In this Guide
Vacuuming on stairs can be one of the most challenging cleaning tasks. Stairs present lots of problems for the average vacuum. They’re steep, narrow, cramped, and generally pretty short on outlets.
What’s the solution? Do you really have to do the whole stairway with a hand vacuum? You shouldn’t have to!
With the right one, you’ll be able to clean your stairs quickly and easily-without all the aches and pains. We’re here to show you how to get yourself a new machine that will handle every cleaning task in your house-including your stairs!
To find the best ones to recommend to you, we compared dozens of top models. We looked at features, specs, and other details for lots of different models, to establish which were the best contenders.
We looked for power, maneuverability, versatility, cleaning range, and especially price. We also took into account both professional reviews from leading consumer publications, and online reviews from people who had bought and used these machines in their own homes!
Here in our guide to the best stair vacuums, we’ll take you through our own in-depth reviews of three models which will solve your stair problem without breaking the bank.
We’ve broken down all the important specs and features, and provided a handy guide to figuring out which one is the best choice for you!
Let’s start with a quick peek at our favorites:
Dyson V6 Animal
Best on a Budget
Best Vacuum Cleaners for Stairs
This Sanitaire canister is the perfect choice for people who want a powerful, versatile vacuum without a big price tag.
While the Sanitaire is commercial grade, it won’t cost you much over $100. For that price, you get an extremely maneuverable model with lots of accessories for cleaning your stairs as well as the rest of the house.
It’s very powerful. Previous buyers were very impressed by the sheer suction of the Sanitaire. One wrote, “It has the MOST POWERFUL suction I have ever seen in a vacuum of this size.” We like this commercial model because it has a more powerful motor than the household model, for about the same price.
It gives you plenty of range to clean up long staircases. Between the power cord and the extension hose, you’ll have 27 feet of reach! That’s near the top of the range for canister models, and really makes a difference when you’re cleaning.
The Sanitaire also comes with a shoulder strap, so you can carry it along with you. That’s especially convenient for cleaning stairs, since you don’t have to rest the canister on a narrow step or landing.
The floor head works on all your hard flooring, and converts to work on low carpets as well. In hard floor mode, it has thick, soft bristles which protect the finish on hardwoods and tiles. They also loosen surface dirt.
By clicking a convenient rocker switch, you can disengage the brushes in exchange for a flat suction head. We love the metal glider rails, which help the floor head move smoothly over carpets without getting stuck.
It’s HEPA-ready. While the standard model doesn’t have HEPA filters, it does have a slot ready for filters. You can add them on for a low maintenance cost, to make this one more allergen friendly. Even without the filter, the bagged design really helps with allergen control. It keeps dirt, dust, and fine hairs all in one place. With bagless models, you’ll risk spreading it all back in the air when you dump out the dust chamber.
It’s CRI Green Label-approved for keeping carpets clean. That means it’s good enough to meet medical facility standards of cleanliness, without the professional-grade price tag you’d expect.
It comes with a crevice tool, dusting brush, and smaller upholstery nozzle.
It’s light and ergonomic. The whole thing only weighs 10 pounds, which is especially impressive given the build quality.
It’s commercial-grade. The wand is metal, and the canister and attachments are all built from heavy-duty plastics. The Sanitaire has a nearly perfect record for reliability, and previous buyers were very pleased with the build quality. We’re particularly impressed by the sturdiness of the attachments, which are made of much thicker plastic than domestic vacuums.
It’s extremely affordable. This one is considerably cheaper than other canister models, and as reliable as some that would cost you $300 easily. The fact that this is a commercial model doesn’t make any difference to you. In fact, it just means you’re getting a more rugged, sturdy machine that will last longer and work better than most consumer models!
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
The power cord isn’t retractable. You have to wrap in around hooks on the bottom of the canister. Some older buyers said that was a bit of a pain, since they had to get down on the floor to put the vacuum away.
It looks pretty industrial. While aesthetics aren’t a key reason to buy a particular vacuum, this is certainly one you’ll want to keep out of sight.
The V6 is one of the most powerful cordless vacuums on the market.
We love the convertible design for stairs, since you can use it as a hand vac, a stick vac, or a medium-length hybrid. It’s loaded with powerful cyclonic suction, and several tools to help you out on carpeted stairs where other vacuums would struggle.
We highly recommend this one to people who want the convenience of a cordless model with the power of a full-sized vacuum!
It’s cordless. That means you have unlimited range to vacuum up long staircases, even when there aren’t outlets nearby. The Dyson uses a lithium-ion battery system to provide constant, fade-free suction. We like lithium ion batteries because they give you full power up to the last second! Older batteries run out more slowly, and lose power steadily as each charge drains. That can cost you serious suction over the last few minutes. Lithium ion batteries also have a longer lifespan than older types. The V6 provides about 20 minutes of cleaning time per charge.
It’s extremely powerful. The V6 uses Dyson’s signature cyclonic suction system, which gives you stronger, more constant air flow. Dyson’s system is more sophisticated than the competition. It uses several tiers of layered, sequenced cyclones to create a whirlwind inside the vacuum chamber. We like the cyclonic system because it keeps finer dust and debris away from the motor filters, and deposits all the refuse in the bin where it belongs. That means you won’t have to clean the filters as often, and you won’t lose suction as the vacuum fills up!
It can handle all your flooring. The V6 has a wide floor head with a shallow footprint — perfect for vacuuming on stair steps. We like the Dyson’s brush roll because it has two types of brush. There are stiff nylon bristles for scrubbing out carpets, and soft carbon brushes for gently cleaning hardwoods and tile. Most roller brushes just have the stiff bristles, which can scuff finishes.
The powered carpet head is a direct-drive system. It eliminates the need for a belt, and works more efficiently in the process. Carpet belts are notoriously one of the most finicky, breakable parts on any vacuum. This model works even better without one!
This model comes with a second powered brush head with a smaller nozzle. It’s ideal for vacuuming carpeted stairs, especially the vertical pieces. We love it for getting pet fur off of upholstery and carpeting, which can be a real challenge on carpeted stairs!
It converts easily between a full-length stick vacuum, a handheld, and a shorter in-between length. You can use the attachments at any length.
It’s light and ergonomic. The V6 has a balance center of gravity in hand mode, so it’s much less taxing on your wrists than other handhelds. Even in stick mode, it’s extremely light-just 9 pounds.
It’s bagless. The V6 has washable, reusable filters, which will last indefinitely. The dust chamber empties extremely easily. You don’t even have to remove it from the vacuum! Just hold the hand unit over the trash, and press a switch to release the trap door.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
The 20-minute charge length will limit your cleaning time somewhat. If you’re planning to clean your whole house with this vacuum, you might need to do it in stages.
The dust chamber is sized for a hand vacuum. If you’re using this as a full-sized stick vacuum for your floors, it could fill up pretty fast.
It’s expensive. Even though it’s a lightweight stick vacuum, the V6 Animal costs as much as a mid-range canister vacuum.
The Miele C2 is our all-time favorite choice for vacuuming stairs!
It works on both hard floors and carpets, and is built to last for years. We love the adjustable suction, as well as the smart compact canister design.
This is a fantastic choice for people who have a mix of flooring, and want a super high-quality machine.
It’s extremely well-made. The C2 is made entirely in Germany, like all Miele vacuums. The shell is made from heavy-duty plastic, like you’d find on car paneling. The extension wand is made from stainless steel, and all of the attachments are made from heavier plastic than the competition. Overall, previous buyers found the Miele extremely refreshing in a market full of cheap, disposable vacuums.
It’s smartly designed, with you in mind. The canister is ultra-compact, and has a completely sealed air system. It reduces allergens almost completely, and works with the onboard filtration to keep all those fine dust and dirt particles in the dust bag where they belong. The floor wand is curved to be more ergonomic, and telescopic to help you adjust for your particular height.
It’s compact and maneuverable — perfect for stairs. The C2 series is Miele’s compact canister lineup. They have a smaller body, and take up a smaller footprint than the company’s other models. That means the C2 fits easily on stair landings, and can even rest safely on wider steps. The canister also has a nice, low center of gravity, so it doesn’t tip over easily. That saves you a lot of worry on stairs, where one fall can relegate your cleaning machine to the scrap heap.
The suction is fully adjustable. You can choose from 6 different settings to help you deal with different surfaces. The high power levels are ideal for snagging pesky cobwebs and ground-in carpet dirt. The lower settings protect more delicate fabrics, and keep the carpet head from glomming onto thick carpet. Previous buyers were also very impressed with how quiet this one was to use.
It comes with two separate floor brushes. The turbo brush attachment works on most carpets and rugs. It’s an air-powered beater brush which will loosen dirt and hair from all but the deepest carpets. You can control it from the handle.
The other attachment is Miele’s Parquet Twister. It’s a wide suction head for hard floors, with thick, soft natural bristles to protect woodwork at tiles. We love it for stairs, since the brushes make it easy to capture dust hiding in corners and around banisters. The swiveling neck joints on both attachments make it very easy to maneuverable.
It’s ideal for allergy sufferers. The Miele is a bagged model, and it has a completely sealed air system with built-in filtration. We love Miele’s bags because they have the filter built in! That makes it easy to change both at once. The bags are also self-sealing, so there’s no mess when you’re switching them out.
It gives you plenty of range. Between the power cord and the extension hose, you’ll have a 33-foot reach. That’s even better than the Sanitaire!
It’s covered by a 7-year warranty.
It’s not ideal for stairs with vertical carpeting. While you could use the upholstery brush for vertical carpeting, it’d be time consuming and less convenient than the Dyson.
It’s not going to do wonders on thick, shag carpeting. If you have deep, wall-to-wall carpets, you’ll probably want to buy a vacuum with a motorized beater brush.
Which is the Best Stair Vacuum for You?
If you’re on a tight budget, we strongly recommend the Sanitaire.
It’s commercial-grade in every sense of the word. We love the rugged build quality, and surprisingly powerful motor. The wide floor head helps you cover ground quickly and effectively.
While this model doesn’t have any kind of carpet brush, it still does a very good job on low carpeting. We think it’s a real bargain, and a smart purchase for people who want to save money without skimping on quality.
If you’re looking for the most convenient vacuum for stairs, you’ll want to look at the Dyson.
Since it’s cordless, it’s the most maneuverable of the three. It’s also the best for cramped tight spaces, and vacuuming at strange angles thanks to the crossover features and flexible design. We’re particularly impressed with how well suited this one is to stairs with carpeting.
However, you are limited to a 20-minute cleaning time. It’s also expensive to buy as a second vacuum, which it would have to be if you live in a large house.
For the best overall quality and versatility, we highly recommend the Miele.
It’s got the build quality and filtration system of the Sanitaire, combined with the power and versatility of the Dyson.
It’s the best choice for people with stairs to clean, and a mix of flooring types in their home. While the Dyson can also handle carpets, using its motor brush will limit your battery time.
The Miele doesn’t limit you at all. And with a 30-foot reach, it’s very nearly cordless. It’s also the best choice for allergy sufferers, since it has a sealed air system and self-sealing bags.
How to Choose the Right Vacuum Cleaner for Stairs
Think about your flooring:
Depending on the floors you have in your house, you’ll want to look for certain specific features on your new vacuum.
If you have thick, wall-to-wall carpets, you’ll want to make sure you get a vacuum with a motorized roller brush. They’re essential for loosening stuck-in dirt and hair from thick carpet fibers.
If you have low-to-medium carpeting, you can get away with an air-powered beater brush. They’re less temperamental than motorized models, and are much less expensive.
If you have hard floors, you’ll want a wide suction nozzle with brushes. The brushes will protect the finish on your floors, and loosen up dirt from the surfaces.
Convertible floor attachments help you tackle several flooring types with one vacuum. These generally do well on all hard flooring, and on lower, flatter carpets. Without a roller brush, you won’t have much luck on deep carpeting.
Make sure you think about the flooring type on your stairs, as well as the rest of the house. Carpeted stairs are a special challenge, because they have vertical carpeted surfaces that need cleaning. Oftentimes, those vertical pieces will have even more dirt and hair stuck in them than the treads.
If you have hardwood stairs, you’ll want to make sure you have a floor head with soft brushes. Using a bare plastic attachment or convertible carpet head on hardwood stairs can scratch the finish in no time. The thicker and softer the bristles, the better. They’ll loosen up dirt and dust from the corners of each step.
Look for maneuverability:
Stairs are challenging because they’re hard to navigate with ordinary vacuums. That’s why we recommend looking for models that are more maneuverable and have better reach than your average model.
You’ll want to look for three things: lightweight, ergonomic design, and extended range. When you’re looking at design, we like canister and crossover vacuums that allow you to change the length of the vacuum shaft, so you can work on steps without straining your back or bending at dangerous angles.
In terms of range, have a look at the power cord length, as well as the length of the extension wand and hose. Before you shop, you’ll want to get some basic measurements of your stairs, making sure you keep track of where the outlets are.
Consider your budget:
A vacuum that’s good for your stairs doesn’t necessarily have to cost more than an ordinary vacuum. However, the types of vacuum that make cleaning stairs easier (canister and cordless vacuums) do tend to be more expensive.
One way to avoid the high price tag of a canister vacuum is to find an industrial or commercial canister model, like we’ve recommended here. While they’re not as pretty or quiet, they’re rugged, powerful and–most importantly–cheap.
Think about the rest of your house:
Remember that your stairs are only one piece of your house. We’ve tried to find vacuums that can handle the rest of your cleaning as well. To choose between them, think about the amount of ground you have to cover, as well as the flooring surfaces you have.
Do you have mostly hard floors, or lots of carpeting? Do you have upholstery to vacuum? Are pets a factor? These are all things you’ll want to think about before you decide on your new purchase.