How Does Roomba Know When To Stop Cleaning?

Last updated on January 5th, 2024

Roombas have set themselves apart from other vacuums due to their reliable performance. With newer models, they have brought out improved technology. Most of these models work pretty much on their own without much interference. They clean and stop on their own when they deem fit.

But have you ever wondered how does Roomba know when to stop cleaning? Let’s explore together and find out.

So, how does Roomba know when to stop cleaning?

Roombas use their sensors for dirt detection in their vicinity and mapping technology to determine when it needs to stop cleaning. Once they have covered the entire area on the map, they stop cleaning. Other factors that stop a cleaning cycle are a full bin, a low battery, and Roomba getting stuck.

There are two kinds of factors that tell a Roomba to stop cleaning and go to the docking station.

  • The first kind tells your vacuum when its cleaning job is completed. Then the vacuum knows it has to stop cleaning.
  • The second kind tells your vacuum to stop due to some more pressing issues. Here, the cleaning job is not actually completed, but it has to stop due to these factors.

Let’s find out what these factors exactly are.

How does Roomba know when it’s done cleaning?

The mapping and dirt detection technology of iRobot tells the vacuum to stop when cleaning is completed and return to the docking station.

Mapping technology

Roomba navigating on the floor
Roomba navigating on the floor

Some Roombas have Imprint Smart Mapping technology. With the help of this tech, they form a map of your home to use during the cleaning cycle. So when the vacuum starts cleaning, it notes the area being covered. Once the vacuum covers the entire area shown on the map, it senses that it has completed the cleaning. Then the vacuum will dock itself on the docking station.

Unfortunately, this mapping technology is not found in old Roomba models. They completely rely on sensors to determine when they are done cleaning.

Dirt detection

cleaning performance
Roomba detecting the dirt

Old models without mapping ability relied solely on sensors. Now new models have several types of onboard sensors but one particular sensor called the dirt sensor tells it when cleaning is done. The dirt detection technology of iRobot operates based on data received from these dirt sensors.

Areas having dust and debris are identified and cleaned thoroughly due to this technology. Now when the dirt sensors don’t report back any dust in the vicinity, the vacuum knows that it has done its job. Then the cleaning is completed, and the vacuum returns to the docking station.

Roomba stops cleaning in the middle: Here’s why

Reasons that stops the Roomba's cleaning in the middle
Reasons that stop cleaning in the middle

There are times when a robovac is not done cleaning, but it still stops. This is influenced by factors like dustbin capacity, battery power, etc. Now these factors have nothing to do with the actual cleaning process. They just hinder the cleaning cycle to address more pressing issues. Let’s find out what’s so important that the robot stops cleaning to do it.

Full bin

Full Dustbin
Full Dustbin

We know robot vacuums have a limited dustbin capacity. When the bin is full, you have to empty it to continue cleaning. In instances when a vacuum’s bin gets full in the middle of a cleaning cycle, the cleaning will be interrupted.

Case 1: If your Roomba doesn’t have a self-emptying bin and while cleaning, if the dustbin gets full, you can

  • Allow your vacuum to stop cleaning, or
  • To continue cleaning even if the bin is full.

Now understand that the latter is not ideal. Your vacuum will not be able to retain the newly collected dust. So the former option should be preferred. But for emptying the bin, your cleaning will stop.

Case 2: If your Roomba has a self-emptying bin

In this case, the robot will head to the Clean Base, empty its contents, and resume cleaning. It’s all very simple – like your vacuum takes a small detour to empty and then resumes cleaning. Hence, your cleaning will not stop even if the bin is full.

If your vacuum doesn’t have a self-emptying bin feature, we recommend emptying the bin before starting a cleaning cycle to avoid any interruption.

Battery low

Low battery on Roomba
Low battery

A Roomba needs to be charged to carry out its operations. So whenever the battery on your vacuum gets low, the cleaning will be interrupted. The priority becomes charging the vacuum. So the cleaning cycle will stop till it is charged enough to complete the cleaning. Now there could be three cases that might happen.

Case 1: If your Roomba is old and doesn’t have a self-charging feature

The first-generation models needed manual charging. You have to seek the vacuum and charge it manually before you can ask it to clean again. Here cleaning is completely stopped, and the robot doesn’t start from the spot where it ran out of battery.

Case 2: Your Roomba has a self-charging feature, but it does not have a resume-cleaning feature

The models after that have a self-charging Home Base. When low on battery, the vacuum will automatically find the nearest charging dock and start charging. But some of the models like 690, don’t resume the cleaning when completely charged. You have to give the command to start cleaning again.

Case 3: Your Roomba has a self-charging and resume-cleaning feature

Models like the 960 have recharge and resume feature. If the vacuum runs out of battery, it gets charged and then resumes cleaning from where it left off. Here the cleaning is only interrupted till the vacuum charges.

A model with recharge and resume feature remember how much area is cleaned and what portion is left. Thus it avoids unnecessary movement.

Roomba got stuck

A Roomba stuck on a step
A Roomba stuck on a step

The latest models of iRobots are very good at navigation and obstacle avoidance, but the same cannot be said for older models. They have difficulty navigating around tricky spots. A Roomba usually gets stuck:

  • Between chair legs
  • Over a door railing
  • Or between uneven surfaces

In such cases, the vacuum stops cleaning until you go and rescue it. Older models like 671 used to have a main brush with bristles. These bristles often get stuck in carpets or clothes and completely stop on the spot. Here too, you have to rescue the vacuum. In cases like these, cleaning is completely stopped.


A Roomba stops cleaning when it senses that it has covered the entire area on its map or there’s no alert from the dirt sensors. Here, the cleaning cycle ends and the vacuum docks at the station. But there are certain unavoidable circumstances as it gets stuck, or the bin is full, or the battery is low, there’s hardly any option left but to stop the cleaning.

Roomba makes it look easy but it has to take all this into consideration before docking to end a cleaning cycle.


Does Roomba know to stop at the stairs?

Yes, a Roomba knows to stop at the stairs because it has cliff sensors that prevent it from falling off the stairs.

Will Roomba shut off if it gets stuck?

Yes, it will shut off in a bit if it gets stuck.

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Siddhi Gurav

She is the editor and content writer at Smart Home Bulls. Siddhi merges her passion for language with SEO expertise. With 4 years of experience as a creative writer and a passion for smart home technology, she fits in perfectly at Smart Home Bulls. Her wide experience in content marketing has been an excellent addition to our team.

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