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The material used on the wheels of a robot vacuum cleaner is mostly rubber or soft plastic material that cannot scratch wood or laminate easily.
So the obvious answer would be no, a robot vacuum will not scratch your hardwood or laminate floors. But there are exceptions to all things.
If for example enough hair or dust gets stuck in the front plastic wheels and the wheel get stuck, the robot vacuum will not register this and continue to drag the wheel along, potentially scratching the floor along the way.
It could also happen that small grains of sand will get stuck in the rubber or soft plastic and then the robot vacuum turns, it most often drags the front wheels sideways, this means that the small grains will be dragged over the floor creating small scratches.
To avoid scratching your wooden or laminated floor with a robot vacuum, make sure to clean the wheels and make sure they are always able to move freely.
Once a month or so I also lubricate the small front wheels in oil, just a very small amount so that if a hair gets stuck, it’ll keep turning unhindered.
Almost all known robot vacuum brands have the two tractor wheel system which as an electrical motor assigned to each wheel.
This makes able to turn 365 degrees while remaining on the exact same spot. These wheels are most often placed right on or right behind the centre of mass.
If placed right behind the centre of mass, the robot cleaner will also have one or two front wheels, these wheels do not have any motors attached and only served to stabilize the robot vacuum.
The two larger wheels will either be made entirely of rubber or have a rubber coating, so they are not able to scratch any harder surfaces.
The front-wheel/wheels are most often made of rubber or soft plastic material.
These will get dragged from side to side when the robot vacuum is turning. It is here where the slight possibility of scratches exist.
Under normal circumstances, the front wheel is very gently pushed down to the floor by the robot vacuums own weight, but it is not designed to support the weight of additional items, pets or kids like you’ve probably seen in several YouTube videos.
If you place additional weight on these wheels they might not be able to turn properly and hereby scratch the floor.
What usually gets stuck in the wheels is long hair and hair from pets. Over time they accumulate inside the wheels and will hinder the wheel from rotating properly.
Therefore it’s very important that you check up on the wheels, just try and turn them around.
If they easily turn you don’t have to clean them, but as soon as you feel a little resistance when turning them, you should consider take the wheels out and clean them.
For iRobot Roombas, Neato’s and Roborocks models it’s pretty easy to clean the wheels.
The manufacturers know that dirt and hair in the wheels can be an issue and in most models today you are able to take the front/caster wheel out to clean with ease.
Watch this video from iRobot on how to clean a caster wheel on an iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner:
The iRobot Roomba series also have the possibility to sense when something is obstructing its wheels.
If you hear it beep 5 times it means that something is obstructing the side wheels and the side wheels’ grooves need to be cleaned.
If it beeps 7 times it means that the sides are failing to rotate and something is preventing it from moving.
In both cases, you need to turn it off and turn it upside down to clean the wheels and remove any obstructions.
The side wheels should be able to move pretty easy, but with these wheels, you should be able to feel resistance, this resistance comes from the motors which are normal.
The front caster wheels, on the other hand, don’t have any sensors attached to them and therefore cannot sense if anything is obstructing.
I would recommend that you check these wheels regularly, maybe try to spin them around after every time you empty the tray.
If any wheels get stuck often, you may have a deeper underlying issue with the wheels or the robot vacuum itself.
Manufacturers recommend replacing the wheels if it happens too frequently that they get stuck.
The short and precise answer is no, the brush cannot in any way scratch your floor.
If you turn your robot vacuum upside down and turn it on, you’ll see the brushes spinning very fast and it might feel brutal to the floor.
But the brushes are designed or very light and soft plastic, nylon and rubber which are materials that are much softer than any type of wooden or laminated floor.
Dirt and small grains of sand will not be an issue here either because it is sucked up or pushes away immediately and thereby cannot get stuck in the brush.
When looking for a new robot vacuum cleaner, it’s a good idea to make sure that the robot you are buying is made properly and is not prone to scratching any wood or laminate floor.
What you have to look out for is the material that the wheels are made out of, especially the front/caster wheels.
If any of the wheels are made out of hard plastic do not buy it because the material is harder and if the plastic is harder than the floor it’ll most likely leave scratches.
Also check online for any complaints about scratches of the specific model.
Most brands have support forums where people are writing their complaints, but most of the time you can just google for example “does iRobot Roomba 900 leaves scratches” and you’ll get an answer.
I can tell you from personal experience that neither a Roomba 900 or a Neato D4 leaves any scratches. The wheels of these robot vacuums are rubber and super easy to clean.
Morten has been working with technology, IoT and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected into this blog to give you relevant and correct information.Read more...