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Updated Apr 12, 2022 1:27 PM

Cleaning technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the smart home era. We have app-enabled cleaning devices and self-emptying robot vacuums. And yet, getting the dirt on the back of each stair remains a serious challenge. Household staircases are typically very high-traffic areas and can build up dust and debris in a hurry—especially if you have pets or kids in the mix. There are tons of vacuums on the market designed to make your day-to-day vacuuming routine as easy and streamlined as possible—but we’ve taken it upon ourselves to test and research some of the absolute best options to help pick out the best vacuums for stairs.

How we picked the best vacuums for stairs

There are thousands upon thousands of highly rated vacuums on the market—which made narrowing our list down to just seven picks quite a feat. We wanted to choose a set of vacuums that worked for various lifestyles and household needs, including carpeted and hardwood flooring, homes with pets and kids, and winding or unconventionally shaped staircases.

To make our selections, we looked at hundreds of high-quality consumer reviews to learn about the little details that manufacturer descriptions don’t tell you, as well as tapping into our own testing to hone in on the absolute best of the bunch. We focused on crucial features like weight and bulk, suction power, and battery life for cordless models. We also kept budget in mind, examining vacuums at various price points to see where a little extra money makes a big difference, and where it buys flashy features you don’t necessarily need.

Things to consider before buying a new vacuum

When shopping for a vacuum with stairs in mind, there are a handful of factors you’ll want to check to ensure you purchase something that’s right for your particular needs and routines.

Weight

The first thing you’ll want to think about is whether or not you’ll feel comfortable carrying your vacuum up and down the stairs regularly. Some of the bestselling upright vacuums can weigh up to 20 pounds, which might not sound like that much, but it’s enough to make things difficult when you have to pick it up and put it down over and over on each step. Not to mention the possibility that it might slip as you’re cleaning, especially on winding staircases. 

If you’re cleaning a lot of stairs, we recommend getting a lightweight vacuum that you can easily carry. If you have a large vacuum already that works for you, you could always get a handheld vacuum specifically for the stairs and other hard-to-reach places. Upright vacuums, though heavier, usually offer significant sucking power and are much more effective for carpeted surfaces, so we generally wouldn’t recommend them as your primary cleaner.

Corded or cordless?

You’ll also want to decide whether you want to opt for a cordless vacuum or something that plugs into the wall. Many modern vacuum cleaners feature cordless designs that make vacuuming the staircase much easier and safer than having to watch under your feet for a cord. 

That said, most cordless vacuum cleaners have terrible battery life. Many last under an hour on a single charge and take many hours to fully recharge. Based on our testing, a good option should last at least 40 minutes. While you may not need them to last all that long, there’s nothing worse than having your vacuum die on you mid-clean.

Corded vacuums also tend to last much longer than their cordless counterparts. Most cordless models feature rechargeable internal batteries, which will last many years but can’t be easily replaced when they lose the ability to hold a charge.

Cleaning hardwood vs. cleaning carpet

Vacuuming rugs and carpeted areas requires an entirely different approach than vacuuming hardwood flooring. Carpets require more suction power to clean deeply and require a vacuum that can trap common household allergens, such as dust and pet dander, which get trapped out of sight in the depths of the textile.

Attachments

Vacuum attachments might seem like a frivolous add-on or freebie, but they can be useful tools to help you clean parts of your home that might be otherwise inaccessible. The most common vacuum attachments include:

  • Extension wand: a slim, elongated attachment that makes getting into hard-to-reach places much more feasible.
  • Upholstery tool: a wide-mouthed piece that targets upholstered items and fabrics like mattresses or furniture.
  • Crevice wand: similar to the extension wand, the crevice wand has an angled opening that allows you to suck debris from tight edges and window sills.

The best vacuum for stairs: Reviews & Recommendations

The best vacuums for stairs will depend on your specific lifestyle and household—which is why we’ve included a spectrum of different vacuums to best suit a variety of needs and budgets. Read on to find the best vacuum for your household.

Best vacuum for stairs overall: Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Handheld Portable Vacuum Cleaner

Why it made the cut: The Dyson V11 Torque Drive might be pricey, but it’s slim, ultra-lightweight, and offers superior suction power that makes it worth every penny.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.2 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hardwood floors
  • Weight: 6.68 pounds
  • Battery life: 60 minutes

Pros:

  • Features up to an hour of run time
  • Includes various options to best suit different flooring
  • Extremely lightweight and easy to maneuver

Cons:

  • You have to hold down the power button
  • Very expensive

A longtime favorite for its sleek, powerful, and wildly expensive vacuums, the latest Dyson V11 series is leagues ahead of the company’s original stick vacuum design—and happens to be one of the very best vacuum cleaners on the market right now. Of the two models available, we like the Dyson V11 Torque Drive, which features an LCD digital display that monitors performance and battery life.

The V11 Torque Drive has more than twice the suction power of similar cordless vacuums and offers an hour of run time between charges, making it a decent option for all flooring types and square footage. The cutting-edge stick vacuum also weighs in at less than seven pounds, allowing for easy maneuverability on staircases and beyond. 

It isn’t perfect, though. Like most other Dyson models, the V11 requires you to hold the power button down, rather than simply flipping a switch. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that might sour you on spending hundreds of dollars on it.

Speaking of which, the main drawback for the V11 Torque Drive and its screenless cousin, the V11 Animal—any Dyson product, for that matter—is the price. The Dyson Torque Drive costs $699.99 or more, depending on the retailer. That’s a lot more money than most vacuums. You definitely get a higher class of product but will be a serious barrier for most people.

Best vacuum for hardwood floors: Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum (3061)

Bissell

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum has impressive suction, a lightweight design, and a removable handheld mode, which makes it great for cleaning stairs.

Specs

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.26 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Battery life: 20 minutes

Pros:

  • Super lightweight design for superior ease of use
  • Great price point for the quality
  • Converts to handheld vacuum

Cons:

  • Poor battery life
  • Does not include a wall mount or stand

The Bissell Featherweight Cordless Stick Vacuum ranks high in our books for delivering solid suction for a basic cordless vacuum. Though it costs less than $150, the Featherweight Cordless offers a lightweight, ergonomic design similar to more expensive models from other brands. The powerful suction and lightweight design make this vacuum a great option for hardwood and laminate flooring.

It’s also quite versatile, with the ability to convert from a stick vacuum to handheld mode that can get into the nooks and crannies of your staircase without having to lug the whole frame up and down. That said, at just 5.8 pounds, the full-sized vacuum is extremely easy to maneuver.

The only big downside to consider is its terrible battery life. At just 20 minutes per charge, you won’t cover very much ground in one sitting. It also lacks any kind of wall mount or stand, which can make charging trickier than it needs to be.

Best vacuum for carpet: Shark Cordless Pet Plus with Anti-Allergen Complete Seal

Why it made the cut: Designed to trap allergens like dust and pet dander, the Shark Cordless Pet Plus digs deep into carpets for the best clean possible.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.21 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 7.17 pounds
  • Battery life: 40 minutes

Pros:

  • Anti-allergen seal
  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • Converts to handheld vacuum

Cons:

  • Not as powerful as other stick vacuums
  • Top-heavy design

The Shark Cordless Pet Plus features an “anti-allergen seal” to ensure 99.9 percent of allergens it sucks up, including particles of dust and pet dander, stay trapped in the vacuum. Its brushroll features long panels called “powerfins” rather than traditional brush bristles, which Shark claims can help the vacuum dig dirt out of carpet. They also prevent the vacuum from getting jammed up with pet hair and other debris that can accumulate in carpets or rugs.

Studies suggest that carpets can harbor more dust and allergens than non-carpeted flooring and might even decrease the air quality in the home or office space. As such, the Pet Plus should be a well-appointed option for ensuring minimal particles are able to escape into the air.

Customers tend to praise the Shark adamantly, but some note that the lightweight design feels a bit top-heavy while in use. This might make the maneuverability on stairs slightly more difficult while getting used to the vacuum’s unique shape and design.

Best lightweight vacuum: Eureka RapidClean Pro

Eureka

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Why it made the cut: The Eureka RapidClean Pro is among the lightest vacuums on our radar, and features a proprietary “swivel steering” feature that makes it especially maneuverable.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: 0.18 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 5.26 pounds
  • Battery life: 40 minutes

Pros:

  • Great price point for the quality
  • Compact, ultra-lightweight design
  • Very quick 40-minute recharge time
  • Handheld mode

Cons:

  • The suction power could be improved
  • Harder to repair than other vacuums

Eureka RapidClean Pro is a game-changer for those looking for an ultra-lightweight design that can easily go up and down the stairs without feeling like you’re doing a workout. The 5-pound vacuum is easy to carry, and it converts into handheld mode to maximize mobility. Off the stairs, the RapidClean Pro features a special “swivel steering” head that allows for better maneuvering as you clean.

The RapidClean Pro’s 40-minute battery life is strictly average, but it only needs 40 minutes to recharge, which means you can clean large spaces relatively rapidly.

One thing to note, especially if you plan to keep this vac around for a while. According to customer reviews, replacement parts can be hard to come by and often cost nearly as much as a new vacuum, so don’t expect to get a decade out of this one.

Best vacuum for pet hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum

Bissell

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser features a “triple-level” filtration system and motorized brush tool that works to remove embedded hair and dirt.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Handheld
  • Capacity: 0.18 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and upholstery
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Battery life: 17 minutes

Pros:

  • Includes a variety of tools for carpets, upholstery, and hardwood flooring
  • “Triple-level” filtration system
  • Features a surprisingly large dustbin for a handheld

Cons:

  • Terrible battery life
  • Handheld vacuum isn’t ideal for whole-house cleaning

Pet owners have to work harder to ensure their floors stay clean and free of dander and debris—there’s no way around it. Thankfully, brands like Bissell cater specifically to those with furry friends at home who don’t want to settle for less than the best in cleaning technology. The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser features some great features for picking up hair and dander, including a motorized brush tool that digs them out of carpet and upholstery seamlessly, and a “triple-level filtration” system that traps allergens in its bag. Of course, powerful suction is also a major weapon for cleaning all dirt and dust, whether you have pets or not.

Customers rave over the quality and suction power that this small but mighty hand vacuum offers, but reviews lament the short battery life—a mere 17 minutes between charges. If you’re looking for a full-size vacuum that also works well on stairs, check out our “best for carpets” pick, the Shark Cordless Pet Plus, which features some similar pet-friendly features.

Best cheap vacuum: Bissell Zing Bagless Canister Vacuum (2156A)

Bissell

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Why it made the cut: The Bissell Zing Canister Vacuum might not offer the same bells and whistles as more expensive models on the list, but it’s powerful for its price and features a hose that makes navigating staircases simple.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Canister
  • Capacity: 0.53 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 10.23 pounds
  • Battery life: N/A

Pros:

  • Incredible price point for the quality
  • Features very good suction power
  • The canister is large and easy to clean

Cons:

  • Heavier than other vacuums on the list
  • Doesn’t include spinning brush attachment

The Bissell Zing Lightweight is one of the best budget-friendly vacuums for stairs that we’ve come across. The large canister-style vacuum, which stores dirt in a large, wheeled-base, and features a hose for sucking up dirt, offers incredible suction power and durability that should last for years without requiring maintenance or replacement parts while the dirt cup filters and post-motor filter helps to capture particles before they hit the air. Both of its filters can also be hand-washed and reused for years without worrying about the quality or efficiency waning.

Between the corded power solution and heavy canister design, the Zing is not the most convenient solution for stairs. That said, with a generous 15-foot power cable and 4-foot, 8-inch hose, you have a lot of room to maneuver. Plus, the corded design also means that you won’t have to wait around for your vacuum to charge or worry about replacing a battery, long-term.

Customers love the Bissell Zing for its surprisingly high-quality design and reliability at such a low price but notice it lacked certain attachments, including a spinning brush. As such, the vacuum head sits directly on the floor which makes it difficult to pick up larger debris or crumbs.

Best cordless vacuum for stairs: Samsung Jet 90

Samsung

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Why it made the cut: The high-tech Samsung Jet 90 offers next-level innovation and convenience.

Specs:

  • Form factor: Stick
  • Capacity: .21 gallons
  • Surface recommendation: Carpet and hard floors
  • Weight: 6.87 pounds
  • Battery Life: 60 minutes

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Dual replaceable batteries 
  • Auto-empty dustbin

Cons:

  • Requires more assembly than the average vacuum
  • Very expensive

The Samsung Jet 90 was made to outperform the average vacuum, and do so stylishly. It feels like every element of the vacuum has a special feature: There’s an auto-empty dust bin for easy disposal, a five-layer filtration system that keeps 99.999 percent of allergens out of the air, and an advanced turbo-action brush head that allows for quick and easy cleaning on multiple surfaces at once (great for staircases with runners or carpet).

While it generally excels, some features stand out more than others. The Jet 90 features a charging stand that can recharge two batteries, so you can recharge and replace one to extend its long battery life. (It only comes with one battery, so you’ll need to buy a second to make that happen.)

Like the Dyson V11 Torque Drive, the Jet 90 costs a lot more than most of the competition, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that it improves conventional cordless stick vacuum design in many ways.

FAQs

Q: Are cordless vacuums good for stairs?

Cordless vacuums are generally much more convenient, but they are especially helpful for cleaning stairs. Dragging a corded vacuum up and down your staircase can quickly become a safety hazard if you aren’t careful of your footing. That said, it’s important to remember that corded vacuums require much less maintenance and last longer since they don’t rely on a battery for power.

Q: Which vacuum lasts the longest?

The lifespan of a vacuum cleaner depends on a whole slew of factors, including quality, brand, style, and how well you take care of your vacuum. Most cordless vacuums will require a new battery or some other kind of maintenance after about five years, while corded vacuums can last up to a decade or more with proper care.

Q: How much should I spend on a vacuum?

Deciding how much to spend on a vacuum is a personal decision and may depend on factors including budget, the size of your home, and how often you clean. You can get vacuums at many different prices, ranging from $30 to nearly $1,000. Many of the basic cordless models on our list cost between $100 to $200. You can get a basic corded model for less, but you may find the power and build quality of the vacuums gets less consistent as the price tag decreases.

Q: Is Shark better than Dyson?

In a word, no. Dyson vacuums usually outperform Shark models when it comes to both suction power and air filtration. That said, Shark vacuums work well and are generally much more affordable than a Dyson, which often costs hundreds of dollars more than the average vacuum. For many people, buying a Shark vacuum (or another brand) makes more sense than buying a Dyson because of the cost.

Final thoughts on the best vacuums for stairs

Although they tend to be on the pricey end, there’s a reason that Dyson vacuums have a cult-like following: They really are some of the best on the market for their maneuverability and suction power alone. The Dyson V11 Torque Drive will surely make vacuuming stairs (and the rest of the household) a breeze—even if you have a carpeted staircase or you share your home with pets.

That said, you don’t need to spend nearly $1,000 on a vacuum cleaner to get your house spic and span. I have personally owned the Bissell Zing, our budget pick, for over a decade and it’s never required any maintenance. There may be better vacuums out there, but you can get the job done with nearly any vacuum if you put your mind to it.