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Hands on: Narwal Robot Vacuum & Mop Review

The first robot mop that offers a deep clean

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First Impressions

The Narwal Robot Vacuum & Mop is superb for giving hard floors a deep clean, but vacuum performance isn't quite as good.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £612
  • Integrated filter
  • Self-cleaning microfibre mop head
  • 5-litre water reservoir
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and app control

I’ve seen robot vacuum cleaners that can mop via a water tank and microfibre cloth, but the Narwal Robot Vacuum & Mop is the first to offer intelligent mopping. With a 5-litre water tank in the base station and rotating microfibre cloths for a deeper clean, the Narwal is a step above the competition.

Currently on Kickstarter, the Narwal Robot Vacuum & Mop does something that no other robot cleaner can do. It’s early days yet, with the app and additional features needing a bit more work, plus the vacuum performance isn’t as good as the mopping. That said, the mopping is far better than on any other robot I’ve tested, making the Narwal an interesting product for anyone with hard floors.

  • Mopping performance: Exceptional cleaning on hard floors thanks to the spinning cloths and a large, five-litre reservoir. The Narwal dealt with stains that other robot mops missed.
  • Vacuuming performance: With no rotating brush to agitate dirt, the Narwal does better on hard floors than carpet.
  • Navigation and features: You can currently only have one map in memory for smart navigation. While this lets the Narwal move intelligently, I couldn’t move the robot temporarily to clean a different area without regenerating the map. There’s also no smart assistant support, although these are planned for a future update.

All of the other robot mops I’ve tested have been vacuum cleaners first. The mop action typically comes from filling the water tank, which then wets and drags around a microfibre cloth to clean. While the results can be impressive, such as with the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930, the cleaning action is typically only good enough for cleaning more recent surface stains.

The Narwal is different, since you have to use the attachments on the underside of the unit to put the robot into either vacuuming mode or mopping mode. In mopping mode, you attach the two triangular microfibre cloths, which rotate to really work their way into the dirt.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop mop attachment

There’s also no water tank on the robot. Instead, the chunky charging dock, which looks a little like a designer recycling bin, houses two five-litre water tanks and the robot docks underneath to charge and top up on cleaning solution. Open the lid of the dock and the reservpoir one on the right is used for dispensing water, and the one on the left for dirty water. Both lift out for easy emptying and filling, and you get a starter bottle of cleaning fluid to aid mopping, but you can use standard floor cleaner if you run out.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop water containers

To mop your floors, the Narwal slides into its dock, wets its microfibre cloths, then runs out and around your floor cleaning as it goes. When its cloths start to run dry, the Narwal returns to base to replenish its cleaning fluid before continuing.

The results are super-impressive. My light kitchen floor is typically covered in dirt thanks to three cats coming in and out of the cat flap. The Narwal is the only robot I’ve tested that can tackle the deeper stains, as is evident from the images below.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop dirty hard floor

 

 

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop close-up clean floor after moppingIt does have a slight tendency to run through the area it’s just mopped and is therefore still wet, which can leave some wheel marks behind. They’re hard to spot, although get them at the right angle (see photo below) and they stand out a bit more.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop wheel tracks

Cleverly, the Narwal rinses and dries the mops after use, so you don’t have to worry about running them through a laundry cycle in a washing machine.

While the Narwal can mop, it isn’t so good at vacuuming. Replacing the mops for the direct-suction vacuum head, the Narwal doesn’t have a rotating brush bar to agitate dirt and opts for two side brushes instead. Performance on hard floors was decent, but the lack of a brush bar doesn’t help on carpet, with dirt collection sub-par.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop vacuum attachment

Nor can the Narwal mop and vacuum at the same time. In mopping mode, the spinning microfibre cloths tend to push larger bits of debris out of the way. It’s a little limiting since it means you have to first run a vacuum cycle (or clean up manually using one of the best cordless vacuum lists in our guide), before mopping.

Narwal provides controls on the body of the vacuum cleaner that are hard to reach while the robot is docked, but you get the same controls on top of the dock, too. Tapping these, you can start a new mapping cycle or set the robot off to clean. Having physical controls that you can access as you walk past the robot is handy.

This being a connected product, there’s also an app, which is in its infancy right now. From the app, you can start a clean and see where the robot has been via its detailed map. A more recent update has added no-go areas so that you can tell the robot where not to go.

Currently, there’s no Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant support, although this is a stretch target on Kickstarter, so the features should be coming soon. This isn’t a deal-breaker, although it would be nice to be able to start a clean using just your voice.

Before you can perform a clean, the Narwal has to perform a mapping run, so that it can work out where it is. Once this is done, the robot then sensibly tackles its area, making sure it has covered all of its ground. The excellent mopping performance demonstrates that the Narwal ably navigated around my entire test room.

Narwal Robot Vacuum Mop app map generate

You get the same kind of navigation issues with the Narwal as you do with other robots. For example, the Narwal ended up pushing a dining chair around for a bit, as it was too wide to move between the legs. Cliff-edge detection worked perfectly, though, with the Narwal stopping before it fell down the small step into my kitchen.

There is room for improvement, however. As tested, the Narwal can only store one map in its memory, but it needs a map to clean. If you want to clean another area, then you have to start a new mapping cycle, which means moving the dock.

Admittedly, since the Narwal is so reliant on the dock for mopping, as it has to return to it regularly, this isn’t such a problem and you may have to resign yourself to the fact that this is a product that will work best in one area. However, the vacuum part of the product doesn’t require the dock, so why not allow a temporary cleaning move?

There’s also no carpet or rug detection built into the vacuum, so the Narwal can run over a prized rug or carpet and saturate it. There’s some magnetic tape that can act as a barrier, but having the feature built in, as with Ecovacs’ robot vacuums  would have been better.

It’s early days for this Kickstarter project right now, but my first impression is that this is the best robot mop I’ve tested. This is a product that properly tackles stains and tougher bits of dirt, ably cleaning up my hard floors to a greater degree than any other robot I’ve tested.

Vacuuming performance is average, with the lack of a brush bar making the Narwal slightly disappointing on the carpet – there are better vacuums in my guide to the Best robot vacuum cleaners. And, it’s frustrating that you can’t vacuum and mop at the same time, a convenience that makes the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 easier to use. For the Ozmo 930, provided you run it in mopping mode daily, you can keep your hard floors looking neat until you’re ready to tackle them manually – say, once a week.

All that said, if you decide to opt for manual vacuuming and want a robot that will take the strain out of mopping, there’s no device on the market that does such a great job; the Narwal Vacuum & Mop is an impressive cleaner.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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