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Miele Callisto S5281 canister vacuum
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Est. $899

Miele Callisto S5281 Canister Vacuum

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Rating: 4.5 Star Rating

The Miele Callisto S5281 is a truly beautiful canister vacuum cleaner. Earning the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, this German built vacuum is light, easy to transport and smooth to operate. The Miele S5281 is great for vacuuming large areas of carpet or hard flooring.

Pros

  • ZERO particle emissions.
  • Light and easy to maneuver.
  • Can be used on all types of flooring.

Cons

  • Expensive to purchase.
  • Costly filters and bags.

Design

Miele S5281 Callisto HEPA canister vacuum

The Miele Callisto S5281 is a beautifully sophisticated vacuum that exudes elegant design. From the moment we opened the box we could tell that this vacuums was special. This Miele is deep black with subtle curves and a compact design.

We put the Callisto through our strenuous VacuumWizard tests and it continually impressed us with its performance. This vacuum did an excellent job cleaning carpets, light and heavy rugs, bare floors, stairs, upholstery, and anything else that we attempted to clean.

Unlike most vacuums that will only do a good job of cleaning either carpets or bare floors, this vacuum does a superior job of cleaning all floor surfaces.

The Callisto has incredible suction strength. However, you can adjust the suction to be gentle enough to dust drapes, light rugs and floral arrangements.

With double insulated walls, this vacuum is impressively quiet. Beyond its great cleaning ability, the S5281 has a admirable filtration system.

Best Vacuum

The Miele S5281 is the winner of the Above $500 category in our Best vacuum cleaner of 2011 list.

With sealed HEPA filtration, the Miele Callisto S5281 has ZERO particle emissions.

This means that it is actually capturing the dust and debris it picks up rather than blowing it back into the air. This is especially excellent for asthma and allergy sufferers.

Throw out your dust rags and brooms, this is the only tool you will need to capture dust and debris in your home.

Performance/Using the Miele Callisto S5281 Vacuum

This sleek machine did a fantastic job on carpets, stairs and rugs. It has incredible suction strength for deep cleaning and the strength can be adjusted to pick-up debris from light rugs. With six suction speeds to choose from, you can select the right strength every time.

The canister has a convenient carrying handle and is very easy to bring along as you travel up the stairs while cleaning.

Performance on Carpets

Miele S5281 on carpets

We wanted to test how the Miele Callisto vacuum did picking up various sized debris from carpeting. We attached the powerbrush, adjusted the height of the powerbrush to an appropriate height to match our carpet and turned the suction to the highest strength.

First, we put down flour on the carpet to test the Callisto's ability to pick-up fine particles. The S5281 easily cleaned every particle of flour we could see. In our next test we used rice to emulate medium particles.

Again, the vacuum easily sucked up every grain of rice. For our third test, we used black-eyed peas. After adjusting the height of the vacuum to give the beans enough clearance, the vacuum again had no problems, quickly and easily cleaning all the peas.

Canister vacuums are designed primarily for cleaning hard surface flooring. With other canister vacuums we have tested, we found their performance on carpets mediocre. However, the Callisto's performance surpassed our expectations and did a great job.

The only negative we found was that the canister did not follow behind as easily on carpets as it did on hard surface flooring.

Also, the powerbrush is light and will take a very small amount of practice to learn not to lift it up off the carpet when pulling the vacuum back towards you. This can also happen if you don't have the handle set to the proper height.

Performance on Rugs

Miele S5281 on rugs

With the powerbrush on, the vacuum did a great job cleaning heavy, thick and light rugs alike. You will need to make sure to adjust the suction strength according to the weight of your rug.

We were even able to clean our delicate rug tousles by turning the suction strength to the lower settings. The Callisto's ability to clean our light rugs was especially impressive because many vacuums suck the rugs off the floor.

We also tested how the floor brush worked for cleaning lightweight rugs. Even though the floor brush is designed for bare floors, we wanted to see if we were able to get our lightweight rugs on our tile floors in the kitchen clean without having to stop to put on the powerbrush.

We put crushed cornflakes on the rug and and found that the Miele S5281 did a great job getting all the crumbs up without bunching the rug.

Performance on Hard Floors

We began by attaching the parquet twister floor brush. This tool was designed for cleaning all hard flooring and has a swiveling head for vacuuming niches and tight spaces.

The tool is flat and has brush bristles around the perimeter. (Miele offers other floor brushs to meet your specific cleaning needs.)

First, we spread flour on the floor for fine particle testing. The Miele Callisto sucked all the flour up with one forward and backward pass.

Next, we spread rice across the bare floor. Again, the vacuum retrieved every last grain of rice from the floor.

To test large particles, we again used black-eyed peas. The Callisto easily sucked up all of the peas. The only thing to be aware of while cleaning large particles is that you will need to make sure that the particles can fit through the gaps in the bristles.

If they are too large or if you are having trouble with this, simply lift the floor brush slightly from the floor and the particles will easily be sucked up.

Edge Cleaning

We found that there is a small gap where the brushes on the powerbrush tool can not reach when used to clean carpet against the wall. However, the suction on this Miele is so strong that it removed all the debris from the edge without the assistance of the crevice tool.

The floor brush used for hard floors gets flush against the wall and removed all types of debris we tested from the edge.

Filtration

Miele Callisto filtration

The Miele Callisto S5281 canister vacuum cleaner has a sealed HEPA filtration system. This means that all the air moving through the vacuum is actually forced through the HEPA filter rather than escaping around the filter or through other nooks and crannies.

When we tested the air coming from the exhaust of the vacuum, we were extremely impressed to see our scanner read zero. This means that the vacuum purifies the air as it cleans.

The dust bag is very strong and is constructed of nine layers to prevent sharp objects from ripping it. The opening of the dust bag has a spring-loaded flap that automatically closes when the cover to the compartment is open.

It also has a seal that insures dust only gets sucked into the bag instead of leaking elsewhere. This makes opening the dust bag compartment and changing the dust bag a virtually dirt free experience.

Suction Strength

S5281 controls

The Miele Callisto has six suction strength settings. The first setting is for curtains and lightweight fabrics. The second setting is for upholstery and cushions, the third setting is for thick pile carpets, rugs and runners.

The fourth setting is for energy saving daily vacuuming with a low noise level. Setting number five is for lightly soiled, textured carpets and the last setting is for textured hard flooring and intensive carpet cleaning.

We tested the suction strength of the vacuum on its highest setting and found that it has a water lift of ninety. Water lift is the measurement of the suction strength produced by the motor.

Taking into consideration that the average full-sized vacuum produces a water lift of seventy, we were very impressed by the vacuum's suction.

Attachments / Onboard Tools

Miele Callisto attachments

Stored inside the accessory compartment are a crevice, brush, and upholstery tool. These are accessed by pressing a button on the top of the canister that causes the lid to flip up exposing the tools.

Additionally, the vacuum comes with a powerbrush for use on carpets and a floor brush for bare floors. The vacuum also has a telescoping wand that connects at the handle. All attachments will connect to either the handle or the telescoping wand.

Crevice nozzle

The crevice tool is six inches long and has a one-half inch opening. The tool is not very long, but when paired with the telescoping wand, it came in useful for cleaning in between furnishings and walls and other hard to reach space.

Dust brush

We loved using the dust brush. The bristles are natural and soft enough to be used on wood furnishings without scratching them. The opening to the brush is one inch with one-half inch of bristles surrounding it.

We hooked the brush to our extension wand to clean molding, silk plants, and picture frames. With the suction strength turned down, it did a great job on all of these.

Extension wand

Miele S5 parts

The wand is nine inches long extending to thirty-five and one-half inches. The extension wand connects between the the handle and acts as the handle for the powerbrush and floor brush.

One of the things we like about this is that you can adjust the height of the extension wand to insure that it is the perfect height for each person who uses the vacuum.

Upholstery tool

Measuring four and three-quarters by one and one-half inches, the upholstery tool has lint collecting strips across the top and bottom.

While the size of the tool can make covering large surfaces more time consuming, its small size came in useful for cleaning pillows and curtains.

Suction Power Powerful
Performance on Carpets Excellent
Performance on Hard Floors Excellent
Performance on Rugs Excellent
Performance with Pet Hair Excellent
Filtration Excellent
Overall Performance

Ease of Use

Cord management and Length

Miele canister vacuum cleaner

The cord measured twenty-one feet long. The cord has an automatic rewind and is stored inside the canister. You rewind the cord by tapping a button located on the top of the canister with your foot.

The cord always rewound quickly and smoothly without ever getting stuck. We wished the cord would have been a little longer, however, the vacuum actually has a 33 foot operating radius due to the combination of the cord, hose and the extension wand.

Hose Management and Length

The hose is six feet long and flexible. The hose appears to be made with good quality plastic and is not as stiff or brittle feeling. The hose connects between the canister and handle and is responsible for pulling the canister as you vacuum.

The hose did a good job staying out of our way while we vacuumed and because it is flexible it was not cumbersome to store and was not an annoyance while cleaning the stairs.

Floor Selection

On the powerbrush, there is a small switch that can be pressed with your foot for hight selection. You will have five height options.

You can also change the head of the vacuum between the powerbrush and floor brush (or additional specialty tools purchased from Miele) depending on what surface flooring you will be cleaning.

Getting Started

Miele S5281 out of the box

Even the packaging on the Miele bespoke great design. When we opened the box, the pieces were well organized and packed in the order of which they needed to be put together.

Once the pieces are removed from the box, it took us less than a minute to put together.

The vacuum comes with a well written instruction manual. We would highly recommend taking a few minutes to read through the manual before beginning to use the vacuum.

There are so many great features offered its worth taking the time to discover what they are.

Maneuverability

Using a canister vacuum can take a while to get used to. However, the Miele Callisto S5281 might be the exception.

Miele Callisto in use

The three wheels on the bottom have a zero turn radius and the vacuum glides smoothly across bare floors.

You will have to pull the canister a bit when vacuuming carpets, but this was only a noticeable observation to us after seeing how easy it moved across hard flooring.

The hose of the vacuum pivots from where it connects to the handle and the floor brush tools pivots from where it connects to the extension wand.

While the handle of the vacuum is stationary, it has all the advantages of a pivoting vacuum without exhausting your wrist trying to keep it steady while cleaning carpets. The handle is also ergonomic which furthers the comfort of your wrist while cleaning.

The Miele S5281 canister has a soft rubber bumper that circles around the bottom to protect it and your furnishings from any run-ins.

You will need to be able to bend to the floor to adjusts the suction strength, access the attachments and change the dirt bag and filters. All other adjustments on the vacuum can be made from a standing position.

Ease of Use on Stairs

The Miele Callisto has a carrying handle on the top and the flat base will rest on the steps as you work your way up. We suggest you hold the handle to insure the vacuum doesn't tumble off the step.

While you can purchase brushes for the Miele that are specifically designed for the stairs or compatible with stairs, neither the powerbrush or floor brush that we had for testing worked well.

We used the upholstery brush to clean our carpeted stairs and it did a fine job. However, it would be worth investing in one of the tools designed for stairs if this is a job you will be doing often.

Storage

The canister can be stored vertically or horizontally. If you have the powerbrush attached, the handle will lock in a stationary position and can be stored standing upright.

The canister has a slot on the side and front that the telescoping wand securely slips into for easy storage. We appreciated having a place to put the wand for both storage and mid-cleaning breaks.

Noise

Miele S5 noise

We could not believe how quiet this vacuum is. You can easily carry on a conversation and still be heard over the sound this machine produces.

When we tested the Miele Callisto S5281 vacuum on its highest setting with our decibel meter, we found that the vacuum itself registered an average of 82.5 dB when we held the meter next to the vacuum and the powerbrush averaged 84 when the meter was held next to it.

When we held the meter at shoulder height (closer to where you will actually hear the vacuum while using) we got a reading of 70 and with a slight jump to 72 when the powerbrush was on.

Miele designed the vacuum with double insulated walls for their signature quiet machine. We have never before used a vacuum this powerful that has been this quiet.

Weight Lightweight
Noise Quiet
Maneuverability Excellent
Stair Cleaning Excellent
Overall Performance

Maintenance

Miele Callisto vacuum bag

The vacuum's bag will need to be changed, but the bag has a large 4.76 quart capacity, so it will not need to be changed as frequently as other bagged vacuums.

With the Callisto, you will never have to guess when the bag is full. The vacuum comes equipped with an airflow indicator located on the top of the canister where the hose connects. This indicator will let you know how full the bag currently is and when it needs to be changed.

We found these dustbags for just under twenty dollars for a box of four. An added bonus is that an Air Clean filter and dust compartment filter are supplied with every box of Miele dustbags.

Miele suggests that you change the Air Clean filter every time you purchase a new box of Miele bags, which means you change it after filling your fourth bag.

The filter is located inside the dust compartment and is as easy as flipping up the filter frame, removing the old filter and sliding a new one in.

You can also replace the Air Clean filter with an Active Air Clean filter or an Active HEPA filter. There was an Active HEPA filter in the model we tested. The manufacturer recommends replacing this yearly or as needed. The HEPA filters cost around fifty dollars.

The dust compartment filter should be changed at the same time you changed the Air Clean filter. This filter is also located inside the dust compartment and is changed in the same manner as the Air Clean filter.

Manual

You can find the manual for the Miele S5281 Callisto on the official Miele USA website. Go to the Operating Manuals section and select the model you own and you'll receive the download link to the manual.

Maintenance

Conclusion

Miele S% upholstery cleaning

The Miele S5281 Callisto is a truly an amazing machine. We were so impressed during testing that we found ourselves looking for excuses to use it.

This is one vacuum that truly does it all. It demolished the debris on our carpets. The Callisto sucked up all the particles on our hard surface flooring.

It has incredible suction strength with the ability to make the suction low enough to dust delicate drapes and decorations.

While we aren't able to test the durability of the machine, though all the parts seem very sturdy and well made. This machine should last a long, long time.

All the clips and buttons on the machine were very easy to use and nothing ever got stuck or felt cheap as if it would break off.

Value for your money

The prices we found on this vacuum ranged between six-hundred and fifty dollars to over nine-hundred dollars. Miele canister vacuums are a bit like purchasing a car because they have luxury models, upgrades and attachments.

This vacuum is an investment, but after using it and experiencing the excellent quality and superior engineering, we fully believe it is worth every penny.

We have been told by multiple vacuum experts that this machine will last fifteen to twenty years. While that is not a guarantee, after using the Miele Callisto S5281 we believe them.

While the vacuum, filters and bags cost more than the average vacuum, if you consider its longevity and quality, we feel it is a good value.

Value for Your Money

Final Vacuum Verdict

We love this vacuum! The Miele Callisto S5281 thoroughly cleaned all flooring surfaces and was easy to use. It actually purifies the air while you clean.

While this vacuum is an investment, we think it is worth every penny! Miele has attachments for every conceivable cleaning need.

We recommend the Miele S5281 canister vacuum for someone who is ready to make a financial investment in a vacuum.

If you are an allergy or asthma sufferer, this vacuum is for you! With ZERO particle emissions, this vacuum truly captures dust and allergens.

Performance
Ease of Use
Maintenance
Value for Money
Overall Rating
Miele S5281 Callisto specifications
Miele S5281 Callisto vacuum ratings

Where to Buy The Miele Callisto S5281

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