Narwal Robotic Cleaner review: This self-cleaning robot mop/vacuum combo frees you from dirty work

Periodic wet mopping is the best way to keep hard floors clean, but many of us don’t make the recommended once-weekly effort. If the required physical labor isn’t enough of a deterrent, there’s all that dirty water to deal with afterward. The Kickstarter-funded Narwal Robotic Cleaner aims to solve both those problems.

Equipped with smart sensors and LIDAR navigation technology, the Narwal automatically sweeps and then mops laminate, linoleum, tile, hardwood, and other hard floor surfaces. And when it’s done, it even cleans itself!

It bears repeating that the Narwal is not yet available to purchase. We typically cover crowd-funding campaigns only if the developer is willing to loan us a working prototype that we can review as a finished product, which is what Narwal Robotics has done here. The Narwal Kickstarter campaign offers backers several options, with a minimum pledge of $549 to reserve a Narwal Robotic Cleaner for a September 2019 delivery. The company says that is a 31.2-percent discount off the eventual retail price of the product.

Design

The Narwal Robotic Cleaner and vacuum looks much like its carpet-cleaning counterparts, with a roundish body, a sensor built into its front bumper, and a laser turret on top. A pair of drive wheels, an omni-directional wheel, cliff sensors, and the vacuum inlet are on its bottom. But instead of the roller and spin brushes you’ll find on the typical robot vacuum, the Narwal has a pair of studs to which you attach either a sweeping or mopping module, depending on the job you want it to tackle.

The Narwal comes with a base station that both charges the robot and cleans and dries the mops once it finishes a job. This 17-pound base measures 15.8 by 14.1 by 17.2 inches and includes a pair of removable 5-liter tanks, one for fresh water and one for waste, and a charging dock at the bottom where the robot slots in.

narwal base Narwal

The Narwal base station charges the dock and holds two 5-liter water tanks for mopping.

How it works

Roomba-style robot vacuums approach mopping as an afterthought. A slim water-filled reservoir with an attached cloth is slotted into the rear of the device when you want to clean uncarpeted floors. The robot vacuum drags the dampened cloth behind it with fairly predictable results: some loose surface dirt gets picked up—and some just gets pushed around—but deeper grime gets left behind along with a thin film of water. The fact that you must refill the reservoir and remove and clean the cloth several times per job ads a level of tedium.

The Narwal takes a more diligent and wholly automated tack. Instead of a thin cloth, it spins microfiber mops, using a combination of speed and pressure to lift up dirt and scrub stains. The robot periodically and automatically returns to its base station, where these mops are sprayed with clean water by a built-in pump and scraped against a washboard to remove captured dirt. The two-tank system separates fresh and used water and has capacity enough to clean up to 2,150 square feet of space over a three-hour period.

Setup and performance

Before it can start cleaning, the Narwal must map your space so it can plot an efficient course through the environment. You’ll need to attach its sweeping module to accomplish this. The manufacturer also recommended that you lay down some of the supplied magnetic strips around any space or furniture that you want the robot to steer clear of. I created a boundary where the hardwood floor in my entryway meets my living room carpet.

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