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The Narwal Freo converted me to robot vacuums, and I'm not turning back

If you're looking for a single device that can both vacuum and mop the floors of your home or office, this robot can handle the task far beyond your expectations.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
narwal1

The Narwal Freo awaits its next job.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Given how quickly technology is advancing, it's become rather difficult to impress me. Sure, just about every company reaches out to writers like me making promises that its product will "change my life" or is "disrupting" this sector or that sector. 

I rarely, if ever, believe them. Maybe that's because, after so many years, the majority of those claims fail to live up to the hype.

Take, for instance, cleaning robots

Also: The best robot vacuum mops you can buy right now

My wife and I have avoided them for a long time because we not only enjoy cleaning the house but we're also pretty good at it. After we spend a few hours polishing the place, it looks immaculate.

But we don't always have time to do so.

We've tried quite a few products to make it more efficient, such as a mopping system that attaches to our Dyson vacuum. That worked about as well as you might expect (poorly). 

However, when a marketing company reached out to me to test the Narwal Freo, I capitulated, assuming it would fall short of the company's claims.

Also: This robot vacuum mop combo has a brilliant self-cleaning feature I didn't know I needed

To my shock, it not only lived up to the claims, it surpassed them… by a long shot.

I'm here to tell you now that both my wife and I are converts. The Narwal Freo was so impressive that we both realized we wouldn't have to spend so much of our time cleaning the house. 

Seriously, I couldn't believe it.

The Narwal Freo

ZDNET Recommends

The Narwal Freo Robot Vacuum and Mop

This robot's ability to vacuum and mop your floors will blow your mind. 

View at Amazon

After unpacking the robot, setting it up (there's quite a bit to do but it's fairly simple), and sending it on its maiden voyage, we both stood back and watched it map the first floor of the house and then set about vacuuming and mopping.

Mopping!

After the first session was complete, the floors actually looked as good as they would have had we spent the time cleaning them. When Margot Robot (yeah, we named it) went back to her dock, she expelled the dirty water into the dirty water bin, cleaned and dried her mop heads, and set about recharging.

Of course, my curiosity was piqued. I figured, our floors were already clean, there's no way the Freo picked up any debris. And certainly, the water in the dirty collection container wasn't that dirty.

Also: The best iRobot vacuums

Was I ever wrong? 

The dustbin was packed with cat fur and other bits and the dirty water was actually dirty.

How? We're very clean people.

The truth is, the Narwal Freo is perfectly capable of getting into those hard-to-reach (or often forgotten) places to suck up all kinds of dirt. And the mopping system is just impressive.

This determined little device can detect carpets and rugs, climb over small obstacles, get itself out of most jams, do a remarkable job of mapping the house, and has plenty of battery to do a good-sized home. 

The app is a big help

Of course, there's an app. As much as I'm not a fan of installing third-party apps on my Android phone, this was a necessity. Using the map makes it possible to set no-go zones (we have three of them that never fail to trap Margot Robot), set schedules for vacuuming, mopping, or vacuuming/mopping, send the robot out for a job, recall the robot to its base, and more. 

Also: The best Roborock robot vacuums

The app does have a bit of a learning curve and isn't quite as user-friendly as it should be. For instance, it took me a while to find the mapping section because the app doesn't give you much in the way of clues.

The main page of the Narwal Freo app on Android 13.

The Narwal Freo app isn't quite as user-friendly as it should be.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

To access the mapping section, open the app and tap anywhere on the image of the robot/base station. This will take you to the mapping section. If the robot is running a job, you'll see a progress report, where you can pause the job or recall the robot.

The Narwal Freo mapping portion of the app.

From the mapping page, you can see how much of the floor the robot has cleaned during this job.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

With the app, I've scheduled a daily vacuum and a Freo job on Wednesdays and Saturdays. What is a Freo job? Simply put, it's when the robot mops and vacuums simultaneously. You might think that would be a recipe for disaster, but it works surprisingly well. In fact, the Freo job works better than running them separately. 

The caveats

As with any piece of technology, not everything is perfect. For instance, we've had trouble getting the Narwal Freo to work properly on the second floor. From the app, you can set it to map another floor or room. When I tried that, I found the robot in continual repositioning mode (as if it didn't know it wasn't on the first floor). 

I'll keep trying that because the robot does such a good job of cleaning the floors that we'd like to see the upstairs match the downstairs. The second floor of our house is much smaller than the first, so we could easily clean it by hand… but why would we want to?

Our cats might disagree with that sentiment. 

Review: Roborock S8 Pro Ultra: This 2-in-1 vacuum can do just about everything

The other caveat is that I much prefer running the jobs while I'm home because Margot Robot can get stuck or confused now and then. When that happens, you simply press the button on top to help it out of the jam, and press the button again. 

Finally, the cleaning solution for the mopping feature is a bit expensive. A 31 oz bottle of the cleaning fluid runs $47.99 on Amazon. And it doesn't seem possible to create your own fluid (which my wife is fond of doing so she can customize the scent). The good news is that the cleaning fluid will most likely last quite some time. I've had the Narwal Freo mop the floors about five times since it's been here and the cleaning fluid is still almost full. 

You can also purchase replacement mop heads for the Narwal. A pair of mop heads costs $23.99 on Amazon

Other than those caveats, I have to say the Narwal Freo is the single most impressive piece of technology I've experienced in a very long time. We have been absolutely gobsmacked by how incredibly well this robot vacuums and mops the floors. If you can afford this robot, I highly recommend you order one immediately. The Freo will keep your floors spotless, so you don't have to spend all that time and energy cleaning them.

Just don't expect your cats or dogs to be happy with your decision. 

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