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How to start a Roomba without the app

Alvina Wang/BestReviews

Using your Roomba without Wi-Fi

Robot vacuums like Roombas can make housekeeping easier, and connecting them to their iRobot Home smartphone app gives you a lot of control. But you don’t need an app to start your Roomba. If your Wi-Fi is down, you have coverage problems or you just don’t want to use an app, you can still start your Roomba.

The BestReviews Testing Lab has tested more than 10 Roomba models and done extensive research on robot vacuums. We know you can get a Roomba going without using the app, and it’s as simple as pushing a button.

Starting a Roomba without the app

Most Roombas have buttons on top labeled “Clean,” “Home“ and “Spot.” The “Clean” button starts a general cleaning job that can cover your whole home until you stop it. The “Spot” button (target icon) starts a spot-cleaning job around a specific mess up to 3 feet wide. The “Home” button (house icon) sends the Roomba back to its dock. Those three buttons are all you really need. 

Step 1: Check if your Roomba is fully charged

It’s a good idea to see if your Roomba has enough juice to start.

Tap the “Clean” button once. If the indicator light is solid white or green, it should be good to go. If it’s flashing or pulsing (you may see a red or amber light, depending on the model), this indicates that it’s not fully charged and should be left on its dock. (See our article “How to tell if your Roomba is charging” for more information).

Step 2: Take it to the area to be cleaned

Pick up your Roomba and take it to the room or spot that needs to be cleaned.

If you’re unable to lift the Roomba (they weigh between 6 and 8 pounds), you can start a Roomba from its dock, as long as you can reach the buttons.

Step 3: Use the “Clean” or “Spot” buttons

Press either the “Clean” or “Spot” buttons. The “Clean” button is usually the biggest one. Pressing it tells your Roomba to start exploring and cleaning on its own. To pause cleaning, hit the “Clean” button again.

Use the “Spot” button if you have a specific mess you want to target. In spot-cleaning mode, a Roomba will move in a spiral up to three feet out of a central spot and back in again. For best results, start the Roomba on top of whatever you need it to clean. Spot cleaning stops automatically once complete.

Step 4: Use the “Home” button or take the Roomba back to its dock

Press the “Home” button to send your Roomba back to its dock. If it’s in a different room, you might need to help it. Or you can pick up the Roomba and place it back on its dock yourself.

Step 5: Empty the dustbin

It’s wise to empty your Roomba’s dustbin after every job, especially if your Roomba doesn’t come with a self-emptying dock. This ensures it has enough space to complete its next cleaning session. 

Features you’ll miss out on without Wi-Fi

You can start a Roomba without ever having to use its app or Wi-Fi, but there are some features you won’t be able to use.

  • Scheduling: Roombas, including the 692 and 694 models and the i series, j series and s series, need the app to schedule jobs to run automatically.
  • Remote operation: The app lets you start a Roomba even if you’re not at home.
  • Status tracking: On the app you can track your Roomba’s cleaning progress and system status.
  • Room-by-room cleaning: For Roombas with mapping, you can specify a room to clean without cleaning anywhere else.
  • Voice assistants: Setting up your Roomba for Alexa, Google Home or Siri Shortcuts requires having the app at least for setup.

Turning off Wi-Fi on your Roomba

A new Roomba doesn’t need to be set up for Wi-Fi. Just place it on its dock to charge and use the buttons as described above to operate it. However, if you’ve already set up Wi-Fi on your Roomba and want to turn it off, you need to perform a factory reset. Here’s how to do it. 

From the app

Go to the “Product Settings” menu. Choose “About [your Roomba’s name]” and then press “Remove Device from Account.” Keep in mind this will erase all smart maps, schedules and stats you’ve accumulated.

From the Roomba

Hold down the “Home,” “Spot” and “Clean” buttons simultaneously for seven to 20 seconds until a tone plays or the Roomba’s lights flash.

Should you buy a Roomba if you don’t have Wi-Fi?

You absolutely can buy a Roomba if you don’t have Wi-Fi. However, you’ll get more out of a basic model than a higher-priced one with lots of features that need the app. Roomba models in the 600 series, such as the Roomba 692 or 694, or i-series models, such as the Roomba i4 EVO, do a good job when operated using just from their “Clean,” “Spot” and “Home” buttons.

Sticking to the basics 

Connecting Roombas to Wi-Fi is convenient, and gives you a lot of options, but it isn’t strictly necessary. Roombas are robots and can clean on their own. Don’t let a lack of Wi-Fi or issues with apps keep you from enjoying the benefits of a solid robot vacuum.

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Jmar Gambol writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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