Immer Besser

Rounding out Major Appliance Month here on, we bring you news of the latest additions to our family: a Miele washer and matching dryer.

We last bought a washer in 2000, right around the time Henry was born. At the time, we wanted something water- and energy-efficient and compact. The Maytag Neptune front-loader was pretty new at the time and well liked by reviewers, so we ponied up for the stacked version (a full-sized washer and drier stacked together in one unit). At first, we loved it. But by the time we moved out of our house for the remodel, the honeymoon was over. The dryer was fine, but the washer would sometimes fail to pump out all the water or even spin the laundry. We had it looked at once under warrantee and learned to deal with some new quirks.

Then we started noticing something else: a musty mildewy smell on our “freshly washed” clothes. We managed to beat back the mildew with judicious use of bleach, but it would always return eventually. By this summer, the mildew was down in the rubber of the door seal, not just on the surface. Ick. We were fed up. Of course, the thing was out of warrantee, so we started shopping around for a new washer and drier.

When we remodeled the house, we put in a laundry room upstairs. Space was tight, so we designed it for a stacked washer and dryer. Without doing more remodeling, we had no choice but to go with another stack. Unfortunately, the only company that still makes a front-loading stack is Maytag. No. No. No. Not again. We started looking at “stackable” units with a separate washer and dryer that stack together, usually with some sort of “stack kit” to hold them together.

Our list of possibilities quickly narrowed to three European brands: Asko, Bosch, and Miele. A quick survey of online opinions eliminated Asko, which appears to have recurring reliability and customer service issues, and gave a slight edge to Miele. We stopped by Albert Lee to check out the Bosch and Miele and left with a delivery appointment for a Miele W1113 washer and T1302 dryer.

Miele is a German company whose corporate sloagn is Immer besser: Forever better. It shows. Our new washer and dryer are smaller outside than our old Maytag, yet hold about the same amount. The washer spins much faster, yet shakes less. Like most European models, it has a water heater, so a hot wash is really hot (great for diapers). It has a wash drum with a patented honeycomb pattern that is supposed to be extra gentle on clothes (we’ve noticed much less lint in the dryer filter). And, it’s built like a tank. The Maytag seemed like a loosely affiliated group of parts; the Miele seems more like a precision instrument. Miele claims that their washers and dryers last almost 50% longer than other brands. You can even watch an ongoing stress test online (warning: watching a webcam pointed at a washer and dryer is fun for less time than it takes the page to load). Of course, it does a great job of cleaning our clothes, too.

Anyway, this whole big story has a punch line of sorts. It turns out that there was a class-action lawsuit against Maytag for problems with its front-loading washers. You know, problems like wonky control circuitry, persistent mildew and the like. I’m not sure why we were never notified, but the final date for filing a claim was 9 August 2005. The settlement wouldn’t have done us much good anyway. It would only pay for repair or replacement costs that happened before 9 August 2004 or provide a discount on a new Maytag top-loader. No thanks. Unfortunately, we’re bound by the settlement even though we just found out about it. The FAQ on the lawsuit web site makes it pretty clear:

If you are a Class Member and do nothing, you will also be part of the Class and all of the Court’s orders will apply to you. You won’t be able to start a lawsuit or be part of any other lawsuit against Maytag about the claims in this lawsuit, ever again.

Great. We’re happy with our Miele, though. Their US subsidiary uses the slogan “Anything else is a compromise.” We’re inclined to agree.