Do Robot Vacuums Damage Hardwood Floors?

By
Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products. She is a cleaning enthusiast. She got inspired to build her own cleaning blog when she realized how cleaning can make an impact on our lives and how a cleaner home can affect a person's mood.
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Updated February 17, 2022

Can you trust your robot vacuum on delicate surfaces?

Do Robot Vacuums Damage Hardwood Floors?

We hear this question a lot, do robot vacuums damage hardwood floors? In short, no.

The robot vacuum itself shouldn’t cause any damage to your manufactured or hardwood floors.

With soft brushes and gentle wheels, a robot vacuum is a safe choice for all kinds of surfaces. But if you’ve spotted a scratch, there’s probably something else going on.

Before you bin the robot, let’s run through the hidden culprits that can cause damage without you even realizing it.

Reasons Why Robot Vacuums May Damage Hardwood Floors

Reasons Why Robot Vacuums May Damage Hardwood Floor

It’s easy for any of these issues to scratch wooden floors, so check if any of them are causing problems.

1. Debris Stuck Under the Wheels

It’s common for debris, like grains of sand and gritty dirt, to get stuck in the wheels of your robot vacuum. When this happens, the dirt can scratch hardwood floors.

The front wheel swivels to help your robot navigate around the room, so this is one you need to keep an eye on. If it gets blocked up with dirt, the chances are you’ll never know seeing as you don’t constantly monitor your vac while it’s cleaning.

You’ll only find out when you see the scratches the wheel leaves across your wood floor. And scratching hardwood floors this way is one of the biggest complaints with all brands of robot vacuums.

2. Jammed Wheels

Again, this comes back to dirt and debris collecting in the front wheel. The caster wheel gets clogged and jams, so it can’t rotate freely.

But the robot vac doesn’t know this, so it carries on running across your wooden floor as usual. Seeing as the front wheel can’t rotate, it’s dragged across your floor with the wheel scratching surfaces as it goes.

3. Broken Pieces

Even with the best care, robot vacuums can break and leave scratches. It’s often as simple as a broken piece dragging on the floor and causing damage.

There are twirly pieces that aren’t meant to come into contact with your hardwood floor. And brushes that should spin and stay out the way.

If the mechanism for either of these breaks, you’ll notice scratches. Either from the part itself or from it collecting debris and scratching your wood floors that way.

Rule Of Thumb

So if any part of your robot vacuum breaks, stop using it straight away. It’s most likely going to end with damage to your laminate floors if you try and carry on using it.

4. Hard Plastic Wheels

Hard plastic wheels with flat edges are a no-no for hardwood floors, as they’re more likely to scratch floors than rubber wheels. But why?

The front wheel spins in all directions to enable your robot vacuum to turn. If you’ve got a hard plastic front wheel, you may notice circular scratches where it’s spun.

A lot of robot vacuums now have rubber wheels, as they’re softer and less likely to scratch.

But some robot vacuums do still use a plastic wheel or have a plastic portion with a round-edged design. The rounding helps to prevent damage, like with the iRobot Roomba 694.

But it’s still likely to cause damage if it gets dirty and can’t swivel freely, so it’s worth paying attention to what the front pivoting wheel is made from.

5. Beater Brush Bar

Beater bars aren’t usually an issue with robot vacuums. Especially since most robot vacs rely on suction for cleaning rather than any sort of traditional bristle brush beater bar.

But some high-spec models do come with brush attachments and cleaning heads. So do these cause scratches?

Well, if it’s advanced enough to have these tools it probably also has automatic height adjustment.

This feature sets the height of the brushes to suit the type of floor. It lifts them up and out the way for wood or laminate floors. So again, it shouldn’t cause any damage.

Some other models use multi-surface rubber brushes rather than stiff bristles. These are softer, so they also won’t scratch hardwood floors.

Read Next: How to Clean Hardwood Floors the Right Way


Robot Brands and Common Customer Complaints

Robot Brands and Common Customer Complaints

Let’s run through some of the most popular brands for robotic vacuums and the common issues people report.

Roomba

People love a Roomba for hardwood floors, but there are still plenty of questions online about how safe they are. Will they scratch wood floors or not?

So we decided to investigate the reviews for some of the top Roomba robot vacuum models.

In a nutshell, it was rare to find complaints about Roomba vacuum cleaners leaving any damage to hard flooring. And this was consistent across different models and series’.

Here’s what customers say about the most popular models:

  • iRobot Roomba 694 – From the whopping 70,000+ reviews, only seven mention issues with the vacuum scratching their wooden floor.
  • iRobot Roomba j7+ (7550) – There are more than 13,000 reviews and only one mentions that it can scratch wooden floors.
  • iRobot Roomba 690 – With nearly 11,000 positive reviews, there was only a handful of complaints about this robot vacuum scratching a hardwood floor

There wasn’t a specific reason for these customers having issues when others didn’t, even on the same floor types. Without the full details, it’s hard to understand what happened.

But Roomba themselves answered a question about the safety of their robot vacuum cleaners on wood floors saying:

Our Roomba’s are safe for hardwood floors. It is best to keep the front caster wheel on your Roomba regularly cleaned, as a dirty caster wheel could potentially cause floor scratches.

The same is also said about their Braava robot mop. The wheel needs to rotate properly without dragging foreign objects around.

The best way to avoid damage is to pick up large debris and any grains of sand or other sharp objects before you start. Then they can’t catch under the cleaning pad and scratch your laminate floor.

Eufy

Eufy is another popular robot vacuum brand, so we looked at three of their top-rated models:

Again, there are loads of positive reviews for Eufy robot vacuum cleaners with only a few complaints. And none of these were about the vacuum itself causing damage.

Instead, specific circumstances were the problem.

In one case, a twirly piece broke on the robot and scratched their hard floors. Whereas another example was a broken brush, which stopped spinning and picked up other debris and scratched floors that way.

A Eufy vacuum was blameless in a final instance, as it picked up a piece of sandpaper that had been left on the floor. Of course, the vacuum dragged it around and damaged their beautiful hardwood floors.

So the lesson from these reviews is that a robot vacuum unit in good, clean working condition doesn’t cause any damage or scratches.

Shark

Shark is one of the best robot vacuum brands for safety on wooden floors, according to the reviews.

Again, we looked at some of the most popular Shark robot vacuums:

And this time there weren’t any negative reviews around how robot vacuums scratch a laminate or wooden floor. Not even in certain situations, as there were with some of the other brands.

Roborock

Finally, we looked at some of the most popular Roborock robotic vacuum models:

And the results were just as amazing as with Shark. There weren’t any complaints about the front wheel, or any other part of the vacuum, causing scratches.

Tips to Prevent Your Robot Vacuum Cleaner From Damaging Your Hardwood Floor

Tips to Prevent Your Robot Vacuum Cleaner From Damaging Your Hardwood Floor

Now you know more about how robot vacuums scratch hard floors, it’s time to look at how to prevent the issue in the first place.

Debris and pet hair caught in the front caster wheel (or side wheels if your vacuum has them) are the main cause of damage. So follow these top tips to help prevent robot vacuums from leaving scratches:

  • Make sure you pick up any debris and foreign objects before you release your robot. Anything like stones, sand, and mud are easy to catch in the front wheel. It can jam the entire wheel or get dragged around and leave scuff marks.
  • Clean, clean, and clean! You need to clean your vacuum often, including the front wheel and side wheels’ grooves. Seeing as your vacuum rotates around your floors, it’s important that all the wheels are debris-free and can rotate freely.
  • Remove any wires, cables, and rope from your floor before you begin. It’s easy for these to tangle with your robot vac and drag across the floor. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t take much to scratch delicate floors.
  • Check the front wheel, brushes, and any side wheels for hair. Long hair wraps around them and can stop them spinning as they’re meant to. This leads to the wheels or brushes jamming and dragging on the floor, leaving scratches.

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