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 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 of cleaning bare, even surfaces, easily clearing pet hair, small debris like rice, and bulky material like cereal. 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's even equipped with 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.
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 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'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. Despite its relatively affordable price, this cordless vacuum feels sturdily built and is easy to assemble or disassemble for periodic maintenance. Its lightweight plastic construction makes it easy to carry around, and since it's cordless, you don't need to worry about staying close to any electrical outlets when cleaning staircases.
This vacuum does a fantastic job of clearing debris like pet hair, rice, or cereal from bare floors and delivers good overall performance on low and high-pile carpet. It's also equipped with an allergen-trapping HEPA filter which doesn't need to be replaced very often, so recurring costs are fairly low. Its 20-minute-plus battery life is also relatively long for a handheld vacuum and should be sufficient for cleaning most staircases, though this can vary in the real world.
However, its dirt compartment is very small and consequently needs to be emptied frequently. Also, it doesn't come with a turbo brush for dislodging debris from fabric surfaces. Still, if you need a budget-friendly handheld vacuum that can easily handle most kinds of messes on stairs, this is a fantastic choice.
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.
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.
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.
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.