E, I, and J series, but the function is the same.

And this connects to these ports on the dustbin.

Roomba 980 full bin sensor connectors on dustbin

Ensure these connection pins are free from buildup to prevent a full error bin code from firing.

For other variants like the 600 series, locating this sensor isn’t as straightforward.

Roomba 600 series full bin sensor location

I couldn’t see the two protruding towers anywhere behind the brush roll, only this strip of rubber lining behind it.

One way to ensure that the full bin error isn’t tripped erroneously is to clean the rubber component and the filter at least once weekly.

Sometimes, the error code is tripped due to a dirty filter. Ensure smooth operation by cleaning this part weekly.

How to Clean Roomba Sensors

Like any robot vacuum, Roomba products have a bevy of sensors that need periodic maintenance to function at their peak.

The primary of these sensors and most prone to dirt accumulation are the drop sensors, which are located around the edges underneath.

Roomba drop sensors with arrows

Failure to clean will result in a drop sensor error code (error 6) firing and disabling the robot.

Cleaning the drop sensors is easy by using a clean microfiber towel or cotton bud.

I like microfiber towels because of the soft texture that doesn’t easily scratch the surface.

Doing this task regularly will prevent any unnecessary buildup and prevent this code from disabling the robot.

Wipe the sensors around the edges gently with a dry towel. Avoid rubbing the clear sensors too vigorously to prevent excessive scuffing.

Another sensor to check is the optical sensor found in the E, I, J, and S series.

Roomba optical sensor

The 600-series doesn’t have this sensor since it uses iRobot’s most basic random algorithm.

Cleaning the optical sensor entails the same steps as the drop (or cliff) sensors.

Use a clean microfiber towel and gently wipe it on the recessed area so dust will stick to the towel and remove the accumulation.

Please realize that this optical sensor is similar to the one found in an optical mouse, so there’s no need to be overzealous in cleaning it.

Once you see the dust buildup is gone, you’re done. There’s no need to do anything more invasive.

Other sensors to clean are the full bin sensor (check the previous section) and the top-mounted camera (or front-facing camera in the J7).

The steps to cleaning these sensors are similar to the others – use a clean microfiber towel to gently wipe off the debris and dust accumulation, and that’s it.

How to Clean Roomba Bag

Roomba I3 vs I6 vs S9 bag

There’s not much maintenance involving the Roomba bag. Do a visual check twice a month (every 15th day or so), and dispose of it once it reaches full capacity.

If you want to reuse the bag, it’s possible to dump the contents into a trash container.

The first step is pushing down the rubber insert that seals the bag and shaking the small round opening over the bin to dispose of as much debris as possible.

Squeeze the bag to push out dirt until you get almost everything out.

You may need to wear a face mask if you’re an allergy sufferer to prevent any dust-induced sneezes, which can be annoying.

Once you’ve got most of the debris out, put the bag inside the clean base station.

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