Stairs can be hard to clean if your vacuum has a bulky design or a short power cord or hose, as these design elements impact your ability to efficiently clean tight, narrow spaces. If you're cleaning a staircase, an ideal vacuum should be lightweight, easily portable, and have great maneuverability. It should also be able to get into tight corners and have a long enough range to reach the top or bottom of your staircase.
We've tested over 100 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations of the best vacuums for stairs. We chose these picks on their performance on different types of surfaces and also their design and price. For more options, see our lists of the best lightweight vacuums, the best cordless vacuums, and the best cordless stick vacuums.
The Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ is the best vacuum for stairs with a handheld design that we've tested. This handheld vacuum's cordless design lets you clean far from any electrical outlets, while its lightweight plastic construction allows you to clean long staircases with little effort.
This vacuum does a superb job cleaning bare, even surfaces, easily clearing pet hair and small or bulky debris. It also offers fantastic overall performance on low and high-pile carpet, and suction performance doesn't drop noticeably as its dirt compartment fills. It's also sturdily built and easy to maintain. It even has a turbo brush that has angled plastic fins to reduce the incidence of hair wraps.
Unfortunately, it only provides a little over 10 minutes of runtime on a single charge, so you need to work quickly when dealing with more stubborn messes. It doesn't have a HEPA filter to trap allergens as you clean, either. Still, its strong cleaning performance on a wide mix of surface types and portable design make it one of the best vacuums for carpeted stairs.
If you're looking for a handheld vacuum with a longer battery life, consider the Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet. This compact cordless vacuum struggles more with clearing fine debris on carpeted floors than the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. However, its maximum battery life of nearly half an hour is much longer. It also does a fantastic job cleaning pet hair and small and bulky debris from bare surfaces. It features a built-in extension wand to clean debris in hard-to-reach areas, as well as a turbo brush attachment. Its dirt compartment is much larger, so it shouldn't need emptying as often. However, this vacuum doesn't have a HEPA filter to trap allergens as you clean, which could be an issue if you have a pet that sheds heavily. Its plastic pre-filter and primary filter also need periodic replacing, so recurring costs can add up over time.
Get the Shark if you're looking for a handheld vacuum that clears more debris on carpeted surfaces, but consider the Black+Decker if longer battery life and a larger dustbin are bigger priorities.
The Dyson V15 Detect is the best stick vacuum for stairs that we've tested. This vacuum is impressively portable, with a relatively lightweight plastic construction that makes it impressively easy to pick up and carry up and down a flight of stairs. Its cordless design allows you to clean large areas without worrying about staying close to an electrical outlet.
This vacuum delivers superb performance on a wide variety of surface types, ranging from bare floors to high-pile carpet. It's easy to reconfigure into a handheld vacuum and comes with a broad assortment of tools and accessories, including a turbo brush, a crevice tool, and a slim vacuum head with a laser light to help you identify hard-to-see debris. It provides roughly anywhere between 10 to over 70 minutes of runtime on a single charge, depending on the suction power setting and usage patterns, which should give you enough time to clean most staircases.
Unfortunately, its plastic construction feels cheap in places, particularly its clear plastic dirt compartment. Its strong suction force can also make it a hassle to maneuver on some carpets. Still, its versatile cleaning performance, lightweight construction, and wide assortment of tools make it one of the best vacuum cleaners for stairs.
The best canister vacuum that we've tested is the Miele Complete C3 Alize PowerLine. This model delivers excellent performance across surface types, from bare floors to high-pile carpets. It's corded and has a spacious dirt compartment, so you can tackle big areas without needing to empty it very often.
It has an allergen-trapping HEPA filter and has seven different suction power settings, so you can adapt it to whatever surface you're cleaning. There are some accessories included, like an extension wand that increases your reach and a crevice tool for getting into narrow areas. You can use it in a semi-handheld configuration with any of its tools and brushes, which is helpful when you're cleaning areas like stairs. It's very well-built and has LED lights on its handle to help you see shadowy corners.
Unfortunately, its hose is somewhat short, limiting your reach when using the vacuum in its semi-handheld configuration. It also incurs high recurring costs since its dirtbag and filters need periodic replacing. Otherwise, it's one of the best vacuums we've tested and a great choice for stairs if you don't mind its heavier canister design.
The best budget vacuum for stairs that we've tested is the Wyze Cordless Vacuum. This budget-friendly stick vacuum is very lightweight, making it easy to carry up and down flights of stairs. Its cordless design also means you don't need to worry about tripping over a power cord while vacuuming. It should offer sufficient battery life for vacuuming large staircases, as depending on your choice of settings and attachments, it should offer roughly anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour of continuous runtime.
This vacuum can be easily reconfigured into a handheld vacuum to deal with messes in tight spots. It comes with a combination upholstery tool/soft-bristle dusting brush as well as a crevice tool. It does a fantastic job cleaning debris on high-pile carpeted surfaces and cleans an impressive amount of debris on low-pile carpets. Its performance on bare surfaces is also very good overall, though it's worth noting that very bulky debris can clog the entry to its dustbin.
Unfortunately, this vacuum does feel a little fragile in places, particularly its clear plastic dustbin and primary floorhead, which scratches very easily. It also has quite a few parts that need periodic cleaning. Otherwise, its relatively affordable price point, lightweight construction, and strong performance make it a great option.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly vacuum for vacuuming stairs but don't want to worry about battery life or recharge times, consider the Eureka Mighty Mite. This corded canister vacuum doesn't have the go-anywhere range of the Wyze Cordless Vacuum, but you can run it for as long as you want without having to worry about running out of charge, which is good for long cleaning sessions. Its lightweight construction allows you to pick it up quite easily, and its compact canister body is small enough to set down on a stair step if you don't feel like carrying it. It delivers superb performance on bare surfaces and clears an impressive amount of debris on low-pile carpet, though it struggles a bit more with sucking up larger debris on high-pile carpet. It doesn't have an allergen-trapping HEPA filter. It also incurs some recurring costs over time in the form of its disposable dirtbags and filters, though it's very easy to maintain.
Get the Wyze if you want to clean staircases without needing to stay close to an electrical outlet, but consider the Eureka if you prefer a corded vacuum.
Dec 08, 2021: Article rework to better align with user expectations. Moved Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet from 'Best Budget Vacuum For Stairs' pick to new 'Alternative With Better Battery Performance' pick. Moved Wyze Cordless Vacuum from Notable Mentions to 'Best Budget Vacuum For Stairs' pick. Moved BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033 from 'Cheaper Alternative' pick to Notable Mentions. Added Eureka Mighty Mite to main picks as new 'Corded Alternative' pick.
Oct 12, 2021: Replaced HoLife HM036E with Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet as 'Best Budget Vacuum For Stairs' pick due to current availability. Added Shark Vertex Pro, Dyson Micro 1.5kg, Dyson Humdinger, Wyze Cordless Vacuum, and Miele Classic C1 to Notable Mentions.
Aug 13, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for their given category.
Jun 16, 2021: Replaced Dyson V8 Animal with Dyson V15 Detect as 'Best Stick Vacuum For Stairs' pick. Added Dyson V8 Animal and iRobot H1 to Notable Mentions.
Apr 20, 2021: Verified picks to ensure that the best products are being recommended and that they're in stock.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuum for stairs. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our vacuum reviews, ranked by their performance on stairs. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no vacuum is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.