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 90 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 buying recommendations, 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 cordless model has a lightweight, compact design that makes it easy to carry up and down flights of stairs and clean tight, hard-to-reach areas. It's well-made and easy to maintain, with a bagless design that incurs few recurring costs.
It delivers exceptional overall performance on many surface types, whether that be hardwood or high-pile carpet. Its suction performance remains consistent as its dirt compartment fills up. It comes with a couple of tools and accessories, including a turbo brush with a brushroll meant to self-clear hair wraps.
Unfortunately, its short battery life of a little over 10 minutes requires you to work fast when dealing with messes on large staircases. It also isn't equipped with a HEPA filter, which might be an annoyance if you frequently clean up after a heavily shedding pet. Still, its mix of portability and performance helps make it one of the best lightweight vacuums that we've tested.
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 suction power setting and usage patterns, which should give you enough time to clean most staircases.
Unfortunately, its plastic construction feels rather 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 cordless stick vacuums that we've tested.
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's equipped with 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 HoLife HM036E is the best budget vacuum for stairs that we've tested. This cordless handheld delivers impressive overall performance for the price, as it does an outstanding job on surfaces like hardwood and linoleum and clears a good amount of debris on both low and high-pile carpet. Thanks to its lightweight construction and integrated carrying handle, you can easily carry it up and down flights of stairs.
It's well-built and decently easy to maintain, with a simple design that makes it easy to access the few parts that require regular maintenance. Only its filters are disposable, so recurring costs are low. It comes with a liquid nozzle to clear wet messes, though we don't test this feature, and it needs thorough cleaning after that kind of use. Its 20-minute-plus battery life is good for a handheld, allowing you to clear bigger spills without running out of charge partway through cleaning.
Unfortunately, it struggles somewhat with clearing coarse or fine debris, like sand or baking soda, particularly on carpeted floors. It also has a small dirt compartment that needs frequent emptying, though it's on the large side for a handheld. Overall, it's a good budget-friendly option if you're looking for a versatile handheld vacuum that you can easily maneuver for spot cleaning on stairs.
If you'd like to spend less on a vacuum for cleaning your stairs, consider the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033. This corded vacuum doesn't have the go-anywhere range of the HoLife HM036E, but it's cheaper and better-suited to cleaning larger spaces thanks to its upright design. That said, it can be reconfigured as a handheld vacuum fairly easily for spot cleaning. Its bagless design and washable filters result in a near-total lack of recurring costs too. It does a fantastic job of sucking up pet hair on a variety of surface types but struggles with fine debris like baking soda on carpeted floors, and its ability to suck up bulky material like cereal drops drastically as its dirt compartment fills up. In addition, its plastic construction feels quite cheap.
Get the HoLife if you want better overall performance and only need a vacuum for spot cleaning, but consider the BISSELL if you're on a tighter budget but still want to clean larger areas.
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.
Feb 19, 2021: Checked that we're still recommending the best products and that they're in stock.
Dec 22, 2020: Added LG CordZero A9 Ultimate and Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet to Notable Mentions.
Dec 01, 2020: Minor updates to the text, no changes to recommendations.
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.