Vacuuming stairs regularly will help them look good while extending the lifespan of carpeting and runners. But the need to move up and down and access tight corners can make stairs a pain to clean, literally. Between risers, treads, and stair noses, plenty of dust and debris gets caught in this high-traffic thoroughfare. Fortunately, some vacuums are better than others when it comes to getting the job done safely and easily.
If you’ve ever tried to lug a big canister vacuum with a short hose up the stairs, you’re probably ready for a newer, lighter vacuum. This guide can help you find a model that will reduce chances of tripping, falling, and post-cleaning backaches. Read on to learn about the features to look for while shopping for the best vacuum for stairs, and find out why these models are top performers. Also, discover which one I’ve personally reviewed and have been using to keep my stairs free from messes for a while.
- BEST OVERALL: Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Bissell Featherweight Stick Vacuum
- BEST HANDHELD: Black+Decker Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum
- BEST FOR CARPETED STAIRS: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Black+Decker 20V Max Flex Handheld Vacuum
- BEST CORDLESS: Eureka RapidClean Pro Vacuum
- BEST FOR PET HAIR: Shark IZ163H Rocket Pet Pro Vacuum
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Vacuum for Stairs
With so many options on the market, selecting the best vacuum for stairs in your home can be confusing. Discover the differences between canisters and uprights, bagged and bagless, corded and cordless models, as well as other factors to keep in mind, including size, type, suction power, and ease of use.
Size and Type
A bulky vacuum can be hard to use when cleaning stairs, so it’s advisable to go with one that’s slim, lightweight, and a breeze to maneuver.
An upright vacuum allows you to clean without too much bending, but these models can be heavy and prone to toppling over when moving on stairs. Look for one that is well designed and lightweight, with ample cord length.
Stick vacuums are slim, lightweight, and the tallness of the stick minimizes bending—all of which makes them a good choice for stairs. Many are battery-powered, eliminating the need for a cord that can limit distance and pose as a tripping hazard. Some sticks even convert into a handheld, which is ideal for smaller cleaning tasks.
Handhelds are the easiest to maneuver since they are generally compact and cordless, but they require you to bend to reach the stairs. Some options may not be powerful enough to pick up all accumulated debris; so if you prefer a handheld, look for one equipped with high-capacity batteries, a powerful airflow system, and a motorized brush roll.
While you can find canister vacuums that are efficient for stairs, make sure the one you choose has a long hose that can reach all the way to the top of the stairs to avoid carrying a heavy, cumbersome unit up and down.
Ease of Use
Seniors and those with limited mobility may wish to avoid carrying a heavy model up and down stairs. Stick and upright options are of lighter weight and easier to use. Though handhelds are good for getting into tight corners, bending can be difficult and tiresome.
Cordless stick vacuums are the easiest, most comfortable option. If you prefer an upright, select one with a swiveling body of 180-degrees or more for less challenging maneuverability in tight stair corners.
Also look for an ergonomic handle that feels good in the hand. Easy access controls are important, too; an on-off button on the handle is ideal, with foot-controlled buttons and release levers for easy operation.
Bagged vs. Bagless
In terms of getting debris out of the vacuum and into the trash, you have two options: bagged or bagless. With a bagged model, you’ll need to buy replacement bags and change them once full. Debris should be well contained in the bag, with little chance of dust, dirt, and allergens escaping into the air. Bagged vacuums also offer higher capacity, which is helpful for high traffic spaces that tend to gather more debris, especially in homes inhabited by pets and children.
Bagless versions will save the expense of replacement bags, but the dirt that collects in the cup or bin may release allergens into the air during disposal. If this is a concern, look for a bagless model with an integrated HEPA filter. The cups/bins on bagless versions can be on the small side, which means more frequent emptying is required, so take this into consideration when evaluating your space.
Cordless vs. Corded
Vacuum cords can be limiting when it comes to cleaning stairs, with cordless being optimal for moving up and down. Cordless options are easy to use, don’t require an outlet, and can be easily transported to the top of the stairs. Battery power on cordless models typically lasts from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, with pricier options getting you closer to the latter.
When opting for a cordless model, make sure it has battery power of at least 25 to 30 minutes so that you can get your cleaning done without having to stop for charging; once the battery runs down it will likely need to recharge for 3 hours or more. Note that some vacuums are sold with two batteries, so you can use one while the other is charging to gain ample cleaning time.
If you want to purchase just one multi-use vacuum, a corded model will often have higher capacity and greater suction power, which can be more effective for large carpeted areas. To avoid lugging the vacuum up and down, choose a model with a long, retractable cord. A 15 foot cord will generally be long enough to reach the top of stairs in most homes.
The type of floors in your home is an important factor when it comes to suction power. If you have mostly hardwood, tile, or other smooth surfaces, with some area rugs here and there, you won’t need as much suction as homes with large areas of carpeting and high-pile rugs. Suction power is what allows your vacuum to reach deep into carpet fibers to remove deep-set debris.
Some manufacturers tout suction power; for brands that don’t, consider other factors. With corded vacuums, for instance, the higher the air watts (AW), the stronger the power. Uprights with a 100 AW or more will be sufficient, while canisters should have at least 220 AW but more ideally over 300. For cordless models, choose one ranging between 80 and 100 AW.
For a cordless machine, it’s also important to note the battery life and runtime, which commonly ranges from 15 to 45 minutes. A double battery pack will give you the longest cleaning time. A motorized brush that rotates will increase the machine’s ability to collect deep-set dirt from carpet fibers.
Attachments can help get all areas of your stairs clean. A narrow, pointed crevice tool will assist cleaning hard-to-reach corners and between railings. A brush attachment can be useful on carpeted stairs, effectively pulling out dust and debris. A pet hair brush is a plus if you have a cat or dog.
For hardwood floors and uncarpeted stairs, attachments such as a flat wide tool with short bristles for sweeping will glide on smooth surfaces without damaging them. A dust brush is handy for light dusting of furniture, blinds, lampshades and more, and won’t scratch surfaces.
Our Top Picks
The best vacuums for stairs are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and allow you to clean hard-to- access spaces safely and effectively. The following models all meet these standards, with different features and conveniences for their respective categories.
For homes that are short on space or where food crumbs and dog hair make a regular appearance, the Dyson V8 Animal is a must-have item, offering users a compact and simple way to keep up with messes. Though I initially balked at purchasing one due to the high price tag, ever-present food crumbs and dog hair eventually wore me down, and I purchased it. Since I did that, it’s been virtually the only vacuum I need.
Plus, its design and extra features make cleaning the stairs so easy. At just 5.5 pounds, the Animal itself is compact, but the ergonomic handle is broad and comfortable, and the power trigger is placed right at your forefinger for easy operation. This cordless model also offers 40 minutes of continuous suction for either hardwood or carpeted surfaces and includes a variety of attachments. With easy-release mechanisms that allow for swapping attachments quickly, the Dyson V8 Animal is super easy to grab and go. After using it in my own home for years, I can say that it’s a splurge-worthy vacuum that’s great for any busy household.
If you want a bagless vacuum dedicated to cleaning stairs and smaller areas only—and don’t want to pay a lot for it—consider this Bissell model. The stick-handheld combo weighs only 2.6 pounds and is suitable for both hardwood and carpeted surfaces. It includes an attachment made specifically for stairs and a crevice tool ideal for corners.
Cord length is 15 feet, which should be adequate for average-size stairways. This device has a small dirt cup and reasonable suction; it’s especially handy for light pickups or daily upkeep.
Thanks to a lithium-ion battery, this little dynamo of a dustbuster can hold a charge for 18 months off the charger and provide up to 4 hours of cleaning time. It features strong suction power and an ample bagless dust bowl capacity. A translucent canister lets you see when the bowl is full so it can be easily removed and washed in the sink.
A slim nozzle rotates at 180 degrees, allowing for easy stair cleaning, while a pullout crevice tool helps to pick up debris stuck in tight corners. Weighing in at only 2.6 pounds, this handheld vacuum is both lightweight and easy to maneuver.
If your carpeted stairs see lots of traffic, this corded Shark is a worthy contender to get them clean. At 1,200 watts, it boasts super strong suction for carpeted surfaces, yet the spinning brush can be turned off for gentler cleaning on hardwoods.
When used as an upright, advanced swivel steering makes for easy maneuverability. The 7.5-pound canister can be detached and carried one-handed as you move up and down stairs, while a crevice tool attachment helps access tight corners.
The Shark weighs 12.5 pounds in total. An integrated HEPA filter traps dust and allergens inside the vacuum to facilitate cleaner indoor air quality. The extra large 12-quart dust cup allows for plenty of cleaning time before emptying.
This cordless vacuum is both lightweight and versatile, with a variety of attachments, including a stick option that’s good for tackling larger areas. The pet brush attachment is helpful for cleaning dog and cat hair that gets caught on stair treads, while a 4-foot flexible hose and crevice tool help reach into tight corners.
A lithium-ion battery in the charging base offers a strong charge for extended cleaning time of about 20 minutes. To reduce allergens, a three-stage filtration system prevents dust and debris from escaping the spacious 17-ounce dustbowl. The bowl and filter are removable for easy cleaning.
At 5.6 pounds, this cordless stick vacuum is well suited to moving up and down both smooth and carpeted stairs. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery will give you 40 minutes of cleaning time and a max power option allows you to increase suction for stronger cleaning on carpeted stairs. The stick easily converts into a handheld vacuum, which can be used with the crevice tool attachment to access corners.
The bagless machine is designed with the dust cup located on the front, so the vacuum can lay down flat to easily clean stair treads or under furniture without being blocked by the container. A swivel head allows for easy maneuvering in tight spaces. LED lights make dust and debris visible for thorough cleaning. There’s even an Easy Rest nook that lets you prop the vacuum up on countertops and furniture if you want to take a break.
The Rocket Pet Pro features Shark’s Dirt Engage technology, which aims to lift hair and embedded dirt from both smooth and carpeted surfaces. The self-cleaning brush roll provides continual pet hair removal, and the wand can bend to accommodate different angles, helpful for hard-to-access spaces and stair treads.
This Shark converts to a handheld vacuum that can be fitted with a crevice or multi-pet tool for additional pet hair pickup. A HEPA filter traps dust and allergens inside the vacuum cleaner, making it ideal for allergy sufferers, and the large, removable dust cup can be easily emptied and washed. This vacuum weighs just over 7 pounds, making it fairly easy to carry up and down stairs. It is freestanding, so no wall mount is needed.
FAQs About Your New Vacuum for Stairs
Armed with excellent shopping tips, you may now want some tips for cleaning stairs. Get the answers to these and other commonly asked questions about vacuuming stairs.
Q. How do you vacuum carpet on stairs?
When vacuuming carpeted stairs, first remove any large debris that could clog the vacuum and dust the handrails and stair spindles. Next, attach a crevice tool to clean the corners. Once you have finished with the tight spaces, replace the attachment with a wider brush to clean the surface of each step. After vacuuming the flat stair surface, don’t forget to run it over the vertical risers in an up-and-down motion.
Q. How often should you vacuum your stairs?
You should clean your stairs whenever you vacuum your whole house or when you notice hair or debris on the surface.
Q. Is there a robot vacuum for stairs?
Since it cannot climb steps or access corners easily, a robot vacuum is not an ideal choice for stairs.