This AskMe question prompted a spontaneous essay from me on our Roomba, which I repost here. The original questioner wanted info about door jambs, pet hair, and furnishings.

1. Door jambs, unknown. I have a 1″ marble jamb at the entry to my bathroom. It’s got a square edge, and the machine won’t climb it, that I recall. No other jambs in the house.

2. Pet hair, not a problem, in the sense that it won’t break the machine. The machine will cope with it. The machine started life as a non-vacuuming sweeper and thus does well with such, mostly. However, I find that the carpet my cats prefer to use as a shedding device usually needs multiple attacks – this appears to be specific to the carpet, a fine-knap, deep-pile area rug. I often end up vacuuming it with the regular vacuum. If you have an area of your home in which the cat-shed sort of ‘sticks,’ and which is a challenge to clean using either a regular broom or a conventional vacuum, Roomba will not clean it as efficiently as either.

3. The floor plan does need to be open, but most furniture is not a problem. The machine goes under most of our furniture. How much room is available under your couch?

Other points:

1. Fringes on rugs are murder, and will halt the ‘bot unless hermetically sealed away. I still have not found an optimal methodology for doing this. I taped several 6″ strips of medium-weight carpet-pad, backed with a light adhesive, together, and lay these over all the fringes in a given room before releasing the hounds.

2. Pet hair may not be a problem for the machine in terms of harming it, but strings, thread, tooth floss, and human hair certainly are. Every time I use the machine, I scrape and pick at the guts of it (a brush and a rubber beater) to get the windings off. I tried doing this once a week or so and some floss actually sliced through the beaters all the way though the metal before the roller-parts simply jammed up. Not a happy experience, either part.

3. The cleaning process is extremely dusty. My machine does not hold the crud in a disposable bag, like a full-size cleaner, but in a series of compartments, all of which must be cleaned each time you use the machine. I am usually lightly coated with fine grit by the time I’m done.

4. The machine offers three ‘room-size’ settings. Our 80-year-old apartment is prodigiously dusty. I find I only ever run it on the ‘large’ setting, which maximizes run-time, and therefore multiplies cleaning effectiveness. Roombas are not ‘smart.’ They run a randomized pattern that provides a high statistical likelihood of providing one-pass coverage in a given area. Restrict the area and increase the run time, and you can achieve multiple-pass coverage.

5. Stereo cables and extension cords on the floor can also disrupt the Roomba; it can run over them and get them tangled in the rollers.

Even considering these caveats, I find that the overall cleanliness of our living environment is very considerably increased. We try to run it once every other day. It takes 24 hours to recharge unless you spring for the fast charger. We rotate it through the living areas of our home. Once I learned how to prep the rooms, getting each area ready only takes about a minute, and cleaning it takes less than five. It’s significantly less time consuming than using a conventional vacuum. Keep in mind, however, that the manufacturer repeatedly emphasizes that the Roomba is not a vacuum replacement and that one should not use it as such.

We do, of course. Our pre-Roomba vacuuming frequency was somewhere between biannual and never. Now it’s approaching quarterly. This is partly because in attempting to understand the Roomba as a technology gadget, cleaning became a technical problem, and therefore fun and subject to systemic problem-solving.

Hope this answers your questions.