While recent technologies continue to develop impressive machines that will make the vacuuming chore less tiring, vacuuming stairs remains and will always remain a challenge.
What makes it even more difficult is that there is no specific vacuum designed to clean the stairs.
Still, some models offer smart features that will help the cleaning process to be as easy and streamlined as possible. To help you pick up the best vacuum for stairs, we researched a dozen of vacuums and tested the most advantageous and efficient models for 8 hours in our homes.
We came to the conclusion that the Dyson V11 Torque Drive is the best for any cleaning jobs on your stairs. If you’re owning pets and dealing with pet hair and fur on a daily basis, consider the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum and if you need a machine for carpeted stairs, try the powerful Shark Navigator Lift-away.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall - Dyson V11 Torque Drive
- Best Budget - Bissell Featherweight
- Best Handheld - BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster
- Best for Carpet - Shark Navigator Lift-Away
- Best for Pet Hair - BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum
- LCD display screen
- Incredible attachments
- Extremely powerful
- Simple user-friendly design
- Multiple cleaning modes
- Small floor head comaptible for stairs
- Convenient for quick stair clean-ups
- Small dust cup
- Cordless operation
- Comfortable lightweight design
- Perfect for small messes
- Limited run times
- Strong suction
- Advanced filtration system
- Easy to empty dust bin
- Low price tag
- 3 useful accessories included
- Compact comfortable design
- Short running time
- Reach and cord length,
- Hose flexibility,
- Attachments to clean stairs
- Bonus: complete vacuum with handheld or detachable pod feature
- 1. Remove any large pieces of debris that could get clogged in the vacuum.
- 2. Clean the edges and tight corners of the stairs. A crevice tool is very helpful for this step. Remove the crevice tool when done.
- 3. Go to the top of the stairs to start cleaning the treads and risers. This will let any debris fall down, which will eventually be cleaned in this process.
- 4. Move your vacuum back and forth on the treads (the part of the stair you step on).
- 5. Use an attachment or move your vacuum to clean the riser (the vertical part between treads).
- 6. Move down the stairs carefully, cleaning each riser and tread as you go until finished.
- Best Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
- Best Lightweight Vacuum Cleaners
- Best Cordless Stick Vacuums
- Best Backpack Vacuums
The Dyson V11’s performance at cleaning stairs during our testing impressed us so much that selecting it as our best overall choice just made sense.
Alongside a clever design and outstanding maneuverability, it has many times proven to be exceptionally powerful and efficient to capture dust and dirt in its path.
The power of the three auto-adjusting motor levels combined with the 5 attachments adds valuable versatility and convenience. We undoubtedly found it to be an effective solution for both carpeted and bare-floor stairs.
And if you want to select and adjust the power settings, you can thanks to the touchscreen panel and the easy control over your cleaning.
We also loved how lightweight and maneuverable its shape and size were – making it super easy when cleaning the stairs. We also didn’t have any trouble moving it up and down stairways.
And just like many Dyson models, this cordless stick vacuum has the ability to convert easily into a handheld vac which is always a convenient feature, especially on the stairs.
What’s more, the built-in rechargeable battery offers 60 minutes of run time in eco mode which we found quite remarkable. If you switch to the boost mode, you’ll be left with 6 minutes of intensive cleaning time. Too short for whole-house cleaning but perfect for spot-cleaning dirty stairs.
There’s so much to love in this Dyson vacuum cleaner and more than 11,000 confirm our opinion.
The only hiccup is that we found this powerful vacuum noisy. So if you’re noise sensitive, you might consider another model. Otherwise, we think that it’s an excellent choice for homes with stairs.
What Customers Are Saying
Satisfied customers loved that no power was lost when transforming it to a handheld. The same power that can clean your carpets thoroughly can give you deep-cleaned stairs without needing to lug the entire vacuum around.
However, many customers hoped to increase the long battery life with the use of a second battery. But they couldn’t as replacing a battery involves removing screws to get to the correct part.
Price at time of publish: $539.00
|Bin Volume:||3.15 oz|
|Battery Life:||60 minutes|
|Compatible floor types:||hardwood, tiles, carpets, hard floors|
|Accessories:||Combination tool, Mini soft dusting brush, Crevice tool ,Stiff bristle brush, Mini motorized brush head, Wand storage clip|
Read Full Review: Bissell Featherweight Vacuum
The Bissel Featherweight has nothing to envy the most expensive models.
During our stairs cleaning session, we were really surprised by its ability to tackle everything from large detritus like corn nuts to small debris like hairs or breadcrumbs for a fraction of the price.
The suction is so strong that the floor head is stuck to the floor – something we experienced only with this model so far.
We were really curious about the three cleaning modes so we tested all of them to clean the stairs. And the three cleaning modes are all compatible with stair cleaning which is remarkable in our opinion.
To transform the Bissell into a stair vacuum, we simply had to attach the floor nozzle attachment and remove the handle. From there, the suction – while not adjustable – easily picked up the various debris without failing or decreasing in power.
We also found the handheld mode with the crevice tool very helpful and handy to clean around the stairs’ edges and corners. And the lightweight design combined with a small floor head made it easy to maneuver around the staircases of our testing area.
It does have a few glitches, but it is worth the splurge for a versatile vacuum that’s easy to use, lightweight, and converts into a handheld or stair vacuum, all for a price tag under $40.
For instance, with 0.67 liters capacity, don’t expect a spacious dustbin. Even if it’s really straightforward to empty, it required us to empty it several times in one cleaning session.
And while the cord allowed us to clean nonstop, we noticed that it was on the shorter side. Depending on the size of your stairs and your outlet positions, the 15-foot cord length might prevent you from properly using the vacuum – which was unfortunately our case. To clean all our stairs, we had to use an extension cord, which can pose some risks on the stairs.
We also found it very difficult to detach the floor head from the main unit. It took so much strength that we wondered if removing the floor head was even possible.
While we can’t ignore these designs’ drawbacks, we still think it’s a great basic affordable option for stairs and household cleaning in general.
Price at time of publish: $33.98
|Cord Length:||15 feet|
|Compatible floor types:||Hard Floor, Bare Floor, Carpet, Upholstery|
While most models on our list can be transformed into handheld, this Black+Decker Dustbuster deserved the best handheld spot for its reliability in the long run, convenient portability, and effective performance at vacuuming stairs.
We used it to vacuum various debris such as breadcrumbs, rice, cat litter and hairs as well as dust and dirt on our hardwood stairs. In our tests, we were amazed by its ability to suck up literally anything on its way.
However, if you have carpeted stairs, it’s another story. We noticed that it does a decent job on low-pile or high-pile carpets alike, but only after a few passes. Don’t forget to use the brush attachment for that purpose.
And because the price is wallet-friendly, we hesitated to offer it the best budget pick category. We finally were convinced by its standout cord-free feature which we found definitively useful. No cords to get the feet tangled up in.
Another perk is that the BLACK+DECKER dustbuster comes with two integrated attachment tools: the crevice tool comes in handy to get into tight spaces and staircases corners, while the brush attachment is a terrific tool for carpeted stairs. And since both are integrated, we always had them on hand, which we found to be an ingenious feature.
And despite its small design, the 0.4 liters dust cup capacity of this dustbuster is enough to avoid numerous trips to the trash can.
That being said, with a continuous run time of 15 minutes tops, the battery life could be better. And since there is no indicator light to know when it’s fully charged, we can’t tell you for sure the time it will take. We also found it noisy for a small appliance – more than its two counterparts from this list.
But considering the low price tag, the remarkable performance, and overall stunning cleaning abilities, we found these minor flaws to be more than acceptable.
What Customers Are Saying
Many customers enjoyed the Dustbuster’s portability. Weighing less than three pounds, this makes it easy to traverse stairs or other parts of your home with it in tow.
Other customers love the power packed into such a small package. Able to maintain consistency and suction, this vacuum can clean messes of all sizes without getting clogged.
But disappointed customers suggest that the battery doesn’t last long between charges. They also pointed out that this vacuum has a suction that could be better.
Price at time of publish: $40
|Bin Volume:||0.8 pounds|
|Battery Life:||15 minutes|
|Compatible floor types:||hard floors|
|Accessories:||Brush tool, crevice tool|
Read Full Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum
We found this Shark Navigator to be a game changer if you have carpeted stairs.
First, it’s a 2-in1 vacuum meaning you can use it both in upright and handheld mode thanks to its detachable canister. Of course, we tested the second option on our stairs.
With just the push of a button, we took the detachable canister out and used the lift-away mode. For a lightweight experience, we carried the pod in one hand – no need to carry the whole machine up in each step.
Combined with the upholstery tool, we cleaned around the stairs with ease. We also found the crevice tool to be very helpful for cleaning tighter spots, too.
Second, it has a complete seal technology combined with a HEPA filter (the one that traps 99.9 percent of allergens), making it a solid choice for carpeted areas.
To be completely honest, we didn’t test it on carpeted stairs because our stairs are made of hardwood. But we tested separately on stairs and then on carpets.
And this Shark proved to be very effective and powerful in both situations. So even if we didn’t test on carpeted stairs, we’re absolutely confident in its cleaning abilities to remove dust and dirt particles from this type of surface.
Just like many Shark models, this is a corded model so we didn’t have to worry about losing suction or running out of power. Thankfully, the 25-foot cord gave us plenty of reach to clean our stairs – but may feel on the shorter side if you want to clean larger rooms.
Also, with so many pieces to attach and detach, there’s a bit of a learning curve when using it. We found that there was a stark contrast to the Dyson V11, which is more intuitive and fun to use.
While this model may have limited features to clean under low pieces of furniture or a lower-capacity dust cup compared to other upright models, you can’t beat practicality, performance, and smart design for such a low price point.
What Customers Are Saying
Users complimented the light and maneuverable design of this Shark, especially when cleaning stairs. They also praised its ability to suck up any kinds of debris and hairs from low-pile carpets.
However, they regretted how it struggled with high pile carpets. The roller may stop turning, meaning you have to work to keep the head moving. Not really convenient.
Price at time of publish: $179
|Bin Volume:||1.1 Quarts|
|Cord Length:||25 feet|
|Compatible floor types:||carpeted stairs, hard floors|
|Accessories:||Upholstery tool, crevice tool|
You’ll love using the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Hand vacuum to suck up pet hair, cat litter, and fur from the stairs.
We didn’t test it in our homes, but this model convinced us by its ability to handle pet hair well. Whether you have hard floors or carpeted stairs, you’ll remove hair after a few quick passes only. This motorized handheld vacuum will do the best job to pull embedded hairs out – say numerous reviewers.
We tested this model on hard floor stairs and this model convinced us by its ability to handle pet hair well. But whether you have hard floors or carpeted stairs, you’ll remove hair after a few quick passes only. This motorized handheld vacuum will do the best job to pull embedded hairs out – say numerous reviewers.
We also enjoyed its portable design. Weighing 3 pounds and with a well-balanced handle, this vacuum felt light on our wrists and compact in size. We found this mini vacuum is really perfect to just grab and go – which is just what you need to vacuum stairs and what we were looking for.
Even though it’s small, we noticed that the dustbin is surprisingly large (proportionally speaking). With 0.18 gallons, we made fewer trips to empty it.
Speaking of emptying this vacuum, the process is incredibly simple and mess-free. When the dustbin was full of pet hair, we just had to press the release button and clear it from the dirt.
And since the dust compartment is see-through, no need to play guess-and-check – we immediately knew when it was saturated.
But with 6 hours (at least) to fully charge this cordless vacuum and only 15 minutes to drain it completely when in use, we found it to be on the low side. Handheld vacuums are known for not lasting very long, but we found 15 minutes to be really short. Thankfully, we were able to clean all our stairs within this time frame.
We also felt that the motorized brush would perform better on carpeted stairs than on hard-floor stairs. The suction is strong, but since the brush doesn’t adhere well to hard floors, we noticed that it tends to scatter dust and debris.
Still, we believe that this pet hair pick will perform well on your stairs and is worth the splurge.
Price at time of publish: $79
|Bin Volume:||0.18 gallons|
|Battery Life:||15 minutes|
|Compatible floor types: rugs, hard floors||N/A|
|Accessories:||Crevice Tool, Motorized Brush Tool, Upholstery Tool|
How We Picked And Tested the Best Vacuums for Stairs
To select the best vacuum for stairs, we first conducted deep research on the most pertinent features to have when buying such an appliance.
We also based our research on our own experience cleaning stairs. We conducted a real reflection on the best characteristics we would expect as a user to make the chore less challenging.
Then, we dived into the web to find and read blog posts and forum discussions from users and cleaning experts. We reviewed product specifications, questions and answers from purchasers on various marketplaces such as Amazon or Walmart. We watched videos and tutorials of testers vacuuming stairs.
From there, we could establish a list of the most valuable attributes a vacuum for stairs should have, such as:
We also considered the brand reputation, durability, price, and warranty. Based on this list, we selected a dozen of promising models. We compared each model, and detailed their pros and cons according to customer reviews, experts’ insights as well as our own opinion.
Then we tested them in real-life conditions for 8 hours.
Our first focus was the cleaning effectiveness of each model. We used each of them to vacuum dirt, dust, pet hair, and debris from stairs, on both carpeted and hard surfaces.
While handling the vacuums, we rated their ease of movement, considering their weight, size, and overall maneuverability.
We examined their reach capability to clean stairs from top to bottom, especially for corded models (cord length). For cordless models, we paid attention to their autonomy and battery runtime.
Regarding the attachments, we challenged their effectiveness and studied if they were designed for cleaning stairs in mind. We prioritized testing crevice tools, upholstery brushes, and mini-motorized brushes.
Running up and down stairs can also be very tiring so we took a close look at the dust bin capacity and if it required to be emptied after a cleaning session or in the middle of it.
After our testing sessions, we reported the results into spreadsheets and rated each factor out of 10. We analyzed the data and identified the top performers excelling in cleaning stairs and meeting the above-mentioned criteria.
Finally, we ranked the vacuums based on their performance. And for each top performer, we identified a best category.
What To Look For in a Vacuum for Stair
Corded vs. Cordless
When purchasing a vacuum for stairs, the decision of opting for a corded or cordless model depends on your needs and household configuration. A corded vacuum offers the freedom of vacuuming without limited runtime.
But you should pay attention to the cord length and the position of your outlets. If the cord is too short or the outlets are too far from your stairs, you won’t be able to clean your stairs properly.
Corded models on our list have a cord length of 15 – 25 feet at least so make sure it’s long enough for you.
On the other hand, cordless models offer a particular convenience but are limited to short cleaning jobs. The most performing model on our list in terms of battery runtime is the Dyson V11. If you’re using the eco mode, you’ll enjoy 45 continuous runtimes.
Also, take into account that if you’re using vacuum cleaners on carpeted stairs, you’ll have a shorter runtime.
Using a vacuum to clean the stairs is a process where you’ll either be taking the machine up and down, or pushing and pulling the vacuum with your hands.
As such, the weight of the vacuum can become quite problematic, especially if you’re using it for an extended period of time. This is why you want to take a close look at models that are either lightweight or offer a weightless handheld or pod version.
All our best picks (when transformed into handheld or using a detachable pod) weigh under 3 pounds while still managing to deliver effective suction power.
If you want to give your stairs a good deep clean, make sure the vacuum you’ll select has the right attachments to get the job done.
A crevice tool can access corners and clean between railings, while an upholstery brush can remove ground-in dirt from carpeted stairs. An extension wand can also be truly valuable to reach certain staircases.
A model that won’t include these accessories might not be able to clean your stairs as thoroughly as you’d like.
The best pick we’d recommend for its attachments is our best overall, the Dyson V11. It comes with 5 attachments that will help you accomplish a complete clean session.
How To Vacuum Stairs?
How often do you have to vacuum stairs?
We recommend cleaning stairs at least once a week to keep them free from dust, dirt and debris.
If you have a busy household with kids or pets, two to three times a week may be necessary.
Is There a Robot Vacuum for Stairs?
No, at least not yet. Robot vacuums on the market aren’t designed to climb stairs and can fall if attempted. Many models warn the owners when it even comes near stairs.
But there’s hope. Dyson has patented a robot vacuum design that could climb stairs. Just nothing has been released yet.
Why Trust The Housewire
Claire Onidi, a cleaning and organization enthusiast, wrote this article. Claire writes for The Housewire since 2018. But she’s writing articles in the cleaning niche for a decade. She tested and reviewed multiple cleaning tools like mops, vacuums, and other appliances for various clients. For this article, she conducted hours of research and tested dozen of vacuums side-by-side in her own home for several hours. She also considered users’ insights when shortlisting her top picks. For further information on the two Bissell models on her list – and generally speaking on the best features for stairs, she reached out Caroline Vollmar, a BISSELL marketing representative at the BISSEL company. She also spoke to engineers at Dyson, BLACK&DECKER, and Shark; a vacuum sale representative and a vacuum repair specialist; as well as company representatives and product managers. Finally, she interviewed Aurélie Soula, an osteopath and back pain expert, on what to look for in a vacuum for stairs to make the cleaning session less tiring for the body.
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