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 maneuverable. 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 130 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums for cleaning stairs. We chose these picks based on their performance on different types of surfaces, designs, and prices. For more options, see our lists of the best lightweight vacuums, the best cordless vacuums, and the best cordless stick vacuums.
The best vacuum for stairs we've tested is the Dyson V12 Detect Slim. At under 5.5 pounds, this cordless stick vacuum is lighter than most full-size stick vacuums, making it a cinch to carry up and down long flights of stairs, and you can quickly convert it into a handheld configuration to better clean tight spots. It's well-suited to cleaning various floor types, as it comes with a soft roller for better debris pickup on bare surfaces like vinyl or hardwood and a multi-surface floorhead that you can use on carpeted stairs. Like the pricier, heavier Dyson V15 Detect, its soft roller has a built-in laser light to help you see fine debris on hard surfaces, and the vacuum can automatically increase its suction power on carpets or when it detects a heavy concentration of debris.
However, the flip side of this vacuum's compact design is its tiny dustbin, which needs regular emptying. If that's a concern, the Samsung Jet 90 Complete is a great comparably-priced alternative that delivers broadly similar debris pickup performance and has a dustbin about three times as large. It's heavier than the Dyson and lacks its automatic power adjustment feature.
If you want to spend less on a vacuum for cleaning stairs, the LG CordZero A9 Kompressor (A925KSM) is a fantastic option. At just under six pounds, it's heavier than the Dyson V12 Detect Slim, but it's still light enough to easily carry up and down long flights of stairs without too much effort. This A925KSM variant comes with a pretty handy assortment of tools, including a 2-in-1 combination tool and a crevice tool for tackling messes in tight corners on stair steps. It also comes with a second battery, which is great for longer cleaning sessions. This variant also uses LG's unique 'Kompressor' technology, which allows you to press down on debris inside the dirt compartment using an external lever, effectively increasing its debris capacity.
Unfortunately, unlike the V12, it doesn't have an automatic power adjustment system that would allow it to automatically adapt to different floor types or an onboard particle sensor. There's also no on-board wand clip for storing its tools, so you'll need to carry around whatever tools you may need for cleaning your stairs by hand.
If you're on a budget, the Samsung Jet 60 is among the best vacuums for stairs we've tested. While it has a shorter battery life than the LG CordZero A9 and doesn't perform quite as well on bare surfaces, like hardwood, it still has plenty to offer. For one, at just a little over five pounds, it's even lighter than the LG, so you won't have much difficulty carrying it up and down long flights of stairs. Its top-mounted dustbin has a larger capacity than the LG's dirt compartment.
However, unlike the LG, this vacuum doesn't have a telescopic wand, so you might have trouble finding a height that works for you. If you want a similarly-priced vacuum with a telescopic wand and a longer battery life, the Tineco PURE ONE X is a solid choice that can run for about 70 minutes. However, unlike the Samsung vacuum, its battery isn't removable or replaceable.
If you don't need a full-size cordless vacuum like the Samsung Jet 60 to clean your staircases, the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ is the best handheld vacuum for stairs we've tested. It's very lightweight, making it a cinch to carry up and down stairs, and is small enough to be stowed away under a shelf or in a closet when not in use. However, it's only meant for short clean-ups, as its battery runs dry in only a bit over 10 minutes, which is on the shorter end of the scale, even for a handheld model. It comes with a crevice tool to help better clean debris stuck in cracks and a miniature motorized turbo brush, though it's worth noting that this tool can struggle with short strands of pet hair.
Unfortunately, this vacuum does a terrible job of sealing fine particles, so it isn't a good option if you suffer from allergies. Consider the Shark WANDVAC if that's a priority, although the Shark also has a short battery life and a tiny dirt compartment that needs frequent emptying.
If you find yourself cleaning larger areas besides your stairs and want a corded canister model to prop upright, the SEBO Airbelt D4 is among the best vacuum cleaners for stairs we've tested. It's a bulky, heavy machine and less portable than a cordless stick vacuum like the Dyson V12 Detect Slim. That said, you also won't have to worry about running out of charge part way through a cleaning session. Besides, this vacuum has a long operating range of roughly 50 feet, allowing you to clean long staircases without swapping power outlets and easily clean hard-to-reach spots.
Build quality is fantastic, with a canister body made of dense plastic and a cloth bumper running along the outside of its body that can protect your walls from getting scuffed up. There's an onboard storage compartment for its three included tools, so you can grab or stow them away without interrupting your cleaning session.
Performance on flat surfaces like hardwood or linoleum is exceptional, and the vacuum is quite effective in dealing with debris on carpeted stairs, even with a fairly basic straight-suction floorhead. You can easily change its suction power via a handle-mounted rocker switch, allowing you to adapt to different surfaces. Unfortunately, it's heavy and rather bulky. Want something smaller, lighter, and cheaper? The Miele Classic C1 is worth a look, even if it does have a much shorter power cord.
Nov 16, 2023: Article restructuring due to current product pricing. Removed the 'Best Upper Mid-Range Vacuum For Stairs' category. Recategorized Samsung Jet 60 as the 'Best Budget Vacuum For Stairs' pick. Added LG CordZero A9 Kompressor (A925KSM) as the new 'Best Mid-Range Vacuum For Stairs' pick.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums for cleaning stairs. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also on 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.