Guide for Choosing the Best Vacuum for Stairs, Recommendations and Comparisons! (Updated for 2018)
By William Marcus
Vacuuming carpeted stairs presents a significant challenge, especially a full flight of 12 to 13 steps. To do an acceptable job you need a vacuum with specific or specialized features to work best on stairs.
Stairs are what floor care professionals call “high traffic” areas or lanes. Every time a person wants to move to the upper level or lower level of the house they must use the stairs. So, not only does the carpeting on the stairs accumulate a lot of dirt, dust, and debris, the pile gets matted down, making it significantly more difficult to remove the embedded dirt.
To make it even more challenging each stair step has both a horizontal and vertical surface. Most vacuums are designed to work well only on horizontal surfaces.
Almost any vacuum with strong suction works well for cleaning non-carpeted stairs but for carpet you will need a machine with a motorized brush to agitate and lift that embedded dirt from the matted down pile. The brush needs to be easy enough to maneuver on both surfaces.
You may be searching for a new primary vacuum for your home that will also work well for cleaning your stairs. Or perhaps you are looking for an inexpensive supplementary solution. With that in mind I’m going to recommend several options with the hope that one of them will make sense for your specific needs.
As a floor care pro I have used upright vacuums equipped with an expansion hose and attachments, canister vacuums, portable vacuums, and hand-held vacuums to successfully clean stairs. Each of those four options gets the job done with varying degrees of labor or effort.
I’m going to attempt to walk you through each option and point out the Pros and Cons of each so you can decide which one is right for you.
Contents at a Glance
- Guide for Choosing the Best Vacuum for Stairs, Recommendations and Comparisons! (Updated for 2018)
- Option #1 Corded Handheld Vacuums
- Option #2 Cordless Handheld Vacuums
- Option #3 Cordless Stick Vacuum
- Option #4 Canister Vacuum w/ Motor-Powered Brush
- Option #5 Upright Vacuums with Lift-Away or Handheld Feature
Option #1 Corded Handheld Vacuums
A Handheld Corded Vacuum specially designed to work best on stairs offers an excellent option. These appliances are equipped with motorized brushes that have a “Visor” to enable you to clean both the horizontal and the vertical plane of the step without articulating your wrist in an uncomfortable position.
Their powerful and relatively inexpensive and will get the job done.
They do have limited dust cup capacity so you might find yourself having to stop once or twice to empty during each cleaning job.
There is also the issue of the cord. Make sure the model you choose has a long enough power cord to easily reach up or down the full length of your stairway, plus the distance to the closes receptacle. I find that 15 foot is a good minimum length. Of course you can always use an extension cord if necessary.
The EasyClean 71B is a formidable opponent for dirty stairs.
It has a powerful 5.5 amp motor that provides the powerful suction as well as drive the motorized brushroll.
It also has a “Riser Visor” you can flip up or down to allow you to vacuum both the step and the vertical riser of the stair without having to articulate your hand in an uncomfortable position.
A washable filter traps the dirt and is easy to empty and clean.
A long 20 foot long power cord makes it possible to access your entire stair case (in most homes.)
The Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum 71B is a serious option for stairs.
The Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum 71B is a fine quality product that will make cleaning your stairs, well, almost fun!
See the Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum 71B in action!
This Handheld Corded Vacuum is a dirt-gobbling little monster!
Don’t be fooled by the word “handheld,” this is a serious vacuum cleaner!
The 6 amp motor provides all the necessary power to drive the Brushroll and suck the dirt up from stairs or any other surface
The motorized Brushroll has an On/Off switch for vacuuming either Carpeted or Non-Carpeted Stairs.
It has a unique feature that allows you to easily clean the vertical portion of the stair step by rotating the Visor.
The detachable hose along with the included Attachments make it extremely versatile for cleaning chores like furniture, etc.
Very important, it comes with a 25 Foot Long power cord to allow you to reach the top or bottom of almost any stair case.
The Eureka EasyClean Corded Hand-Held Vacuum, 71C is one of the best specialized vacuums for stars!!
And the price is surprisingly affordable!
It is rare to find a Shark vacuum with anything less than a 4.0 Star Customer Rating. J.D. Power and Associates has awarded Shark® their “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Upright Vacuums” award for Two Years in a Row.”*
This excellent Corded Bagless Handheld by SharkNinja is no exception!
The Shark Rocket Corded Hand Vac (HV292) may be the perfect solution for cleaning stairs as well furniture, drapes, and other above-floor areas.
It is one of the most powerful CORDED handheld vacuums currently available that never loses suction as the dirt bin fills. The suction on this hand vac is amazing!
It has a TruePet Motorized brushroll for digging out the most imbedded dirt and pet hair from carpeted stairs.
A 15 foot long cord makes it possible to reach even long stair cases.
You gotta see this versatile vacuum in action!
NOTE: The handy Micro Attachment Kit IS NOT included as shown in the video, however it is available as an “Add On” at Amazon for around $8.
Option #2 Cordless Handheld Vacuums
Only a few short years ago when I first published this article there were no cordless handheld vacuums that had enough power or features to be of any value for cleaning stairs. Now, with all the advancements with battery and DC motor technology a cordless handheld vacuum may offer the very best solution for dealing with stairs.
The cord-free hand vacs recommended below come with motorized mini brushes that are designed to clean both horizontal and vertical surfaces. They have plenty of power to clean your stairs and are lightweight and easy to maneuver. The feature you will like best is there is NO cord to inhibit your wrist movement.
They do tend to be relatively expensive compared to the corded vacs. Like a corded hand vac they do have limited dust cup capacity. Another issue is that eventually, usually after 2 to 5 years of normal use, the battery will no longer hold a charge. That’s why I recommend selecting a model with a replaceable battery as opposed to a built-in battery.
In addition to being a serious solution for cleaning your stairs you will find that a cordless handheld vacuum is indispensable for cleaning day-to-day messes around the house and will typically save you time on your overall whole-house cleaning.
Dyson has been dominating the cordless market because of their innovative features and advancementsthey have made in the technology.
The V7 Trigger produces the strongest suction of any other hand vac currently available. It features a Mini Motorized Tool that easily digs out embedded dirt typically found on stairs.
It is equipped with a unique HYGIENIC Dirt Ejector that lets you eject the trapped dust and dirt without having to touch it. It has plenty of dirt-holding capacity to clean almost any flight of stairs before emptying.
The V7 Trigger employs 15 cyclones that trap microscopic particles as small as 0.5 microns whichmeets HEPA standards.
The Lithium Ion 21.6V Battery is built in and is REPLACEABLE so you don’t have to worry about this tool becoming obsolete in a few years. It will provide enough power to operate for up to 30 minutes without fading.
The only issues I have with this product are it is a bit on the large side and a bit heavy at 4.0 lbs. compared to other cordless hand vacs.
Take a Look at this VIDEO Presentation!
This is exciting product form Dyson is one of the best handheld vacuums for stairs currently available. It is a product you will find yourself using for so many other cleaning jobs around the house.
Dyson backs it up with a 2 Year Warranty that covers parts and labor
This unique battery-powered handheld vacuum is well suited for the job of cleaning your stairs. Amotorized brushroll attachment to dig out the deepest embedded dirt and a commercial grade 22V Lithium-ion provides amazing suction for up to 15 mins. of cleaning.
The battery is REPLACEABLE and easily removable so you can Upgrade the runtime to as much as 30 minutes by simply investing in a second Optional Battery Pack.
This is the only handheld cordless vac that has a built-in Extension Hose for detail cleaning. This feature makes it easy to clean other areas such as the base of the banister pickets while you clean your stairs.
Check out this Cool Demonstration VIDEO!
Bissell has done an excellent job of thinking through the overall design of this product. Not only is this one of the top cordless hand vacuums for cleaning stairs but you will find this to be an exceptionallyversatile tool also.
Bissell Warranties the Lightweight 1985 for 2 Years.
This versatile battery-powered hand vacuum also works very well for keeping your car, boat, or RV clean.
It is similar in size and weight to the Dyson V7 but less expensive.
The Bissell Lightweight 1985 offers a lot of versatility for addressing almost any above-floor cleaning challenge you might encounter.
Option #3 Cordless Stick Vacuum
Another serious option for you to consider for cleaning your stairs is a Cordless Stick Vacuum. Most of the top selling cord-free stick vacs allow you to easily detach the wand and use it as a handheld vacuum. Some of them include mini power brushes designed specifically for jobs like cleaning stairs like the ones I have suggested below.
These machines are wonderful for everyday touch-up cleaning around your home. Some can even be used as a primary vacuum if your home has mostly hard floors and perhaps a few area rugs with low pile. They are extremely versatile and are becoming a “must have” item in many homes.
As with the handheld-only cordless vacs they tend to be relatively expensive. They have limited dirt-holding capacity and eventually the battery will need replacing. However, considering the convenience and time saving they make possible, I believe a top quality Cordless Stick Vacuum makes a whole lot of sense for addressing your stair cleaning chore!
When it comes to overall cleaning capability the Dyson V8 Absolute Stick belongs at the top of the list of the best. Its suction power actually rivals that of many corded upright vacuums.
When using the included Mini Motorized Tool it is a formidable weapon for cleaning even plush carpeted stairs.
You can expect up to 25 minutes of operating time using the motor-powered heads which is more than sufficient for cleaning a whole flight of stairs.
But, in addition to solving your stair cleaning problem, this cordless stick is a godsend for cleaning hardwood or other hard floor surfaces. The power head utilizes a unique Soft material along with integral rows of Carbon Fiber stiff bristles that combine to easily clean fine dust as well as large debris such as cereal and dried pet food from the floor.
It works very well on low to medium pile floor carpet, but it would not be practical for use on deep or plush pile carpeting, as with on stairs.
A unique feature of the V8 Absolute that you will really appreciate is the cleverly designed Dust Cup Emptying System. As you may know, one of the biggest drawbacks to any bagless vacuum is when the Dust Cup is full dirt and hair will often stick to the cyclone apparatus requiring you to reach in with your fingers to remove. Yuck! With the V8 simply pull up on the red release Latch and its good by dirt!
The Dyson V8 Stick is one of few cordless stick vacuums that incorporates a true HEPA Level Filtration System. So, combined with the Dust Cup Emptying System this is a very Allergy-Friendly vacuum.
Watch this Cool Demo VIDEO!
The only issues I have with this product are the Dust Cup is a bit small at .148 gal. and it is pricy!
If you want the one of the best cordless solutions for cleaning your stairs as well as addressing your daily cleaning chores throughout your house the Dyson V8 Absolute is hard to beat!
Another Cordless Stick Vacuum I really like for cleaning stairs is the new tineco A10 Hero CordlessVacuum Cleaner, 350W.
You probably don’t recognize the name Tineco. It is a newly established division of Ecovacs which makes the very popular line of Robotic Vacuums. Their offices are located at 487 Bryant Street, 1st Floor San Francisco, CA 94107, USA.
This stick vac has suction power that rivals the Dyson V8 Absolute. It comes with a Mini Power Brush for tackling those stairs and it’s only about HALF the price of the V8.
You can expect about 25 minutes at normal suction and about 7 minutes on Max. Normal suction is more than adequate for most cleaning applications including carpeted stairs. The Max option is for the really dirty deep down trouble areas.
Watch this Cool Demo VIDEO!
Tineco backs this product with a 2-Year Warranty against defects and workmanship and 5 Years on main digital motor.
The tineco A10 Hero Cordless Vacuum Cleaner, 350W is a really exciting option if you want more than an effective solution for stair cleaning.
Option #4 Canister Vacuum w/ Motor-Powered Brush
If you are looking for a new primary vacuum to clean your floors plus your stairs a Canister Vacuum is definitely an option to consider.
As I pointed out above its critically important that the vacuum is equipped with a motor-driven floor brush to be able to effectively clean carpeted stairs.
Canister vacuums are an excellent choice for cleaning carpeted and smooth floors as well as stairs.
The powered floor brush feature tends to drive up the price of a canister vacuum significantly.
A canister vacuum will allow you to easily clean the step portion of the first 4 or 5 stairs working from below. However, to clean stairs beyond that will require you to carry the main body of the vacuum with one hand while manipulating the wand and cleaning brush with the other. This may be an issue for a smaller person because a canister vacuum can weigh from 15 lbs. up to 18 lbs. and can be cumbersome to carry and clean.
The canister vacuum models I have recommended below have plenty of suction power to clean stairs and have been used for decades as a highly effective primary vacuum.
Also, a good quality Canister Vacuum is one of the Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors .
The Miele Complete C3 Marin is a premium quality German-Made Canister Vacuum with whole-house cleaning capability. It is recommended for all types of carpet and smooth floors.
If your stairs have medium to thick pile carpet you need a canister vacuum with a motorized brushroll and the Miele Complete C3 Marin is one of the best. If your stairs have low pile carpeting most any canister vacuum will work just fine. SEE: Miele Complete C2 Limited Edition
It features the Miele SEB 236 Electro Premium Powerbrush that has enough power to dig out the toughest dirt from even lush thick pile carpet on floors or stairs.
A Telescoping Wand allows you to shorten it for cleaning stairs.
The Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum is a strong performer on all carpet and smooth or hardwood floors as well as above-floor cleaning.
A powerful 6 Stage Variable Speed motor is controlled with a foot pedal switch.
The HEPA-Grade Filtration system captures over 99.9% of all lung-damaging particles and makes it a smart choice for allergy sufferers. The Miele Complete C3 Marin is a BAGGED vacuum and utilizes the Miele AirClean Bags that eliminate any escaped dust while changing.
Up to 36 ft. cleaning radius and an Automatic Cord Rewind make cleaning with the Miele Complete C3 Marin a pleasure to use. 3 high-quality on-board attachments plus a Parquet Twister hard floor brush are included.
Miele Vacuums are expensive but are known to last for decades instead of a couple years. Its backed by the Miele 7 Year Motor Warranty, 1 Year Parts & Labor.
If a Canister Vacuum makes sense for your home and stair cleaning the Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum may be your best option.
Option #5 Upright Vacuums with Lift-Away or Handheld Feature
A viable option to consider serving as your primary vacuum as well as working well for cleaning your stairs is an Upright model that has a Lift-Away feature. This unique feature allows you to detach the motor/canister module from the main body. This gives you the freedom to easily move up or down stairs while cleaning.
They come with a variety of attachments to deal with different types of cleaning areas and surfaces.
The detached module tends to be significantly lighter than a canister vacuum, making it easier to clean stairs.
The problem is they do not have a motor-driven brush. Instead, the brush you would use on stairs is what’s known as a “Turbo” brush. It’s driven by the flow of air over an internal turbine. This feature works great on Low Pile carpeting but lacks enough raw power to give you the deep cleaning you need for medium to deep pile carpet. However, they work just fine for low pile carpeting.
Currently the only Upright Lift-Away models that I feel confident in recommending are manufactured by SharkNinja.
Any of the SharkNinja Lift-Away Series will work well but here is one of their lower priced models as a starting place.
Watch this Cool Demo VIDEO!
The Rocket TruePet Ultra-Light Upright (HV322) is actually the forerunner of the now very popular cordless stick vacuum (See Above Recommendations).
This is not a Lift-Away type vacuum, but I felt that it was important to show you this style vacuum as a very practical option for stair cleaning.
Its motorhead design allows you to use it as a powerful corded upright vacuum for cleaning all types of floor surfaces.
Click off the wand and you have a very powerful handheld vacuum. Click on the motorized Mini Pet Power Brush and attack those carpeted stairs. This vacuum will handle even the deepest plush carpet pile, removing trampled down embedded dirt.
It works fantastic on Stairs!
It functions as an excellent Pet Hair Vacuum!
Its also works very well as a Hardwood Floor Vacuums .
And to top it all off it does an excellent job of deep-cleaning carpet too.
If that wasn’t enough it does all these things well and weights a measly 8 Pounds!
It is backed by the SharkNinga 5 Year Shark Warranty!