I admit: I still have trepidation from the last time I reviewed a Shark smart vacuum. The company’s other home appliances might be fair dupes for more expensive options, but when I received its very first smart robot vacuum cleaner, I ran it 35 times and it never developed a card. I lived in a 1,000-square-foot house where I could walk from my bed to my daughter’s room in 12 steps.
So my expectations for Shark’s new AI Ultra robot vacuum cleaner were very low, especially since I hate most robot jokes. I’ve tested many over the years, and few seemed faster or more effective than simply whipping out my manual Swiffer. But time has passed, both for me and for Shark. Now that I live in a bigger house with different types of floors, the Shark AI Ultra has become one of my most reliable cleaning companions. It may not scrub as hard as Ecovacs’ massive and expensive Deebot X1 Omni, but it’s surprisingly effective for half the price.
If you’re familiar with robot vacuum cleaners, you know they’re quite picky about placement. That goes doubly for a robot vacuum cleaner that doubles as a mop. If you want to start the vacuum cleaner from your phone, without carrying it into the kitchen, you’ll need to… well, find a place to put it in the kitchen. This way, the robot doesn’t have to drive dripping over your carpet.
Most of the robot vacuums I’ve tried can be safely stored in discreet locations (I’ve even parked a few under the couch), but mop vacuums often take up more space. Chances are you’ll need to move the garbage can and the dog food bowl in the kitchen, as I did, to make room for the Shark AI Ultra. Accessories are also a problem. Some vacuum cleaners, such as the iRobot Roomba j7+have storage bins in the docking station, but others like the Shark require you to empty a shelf in your closet.
When you alternate between mopping and vacuuming, you also have to change the dustbin, so I had to find a convenient place where I wouldn’t forget to do that, too. It comes with an effective and quite harmless smelling cleaning solution. (If you don’t like it, you can use plain water.)
The Shark dock itself is pretty nondescript. I measured it at 14 inches high and 19 inches deep, which isn’t too big compared to other auto empty docking stations. Once I plugged it in and charged it, it accurately mapped my (now larger) home after a 20-minute mapping – a huge improvement over my first Shark robot vacuum.
To each his own
Everyone uses their robot vacuum cleaner and mop differently. Some people want to tidy up their entire house after the kids are in bed, set up a routine, and wake up in a sparkling new home, feeling like a bunch of elves came through for the night.
I used to clean like this. But now that my husband travels for work and I’m single during the week with two elementary school students, a dog, and a moody hamster, I’ll take my bits and pieces of cleanliness if I can get them. Shark’s SharkClean App (iOS, Android) is remarkably simple and easy to use. After mapping out my house, I designated separate rooms and added a no-go zone around the fireplace, which vacuum cleaners often fall into.
When my kids are at school, I pick up the kitchen, fill the mop box and close it on the bottom of the robot vacuum cleaner. I especially appreciate that the app provides a time estimate (which is fairly accurate) for how long the cleaning will take. I was also surprised by how effective the mopping was. It is very difficult for a robot vacuum cleaner to properly calibrate the mopping. If it releases too little liquid, it will not be effective. Too much and it will leave your floor a dripping, soggy mess.
The Shark’s bin releases just enough cleaning fluid, and most importantly wobbles when it mops to scrub the floor. If you select UltraMop in the app to clean spots, you can see the squiggly pattern in the floor as it mops. The microfiber cleaning pad, which was easy to slide on and off the bin, showed a lot of that dirt.