It costs as much as an iPhone—but it'll last a lifetime
By Angela Lashbrook
As a preteen and teenager, my main chore was vacuuming my parents’ house every Saturday morning before I was allowed to enjoy my weekend. This was no small feat—my parents’ house is pretty big, with a steep, narrow set of uncarpeted stairs typical of some very old homes. With two teens, two big dogs, a cat, two adults, and steady foot traffic from our friends stomping all over the house, this meant that, by Saturday, the old, scratched-up wood floors and area rugs were in desperate need of a good cleaning. I’d spend a couple of hours every Saturday morning vacuuming around the dogs, halfheartedly pushing the vacuum around the piano, and dragging the poor canister vac up those narrow stairs step by step.
I didn’t particularly care how good a job the vacuum did at getting dog fur out of the carpet, as long as nobody noticed. Like any other teen, I was distracted by thoughts of parties, books, schoolwork, and clothes, and wanted to get the job done as quickly and painlessly as possible before I could sprint out the door and into whatever trouble I was bound for that day.
Luckily, my parents had the right tool for the job: a Miele canister vacuum. I had no idea, at 15, how much money my parents had spent on that thing—if I had, I wouldn’t have kicked it, dragged it sideways, and dropped it down a few stairs as often as I did. (Or maybe, depending on the day, I would have been even more aggressive with it!) But the family Miele took it like a champ, and only in the past couple of years did my parents “retire” it to their tiny mountain cabin, where it still, remarkably, works.
The Miele is not a relic left in my past, though. Despite my teenage inattention, as an adult with an aversion to dog hair getting stuck between my toes, it became unpleasantly clear just how much of a difference my parents’ vacuum made. So in 2016, fed up with a terrible 2-year-old upright that couldn’t reliably suck up my dog’s hair in my 600-square-foot Brooklyn apartment, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I spent $500—which was a decent chunk of our paychecks—on a Miele C2 canister vacuum.
It was reliable where other vacuums crapped out after a couple of years. It eagerly sucked up dust, dirt, dog hair, and whatever else that my cheap upright rolled its eyes at. Five years later, it works as beautifully as it ever did. Though I don’t drive a Subaru and haven’t been able to start a native plant garden in my front yard, I’m proud to carry on my parents’ legacy in this particular domain.
I’m not even a clean freak—it sometimes takes me several days to put away my freshly laundered clothes, for example—but there’s almost nothing I dislike more than walking on unclean floors. The Miele canister makes confronting this particular neurosis considerably easier.
The most impressive aspect of the Miele is its sheer force of will: The thing just won’t quit. I’m a millennial who came of age as disposable appliances and furniture became the norm, and I am tragically accustomed to replacing these every couple of years, once they stop working or fall apart. My Miele is on year six, and unlike me, it shows no signs of aging; if I’m lucky, I’ll still be dragging it around in 20 years, just like my parents.
One of Miele's first vacuums, the Model L, which the company released in 1931.
Of course, longevity means little if the product doesn’t work well in the first place. But my Miele does, and it also makes cleaning almost—fun? Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that because of how simple and easy it is to use my Miele, I’d rather vacuum my 1,000-square-foot apartment (I’ve leveled up!) than complete any other chore.
“You are not alone,” Mary H.J. Farrell, an editor at Consumer Reports who has worked on vacuum-related stories for years, told me when I expressed my Miele devotion to her. Farrell says that, based on CR’s surveys, members love their Mieles.
Miele vacuums also perform very well in our lab testing. Several vacuums in the Miele Complete C3 line are our top canister vacuum picks and perform highly by almost every metric. The Miele Complete C3 Marin has a powerhead, which means it uses a motorized brush that can more deeply clean carpets and rugs—though it also sometimes makes the vacuum more expensive.
My now-discontinued Compact C2 Miele also has a powerhead, and though it scored a bit lower on carpet tests, our testers report that it excels at vacuuming up pet hair (a crucial feature for me, especially this time of year as Gordo blows his coat in preparation for summer), maintains a strong suction through various tools, and picks up dust and dirt gently and effectively on bare floors.
Miele Complete C3 Marin
“We do like that the Miele canisters are quiet compared to other vacuums,” says Sue Booth, a project leader at Consumer Reports who tests vacuums. “They also have variable motor speeds to control the suction.” Miele canister vacs received Excellent scores for both reliability and owner satisfaction in CR’s member survey. Consumer Reports readers even love their less reliable Miele uprights, according to Farrell, who wrote about Miele users’ intense brand loyalty in 2017. Even when people had issues with their Miele, they still reported satisfaction. Miele fanatics like me are legion: We understand the passion one can feel for a product that to the uninitiated may seem unexciting, and we are often unabashed in sharing that passion with our friends, family, and even strangers on the street.
In terms of maintenance, my Miele C2 requires little more than a bag and filter change every month or two, and I have never had to take it to my neighborhood vacuum repair shop. I do need to regularly purchase new bags for it. My dad occasionally skirted this requirement by emptying out the vacuum bags and reusing them (my dad’s response: “I do not do that anymore!!!!!”). Booth says this isn’t advisable. Reusing bags “will most likely decrease the performance—even though it may still seemingly work—because the porous part of the bag could get clogged,” she says. “Any bacteria or pet dander that may coat the inside of the bag is also likely to remain in the bag. Also, we recommend using bagged machines if you have any allergies, so emptying out a bag in the trash could defeat this purpose if breathing the particulates could pose a problem.” Noted: My husband’s allergies can be terrible, and one of the most beloved aspects of my Miele is that it helps keep a lid on his sneeze attacks.
So it’s not an overstatement to say that my Miele is nothing short of a life-changer. It has made dog ownership less disgusting, city living less toxic, and my husband’s allergies less of a pain. It may even literally be improving my mental health. It cost almost as much as my iPhone, but it has improved my life far beyond what my personal surveillance box ever could. And it’s far more discreet: My Miele knows where my dirt is, but it will never, ever, tell.
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