The Best Vacuum for Stairs: 7 Powerful, Portable Vacuum Cleaners

The Best Vacuum for Stairs: 7 Powerful, Portable Vacuum Cleaners

Stairs are challenging to clean for a variety of reasons. They’re often too narrow for many upright vacuums to fit on easily, but cleaning them with a dustvac means a lot of bending and stooping. That can be hard on your back and knees, especially when you consider you’ll have to carry the vacuum up the stairs with you.

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The best vacuum for stairs is one that’s lightweight and portable yet still powerful enough to get the job done, but there are often other factors to consider, as well. Access to power outlets can be limited on and around staircases, so you’ll need a vacuum with a long cord (a cordless model works great, too, if you don’t want to have to worry about searching at all).


Best Vacuums for Stairs

 

Individual Reviews

 

The vacuums on the list below are all excellent choices if you’re looking for something that can clean stairs—and a lot of them will work great for the other floors in your house, too. Canister vacuums can often get the job done nicely, especially ones that include an extendable wand.

Convertible 2-in-1 models can be particularly helpful for use with carpeted stairs, since they have the power to dig ground-in dirt out from the between the fibers. Whatever you particular needs, one of the choices below is sure to meet them.

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Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away Upright Vacuum

Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum Review - features, pros and cons

The Rotator Powered Lift-Away is compact, one of Shark’s most compact options, the main feature that makes it perfect for any home with stairs. It’s a convertible vacuum, which means the canister lifts off so you can get both an upright and a hand-held vacuum in one device. This lessens your load even more when it comes to cleaning your staircase, letting you navigate these tricky areas with ease.

The small design of the Rotator helps in other ways, too. The vacuum uses a low profile head that can fit pretty much anywhere. The LED lights on the front are a nice touch, as well, letting you see just what you’re cleaning up in those hard to reach spaces. Since you can remove the canister from the handle, you can also get a longer reach than with traditional uprights, which is helpful in all kinds of situations, whether it’s cleaning dust from your curtains or reaching those top steps without having to climb them.

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While it’s compact even in upright mode, the Shark Rotator is not necessarily light-weight. It comes in at 13 pounds—not terribly heavy, but not the lightest option, either. The main place you’ll notice this is when you’re carrying the vacuum between the various flights of your home. The swivel steering keeps the vacuum from feeling heavy when you push it, letting you navigate around obstacles without a struggling, and the convertible feature keeps it easy to carry up the stairs themselves.

 

Usability and versatility are the main strengths of the Rotator. The controls are all conveniently located at the top of the vacuum’s handle, putting them right at your fingertips and saving you from having to bend down when its time to adjust the settings. It gets a deep clean of most carpets and includes a Dust-Away attachment for hard floors that’s ideal for cleaning hardwood or linoleum until it shines. Whatever kind of stairs are in your home, the Shark Rotator will be able to clean them quickly and thoroughly—and it will give you that same clean on your floors, too.

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PROS

 

What we like:

  • Compact build
  • Lift-Away mode perfect for stairs
  • Fingertip controls make it very usable
  • Swivel steering allows for smooth navigation
  • Slim profile head with bright LED lights great for tight spaces
  • Included attachments make it extremely versatile
  • Complete Seal technology completely traps allergens in the canister
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • On the heavier side (13 pounds)
  • Somewhat small dust cup may need to be emptied mid-cleaning

Miele Compact C2 Electro+ Canister Vacuum

Miele Compact C2 Electro+ Canister review

The 6-stage Vortex Silence motor on this Miele Electro+ Canister vacuum is arguably the most powerful proprietary suction technology that you’ll find. It comes with two heads: the Electro Plus floorhead for carpet that’s medium-pile and higher, and the Parquet floorhead that buffs smooth surfaces to a spotless sheen. Combined with the six-level suction adjustment dial, this makes the Miele one of your most versatile options in canister vacuums.

 
 

The cleaning radius with this vacuum is impressive. Between the power cord and the telescoping wand you get a total reach of 33 feet, which is plenty for most spaces. After you’re done cleaning, you can retract the power cord automatically—a lot easier than having to coil the whole thing back up.

While the different heads are easy to swap, it does mean switching from carpet to hardwood takes a bit longer than with some models, which can get frustrating if you have rooms or staircases with both hard and soft flooring. The dial for adjusting the suction strength is also in an inconvenient place, low on the front of the canister, so if you don’t want to (or can’t) bend and stoop, this isn’t the best option.

Aside from these minor quibbles, though, the construction and design of the Electro+ are impeccable. It uses a heavy-duty construction that’s designed to stand up to decades of daily use. The wand is stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about damaging it while you’re cleaning. The Vario Clip at the top of the canister is a convenient way to keep all your accessories close at hand.

 
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The Miele Compact C2 Electro+ is the best vacuum for stairs with plush carpeting, since it’s one of the few compact canisters that can handle high-pile carpets. If you have lots of stairs, though, you may want to look elsewhere. At over 18 pounds, you may find it a bit of a workout to carry up and down multiple flights.

PROS

 

What we like:

  • Vortex motor provides deep cleaning power
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  • Adjustable suction
  • Extra-long reach
  • Durable motor built to last up to 20 years
  • Has the power for even high-pile carpeting
  • Dedicated brush for dusting hard floors
  • Included accessories clip right onto the canister
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Adjustment dial location is a bit inconvenient
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  • Takes longer to switch from hard to soft floors
  • Canister is heavy (18 pounds)
  • Higher cost
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Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum review

The Shark Navigator Lift-Away is similar to the Rotator above, but it differs in a few key ways—one of the most notable being the price. It is a strong contender in the under $200 category, offering the same convertible 2-in-1 design as the Rotator but at about half the price.

 

The Navigator is similar in terms of size and weight to the Rotator—about 13 pounds in upright mode with a relatively compact build. The main cleaning head has a higher profile so you may find it trickier to navigate under and around obstacles in upright mode. The included accessories help you catch the places the main head might miss.

The Hard Floor Hero is built low and wide, with edge to edge cleaning that’s great for wooden stairs (or for nabbing crumbs from under the kitchen counters). You’ll also get a Dusting Brush, Pet Power Brush, and Crevice Tool that let you detail-clean stairs of any configuration or design.

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You’ll get an efficient clean using the Shark Navigator in both modes. It has a wide 9.5-inch cleaning path so you won’t have to make as many passes if you want to clean your entire room. The brushroll gives a deep clean of low- and medium-pile carpets. The brushroll power switch lets you easily turn it off for a gentler clean of hard floors. The vacuum’s suction is strong and reliable, picking up everything from pet hair to spilled cereal without a problem.

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There are some design quirks to contend with on this vacuum. The design of the dust bin makes it harder to empty without spilling it or getting dirt all over your hands. While it’s great at picking up pet hair, it’s not as efficient at managing it within the vacuum. It can sometimes get trapped in the tube. The blockage indicator light located on the brush head will turn red whenever there’s a jam, so you’ll know as soon as it happens, but clearing it out can also mean getting dirt and dust on your hands.

If you’re shopping specifically with stairs in mind, the Lift-Away option is by far the most appealing aspect of Shark vacuums. The Navigator gives you that choice at a great value, without compromising the build quality or cleaning power. Extra little details like the suction adjustment dial and blockage indicator light certainly make it feel a lot more expensive than it is.

 

PROS

 

What we like:

  • Excellent value
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  • Powerful suction with easy dial adjustment
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  • Helpful included accessories
  • Wide cleaning path
  • One-button conversion from upright to hand-held vacuum
  • Jam indicator light on brush helps prevent motor damage
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Not designed for high-pile carpet
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  • Emptying the bin can be messy
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Bissell 9595A CleanView Bagless Vacuum

BISSELL 9595A CleanView Bagless Vacuum review

If price is the main factor in your decision, the CleanView from Bissell is by far the best vacuum for stairs if you’re on a budget. It has the power and portability to be the primary vacuum in a multi-level home. While it might not be as feature-rich or versatile as some of the other options on this list, it offers the most power dollar for dollar.

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The CleanView was engineered using what Bissell calls its OnePass Technology, a term that basically means you won’t have to go over the same area again and again. It uses Multi-Cyclonic suction for consistent power across the entire brush head, and the re-designed brush that digs into carpet fibers to lift ground-in dirt. Most people prefer the dust bin to ones found on costlier models. It has a large capacity, helpful for bigger spaces, and uses a one-switch release that’s easy to operate.

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The included TurboBrush tool is a very useful accessory for cleaning stairs. It’s a smaller version of the main brush head, with a powered brushroll that digs just as deep into the carpet in a compact package that will clean any size of surface.

The main sacrifice you’ll make compared to pricier models is the ease of use. The included extension wand isn’t long enough for reaching the whole way up many staircases, so you will likely have to carry it up at least part of the way. It’s about 15 pounds but it’s built for portability, so it isn’t hard to carry if you don’t mind the weight.

 

The Bissell CleanView will clean most common floors as efficiently as any other vacuum on this list. You can’t turn off the brushroll or adjust the suction power. This makes it a less appealing option for delicate floors, whether those are easily-scratched hardwood or soft carpet. You also shouldn’t expect it to give you a deep clean of shag or high-pile carpet. If you don’t have these kinds of specialized floors in your home, though, this Bissell is a fantastic way to get a professional-level clean without spending a lot of money.

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PROS

 

What we like:

  • Best value
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  • TurboBrush tool is excellent for stairs
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  • Multi-Cyclonic suction picks up dirt on the first pass
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  • Large, easy to empty dust bin
  • Low-profile head and deep recline handle for under-furniture cleaning
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Somewhat heavy (15 pounds)
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  • Shorter reach
  • Can’t adjust suction level or brushroll
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Eufy HomeVac Lightweight Cordless Upright-Style Vacuum Cleaner

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Eufy HomeVac Lightweight review

Cordless vacuums offer users maximum portability. If your stairs don’t have easy access to an outlet, you’ll love the HomeVac from Eufy, which offers the same suction power as a corded vacuum but in a portable and wall-mountable package.

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The HomeVac is powered by a large Lithium ion battery. You’ll get up to 50 minutes of cleaning on a single charge, plenty of life for even many multi-level homes. Since it’s super lightweight, at only 5.5 pounds, you can clean your staircase or carry it between levels without wearing yourself out. This makes it much easier to take out for a quick spot-clean, too. Its slim profile won’t take up much space in a closet, but it also comes with a wall-mounting system, making storing it even easier.

The filtration and dust bin systems are surprisingly sophisticated, given the price point. It utilizes a double filtration system to prevent allergens and dust from escaping. Emptying the dust bin uses a two-step release and is designed so your floor and hands both stay clean while you’re dumping it. With a capacity of almost a liter, you won’t have to stop and empty the dust bin too often, either.

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In terms of navigation, you’ll find the light weight of the Eufy HomeVac again works to its advantage. It has a swivel steering system and a low-profile head, so it’s just as easy to navigate around obstacles. The only place its light weight works against it is on thick carpets. Even in high-power mode, it’s not designed to dig deep into thick or dense fibers, and you might find it takes a bit more effort to push even on relatively low-pile carpets.

 

No matter what size of home you’re cleaning, the Eufy HomeVac is up to the task. Its small footprint makes it perfect for apartments and it has the battery life and dust bin capacity to handle larger homes. It’s both half the weight and half the price of a lot of comparable options, and its high marks in the categories of portability and value are the main things that earned its place on this list.

PROS

 

What we like:

  • Cordless operation
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  • Lithium ion battery lasts up to 50 minutes on a charge
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  • Great dust bin design
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  • Super lightweight (5.5 pounds)
  • Compact design makes it easy to store
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Not designed for thick carpets
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  • Hair tends to tangle and clog so not ideal for pet owners
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Hoover Air Cordless Series Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Hoover Air Cordless Series Vac review

If you’re looking for cordless operation that can handle heavy-duty messes and tricky floor types, the Hoover Air cordless vacuum has you covered. Like the Eufy HomeVac above, it uses a lithium ion battery to provide up to 50 minutes of life on each charge.

Where the Hoover Air beats the Eufy is in suction power. The three-channel suction provided by the included WindTunnel 3 Technology means it can handle even fairly thick carpets, making it more versatile and a better choice if you have a lot of different floor types in your home.

 
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The Hoover Air Cordless has all the features you’d expect on a high-end vacuum cleaner. The Multi-Floor Cleaning function gives you seamless transitions from carpet to hardwood and vice versa. It also uses swivel steering and a low profile head for easy navigation around and under furnishings, with LED headlights to guide you while you clean.

 

Weight and reach are important factors to consider when it comes to cleaning stairs, and the Hoover Air gets good marks in both categories. It weighs less than 10 pounds, and that weight is well-balanced so it won’t topple over easily. You’ll get the same suction power from the cleaning wand as you do through the main brush, so you can use it to clean your stairs without bending or straining. The unique combination crevice and dusting tool is perfect for small nooks and crannies on staircases.

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The brush and filter on the Hoover Air won’t clog easily, though pet owners should expect to clean out the filter and brush after every use just to be on the safe side. The good news is that maintenance is easy. Whether you’re changing the filter, installing a new battery, or emptying the bin, the Hoover Air offers intuitive and no-fuss operation that you don’t need to be technically-minded to figure out.

The Hoover Air Cordless is the best vacuum for stairs in a large home. Its extra-wide 11-inch cleaning path makes short work of any floor size, and the cordless operation means you won’t have to search for an outlet as you move from room to room.

 
 

PROS

 

What we like:

  • WindTunnel 3 Technology guarantees consistent suction power
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  • Wide 11-inch brush cleans large spaces efficiently
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  • Long 50 minute battery life for whole home cleaning
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  • Easily cleans around and under furniture
  • Lightweight (9.9 pounds)
  • Good assortment of included accessories
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CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Requires more frequent maintenance than other models
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  • Not as effective at grabbing larger particles
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Black+Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX Lithium Flex Vacuum

Black+Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX review

Most of the options on this list are built for whole-home use—in other words, they’ll do stairs and then some. If what you’re really after is a supplemental vacuum cleaner specifically for your stairs, this little cordless model from Black+Decker will no doubt do the trick. As an added bonus for pet owners, it makes a perfect spot cleaner for tough messes like shed hair and spilled litter when you don’t want to go through the trouble of pulling out the upright.

 

The installed Lithium ion battery provides about 20 minutes of fade-free suction on a charge. That’s plenty for a staircase or a car, if not quite enough to clean an entire house. Because the battery is installed, you also can’t swap it out for a different one to extend the cleaning life; once it dies, your only option is to put it back on the charger before you can use it again.

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Basically the Black+Decker Flex Vacuum is designed to quickly tackle small jobs, and in that regard it excels. It’s the lightest option on the list, weighing less than 5 pounds, making it a truly hand-held option. The four-foot hose gives it a long reach so you won’t have to bend or stretch to thoroughly clean every stair.

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The motor on this little guy is not going to give you the same suction power as some of the heftier models above, but it is on par with similarly-priced upright options. Carpeted stairs don’t present a problem as long as they’re not too thick or shaggy, and it does an excellent job picking up things that other vacuums might struggle with, like pet hair. The main time you’ll notice its smaller motor straining is if it’s trying to pick up larger particles, like spilled food in the kitchen or tracked-in road salt.

A vacuum cleaner of this size is naturally going to have a few limitations, but if you want the simplest and most portable way to clean your stairs, this Black+Decker hand-held model is a strong contender. It has the reach, suction, and accessories you’ll need to clean your stairs with ease.

 

PROS

 

What we like:

  • Super lightweight at less than 5 pounds
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  • Lithium ion battery provides fade-free suction
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  • 3-stage filtration keeps the air clean
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  • 4-foot wand for easy cleaning of hard-to-reach messes
  • Excellent for pet owners
  •  

CONS

What we didn't like:

 
  • Installed battery can’t be swapped out if it fails
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  • Not powerful enough for thick carpets
  • Battery life is on the short side (around 20 minutes per charge)
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The verdict

 

There’s no one best choice for the best vacuum for stairs. Like we said before, it’s all about picking the one that gets the highest marks in the categories that are of most importance to you. Some staircases present more of a challenge than others. The size, shape, number, and surface of the stairs in your home will all play a factor in which vacuum is the right one for you.

 

The main difference that you’ll find between a higher-end vacuum and one of the more affordable options is going to come down to the vacuum’s versatility and the power of the motor. This doesn’t mean that the lower-cost vacuums are inherently lower quality. Not everybody needs the same amount of power. If you only plan to use the vacuum on smooth floors or lower-pile carpets, a less powerful motor should still suit your needs just fine, and you’ll save a few hundred dollars in the bargain.

 

If you do have a more complicated home layout or flooring situation, you will probably need to spend a bit more money to get a vacuum designed for deep penetration. Something like the Miele C2 Electro+ is a great option because it lets you adjust your suction power and can clean pretty much any kind of floor, but it’s still easy to use on a staircase. Stairs that use a combination of hardwood and carpet, on the other hand, require a vacuum that’s highly versatile. Either the Shark Rotator or the Shark Navigator would be an excellent option.

 

Considering overall performance on factors like suction power, maneuverability, and value, our number one choice is the Hoover Air Cordless. While it might not have quite the same suction power as some of the more expensive options on the list, its lightweight design makes it easy to carry anywhere, and the cleaning head is wide enough to clean up even big stairs quickly. The cordless operation is helpful, too, letting you get right to cleaning without searching for an outlet.

 

In truth, any of the options above could be called the best vacuum for stairs, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Whichever model you go with, you’ll get a durable and reliable machine that will help you keep your entire home looking its best.

 
 
 

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