How To Give A Robot A Bath


Roomba the floor vacuuming robot was happy for most of the three years he'd worked in my kitchen. Toward the end of his first term on planet kitchen, however, he'd got himself pretty dodgey looking and liked to dance a little robot back-step on no provocation at all. At the end, he'd taken to jiggling from side to side on a short cleaning path and then would just blink out with some weird beep strings. Robot death.

No amount of on-line trouble shooting helped; so, I ordered up a new rechargeable battery, cleaned all the sensors, and lubricated the visible moving parts with a spray on silicone lube. To no avail.

He sounded happy for a few moments, thrilled with the new battery; but, he still couldn't clean around the individual chair legs like he'd done for years. Dog hair taunted him, hanging tight to the chair legs.

This was clearly a case of advanced robot arthritis. Internal servo-mechanical devices were unevenly filthied up, and rotor bushings plugged with greasy kitchen floor dust. Or was it some unique residue of Labrador Retriever? At any rate, Roomba was done for - off the team. No way was I going to send him back for an overhaul at his advanced age. A new one was around US$200; so, it was looking like I'd be back to my pre-Jetson brooming and chair shuffling.There was one procedure left to try, however. Warning: this is a highly experimental procedure, and only recommended for post-bot support patients. (Customer service probably won't even acknowledge that it exists.)

I flipped over that flat-headed little vacuum, pulled out his battery, took off the dustbin portion (on the right of the photo) and blasted the hell out of him with a garden hose. Yes, I gave him a bath. Sprayed in every corner and crevice I could reach with the fastest water stream I could muster. I got soaked too.

He looked good, though. After the robot's bath, I put him in the sun for three days, occasionally rotating his position.

When he seemed dry, I brought him back in the house and lubed up the roller bushings I could see with more silicone spray, and let him be for a few more days. Then I dropped in the fully charged battery and you know what? He worked perfectly. Just like the old days. We're a team again.

Robot reincarnation by bathing. Now that's what I call recycling.

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