Vacuuming stairs regularly will help them look good while extending the lifespan of carpeting and runners. 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. To help you select the right machine for your space, we spent a month putting some popular models through their paces and are here to report back on our Top Picks’ features, usability, and performance.
Read on for shopping guidance when assessing models and to see how all of the following products fared in our hands-on tests.
- BEST OVERALL: Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK : Bissell FeatherWeight Lightweight Stick Vacuum
- UPGRADE PICK: Dyson V12 Detect Slim Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
- BEST HANDHELD: Black+Decker 20V MAX Cordless Handheld Vacuum
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Black+Decker 20V MAX Cordless Flex Handheld Vacuum
- BEST CORDLESS: Eureka RapidClean Pro Vacuum
- BEST FOR PET HAIR: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Vacuum
- BEST FOR CARPET: Shark Rotator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
How We Tested the Best Vacuums for Stairs
The best vacuum cleaners for stairs can reduce the amount of dust, allergens, and pet hair on hard surfaces and carpeted staircases. When choosing products to test, we picked a combination of stick, handheld, or combination vacuum cleaner types to meet the needs of various customers and spaces. During the reviews, we noted the type, adjustability, wattage, attachments included, filtration type, and other special features as we entered the specs and our observations into a testing rubric.
Upon arrival, we assembled each device according to the manufacturer’s instructions, noting the ease of assembly for both the body and attachments and different configurations. We charged the machines based on user manual recommendations. We carried each up and down the stairs, noting the weight and any cord considerations. We even dropped the devices on different surfaces, taking note of the durability.
To test the efficiency of the vacuums, we used each one to clean a set of stairs with a jute runner and one with just hardwood flooring. We also tested the cleaners on area rugs and upholstery.
We scattered smaller particles (sand) and larger items (beads and paper scraps) to test the power of the suction, noting efficiency and runtime in different modes. We tried out all the attachments and other included accessories. Once we finished vacuuming, we emptied the dust bins, noting the ease of use, cleanliness, and the contents.
Our Top Picks
The best vacuums for stairs are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and allow users to clean hard-to-access spaces safely and effectively. Get the details about our top picks and see how well they performed during hands-on testing.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver, Dyson’s V8 Cordless Stick Vacuum proved to be our top choice for cleaning stairs. It can be used upright for treads and then easily transformed into a handheld with a crevice tool for hard-to-reach corners.
The V8 cordless stick vacuum has all the features we need for cleaning stairs while coming in at a lower price point than most of its competition (although still an investment). The 40-minute runtime was plenty to cover all the stairs in our house, plus light cleaning elsewhere, while the included crevice tool allowed us to reach dusty corners easily.
We found the motor powerful enough to pick up debris from kids’ craft projects, like beads and googly eyes, especially on carpeted stairs. Its “max-power” mode was most effective but significantly cut the charge time. The 0.54-liter bin has plenty of room for a full cleaning and is simple to empty with a dirt-ejector trigger.
A newer feature on this model versus the old V8 is the Motobar cleaner head, which boasts a detangling comb that clears hair from the motorized brush bar, sucking it straight into the bin. We also appreciated the addition of the hair screw tool: a mini motorized brush that is ideal for smaller spaces. Opt for the Absolut model with the additional Fluffy head cleaner if the home has primarily hardwood stairs.
The V8 cordless vacuum is simple to assemble out of the box, with parts that easily snap into place. We hung the charging dock inside a closet and loved that we didn’t have to think about charging it between uses.
- Type: Stick
- Air watts: 115
- Attachments included: Motorbar cleaner head, crevice tool, hair screw tool, combination tool
- Features acoustic control for 50 percent quieter operation than earlier models
- The 6-cell lithium-ion battery enables a runtime of up to 40 minutes
- Users won’t come into contact with dirt or dust when ejecting the dustbin
- Lightweight, cordless design allows for excellent maneuverability up and down stairs
- Battery life drains quickly when the device is used on max-power mode
- Though not as expensive as its successors, the V8 is still a hefty investment
Get the Dyson V8 vacuum for stairs at Amazon or Best Buy.
Those in the market for a bagless vacuum dedicated to cleaning stairs and smaller areas only—and don’t want to pay a lot for it—should consider this Bissell model. The stick-handheld vacuum combo is exceptionally lightweight, weighing only 2.6 pounds, and works equally well on hardwood and carpeted surfaces.
In testing, it functioned great as a handheld, but we preferred the stick attachment when cleaning the stairs. We assembled the upright option in under 2 minutes and finished the corners by popping in the included crevice tool. We do wish there was a button ejector for the attachments, but swapping them out was still relatively simple. This compact unit easily fits in the closet or under the bed after use, which is another plus.
Though this model is corded, at 15 feet long, it proved adequate to reach the top of our average-size stairway. The ample suction was powerful enough to lift away smaller pieces of paper and larger beads in one pass. The dirt cup is on the small side, though.
- Type: Stick
- Air watts: 240
- Attachments included: Floor nozzle and crevice tool
- Budget-friendly bagless unit boasts an easy-to-empty dustbin
- A breeze to use, thanks to its 2.6-pound body
- Conveniently switches from stick to handheld vacuum, but in testing, the stick vacuum configuration worked best for stairs
- Fairly low suction power makes it suitable for light-duty cleaning only
- Model is corded and not suitable for long staircases over 15 feet
Get the Bissell FeatherWeight vacuum for stairs at Amazon, Kohl’s, or Bissell.
Lightweight and easy to maneuver, this device made cleaning stairs a breeze. We were concerned the lack of weight might reflect on its quality, but testing put this worry to rest.
We love that it comes with two different cleaning heads that cater to hardwood and carpeted surfaces. The Fluffy cleaner head is effective on hardwoods, with a laser that detects particles that can’t normally be seen. We were surprised at how much leftover dog hair it revealed! For carpeting, the detangling Motorbar picks up dust and hair while automatically clearing it from the brush bar. It removed all of the visible hair from our runner.
We loved using the smaller hair screw tool attachment on the stairs. It’s a mini motor-driven head with a detangling conical brush bar that spirals hair off and into the bin. A holder located on the stick vacuum cleaner made the crevice tool easy to grab for cleaning corners without going back to the dock.
It beat the heftier V8 on cleaning time, with a runtime of 60 minutes, and the one-touch power button eliminates the need to hold the trigger to keep it running—a unique feature to most cordless Dysons.
One very cool addition is the integrated technology on the base. The display notes what’s been sucked up and how much time is left for each mode. The eco mode extended the running time and was effective enough for our daily run-through. Auto mode was ample for cleaning the stairs and didn’t reduce runtime drastically, while the boost setting was effective for picking up larger debris but did significantly reduce runtime. One drawback is that the bin capacity is smaller than most later-model Dysons, so it needs to be emptied more frequently.
- Type: Stick/handled
- Air watts: 150 AW (in boost mode)
- Attachments included: Laser Slim Fluffy cleaner head, Motorbar cleaner head, hair screw tool, crevice tool, combination tool
- The lightest, smallest Dyson on the market
- Multiple attachments for cleaning both carpeting and hardwood floors
- A 60-minute runtime allows for continuous cleaning without redocking
- Digital display shows the power mode, runtime countdown, and maintenance alerts
- Single on/off switch enables users to run the device without holding the trigger
- The priciest vacuum cleaner in our lineup
- Dustbin is smaller than that on most other Dysons, requiring more frequent emptying
Get the Dyson V12 vacuum for stairs at Dyson, Amazon, Best Buy, or Target.
A foldable and compact design, ample suction, and a large dustbin make this handheld, cordless vacuum a real stair-buster. For those who can comfortably bend down to clean stairs, this model is useful for quick jobs, especially dusty corners with the extendable crevice tool. The 200-degree pivoting nozzle is helpful for vacuuming at different angles. Our runner is jute, so it worked more efficiently on hardwood stairs versus the textured rug. However, it ran smoothly over the couch and low-pile doormat.
A battery indicator lets the user know how much charge remains in the handheld vacuum. After leaving it to charge overnight, we vacuumed for 10 minutes straight, and it was still going. We had a little trouble getting the extendable crevice tool to retract back into the wider suction head, but once we got the hang of it, pushing it down with the thumb and sliding in, the problem was solved.
The dust cup was easy to empty, and we love that it can be detached from the motor to be cleaned at the sink. The dock is convenient for storing the unit, and its compact size makes it easy to carry and simple to tuck away.
- Type: Handheld
- Air watts: 35
- Attachments included: Onboard extendable brush and crevice tool in 1
- Features a spacious built-in 75-milliliter easy-to-empty dustbin
- Mouth of this handheld includes an integrated extendable crevice tool
- Foldable, compact design makes this model simple to store away
- Some users have reported reduced battery life over the lifespan of the device
- Not ideal for textured rugs such as jute or shag
Get the Black+Decker Pivot vacuum for stairs at Amazon or The Home Depot.
We couldn’t believe that there was a vacuum inside the tiny box that arrived. This device is extremely compact and lightweight, a design ideal for small jobs and tight spaces.
Out of the box, this vacuum didn’t require any assembly and easily fit into the base for 4 hours of charging time before use. It came with a pet brush, crevice tool, and flip-up brush. We found the pet brush attachment helpful for cleaning dog hair off the stair treads, while a 4-foot flexible hose and crevice tool allowed us to reach into tight corners. The suction was powerful enough to clean the stairs adequately, but not as strong as some of the other models we tested.
A lithium-ion battery in the charging base offers a strong charge for an extended cleaning time of about 20 minutes. To lift away allergens, a three-stage filtration system prevents dust and debris from escaping the spacious 17-ounce dust bowl. The bowl and filter were simple to remove and empty.
We wouldn’t recommend this model for people who want to avoid bending down. However, the company does offer a version with a stick attachment.
- Type: Handheld
- Air watts: 24
- Attachments included: Crevice tool, pet-hair brush, integrated flip-up brush
- Features a 4-foot flexible hose for extended cleaning reach
- A 3-stage filtration system filters dirt, dust, and allergens
- At just over 3 pounds, lightweight and easy to move up stairs
- Fairly low suction power makes this unit most suitable for small spaces and quick cleanups
Get the Black+Decker FLEX vacuum for stairs at Amazon, The Home Depot, or CPO.
The Eureka RapidClean Pro Vacuum is an excellent option for shoppers looking for a cordless vacuum to handle small jobs at an affordable price point. At 5.6 pounds, it is well suited to moving up and down stairs. It felt lightweight and was easy to carry, but the swivel head combined with the weight centered at the top of the stick made it slightly top-heavy. However, we found it helpful that the dust cup is located in the top front of the unit, so the vacuum can lay down flat to clean stair treads easily. It also emptied neatly with a one-touch release button.
The LED lights on the main cleaner head helps spot dust and hair on hardwoods and carpeting. This cordless vacuum lifted most of the visible hair after a few passes. The amount of suction makes this option well suited for daily run-throughs but probably not whole-house cleaning.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery will give up to 40 minutes of cleaning time, and a max-power option increases suction for stronger cleaning on carpeted stairs. The parts quickly clicked into place before the first use. We love that the stick vacuum can be easily converted into a handheld, which can be used with all the included attachments: the motor head, the crevice tool, and a dust brush.
One drawback is that there is no docking station, so the unit must be plugged in for charging. The Easy Rest nook lets the vacuum be propped up on countertops and furniture when users want to take a break.
- Type: Stick
- Air watts: 150
- Attachments included: Crevice tool, 2-in-1 dusting brush, wall mount
- Can be used as a stick vacuum or a handheld
- Lithium-ion battery offers 40 minutes of runtime
- Cleaner head has built-in LED lights and swivel steering
- More affordable than other cordless stick vacuums on the market
- Canister at the front of the stick head makes unit top-heavy
- Does not include a docking station for charging; storage can be less organized
Get the Eureka vacuum for stairs at Amazon.
Pet lovers are likely to rejoice about this Bissell. The additional tools are what make this handheld perfect for cleaning stairs, for those who can comfortably bend down. The mini brush head quickly snaps into the opening of the handheld for vacuuming stair treads. It is also easy to remove with the quick-release button. To reach corners where pet hair likes to hide, we opted for the crevice attachment, which can also be fitted with the included dusting brush to extend its reach.
Unlike with many handhelds, the button needn’t be held down for operation. As soon as we turned it on, we could feel the powerful suction—and we were pleased to see it pick up finer pet hair left behind by other vacuums we tested.
The 14-volt lithium-ion battery lasted the whole time we were cleaning the stairs, but not much longer—an average of 17 minutes. The dirt bin is simple to empty and features a filter for better cleaning performance and catching dander and pet hair. The drawbacks to this device are the charging time (8 hours before the first use) and the lack of a charging dock.
- Type: Handheld
- Air watts: 14
- Attachments included: Motorized brush head, upholstery tool, crevice tool
- Effectively picks up even fine hair; great for keeping a tidy home
- Compact and can be easily stored away when not in use
- Small motorized head attachment is useful for cleaning larger surfaces
- A 1-touch “on” button means there’s no need to hold down a trigger while cleaning
- At around 17 minutes, the runtime is pretty short, especially considering its long charging time
Get the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser vacuum for stairs at Amazon, Target, or Bissell.
This corded Shark is a worthy contender for shoppers who want one vacuum to clean the stairs as well as other surfaces around the home. For larger spaces, it works well as a standard upright. At 12.5 pounds, it’s heavier than the cordless models on this list but maneuvers easily with advanced swivel steering and a self-propelling motion. An LED light ensures that users won’t miss a single speck of dirt.
At 910 watts, this Shark boasts super-strong suction for carpeted surfaces, yet the spinning brush can be turned off by sliding the selector to hardwood mode for a gentler cleaning. We found it extremely effective at lifting dust and dog hair off both surfaces. In fact, we were surprised how much was in the dustbin after one pass through and didn’t find any hair stuck in the roller. The extra-large 12-quart dust cup allows for plenty of cleaning time before emptying. This Shark requires two hands to open but is relatively easy to empty. An integrated HEPA filter traps dust and allergens inside the vacuum to facilitate cleaner indoor air quality.
For the stairs, a 7.5-pound lift-away pod can be detached from the stick and carried in one hand while moving up and down. Just avoid setting down the detached pod while vacuuming, as it easily tips over. A drawback is that the main brush roller cannot be used as an attachment with the lift-away pod, but to compensate, a smaller turbine brush attachment is a great motorized option for cleaning stairs. Other attachments include a crevice tool and pet multi-tool.
The Shark unit was simple to assemble, reconfigure, and swap in attachments, all clicking quickly into place. The 25-foot cord offers plenty of range, but we do wish it was retractable.
- Type: Stick
- Air watts: 910
- Attachments included: Crevice tool, pet multi-tool, self-cleaning pet power brush
- Shark PowerFins brush roll keeps hair from getting tangled in the cleaner head
- Advanced swivel steering makes device easy to maneuver while cleaning
- Lightweight, detachable pod makes it easy to move up and down stairs
- Built-in HEPA filtration to trap allergens; ideal for sensitive users
- Main cleaner head cannot be used with the lift-away detachable pod
- Nonretractable cord can sometimes get in the way of cleaning
- At 12.5 pounds, the complete unit is fairly heavy to move around
Get the Shark vacuum for stairs at Amazon or Shark.
What to Consider When Choosing a Vacuum for Stairs
With so many options on the market, selecting the ideal vacuum for stairs in a home can be challenging. 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.
- Upright vacuums allow users 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 and lightweight, while the height of the stick minimizes bending—all qualities that make them well suited 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 great for smaller cleaning tasks.
- Handhelds are the easiest to maneuver since they are generally compact and cordless, but they require users to bend to reach the stairs. Some options may not be powerful enough to pick up all accumulated debris; so those who prefer a handheld should look for one equipped with high-capacity batteries, a powerful airflow system, and a motorized brush roll.
- Canister vacuums, which house the engine and filter in the unit’s body and have a hose and wand attached, can be efficient for stairs. Just make sure to choose one with a long hose that can reach all the way to the top of the stairs to avoid carrying a heavy, cumbersome machine 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 vacuums 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. Those who prefer an upright should 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 to grasp. Easy-access controls are important, too; an on/off switch on the handle is ideal, with foot-controlled buttons and release levers for easy operation.
Bagged vs. Bagless
There are two options for getting debris out of the vacuum and into the trash: bagged or bagless.
With a bagged model, users will 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 high-efficiency particulate air (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 the 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 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 cleaning chores can be completed 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 that one can be used while the other is charging to gain ample cleaning time.
Those in the market for just one multiuse vacuum might find a corded model best, since its higher capacity and greater suction power 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 adequate to reach the top of stairs in most homes.
The type of floors in the home is an important factor when it comes to the suction power needed. Those with mostly hardwood, tile, or other smooth surfaces and just a few area rugs here and there won’t need as much suction as homes with large areas of carpeting and high-pile rugs. Strong suction power is what allows a 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 AW. 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 provide 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 stairs clean. A narrow, pointed crevice tool will assist cleaning hard-to-reach corners and between railings. A motorized brush attachment can be useful on carpeted stairs, effectively pulling out dust and debris. A pet-hair brush is a plus if a cat or dog lives in the home.
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.
Armed with excellent shopping intel, 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.
Q. How often should you buy a new vacuum cleaner?
Most vacuums on the market are meant to last for up to 8 years. However, consistent heavy-duty vacuuming can decrease the life and suction of your vacuum cleaner.
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