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So you're in the market for a Miele vacuum cleaner. You've read up on the reviews, you've taken into account that the German brand were recently awarded "Best Brand 2011," from Which UK Consumer and a whole long list of their specific products like washing machines, cookers and vacuum cleaners have won continual awards for performance and build quality. Miele vacuums are expensive because they are better designed and clean without putting the owner through hell. It has been proved by continual awards, testing and like many German appliances these days, when you buy the product, you can upgrade the machine to match the flagship ranges that Miele also sell. All the while, there are no additional filters to clean, no dusty canisters to clean out due to a high filtration dust bag whilst all the while when it comes to use, this is one vacuum cleaner brand you can use at any time in the day with a hangover, headache or not because the motors are very quiet!
I bought my Miele S380/S381 in 2008. It was an essential item back then, living miles away from home and working on a long-term contract. The flat I had moved into which had carpets wall to wall and laminate floors. I figured that with carpets I’d probably need to buy a turbo brush too and was delighted to find a genuine Miele turbo brush online at reduced cost price of £25 compared to £45 that Miele sell theirs at. This meant no problem when it came to carpet care, whilst the turbo brush itself has an extra setting for extra light gliding on thick pile carpeting whilst having two coin-fit screws on the underside for cleaning the brush bar clear of hairs and threads. If there is ONE or TWO models worth considering when they come up on EBAY, it has to be the Miele S300, particularly the "Bahama Blue," S380 or "deep red" S381 which are the same machine, just a different colour.
Nar2’s Quick Skip Product Spec
4 litre dust bag capacity, FJM bags 4 in a box at a cost of £8 to £9-95.
1800-watt quiet but powerful motor with electronic variable control.
Super Air Clean filter – basic – but can be upgraded.
Cost optional HEPA filter (£15 to £20) or Active Air Clean (for smokers & pet owners).
Twin telescopic height adjustable suction tubes, can extend to 113cm.
1.5 crush proof metre hose – perfect for small storage.
Lockable tubes-to-handle-to 2 way suction floor head.
3 smaller cleaning tools: short crevice tool, T shaped upholstery tool, 360° dusting brush – all hide away safely under a flap.
Previous “Best Buy” winner award from Which and GHI seal.
5.5 metre power cable.
Compatible with ALL Miele vacuum cleaner tools including Car Clean Set, all Miele main floor heads, small cleaning tools and SFS 10 extension Flexhose extender.
Up until 2010, Miele stopped production of the S300 to be replaced by the "budget" starter S2000 series that has a bigger bag capacity, far lighter to pull along and carry but a lower rating of 1600 watts to make Eco buyers happy. Far from being blocky and not as stylish as the S2 series, the S380/1 makes up it for in terms of better quality and for the fact that everything is hidden away instead of a clip on tool storer that puts the tools at risk for being open and bulky when it comes to storing. There is however a bit more to the eye where the Miele S380 is concerned.
Unlike the more modern S2 and slightly smaller sized S4000 series, the S380/1 was an exclusive model based on the old Miele S300 and was sold only at Comet, Debenhams, Currys and other budget high street shops. Originally the Miele S380/1 cost me £99 making it the cheapest new Miele from a high street outlet one can afford and I was impressed with the general good plastic quality that this vacuum gave off in the store. Whilst the more compact S2 sat next to it in Comet, and much to the salesman’s dismay, my reason for choosing the S380 however came to known experience of finding dust bags on the high street and just because at the time, the S380 felt so much better in terms of quality and feature compared to the more modern curvy S2. Private hardware shops and supermarkets tend to sell the FJM Miele 4 litre capacity bags more than the bigger GN dust bags and the S2 came with fixed height suction tubes that would prove to be a
nightmare when it comes to storing away. The Miele S380’s tubes just compact up inside each other, making storing a breeze and its narrower body is also better at storing than the wider S2. Far from being blocky and not as stylish as the S2 series, the S380/1 makes up it for the additional fact that everything is hidden away instead of a clip on tool storer that puts the tools at risk for being open and bulky when it comes to storing.
Being an older design based on the S300 series that goes all the way back to 1994, this isn't the kind of vacuum that will appeal to you if you're looking for a lightweight machine. Then again Numatic’s Henry/Hetty who has twice the dirt capacity isn't exactly light either and it was the 7kg heavy weight of the Miele S381 that held a strange attraction to me since in theory it should last longer and its increased weight means it remains stable on the floor at all times without toppling over. Over the more modern Miele S4210 my parents own, the S380 never cocks a rear wheel in the air if the cord is taken out the back, or falls over onto its top if the cord gets in the way. The weight isn’t much of an issue for me compared to the old Vax canister my parents offered me before I bought the Miele (10kg!) and like Henry, the Vax tubes and floor head can’t be locked to the machine, making travel difficult.
With the far more compact Miele S380, there are two park positions available – at the side and to the back of the vacuum at the rear just above the main pedals. Thanks to 3 smooth and elevated rubberised castors, the quality that Miele are famous for is fastened clearly in the S380 too, and it travels very well without marking carpets or floors. Compared to many cylinder vacuums on the market, the Miele will sit quite happily on a stair without falling over. You can't do that with a Henry!
Another benefit of this older designed vacuum cleaner is the fact that the main motor exhaust is still located at the top between the main suction control and the well marked power pedal and auto cord rewind pedal. Compared to the S2, S4 and S5 series, the older S300 has a much better diffuser that prevents the clean air from blowing in my face, each time I bend down to change the suction setting. More modern Miele vacuums seem to suffer from too much hot air being pumped out at the top towards the owner and the older design here is much safer and not as interfering.
Power and Performance
Despite the increased weight of the machine, there is 1800 watts of total power that the S381 can give out and being slightly older thanks to its more block like design, the motor noise still remains whisper quiet thanks to the variable "continuous" suction dial as opposed to the set notched dial you'd find on the more modern S2 or S4 series. This means I can still vacuum in the wee hours of morning without bothering anyone and don't have to believe in the preset suction settings even though the very friendly and easy to read user manual reflects what the Miele S381 power levels are most suitable for. The “low energy setting” is often too high for me to get easier gliding with the result that the floor head just sticks to the floor and refuses to pull off unless I turn down the suction power. The S380 has so much excellent power from the beginning; there is no need to set it at the highest level to get the best pick up, but at least it’s a bonus that there’s enough power on hand anyway. An air outlet slider is also located on the handle, which makes pushing and pulling ultra feather lightweight too; handy for cleaning curtains and such like.
Threads and hair are always the worst tests for suction only floor heads but my Miele S380 picks them up with ease only requiring one to two passes for difficult to remove fluff. This surprised me since turbo brushes do a better job for stubborn hair pick up but the slim floor head which has larger than most dust channels and twin lint pickers you can take out to clean, seems to cope well. If you need to clean hard floors, the 2 way suction head can be adjusted to have a set of brushes put down fit for purpose and in all cleaning applications the small and pert floor head has edge cleaning sides and a front design that cleans right up to the edge. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day – because even if Miele don’t make this vacuum cleaner anymore, it’s still the same floor head that even graces the new S6 compact vacuum – and still gets the job done.
Compared to a more conventional and cheaper priced vacuum cleaner, the bonus of Miele ownership means quiet operation, strong and durable plastic tools that feel like they can last, sealed suction and less effort helped by bigger than normal height adjustable pipes with three smooth castors that let the vacuum twirl around in a 360° easily without getting in the way. Conventional cylinder vacuums can take up too much space thanks to their fixed rear wheels.
The suction tubes in particular adjust to a length of 113cm and coupled with the long hose means it is ideal for people who are 6ft and more. Being six-foot means I don't have to extend the pipes all the way to their maximum height and seldom do I need to stoop to use this vacuum. The hose and pipes come into their own when cleaning ceilings for example. In my modern flat I have low ceilings but when I had to borrow the neighbour's Vax upright where its hose failed to reach up to ceilings before I purchased the Miele, I knew I would need a much better vacuum with a crush proof hose that wouldn't snap back in action and one of the better aspects of the Miele's S380 hose is that it never snaps back whilst being far lighter and in copious amount - at all times.
No carpet marks either from the floor head that leaves a fantastic groomed appearance too. Power cord length is 5.5 metres and whips up beautifully via the auto cord rewind pedal that by its own feels like a much better built pedal than that of the S4000 series. The cord length, which may be a bit too small on paper, has the added advantage of travelling farther because Miele fit a much bigger hose on length coupled with height adjustable and therefore farther reaching pipes. As a result I find I don't have to keep swapping plugs over if cleaning from the kitchen to the bedrooms and living room.
Another aspect I love about the Miele S380 is the fact that unlike a lot of other brands, everything from the handle down locks on, so the floor head will never come off and the tubes will never come off the handle – unless you press the locks that keep them on. The STB 205 Turbo brush – the same tool that is equipped with Miele’s famous S5 “Cat and Dog” can also be used on the S380 (again the tubes are identical to the S5) and this gives excellent deep dirt removal, better than Miele’s standard floor head – that only works by suction only compared to a constantly revolving brush bar plus suction at the same time.
Bag Capacity & Filtration
The bag capacity has been longer lasting than our family S4210, which has a 3.5 litre capacity compared to the bigger and more accessible bag area in the S381 that allows the bag to have 0.5 litres more. Generally I find that one 4-litre bag in the S380 can last up to two to three months of general household dust. You get two FJM disposable dust bags to get you started although it would be better if Miele furnished the buyer with a box of bags to seal the deal here. A large easy to see from a distance mechanical bag indicator on the top of the vacuum shows a good judgment of whether the bag needs emptied or not and the standard filtration Super Air clean filter keeps back most odours only failing on perhaps, the last dust bag from the box. Although filters are not washable you do get a set of two filters per 4 bags in a box of genuine Miele dust bags and that makes it particularly good value on extra costs alone.
When it comes to pet owners or smokers however, the Active Air Clean or HEPA filter is a much better bet. They have their own designed cartridge and only requires the owner to remove the Super Air Clean cartridge (keep it as it will cost £5-99 from Miele for a replacement if you change back) and replace with either the Active Air Clean or HEPA filter for allergy sufferers. I’ve used both and find that the Active Air Clean is fit for my needs.
The only downside to the higher grade filters is the cost at the time of purchase and later on if you want to scent your room with fresheners – whilst fresheners can be used with the standard Super Air Clean filter, the higher grades, AAC and HEPA respectively cannot as scented oils destroys the charcoal contained in the filters to keep back odours emanating from the dust bag, such as pet hair. This rule
Pictures of Miele S 380
Simple to select dial & main controls easily marked.
is specific for ANY Miele vacuum cleaner that uses these types of filters.
Maintenance & Storing
The crush proof hose also has a lock system which can be independently taken off if something gets clogged in the bent handle and thus like the hose, the handle can also be taken off and inspected, which is handy for anything that gets clogged. When storing it away the Miele has two park positions on offer and the hose can be folded and twisted around to get the maximum storage possible whilst the pipes can be retracted to get the best "low height" storage facility.
When it comes to putting a filter in/out or taking a bag in/out, the procedure in the Miele is very easy and the older design here means better access. Bags slip in and lock before the lid can be locked down and the FJM HyClean bags now have a self-sealing inner cap that just seals the bag once it pulled out of the machine. Filters always sit behind locked grid doors and both are easy to take out/install.
Also unique to the S381 against its more modern successors is that the three cleaning tools fit inside their own tool storer under a flush fitting door. Just like the larger bagged Miele S5, the S381 has a wonderfully oiled precision movement in the way the door opens, rising slowly at a push of a button revealing a short crevice tool, flat upholstery lint tool and the long hair 360° round upholstery brush. The more modern S2 and S4 ranges have a "Vario" clip that is supposed to hold all the tools in and can be mounted either on the metal suction tubes or at the base of the hose as it locks into the main body of the vacuum; however at the Comet store in Edinburgh it was clear to see that the idea didn't work as well in reality as I pulled the demo machines behind me tools came off if they went over carpet frames leaving a trail of cleaning tools behind. Sorry Miele but I just don't have the time to pick up falling tools! Plus I figured it would be better to have all the tools to hand under a flap as opposed to an external holder where tools can get lost over time.
There are a couple of downsides to the S381 however and it is all down to its size and protection. My hallway is quite narrow and as such the body of the S380 isn't as well protected as Miele's more modern alternatives. It doesn't get stuck but it does show up scratches on its underside too quickly. Although Miele have put black plastic below the central belt line around the perimeter of the vacuum, the black body shows up scrapes too easily. The blue paintwork after almost four years is still quite shiny despite the lack of protection lower down, though.
Apart from the weight, and despite the extra length hose and tubes, over the years I’ve come to expect a much longer amount of cord from other brands, particularly SEBO who are Miele’s arch rival. The S380/1 and infact all of Miele’s cylinder vacuums have short power cords, so this can be downside if you are cleaning larger rooms. The cost optional extendable Flexhose extender does allow another 1.5 metres of hose, but it can be a bind not having a longer cord in lieu of longer hose that can be detachable or extend for better reach.
After you buy a Miele, the benefit of ownership doesn’t just stop at what you have purchased originally. Their washing machines and dishwashers have upgradable software that you can buy options online to upgrade specific programmes and when it comes to floorcare, there’s a whole world of optional accessories you can buy – a fact that Dyson and Vax have since gone onto copy – with Miele still having the largest array of tools and filters on offer – and Bosch vacuums, though a different company have the same 35mm sizing which means the tools can be used with that brand too.