Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: June 20, 2021
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When it comes to cleaning the house, one of the pain points is always the stairs. They’re awkward to get to with conventional vacuums, there’s not a lot of space to move about, and given that they’re in constant use, they do tend to attract a lot of dirt and debris. Of course, the job is made much easier if you’ve got a specialist handheld vacuum that’s designed to deal with steps and staircases. With this in mind, we’ve gone out and found ten of the best vacuums for stairs that you can buy today.
From the budget to premium, and from the specialist to the versatile, we’ve covered everything. We examined tens of products, read hundreds of customer comments, ratings, and features to put together this review. Check out 10 vacuums we found to be the best in cleaning stairs.
There are several things you need to know before buying a vacuum for stairs. These include the type and weight of a vacuum, the reach if it’s corded, and general ease of use. The table below summarizes our 10 favorites with all the key features covered. Plus, there are more detailed product descriptions with all pros and cons we could find. The buying guide covers features that customers usually look for when they’re up to purchase a vacuum for stairs, so you can be sure you have all the information to pick the right for you.
The Shark Rocket is a premium corded handheld vacuum cleaner, which will appeal to those looking for an all-in-one tool and don’t mind paying a little extra. Quite simply, this dustbuster comes with everything you need from a handheld. You get a hose, a crevice tool, a wide mouth brush, and a fully motorized roller brush. This will allow you to clean soft and hard floors, as well as tight spaces, upholstery and more. All of these tools attach to a bagless body, which comes in at less than 4 pounds, which is particularly useful when it comes to tackling the stairs.
We also like the fact that the dust cup is nice and easy to empty. You just hold the cup over a bin, press a button, and it drops out. The filter is also fully washable. To conclude, the Shark Rocket is a very, very good handheld vacuum. It’ll have no problem cleaning both hard and carpeted stairs, and anything else you might need to vacuum. If it’s within your budget, then it should be the top of your list.
Why are we impressed?
Hugely versatile with all the attachments included
An alternative choice is the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. At first glance, this is a standard upright vacuum cleaner, which would be far too cumbersome to easily clean the stairs. However, this isn’t a normal upright. Shark have designed this model to be very versatile, which means that the canister actually detaches from the rest of the vacuum to be used as a handheld. In use, this means that you can clean your floors as normal, and then very quickly turn the upright into a handheld canister that can be easily carried up and down stairs. The hose is of a good length and can be attached to a wide brush head for carpets, or a crevice tool.
The whole thing is heavier than other alternatives, but it’s a good go-between. The suction on this Shark model is excellent too, and the dust cup is easy enough to empty. Shark have also gone to great lengths to ensure that the unit is fully sealed, and includes a HEPA filter, so there’s no concern about allergens escaping while you’re vacuuming.
All in all, this is an excellent vacuum cleaner. It’s not the very best for cleaning stairs, but if you want an all-in-one solution, it’s hard to argue against this as one of the top choices. You can clean the entire house with it, and it’ll do a good job in most situations.
The Bissell Cleanview is a similar vacuum to the Pet Hair Eraser that goes below, but this is the Deluxe model, which is designed to be a little more effective. It costs more than other alternatives, but don’t let this put you off – this is a great little handheld. The very best thing about this unit is the suction power. It’s rated at 4 amp but feels much stronger than a lot of its competitors.
You should have no problem sucking up just about anything you need to with the Cleanview Deluxe, and the attachments that are provided will make this even easier. You get the same rubber nozzle as with the Pet Hair Eraser, but there’s also a crevice tool and wide mouth suction head, which is ideal for staircases. What’s more is that there’s a hose included too, so that you can get in and around those more awkward spaces.
All-in-all, this is one of the best all-around vacuums that we’ve reviewed on this list. It’s well priced, is lightweight enough to use for extended periods, and it has excellent suction power. The only downside is the lack of brush roll to really get into the carpet pile.
The first thing you’re going to notice about this handheld vacuum cleaner is the way it looks. Most people probably aren’t going to care what their vacuum cleaner looks like, but we do have to give a special mention to the design of this model, with its black and red color scheme and funky vents. Looks aside, this is a very low price vacuum from a well-known and reputable brand.
Few other vacuums on our list are quite as good as this one at simply being able to suck up whatever you need from carpeted staircases. Run this across your stairs, and it’s going to be able to give it a deep clean quickly and effectively. It’s great for upholstery and cars too. In short, if you just need something to clean your stairs, then this could well be the vacuum to choose. It’s not particularly versatile, and the nozzle is not that wide, but it’s very good at what it sets out to do, and given the price, it’s very hard to ignore.
The Samsung Jet 90 is a lightweight vacuum that offers great performance on both bare floors and carpeting. It is also very good at lifting pet hair from a variety of surfaces. This is a cordless stick and handheld vacuum combo that has a battery that can power up to an hour of continuous use. However, this depends on the tools and settings you’re using, which can reduce the battery life down to just over 10 minutes.
The vacuum is supplied with two different brushrolls, which offers more versatility for carpets and bare floors. However, you need to manually switch between brushrolls. Fortunately, there is a storage rack, so you don’t need to keep the tools and other brushroll stuffed in a cupboard when not in use.
This vacuum is a solid choice for pet owners. It can easily clean pet hair from all types of surface. You can even use it in handheld mode with a brush or tool attached to clean your furniture or your pet bed. The Samsung Jet 90 is also fitted with a HEPA filter to remove allergens. This means that you won’t need to worry about pet dander and other allergens making family members or guests feeling uncomfortable.
What stands out?
It can easily pick up pet hair from flooring, furniture and other surfaces
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is a well-priced handheld and bagless vacuum, that, as the name suggests, is designed to be really good at picking up those difficult pet hairs that tend to work themselves into carpeted stairs. It achieves this with the use of a clever rubber nozzle, which helps to brush and pull the hair out of the carpet before it gets sucked in by the cyclonic cleaning system. It’s an effective combination, and if a vacuum that gets pet hair out of stairs is a priority for you, this might just be the best product on the market.
There’s a hard nozzle as well as the soft rubber one, which is more effective on hard surfaces such as in the kitchen, making this a fairly versatile little cleaning tool. It’s not a one-trick-pony. The cord is 16 feet long, and the weight of the whole unit is just over 4 pounds, so you should have no concerns about being able to easily take on the stairs with this little unit. All-around, this is a great little handheld. It’s nice and flexible and should meet most people’s needs, even if you don’t have pets.
Why are we impressed?
Excellent at picking up pet hair
Versatile selection of nozzles
What negatives must you be aware of?
Side vents do blow away lighter dust as you’re trying to vacuum
Next up we have another product from Dirt Devil, but the difference is that this one is designed to be a bit more versatile. It’s the handheld Ultra model, and we can tell you right away that it’s an excellent choice. Unlike a lot of handhelds, this one uses a bag, which does help to make the unit quite light, despite the hose and tools being stored onboard. Replacement bags are inexpensive and can be purchased on Amazon. There’s also no filter, which means no loss of suction as you use the vacuum.
The motorized brush roll is very powerful, making this a very effective vacuum for carpeted stairs – it’s also good at picking up pet hair. The hose isn’t quite as good, but it does the job at getting into the crevices on staircases where the brush can’t reach. There have been some reports on older Ultra models of suction decline after a month or two of use, but this should now be resolved. It’s also good to note that the powerful motor and brush mean that this is a fairly noisy little handheld. The Dirt Devil Handheld Ultra is a great choice. It’s relatively inexpensive, has good functionality, and the brush works really well on carpeted stairs.
Black+Decker are best known for their power tools, so you’d expect one of their vacuum cleaners to pack a punch. Fortunately, the 20V MAX does just that. It’s a cordless, rechargeable handheld that is just as powerful, if not more so, than its corded competitors. The design of this model is quite unlike most other handhelds, with a big, flat suction nozzle on the front that can pivot to reach harder-to-access spaces. It’s pretty good at working with flat surfaces and will make short work of staircases. You can also choose to use the included brush with this nozzle in order to really work dirt and debris out of carpets. There’s a simple side door for emptying the cup, which can also be washed in the sink.
We also really like the charging stand that the 20V MAX comes with. It’s neat and tidy, and won’t take up much space. The biggest downside is that the body of the vacuum is wider than the nozzle, which will make getting into the corners of a staircase a little bit tricky. Despite this, we still think that this is a great vacuum. It’s very powerful, and being a cordless vacuum, it’s very convenient – especially if you want your vacuum for other jobs such as cleaning the car.
The HoLife Cordless Vacuum Cleaner has been designed in every way to be an excellent stair cleaner, and we’re pleased to say that it does a really good job of this. It has a variety of smart little touches that make it truly effective to cope with practically any type of stairs debris. This is a well-priced, bagless, versatile unit.
You receive three extra tools including a rubber jar tool that means you can tackle both carpeted and hard surfaces, but then there’s also a long hose with crevice tool that means you can clean every bit of the staircase. All in all, it means there’s pretty much no set of stairs that you aren’t going to be able to clean well. A washable filter is also standard, which is easy to take out and rinse.
Keep in mind, that if you intend to store this tool for an extended time, you need to charge it fully beforehand and do it again every three months. This might be an issue if you’re not planning to be using it that much often. Overall, this inconvenience doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a really good handheld vacuum which is worth consideration.
Why are we impressed?
What negatives must you be aware of?
Needs to be recharged regularly if stored for long
The Bissel Featherweight 2033 is not the most powerful stick vacuum on the market, but it is suitable for small spaces and its price is very reasonable for a device that is still practical and well designed.
The suction power of the device is much lower than what exists on more expensive vacuum cleaners. This is what you have to sacrifice to benefit from such an attractive price. However, this is not necessarily dissuasive: you must, first of all, take into account your needs.
If you’re looking to clean hardwood floors in a studio, for example, the Bissell Featherweight 2033 will be ideal for you. It is however a little less efficient for rugs or carpets. It works great but you will have to repeat the passes several times and put in a greater effort than with other devices.
However, it picks up dust, hair, and small spills very effectively. It’s not ideal as your main vacuum as it doesn’t have a great amount of suction. But if you clean it regularly, it performs well.
We wish the wheels had a rubber coating or were made of a better material. If that’s okay with you, the vacuum cleaner is quite handy. It can be used in three different ways: as a classic upright vacuum cleaner, as a stair vacuum cleaner, and as a hand vacuum cleaner by removing the floor brush. The latter use is however limited by a 4.57 m power cable, i.e. 15 ft.
In addition to the reviews, we think it’s also important that you know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to picking your new vacuum cleaner. Our Buyer’s Guide should help you understand the different parts of a vacuum and some of the features and specifications that might be important.
Size and Type
Of course, when we say handheld, there are actually a few different types. There are handhelds where the whole body is one piece, including the handle, there are those that have a canister and then a hose, and then there are lots of 2-in-1 styles such as those based on the stick vacuum shape.
Most will be good for stairs, but if there are other things you’d like to be able to do, then you might wish to choose something flexible. One-piece handhelds are fairly limited in their use – they’ll only be able to clean small, flat areas like stairs. Those with hoses and other attachments will also be good for the car and upholstery like sofas and curtains. Fully detachable uprights like the Shark Navigator are great for the whole house but naturally carry a higher price tag.
There are a few other things that you should consider that just make a vacuum that little bit easier to use. The main one, of course, is how easy it is to empty and clean. Nobody likes having to empty dust and debris from a vacuum, so you may as well choose a unit that isn’t going to give you any trouble.
The best units will just have a simple button or clip that allows all of the dust to drop out into the bin, but others might require the removal of the dust cup. This is OK if it’s mostly enclosed, but be aware that more awkward designs can mean dust getting out into the air as you’re emptying.
Not all vacuums come with filters, and some come with multiple filters. In some cases, these filters will be replaceable, which can be annoying as it’s not always easy to get a replacement. Instead, you ideally want a vacuum with a washable filter. These are usually quite easy to take out, and just require a rinse to get them back to their best.
While we’re on this subject, it’s also worth thinking about bag versus bagless. Most vacuums have no bag these days, as it means you don’t need to purchase any replacements. In some cases, and on high-end models in particular, you might find that the unit uses a bag because this is believed to be more effective in ensuring you don’t have to come into contact with the dust. This is something to think about if you or a member of your household has particular allergies.
In any specification sheet, you should quite easily be able to find the reach for any corded vacuum that you’re looking at, and this could well be something that’s important. It’s often the case that power outlets aren’t found all that close to staircases, so you want to be sure that your chosen vacuum can reach to clean the whole staircase at once without having to swap part way through.
The reach is usually calculated by adding the length of the power cord to any hose attachments that the vacuum comes with, so bear in mind that the overall reach might be shorter if you don’t plan on using the hose.
Of course, you can eliminate much of the concern over reach by choosing a cordless vacuum cleaner. These are charged at the mains and can then be used without any wires. They last long enough for a reasonable amount of cleaning, but you do need to remember to keep them charged. Some poorer quality batteries also don’t put out enough power for acceptable suction either, so again, check the reviews.
Attachments are really important for handheld vacuum cleaners because they’re most commonly used for cleaning things other than just flat floors around the house. Generally, you’re going to want to try and get as many attachments as you can for your money, unless you genuinely only need basic functionality. There are a few different ones to consider.
Firstly, there’s the brush. If you’re cleaning a carpet, then a good brush attachment will be essential, because they’re good at getting into the fibers and getting dust and debris out from between them. Ideally, you want a motorized brush, because the added power really helps with cleaning. In a lot of cases, the vacuum will have the brush as a fixed part of the vacuum, but in other cases, such as with the Shark Rocket, they can be taken off.
Next is the crevice tool. This is very useful for stairs because it’s not always possible to get a standard brush roll right into the corners of the staircase. Crevice tools are usually small and pointed, and almost all vacuums will come with one in some form.
Aside from these two, there might be all kinds of specialized attachments, such as the ingenious rubber nozzles that Bissell use, which are excellent for pet hair. There are also wide mouth nozzles for sucking up debris from hard surfaces.
Think about what you’re going to use the vacuum for, and then ensure that any you’re considering buying have the appropriate attachments.
Suction power is naturally going to be important. The stronger the suction, the better the vacuum is going to be for picking up dirt and debris. You’ll often find that manufacturers give a power rating for their products, which is intended to show how powerful the suction is. Usually, this is given in volts or amps.
However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The power rating for the motor doesn’t always translate to the same amount of suction. There are lots of different things that can affect it, such as the build quality of the machine and more. That’s why it’s important to check reviews like this one and to see how other people have got on. Use the power rating as a general guide, but don’t rely on it.
There’s also the loss of suction to consider. Some products do lose suction both as the cup fills up, and as the unit gets older. As a result, it’s always worth checking out reviews from other people that have bought the vacuum to ensure you’re not going to be disappointed a few weeks or months into your purchase.
It’s also worth noting that attachments and heads such as motorized brushes will help the vacuum to be more effective, regardless of suction power.
So there you have it. We’ve done the research for you. Take a good look at the buying guide so that you know exactly what you need from your vacuum, and then pick the best fitting vacuum from our reviews. We’ve made sure there’s something in there for everyone, from versatile units that can do more than one job, to dedicated stair cleaners, at multiple price points. Whether it’s the ingenious Shark Navigator Lift-Away or the powerful Black+Decker 20V MAX, you’re sure to be on to a winner.