Newest Review: ... vacuum behind me in my one floored two bedroom flat. This is because there's a bit more to the Miele S381 than meets the eye and on stair... more
Because Owning A Miele Needn't Be Expensive
Member Name: Nar2
Date: 21/11/09, updated on 21/11/09 (1993 review reads)
Advantages: Well priced, well thought out, good suction, quiet noise, good bag capacity.
Disadvantages: Exclusive model to Comet only, heavy, protection could be better. Slight build issues.
Whilst the recently bought Russell Hobbs Turbobag cylinder vac would have been an easy enough choice to make, Argos in Edinburgh didn't have any in stock and I wasn't about to wait a week before they got more stocks in. Eventually at Comet I chose Miele as the best option instead. Enter the Miele S381. Unlike the more modern S2 and slightly smaller sized S4000 series, the S381 is an exclusive model based on the old Miele S380 and is sold only at Comet. It replaces a similarly built S380, a model I had for a very short time last year and it too was a Comet exclusive. It is also priced at £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. It is however about to be replaced by the £124 S2 model which I compared the S381 to in store, and much to the salesperson's annoyance I chose the S381 not just gathered by the cheaper price. The high filtration dust bags for the S300 series costs between £5-95 and £8-95 whilst the larger bags for the S2 cost the same. My reason for choosing the S381 however came to known experience of finding dust bags on the high street. Private hardware shops and supermarkets tend to sell the FJM Miele 4 litre capacity bags but looking for the larger bags can prove a bit of a nightmare unless you visit a large mass appliance chain store or shop online.
Sadly because of the cheap price, the Miele S381 is a heavy vacuum and 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 Henry who has twice the dirt capacity isn't exactly light either and it was the heavy weight of the Miele S381 that held a strange attraction 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 my more modern Miele S4210, (now replaced by the Miele S4212) the model is a quarter size smaller than the S381 that weighs around 8kg compared to the 5.5kg of the S4210. The weight however shouldn't be an issue unless you really need to lift this vacuum up and down stairs but surprisingly I've found it totally easy to pull the vacuum behind me in my one floored two bedroom flat. This is because there's a bit more to the Miele S381 than meets the eye and on stairs (I live on the second floor and sometimes I can't stand the mess of the stairs other residents leave behind) the Miele will sit quite happily on a stair without falling over. You can't do that with a Henry!
Despite the increased weight 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 almost 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 vacuum in the wee hours of morning without bothering anyone. The very friendly and easy to read user manual reflects this in terms of what the Miele S381 power levels are most suitable for and there is an energy setting available but I found it too hard to push the floor head. Again its an older vacuum here on design but the S381 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. An air outlet slider is also located on the handle, which makes pushing and pulling ultra feather lightweight too.
Threads and hair are always the worst tests for suction only floor heads but the Miele S381 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.
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 easily without getting in the way. No carpet marks either apart from the floor head that leaves a fantastic groomed appearance. 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.
The bag capacity has been longer lasting than my own 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 should last up to two months of general household dust and this includes above the floor line. You get one fabric disposable bag 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. 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.
The key to further stretch is available from Miele's larger-than-most 1.5 metre hose that stretches well, goes around corners and doesn't mark paintwork. 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. There are also two well made stainless steel telescopic height adjustable suction tubes that have a similar lock system on top and bottom of each pipe; this makes it easy to put larger tools on without the fear of them falling off. 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 a recently purchased Vax upright has failed to reach up to ceilings and in most respects this is why Miele's S471 is so much better. 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.
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 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 whoever rents the flat after me will probably lose the tools over time unless they have an integral flush fitting tool area where the smaller cleaning tools can't get lost.
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 S381 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 although even a month on, I haven't had the time to clean down the Miele's body, its dark red paintwork still has a new sheen to it despite the smattering of paint where the vacuum has slid against walls or banged off corners. Another issue that it had was just probably the way the vacuum had been packed in its box; although it has its own handle sprouting out at the top of the delivery box by default (and thus makes it easy to transport the vacuum just out of the shop) when I first took the Miele S381 out, part of the tool door came off on one side. One of the holders held in with a small spring had loosened itself and it took me a few minutes to work out how to push the pin back in to retain the door function.
After you buy a Miele the options become lengthy as to what you can adjust to your machine's basic spec and adding a HEPA filter for example (or Miele's excellent Active Air Clean filter at £9-99) or a large turbo brush (£39-99 generally) means you can upgrade your vacuum at any time and let it become a "Cat and Dog," model by its own upgrade. On its own accord however the Miele S381 is well worth considering if you need a durable vacuum cleaner that remains quieter in operation and will just do the job without fuss and sucking up dirt you won't have to touch. The only aspect standing in its way is its actual weight. Thanks for reading. İNar2 2009
Summary: A great value well made German Miele vacuum cleaner that doesn't cost a lot to maintain.
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