Vacuums

The Best Vacuums for Stairs to Buy in 2021: Buying Guide & Reviews

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Best Vacuum for Stairs 2021

Vacuuming stairs is a tough job. The different height of each step and all of the hidden corners make it inconvenient. You either have to bend down or reposition yourself on the stairs in order to get a good angle.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the best vacuums for stairs on the market to make your daily chore easier.

How to Pick the Best Vacuums for Stairs

Design

Ideally, the unit should be lightweight and compact enough to be carried up and down the stairs without much issue. Flexible maneuverity is also important to reach and draw out dirt and debris from tight, awkward spots. Staircases have plenty of these areas, like at the base of the riser where dirty gunk tends to collect.

There are two vacuum designs that best meet these requirements: stick vacuums and canister vacuums.

Stick Vacuums

Stick vacuums are the “miniaturized” form of full-scale upright vacuums.

When fully assembled, stick vacuums still retain the original shape of upright models. The only noticeable difference between them is that stick vacuums have a more compact frame thanks to a smaller dust cup and suction motor. Their streamlined builds are more suitable for stair-cleaning than traditional vacuums.

Stick Vacuums for Stairs
Fully-assembled Dyson V10 cordless stick vacuum

Considering a portion of suction prowess and dust storage are sacrificed for portability, cleaning performance is much weaker compared to conventional models. As a solution, modern stick vacuums now have more efficient suction motors and can now go toe-to-toe with uprights.

Most stick vacuums can also be converted into a handheld vacuum by removing the long suction wand. You can use this mode to clean higher-up places such as balusters or handrails.

Dyson V10
The aforementioned Dyson V10 converted into a handheld vacuum

Canister Vacuums

Canister vacuums put all of their heaviest components like the motor, dust storage, and filtering system into a separate unit (or “canister”). 

The canister trails behind you on wheels, so you don’t have to carry it physically like you would with other vacuum types. And since you don’t have to bear the full weight of the whole thing, manufacturers get to maximize their units’ overall performance with a bigger set of hardware. Canister vacuums often have a bigger motor, larger dust storage space, and more robust filtering system than stick vacuums.

A typical canister vacuum has a removable suction hose attached to the canister’s suction port.

Most canister vacuums come with a standard 5-foot suction hose. Its flexibility and reach make canister vacuums great for stairs. While the bare hose alone can clean balusters and handrails, an extendable wand helps you reach the stair treads without bending over too much.

Canister Vacuums for Stairs

However, one glaring trade-off is the price. Given their intricate designs, canister vacuums are more expensive than stick vacuums. In addition, their weight can also pose a challenge when you go up and down the stairs.

Power Source

Vacuum cleaners are either corded (use a traditional power cord) or cordless (use an internal battery). Each has its own strengths and shortcomings in specific instances.

Power Cord Length

A “good” cord length is around 20 feet. If your house doesn’t have electrical outlets near the stairs, it is important that the cord length is long enough to cover the whole stair, or at least until you can find the nearest outlet on the next floor.

Battery Life

One of the most popular consumer-grade batteries found in vacuum cleaners nowadays is Lithium-ion (Li-ion.)

It’s cheap to manufacture, has high energy density, and is resistant to common problems like “memory effect,” which degrades battery life over time. On paper, the drawback to Li-ion is that there are safety concerns involved. To address these concerns, manufacturers incorporate thermal/wattage control circuits and sensors to make sure they’re safe for users. 

Avoid vacuums that use old battery types like Lead Acid or Nickel Cadmium (NiCd). They’re inferior in terms of performance, efficiency, safety, and (especially Lead Acid batteries) aren’t environmentally friendly.

Bare vs. Carpeted Stair Treads

The stairs in your house either have bare treads (made from vinyl and hardwood) or carpeted treads. 

For bare treads, pick a vacuum with great bare surface performance. Typically, they have high suction and don’t require a brush tool to get the job done. 

On the other hand, a specialized vacuum with great suction and a strong brush tool is better tailored for carpeted stairs. The brush’s role is to agitate and dislodge stubborn dirt and debris from the carpet fibers.

Filtration

The filtering system collects all sorts of harmful particles (micro-dust, pollen, bacteria, viruses, etc.). This feature is all the more important if you have asthma or allergies.  

As far as technology goes, the best type of filtration currently on the market is High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA). A HEPA filter can filter up to 99.97% of particles under 0.3 microns, which also includes airborne bacteria and viruses.

Besides HEPA filters, others include foam, felt, or fabric filters. Though less efficient, they pass as alternatives in most cases. And if you don’t have any respiratory conditions, they should do the job just fine. Most filters are washable and replaceable.

Accessories

Standard delivery includes the unit with a set of basic tools needed for cleaning stairs. A set of compulsory tools includes an extendable suction wand, crevice tool, dusting brush, and air-driven brush roller.

Other accessory tools excluded from the original delivery are often available for purchase as extras. You can find them on several retailing sites, or head straight to the manufacturer’s homepage.  

The Best Vacuums for Stairs in 2021 Reviews

Here are some of the best vacuums for stairs we’re featuring today:

  1. Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal – Best to Buy Vacuum for Stairs
  2. Eureka 3670M Mighty Mite – Best Value Vacuum for Stairs
  3. Miele Grey Classic C1 – Best Vacuum for Carpeted Stairs
  4. Shark F80 MultiFLEX – Best Cordless Vacuum for Stairs
  5. Shark Apex DuoClean With Zero-M AZ1002 – Best Vacuum for Stairs and Pets
NameBattery Life/Power Cord LengthFiltration TypeDust CapacityWarranty Period
Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal~60 mins. Li-ion batteryHEPA0.76L (0.69 dry qt) dust cup2 years 
Eureka 3670M Mighty Mite20ft. Power cordHypoallergenic Dust Bag5L (4.6 dry qt) dust bag1 year 
Miele Grey Classic C118ft. Power cordHEPA5.2L (4.76 dry qt) dust bag7 years 
Shark F80 MultiFLEX~25 mins – 1.2 hours Li-ion batteryWashable foam filter0.33L (0.3 dry qt) dust cup5 years
Shark Apex DuoClean with Zero-M AZ100230ft. Power cordHEPA1.7L (1.55 dry qt) dust cup5 years

1. Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal – Best to Buy Vacuum for Stairs

Dyson V10 Animal

Pros

  • High multi-floor performance
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Long battery life
  • HEPA filtration
  • Multiple accessories

Cons

  • Small dust cup 
  • No trigger lock

Thanks to a next-generation motor that provides better suction and a well-designed brush tool, the Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal can tackle stairs with immense cleaning power and fluid movements. In addition, the battery life is ample for a single run and the robust HEPA filtering can pick up just about anything along the cleaning path.

Dyson V10 Animal Performance

Performance

The V10 Animal has powerful suction thanks to its new Digital Motor. The average speed of an old Dyson suction motor is around 108,000 RPMs (revolution per minute). Meanwhile, the new Digital Motor in the V10 can go up to 125,000 RPMs. It is also 40 times more efficient than the previous generation, according to Dyson.

Given its specs, it makes perfect sense that the vacuum’s high suction sucks up just about every type of dust, dirt, and debris from bare surfaces. The vacuum also comes with a motorized brush roll for carpet cleaning. The specialized brush is strong enough to scrub ground-in dirt from high-pile carpets, so carpeted stairs shouldn’t be an issue.

The V10 Animal has three speeds: Low, Medium, and Max. Low provides the best energy efficiency and maximum runtime while reducing overall performance. Medium is the recommended setting for most tasks and offers the best balance between efficiency and power. Meanwhile, Max will give you the most power at the expense of battery life and noise.

Design

The V10 Animal weighs 5.9 pounds fully assembled. As a handheld model, the weight cuts down to 3.4 pounds.

Design-wise, the vacuum is built with a unique in-line architecture. Basically, the nozzle, the dust cup, the motor, and the vent form a single straight line. This configuration reduces blockage and optimizes the suction flow for greater performance, as well as makes the vacuum more compact.

Dyson V11 Torque Drive Dust Cup & Filtration
Compared to the traditional non-linear architecture (above), the V10’s in-line design (below) is more energy efficient

It has a pistol grip-style handle that makes it comfortable for the user to hold for an extended period. Built into the handle is the power trigger, which is placed underneath the user’s fingertip. But a glaring flaw of the trigger design is that it must be held down at all times during operation. This can be irritating and even painful for some people. As a solution, you can buy a trigger lock from third-party suppliers. It will clamp down on the trigger, providing continuous power while freeing your hand during the process.

In addition, a cleaning mode switch is built onto the vacuum’s body, allowing you to change up the cleaning mode whenever you want.

Battery Life

The Li-ion battery pack can sustain power for 60 minutes on Medium Mode. Battery life can fluctuate depending on the power mode you pick. When the battery depletes, you can take it out and replace it with a new cell. 

Dust Cup & Filtration

For a premium vacuum, the V10 Animal dust cup falls short of expectations, with a maximum capacity of only 0.76 liters (0.718 dry quarts). That said, it’s not too small to be a deal-breaker.

The V10 Animal uses a lifetime HEPA filter for maximum effectiveness, which is to be expected from a high-end model. As long as you wash and maintain it, it should last throughout the vacuum’s life without needing a replacement.

Accessories & Warranty

The V10 Animal comes with a wide array of accessories.

NameDescription
Soft Roller Cleaner HeadSoft bristles for bare floor cleaning
Motorized BrushrollFor carpets and rugs
Mini Motorized ToolHas a miniaturized motorized brush bar to clean in tight, cramped spaces
Mini Soft Dusting BrushEquipped with a soft bristle brush for more efficient dusting
Combination ToolA 2-in-1 tool consisting of a dusting brush and a wide suction nozzle
Crevice ToolProvides the extra reach needed to clean out narrow gaps, nooks, and crannies

The official warranty terms of Dyson include a 2-year limited warranty and a 30-day return policy.

2. Eureka 3670M Mighty Mite – Best Value Vacuum for Stairs

Eureka 3670M

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Wide cleaning radius
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Retractable power cord
  • High-quality dust bag
  • HEPA filtration

Cons

  • Unsuitable for carpeting

The Eureka 3670M Mighty Mite provides decent cleaning power for the price. The vacuum has a lightweight and compact body weighing 9 pounds. The weight makes it easy to carry up and down stairs. Furthermore, the long suction hose gives it a larger cleaning radius, allowing you to reach and clean higher up the stairs.

Eureka 3670M Performance

Performance

For such an inexpensive model, the 3670M outperforms its price tag and takes us all by surprise. On bare surfaces like hardwood, the vacuum has no problem dealing with common dust and dirt. If your house has bare tread stairs, the 3670M will work wonders. 

Carpeted surfaces, however, are another story, where the vacuum fails to deliver the same result. For standard stairs covered in low-pile carpeting, the vacuum could sweep up light dust, dirt, and small debris. There may be some leftovers from time to time, but the 3670M has at least exceeded expectations, which weren’t high to begin with.

The vacuum struggles with low-pile carpets, nevermind high-pile ones. The floor head tends to sink into dense carpet piling. Aside from pushing debris away from the nozzle instead of sucking them in, this also makes it difficult to maneuver the vacuum. 

A quick and temporary fix to this problem is lifting the floor head and placing it on top of the dirty spot. But this can be understandably unpleasant and even painful to many, such as those with bad backs.

Design

Fully assembled, the 3670M weighs 9 pounds. The canister has a carry handle for moving up and down the stairs. Other than that, Eureka also sells a special shoulder strap you can use to lash the vacuum to your body. The shoulder strap makes the vacuum easier to transport and keeps your hands free.

Eureka 3670M Design

On the floor, the 3670M moves around using a set of smooth-gliding wheels. They’re non-abrasive and won’t damage the delicate surface of your bare tread stairs. Be advised, the plastic wheels aren’t built to last, but at least they can be replaced.

In addition, there’s a non-retractable 20-foot power cord. When you put the unit in storage, you have to wrap the cord around the body.

The 20-foot cord, plus a 5-foot suction hose and a 5-foot extension wand, provides an impressive cleaning radius of 30 feet. It should be more than enough to cover a standard stair.

Dust Bag

The Eureka 3670M is a bagged vacuum with a 4.6-dry quart dust bag for dirt storage. The bag has a built-in HEPA filter for filtration (the bag’s HEPA filter is separate from the vacuum’s own filtering system). Depending on how frequently you use the vacuum, Eureka recommends switching out the bag once every 30 to 60 days.

Filtration

The 3670M filtering system includes a foam pre-motor filter and a HEPA filter. Including the dust bag’s own HEPA filter, the 3670M has in total three layers of filtration.

The pre-motor filter has to be replaced once every 3 to 4 months and the HEPA filter once every 6 months, according to Eureka.

Accessories & Warranty

The Eureka 3670M Mighty Mite comes with three tools in the box.

NameDescription
10-inch Turbo NozzleWide cleaning path for more efficient vacuuming
Combination ToolCombination between dusting brush and upholstery nozzle
Crevice ToolExtends vacuum’s reach into nooks and crannies

The standard warranty for the 3670M includes a 1-year limited manufacturer warranty and a 30-day return period.

3. Miele Grey Classic C1 – Best Vacuum for Carpeted Stairs

Miele Grey Classic C1

Pros

  • Relatively affordable
  • Powerful, customizable performance
  • Wide cleaning radius
  • Excellent dust bag design
  • HEPA filtration
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Heavy

The Miele Grey Classic C1 gathers a great deal of attention from customers. The performance power is high and flexible enough to clean up bare tread stairs as well as carpeted ones. The Classic C1 is relatively affordable while possessing a set of advanced features.

Miele Grey Classic C1 Performance

Performance

The Classic C1 packs a S2 Vortex motor. High suction power is one thing, but the engine also offers various settings. The suction control knob at the front of the canister can tune the motor to any of six preset speeds:

  • Curtains & lightweight fabrics
  • Upholstery & cushions
  • High-pile carpet, rugs, & runners (use on high-pile or shaggy carpeted stairs)
  • Low-pile carpet (use on low-pile carpeted stairs)
  • Hard floor surfaces (use on bare tread stairs)
  • Energy-saving mode

While the first five modes are self-explanatory, the Energy-saving mode will need some exposition. This mode muffles the motor sound for quiet operation. Although cleaning performance is much weaker, the unit gets the job done with an acceptable noise level that isn’t unbearable.  

Design

The Classic C1’s canister weighs 16.1 pounds, which isn’t very heavy, but the weight is substantial nonetheless. Some people may find it difficult to bring it up and down the stairs.

The Classic C1 has a wide cleaning radius. It has an 18-foot power cord and a 5-foot suction hose. Together, they give the Classic C1 about 20 to 25 feet of reach, which lets you reach the higher steps of the stairs. It’ll be easier and less exhausting.

The power cord has a retracting mechanism for more convenient storage.

Dust Bag

The vacuum uses Miele’s Type-GN dust bag. It is the highest capacity bag the company sells, having a capacity of 4.76 dry quarts.

The randomly-spun fiber woven bag is not only durable, it also enhances the bag’s filtering ability. In a way, the bag has the same structure as HEPA filters. As a result, it can help capture dirty particles in the airflow.

The bag can expand its volume as it fills thanks to a unique “SoftStructure” technology. It also has a Self-Locking Auto-Seal Collar to automatically secure the air-tight bag when you remove it from the vacuum.

A color indicator on the bag will change color when it’s filled up and needs to be emptied.

Filtration

Dubbed “AirClean” by Miele, the filtration system means serious business, including  a HEPA filter, a pre-motor filter, and an exhaust filter. For good measure, the overall filtering efficiency  features a dust bag whose innate filtering property is plenty powerful. 

All filters are to be replaced after a certain cycle. The HEPA filter is once every 6 months. Both the pre-motor filter and exhaust filter have color indicators to tell you when they need to be replaced.

Accessories & Warranty

The Miele Classic C1 is shipped with four tools in the box.

NameDescription
SBD 285-3 Pure Suction Combination Floor HeadHas retractable bristles for combined use on hardwood and low-pile carpets
Dusting BrushEnhances dusting efficiency on upholstery and bare surfaces
Upholstery ToolFor delicate surfaces like upholstery
Crevice ToolExtends vacuum’s reach into nooks and crannies

The limited manufacturer warranty for the vacuum is up to 7 years, which is the longest among models featured in this entry.

4. Shark F80 MultiFLEX – Best Cordless Vacuum for Stairs

Shark ION F80 MultiFlex

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • High multi-floor performance
  • Flexible, ergonomic
  • Great battery life
  • Swappable battery
  • Long warranty period

Cons

  • Costly
  • Small dust cup
  • Non-HEPA filtration
  • Minimal accessories

The F80 MultiFLEX is one of Shark’s premium models in the cordless segment. It has a long battery life ideal for long cleaning sessions. The strong suction motor offers   impressive cleaning power. For carpeted-stair owners, the vacuum includes a motorized brush roll for high- and low-pile alike.

Shark ION F80 Performance

Performance

The motor generates impressive suction power. On bare surfaces, the vacuum can pick up dust, dirt, and debris well. On carpeting, with the help of the motorized brush roll, the vacuum can also sweep up dust stuck on the piling.

You can adjust the power output of the motor with two levels: ION Power and ION Boost. ION Power is the default suction mode and provides the best battery life efficiency. On the other hand, ION Boost provides maximum power at the expense of shortened runtime.

The DuoClean motorized brush roll further improves the unit’s overall performance. This floor head has two brush rolls instead of one, which will enhance the dirt pick-up rate on both bare and carpeted surfaces.

Design

The F80 is relatively lightweight at 8.7 pounds, which is a definite advantage when cleaning stairs. You can even decrease the unit’s weight and size further by removing the long handle and turning it into a handheld.

But the most prominent feature, and a potential deal-sealer for many, is the MultiFLEX design. As the name suggests, the suction hose has several joints and thus bends to certain angles for your convenience while cleaning stairs. This feature can reduce fatigue and back pain.

MultiFLEX also makes the vacuum easier to store. You can bend the suction hose and tuck it close to the vacuum’s body so it won’t take up too much space. The folded hose can also double as a kickstand to keep the vacuum standing upright while it’s in storage.

Shark ION F80 MultiFlex Design

Battery Life

Depending on the power mode, the F80’s battery life can vary from 1.2 hours in ION Power to 25 minutes in ION Boost mode. The vacuum supports hot-swapping, i.e., quickly switching out a depleted battery cell for a fully-charged one. As long as you have extra battery packs to spare, you can keep the unit running until the stairs are spotless. 

The standard package comes with two batteries inside the box. So, in total, you get 50 to about 2 hours of run-time with these two cells alone, which should suffice in most cases.

Dust Cup & Filtration

The F80 has a 0.3-dry quart dust cup. Though it’s relatively small, it should be more than enough to sweep up a staircase as well as a small house. If you live in a large place, you may have to empty the cup halfway through a rigorous cleaning session, or consider another model entirely.

The vacuum also has a foam pre-motor and post-motor filter to deal with dirty particles passing through the system. Though they’re nowhere near HEPA filters in terms of efficacy, they should pass for casual users. If you don’t have special medical conditions such as allergies or asthma, these filters should do the job just fine.

Accessories & Warranty

For a premium vacuum, the accompanying accessories are rather disappointing. The vacuum comes with a crevice tool and an upholstery nozzle.

Shark has a 5-year warranty policy for the batteries and a 2-year term for parts and labor.

5. Shark Apex DuoClean With Zero-M AZ1002 – Best Vacuum for Stairs and Pets

Shark AZ1002 Apex Duoclean with Zero-M

Pros

  • Great multi-surface performance
  • Excellent against pet hair
  • Unique brush roll
  • Maneuverable
  • Long power cord
  • HEPA filtration
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Small dust cup
  • Doesn’t come with many accessories

Pets often follow you up and down the stairs, which means there’s fur and dandruff along the steps. The Shark Apex DuoClean is favored among consumers for its effectiveness against pet hair, with the “Zero-M Anti-Hair Wrap technology” as the secret weapon. It prevents pet hair from tangling up within the brush roll and potentially damaging the vacuum, which is a very common issue among vacuum cleaners.

Shark Apex AZ1002 Performance

Performance

The raw suction alone is strong enough to clean out all traces of dust and dirt on bare surfaces. Common debris aside, the AZ1002’s actual specialty is pet hair. The unit has no trouble picking up clumps of fur, which is a struggle for many traditional vacuum cleaners.

On carpeted surfaces, the DuoClean floor head— a combination between a soft roller brush and a hard bristle brush— can help you out. While the hard bristle brush dislodges strands or clumps of pet hair stuck in thick carpet piling, the soft roller brush gently handles stubborn dirt or pet hair on bare surfaces without leaving scratches.

The primary motorized brush roll floor head is integrated with Zero-M (for “Zero Maintenance”) technology to prevent pet hair from ruining your vacuum. Tiny barriers at the top of the floor head keep hair strands from tangling the brush roll. This design saves you cleaning time, which would otherwise be wasted on untangling debris by hand. 

Design

Weighing 17.1 pounds, the unit isn’t exactly ideal for stair cleaning, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The AZ1002 draws power using a 30-foot power cord, which provides plenty of cleaning range regardless of where you are in the house.

The vacuum’s handle is comfortable, and all of the control buttons are positioned right beneath the user’s fingertip. Aside from the power button, Shark also gives you all of the essential controls, which include the brush roll switch and surface selector.

AZ1002 maneuvers well with the swivel steering mechanism and smooth-gliding wheels. The vacuum can glide across whatever surface you put it on, be it the house’s floor or the stair tread. Headlights are available for vacuuming in low light.

Shark Apex AZ1002 Design

Dust Cup & Filtration

The dust cup can only hold up to 1.55 dry quarts. Granted, it should be enough to cover a whole house’s worth of dirt, let alone a staircase, but we were expecting more from this premium model.

The emptying process is simple and hygienic. It takes less than a minute to empty out the AZ1002 and get it ready for another cleaning session. For filtering, the vacuum uses a HEPA filter.

Accessories & Warranty

The vacuum comes with three tools.

NameDescription
12-inch Crevice ToolExtends vacuum’s reach into nooks and crannies
Motorized Pet Hair ToolSmall motorized tool to streamline pet hair vacuuming process
Multi-Upholstery ToolFor delicate surfaces like upholstery

The warranty covers up to 5 years.

What Is the Best Way to Clean Carpeted Stairs?

A vacuum cleaner is the default choice for cleaning carpeted stairs. However, there is more than just one option. 

Your vacuum cleaner can loosen up debris, stubborn dirt, and pet hair tangled between the carpet fiber. But for more stubborn smudges, we recommend having an old-fashioned scrub brush to eliminate all traces of dirt. You can also use a shampoo-soaked brush to deal with soiled or stained spots on carpets.

The final step is letting the carpet air-dry through the night, and it’s as good as new.

How Do You Protect Wooden Stairs?

Hardwood stairs are notoriously delicate. The surface can be scratched and dented if they’re not given enough protection.

The first thing you can do to preserve your stairs’ pristine condition is to apply varnish and wood oil. Varnish can keep the wood durable and resistant to damage while wood oil protects them from rot and mite. You can also add wood wax to waterproof your stairs.

Also, make it a rule in the house not to step on the tread with heeled shoes. The sharp heels can ruin the wood beyond repair.

Last and most importantly, clean your stairs weekly with a vacuum cleaner and a damp cloth. While varnish and oil prevent stairs from rotting away and internal damage, regular cleaning keeps the stairs spotless and gives bare feet a good feeling when you’re stepping up or down.

Conclusion

Stairs can be tricky to clean, but having these best vacuums for stairs can help. We’re sure they can fulfill your needs and meet your expectations.

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