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Everyone knows that Germany produces some of the finest and most coveted automobiles in the world. Beautiful cars that perform exceptionally well, lead the industry in safety and engineering, and set standards by which the rest of the automotive world is compared. When investing in a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, buyers pay a premium knowing that the car will provide safety and comfort, deliver years of reliable service, and maintain its value.
Perhaps less well known is that Germany is also home to a company building another line of finely engineered products -- just as highly regarded as German-built luxury cars. That company is appliance manufacturer, Miele.
Miele has been making clothes washers since 1899, and for over a century has been a leading innovator in the evolution of laundry appliances. Over the years, Miele has led the way in the appliance industry, expanding its product line to include an entire range of household and heavy-duty commercial appliances. Miele products are now found in discerning homes, leading hospitals and major commercial enterprises throughout the world.
Today, Miele enjoys a reputation second to none -- the acknowledged leader in appliance engineering, quality, and customer satisfaction. Inspired perhaps, by the company’s motto and guiding principal: “Immer Besser”, or “Forever Better.”
The model W1918 washer is a prime example of Miele’s dedication to quality and function. From the very first time that you close the washer door and hear that Mercedes-like “whump”, or as you admire the fit and finish of this superbly engineered machine, you’ll know that you’re dealing with precision and a finely crafted product.
EXTENDED WASH CYCLES
All Miele washers are horizontal axis machines; tumbling clothes clean instead of agitating them. Although this is a much more efficient way of washing laundry, I won’t go into the differences between top loading and front-loading washers here. If you’d like to know more, you can check out my essay on front-loading washers in the Epinion Home & Garden section on washing machines.
All models of Miele washers utilize an extended wash cycle with water temperature monitored and maintained at a pre-selected level throughout the wash cycle. Miele calls this the “Hydromatic” washing system. Constant temperatures and extended wash times ensure that clothes are not just surface clean, but clean to the very core of their fiber. This cleaning method is so effective, that only small amounts of detergent are required, and chlorine bleach is never necessary.
In a nutshell -- as the drum rotates in a Miele washer, clothes are showered with appropriately hot, sudsy water and tumbled through a small pool of detergent-concentrated water in the bottom of the drum. Every ten to fifteen seconds the drum rotation stops, rests for a few seconds, then resumes turning in the opposite direction. This allows the weight of the wet laundry to compress on to itself, squeezing water and detergent through fabrics in much the same way that you would gently squeeze hand laundry. Not only does this process utilize gravity to help in the cleaning process -- making it more efficient -- it’s also gentler on your clothes.
At the end of the extended wash action, Miele washers spin and rinse the load up to five times, ensuring that your laundry comes out of the machine thoroughly rinsed and absolutely clean. The final spin can be set to rotate at up to 1,600 rpm’s, which will extract nearly 65% of the moisture. Washing a load of laundry using the Cottons program will take about an hour and forty minutes and use a mere 13.4 gallons of water. Other programs take less time and may use even less water.
Low water consumption means that a Miele washer saves you money because you’ll use less detergent and require less energy to heat the water. The high-speed final spin means your laundry will dry much faster, significantly reducing the amount of energy needed to dry each load in a tumble dryer. Over time, your savings on water, energy and detergent will more than repay the higher initial cost of a Miele washer. Then too, because Miele washers are designed to last for more than twenty years (I have personal knowledge of two Miele washers in Europe that have been in constant use for nearly 30 years), Miele could prove to be one of the most economical choices you can make.
If you should ever need service, Miele employs its own nationwide service organization, and guarantees that it will maintain spare parts for every Miele appliance for at least 15 years after any given model is discontinued. Miele service people are factory trained and dedicated to servicing only Miele appliances. Miele even provides employees with products in their own homes so that they have hands on experience with each product they support. My own experience with the Miele service organization (I’ve been so pleased with Miele, that I own several of their appliances) has always been prompt, courteous and professional. The repairman even puts little booties over his shoes, so he doesn’t mark the floor!
The heart of each Miele washer, or perhaps I should say the brain, is the Novotronic control unit. It utilizes state-of-the-art microchip technology to control all aspects of the cleaning process. The Novotronic control determines drum rotation rates, monitors water levels and temperatures, and can even compensate for out-of-balance situations or over-sudsing problems. In fact, it’s really an onboard computer, making the Miele washer one of the most sophisticated appliances available -- while still being one of the simplest and most intuitive to operate. There are no touch-pad sequences to remember, just two straight-forward dials for selecting program, wash temperature and final spin speed, plus several single-function buttons for choosing wash options. Operation couldn’t be simpler. Because the Novotronic controller is all electronic, there are no moving parts to fail.
There are four basic program selections, each allowing you to choose from a range of wash temperatures:
Cottons - For everyday sturdy fabrics. Wash temperature selections range from cold to 190 degrees F. This is the longest running program, including four, or optionally, five rinses.
Permanent Press - This program utilizes higher water levels, slower spin speeds and a cool-down sequence at the end of the wash cycle to reduce wrinkling. Wash temperature selections range from cold to 140 degrees F.
Fine/Delicate - A special program designed for delicate synthetics and natural fibers such as silk, satin, rayon and lingerie. This cycle utilizes very high water levels, and a slower drum revolution. Wash temperature selections range from cold to 140 degrees F.
Hand Wash Woolens - This specialty care program is designed specifically for what are usually only hand washable garments. About once every 60 seconds the wash drum slowly revolves 180 degrees in alternating directions. This gently turns garments, allowing them to soak in sudsy water during the long pauses between revolutions. At the end of the program, after two thorough rinses, a quick burst of low-speed spinning removes any excess water and prepares the items for finishing. Temperature selection ranges from cold to 105 degrees F.
In addition to the basic cycle and temperature selection, another dial allows you to select final spin speeds from 300 to 1600 rpm’s (although some programs have pre-set maximum spin speeds to protect delicate laundry). There’s also an option for no final spin. and another to pause the program before the final spin cycle, leaving the load suspended in the final rinse water. This is handy if you’ve washed something susceptible to wrinkling, and you can’t be there to remove it from the washer as soon as the program ends. Upon your return, you simply select the desired spin-speed and turn the program knob to spin. The cycle will automatically finish up.
Other options can also be selected in most programs by simply pushing a button. A cold pre-wash can be added to most cycles for heavily soiled loads, or to facilitate the removal of protein based stains (blood, etc.) which might set in hot water. A “Water Plus” feature utilizes high water levels during the rinse cycles for extra thorough rinsing, or by depressing a “Gentle Wash” button, drum rotation can be slowed and water levels raised.
CONVENIENT & VERSATILE
One of the best features of a Miele washer is that you set up the program and load all dispensers at the same time that you load the laundry. You don’t have to return after the prewash to start the main wash, and you don’t have to add softener or starch at just the right moment. These tasks are completely automated. It isn’t necessary to think about the wash load again, until it’s completely done. Since I regularly wash table linens, it’s a great convenience to pour in starch at the beginning of the program, then have the machine automatically dispense it in the final rinse. The starch dispenser is quite large as well, so even a heavy starching isn’t a problem.
The machine will accommodate up to an eleven pound (5 kilo) load of cottons. I’ve found this entirely sufficient to handle up to four queen-size sheets plus eight pillow cases. Miele says the washer will handle up to eleven bath towels, although I’ve never tried to wash that many towels at one time. Because there’s no center agitator, you can easily wash oversized items like comforters, sleeping bags or pillows -- things that won’t readily fit into a top-loading washer. I routinely wash big cotton and wool blankets without so much as a hiccup. Down pillows can be gently washed and thoroughly rinsed with the “Water Plus” feature. When fully dried, they fluff up again, like new.
In my opinion, the Hand Wash Woolens program makes the purchase of a Miele washer a worthwhile investment -- all by itself! This program will safely accommodate anything that you can wash by hand, even the most delicate cashmere garments. These days, I never send sweaters to the drycleaner. I can safely and easily wash them at home. In fact, mild detergent and water is a much gentler way to clean wool and cashmere than subjecting them to the heat and harsh solvents used in dry cleaning. Gentle washing and air drying of woolens or knitted garments will help to prolong their life.
For the days when you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to wait for a regular extended wash cycle, you can simply select “Rapid Wash”. You’ll get excellent results in a complete wash cycle that takes only 34 minutes.
Additional programs are also available for spin only, rinsing hand washed items, and a separate starch cycle. It’s also possible to program the washer to always add an extra rinse cycle, increase water levels, or to turn on a child-safety feature that disables the control panel once a program has started.
The dispenser drawer is nice and big, making it a cinch to add detergent and softener or starch without spills. There is no bleach dispenser. Bleach is specifically NOT recommended in Miele washers. With the extended wash cycles, bleach simply isn’t necessary. Whites turn out truly clean and brilliantly white -- without the addition of chlorine or other harsh chemicals
Worth mentioning too, are Miele’s stainless steel inner and outer drums. Some other manufacturers use plastic for the outer drum, a much cheaper and less durable way to go. The fins on the inner wash drum are also stainless steel and designed to “scoop and ladle” water over your laundry as the drum revolves. Most other washers have plastic fins, which over time, can become scratched or nicked -- possibly leading to snags or abrasion. The stainless steel fins in a Miele washer only get smoother over time.
Miele builds each washer with a cast iron cradle to stabilize the drum. The entire system is supported by shock absorbers. Here again, other brands cut corners, using a much cheaper system that employs concrete blocks and springs.
The W1918 model washer has a unique angled control panel. Tilted so it’s easy to read and make settings without bending. The panel also displays a countdown of time remaining, and has LED’s to indicate each phase of the program. The front of the washer features a large, chrome-plated port hole door that seals against a heavy-duty five-inch wide rubber gasket Everything about the machine speaks of quality.
The washer cabinet is heavy gauge enameled steel, ribbed for extra strength. The washer can be paired with a Miele tumble dryer in a side-by-side configuration (which can be built-in under a counter), or stacked, utilizing a required stacking kit which includes a pull-out shelf (about $140.00, extra). Dryers are available in either vented or condenser models. The condenser models can be installed in high-rise buildings or other places where venting a dryer isn’t possible. My dryer is a vented model, which I’ll review separately.
Like most other European models, Miele washers have an integral water heater so they require a 220 volt 15 amp circuit. If you add a Miele dryer, it requires a separate 220 volt 15 amp circuit. If you happen to already have a 220 volt 30 amp circuit for an existing electric clothes dryer, you can purchase an “Easy Installation” kit from Miele for about $190.00. This will divide your 30 amp circuit into two fused 15 amp circuits. It’s like an oversized extension cord. You plug it into the 30 amp outlet, then plug your washer and dryer into the two outlets at the other end of the cord.
What do I dislike about my Miele washer? Very little. It’s simply the best washer I’ve ever used. There are, however, a couple of things that might be considered minor annoyances.
One small inconvenience is not being able to interrupt a wash cycle if you want to throw in that errant sock…the one you’ve just noticed was dropped on the hall floor. Once a program is under way, you can’t open the door unless you cancel and drain the machine. If you do that, you have to start over with fresh detergent and water. Not a big problem, especially now that I’ve trained myself to look for odd socks before I start things up, but I wish there was a way to pause things, pop in the odd bit, and carry on. (Actually, I have discovered a way to trick the Novotronic computer and get around this problem, but it’s rather complicated and probably not recommended, so I won’t explain it.)
For the most part, the washer is extraordinarily quiet, although the drain pump makes more noise than I think is necessary, and it runs for several minutes at a time throughout the program. When it’s running I get an annoying little rattle from somewhere in the depths of the cabinet. Not really worth calling in a service technician, but if I have them out for something else sometime, I’ll want them to look into it.
Apart from that, there isn’t much I can complain about. I’m completely satisfied with my Miele laundry appliances.
REALLY, REALLY CLEAN
I know some people will think the extended wash is just too long, but it doesn’t bother me. The trade-off is getting really clean clothes -- which I’ll take any day. On the other hand, we’re a two-adult household (unless you count our two dogs), so we don’t generate mountains of laundry, and our schedules are perhaps not quite as hectic as they would be in a house with kids. We usually sort laundry in the laundry room by load type. That way whites get done one evening, mediums the next, then darks, and so on. It works quite well for us, and means I only have a small amount of folding to do each evening...instead of a ton all at once. I like it that way.
Speaking of dogs…you ought to see how the dog bed covers turn out. Spotless!!! With our previous washer, the dog beds used to slowly get duller and grayer. Eventually, they needed to be chucked and new covers put on in their places. Not any more. Every week when I pull the covers out of the dryer -- they look like new! Not only that, they seem to last longer. Believe me, if I can get dog beds clean, I know the rest of my laundry is really clean.
Gone are the days of tee-shirts coming out of the wash with chronically gray arm pits. Table linens are spotlessly white, greasy spots on kitchen towels just disappear, and cleaning rags turn out looking bright and new. Extended wash cycles and proper wash water temperatures make all the difference.
I highly recommend the Miele model W1918 washer. If I ever have to buy another washer, Miele is the only brand I’d consider.
Incidentally, most models of Miele washers are functionally identical, they just have different doors or trim configurations. Model W1926 is slightly larger than the other models, having a maximum capacity of 13.2 pounds (6 kilos) but a maximum spin speed of 1200 rpm’s. Model W1903 is somewhat less expensive than other models, and therefore has fewer features, but the washing system is the same.
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Amount Paid (US$): 1595.00