In this Guide
If you have stairs in your home, you know how annoying they can be to clean. Stairs and banisters accumulate dust and fur balls like nobody’s business, and offer lots of nooks and crannies for messes to hide!
Stairs pose a challenge to the maneuverability of any vacuum, whether upright, canister, or stick design. You want one that’s light, ergonomic, and adaptable to any awkward staircase. Plus, you’ll need plenty of attachments to tackle the job.
How do you know which ones will actually make your stairs less of a pain to clean? We’ve done the research to find out!
We looked for features that we love for cleaning stairways, both carpeted and hardwood. We compared dozens of models from the leading brands, and narrowed down the field to 3 top winners which we think will make vacuuming your stairs simple and easy.
You can read our full reviews of each pick below. We’ll take you through their important features, and talk you through how each one handles stairs. After our reviews, you’ll find our guide on how to shop for the best vacuum for stairs.
First, here’s a quick peek at the winners:
- Dyson Cinetic Big Ball: the most popular!
- Shark Rocket: for people on a tight budget!
- Miele C2 Limited: for people who want the best of the best!
- Dyson V8 Absolute (honorable mention)
- Eureka EasyClean (honorable mention)
1. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball
This updated version of Dyson’s best-selling canister is a powerful, smart solution for vacuuming pretty much anywhere around your house. Its excellent maneuverability, small footprint and deluxe attachment set make it one of our favorites for vacuuming stairs. We used to recommend the super-popular DC-39 canister in this slot, but the Cinetic Big Ball is a huge step forward, so we think it’s worth the increase in price!
Between the power cord and attachment hose, the Cinetic Big Ball has slightly more than a 32-foot reach. That should be more than enough to let you maneuver through a stairwell, even if you don’t have outlets midway.
The main floor attachment on this model is a Trigger-head combo tool. It works on hard floors as well as carpets. The Trigger tool uses an air-powered beater brush for working on carpets and rugs. You can turn it on and off from the handle, as you change between flooring types. Reviewers said it’s surprisingly effective for an air-driven tool.
We especially like the narrow design of the Trigger-head for working on stairs. It can fit on most steps with ease, allowing you to cover more ground than you’d be able to clean with an attachment head.
There are two more attachments we love for working on stairs. The first is a turbine head. It’s powered by suction, just like the Trigger-head. The two opposing brushes scrub stuck-on pet fur off of furniture upholstery and is ideal for plush, carpeted stairs. Since there’s no beater bar, there’s nothing for hair to get tangled in. Previous buyers said this is one of very few so-called “tangle-free” tools that actually lives up to its name.
The second great attachment is a dedicated tool just for cleaning stairs. It works on smooth stairs or low-pile carpeted stairs. It has velour strips to lift carpet pile, and grab pet hair. The attachment also has air flow holes which keep the tool from sticking straight onto your carpeted stairs.
The Cinetic Big Ball is a canister design that works on a central ball design. The canister steers on the ball, and the ball is also the dust chamber. Central steering makes the Cinetic Big Ball extremely maneuverable on staircase landings.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about it tipping over like other models. Usually, one tipping over isn’t the end of the world. On stairs, though, it can be dangerous and cause damage.
Since the Cinetic’s ball design is more compact than other canisters, it can rest on stairs or landings much more easily than other models. It’s also got a seriously cool design feature up its sleeve: this vacuum will self-right, which means it stands itself back up if it starts tipping over!
The special suction system inside the ball uses a cyclone effect. Dyson claims that this eliminates suction loss from debris accumulation on filters in traditional air systems. Previous buyers said they didn’t have any trouble with suction loss. Plus, there’s no bag or filter to replace.
The dust chamber gives you about 1/2 a gallon worth of dirt storage. That’s a lot more than you’ll have with the bagged competition.
The closed air system also provides HEPA filtration for your air. It’s also acoustically sealed for reduced noise levels.
It’s covered by a 5-year warranty on parts and labor.
It’s not ideal for mid-to-deep pile carpets. The beater bar is air powered, which won’t cut it on wall-to-wall carpet that has any sort of pile. Plus, the head is smaller and narrower than most. That means you’ll have to spend more time and effort on your carpet. We always recommend going with one that has a motorized brush head for serious carpets.
While reviewers said they didn’t have any problems with suction due to filter blockages, they did say that larger debris occasionally got stuck at the joint between the hose and the canister.
It doesn’t store conveniently. The wand and hose hang separately from the canister, so you’ll have to pile the whole thing into the corner.
2. Shark Rocket
Our budget recommendation for vacuuming stairs is this Shark ultralight model. Priced below $200, it’s a very adaptable stick model that’s equipped to clean stairwells from floor to ceiling. We love that it combines the flexibility and versatility of a cordless stick vacuum with the constant power of a corded model.
It’s corded, not cordless. While cordless models are often seen as the most flexible, they have their limitations. The average cordless one only gives you about 15-20 minutes of constant vacuuming per charge. If you have a lot of stairs to clean, that time will be gone before you know it–and you’ve still got to vacuum the rest of your house! The Rocket will run as long as you need it. Plus, the Rocket won’t lose suction as the battery charge dies.
The power cord is a generous 30 feet, so you don’t have to worry about running out of range.
It’s lightweight, and ergonomically designed. While other models offer attachment hoses and tools for cleaning overhead, many of them are bulky or awkward. That makes it an ergonomic strain to clean above eye level. The Rocket makes it easy to clean dust above cabinets, and on ceiling fans or vents.
The fully-powered brush head on the Rocket is a rarity among light or stick style vacuums. We especially like that the brush head has adjustable speed settings. You can ramp up the power to get pet fur out of carpets, and turn it down to gently clean prized area rugs.
It has swivel steering, just like its bigger counterparts. The swivel joint also works in handheld mode, so you can get up close and personal with vertical carpeting on your stairs!
The DustAway hard floor attachment is perfect for working on hardwood stairs. It’s a combination of a suction head and a microfiber sweeping pad which follows behind. And since the Rocket works vertically, it’s a great way to clean your molding without having to worry about scratching woodwork. You’ll vacuum dust out of those tricky cracks, and give the wood a buffing at the same time!
It also comes with a crevice tool, dusting brush, and a wide upholstery brush.
The dust compartment opens with a button, so you don’t have to get involved with all the accumulated dirt and hair.
There’s no filtration system on this model. If you have allergies, that might be a concern.
It’s very top-heavy, which means that it doesn’t stand up well on its own in the closet.
The attachments also don’t store onboard. You’ll probably want to keep the vacuum and the attachments in a crate for easier storage.
The dust cup is about average for a stick vacuum, so it’s not all that big. That means if you’re going to clean your whole house with this vacuum, you’ll probably have to empty the dust cup a few times per session.
Previous buyers said that it’s quite loud. That’s not surprising for a lightweight vacuum, especially at this price. The noise isn’t a dealbreaker for us, but you might find it annoying.
3. Miele Complete C2 Limited
The C2 series is Miele’s compact canister grouping. These canisters have a smaller footprint than the C1 or C3 vacuums, but don’t skimp on the power! We love the C2 because the smaller canister will fit on a step or landing much more easily than one of the other series. We’re recommending this Complete set as our top quality choice for vacuuming stairs, thanks to its high-end construction materials and fully adjustable motor settings.
*We know that this particular model isn’t one of the most recent Miele’s. Don’t let that stop you! It’s a fantastic vacuum that’s every bit as good as the newer models. Plus, it’s cheaper!
It looks great. The smart canary yellow finish and sleek, compact design are so much more aesthetically pleasing than other, more utilitarian designs. There are fewer parts that stick out, which also means fewer parts to break. Plus, it doesn’t have the cheap, plasticky look of other models from the leading U.S. brands.
We also love the rubber bumper on the edges of the C2 series. It protects your molding and wood trim as you vacuum along walls and, of course, stairs.
The 33-foot operating radius is the largest of our three recommendations for stair cleaning. It’s ideal for cleaning longer staircases where outlets are in short supply.
The air-driven beater brush works better than comparable features on other brands’ vacuums (such as the Dyson). It has wider coverage, and an easy access port for de-tangling. It’ll do a great job on low-pile and flat rugs, and a decent job on medium pile carpeting. This makes the Miele a good choice for people with a variety of flooring types.
This special edition of the C2 also includes Miele’s Parquet Twister attachment. It’s a deluxe hard floor head with a swivel joint and soft natural bristles for cleaning your delicate wood surfaces with care. It’s perfect for your wood stairs, as well as wood molding.
Previous buyers loved the Parquet Twister. One happy owner even mentioned that it made vacuuming a breeze.
All of the attachments fit inside the canister itself. That’s especially impressive given the small size of the casing. The cord also retracts automatically for storage.
The German build quality trumps other models in this price range. While the Miele is only slightly more expensive than the Dyson, it uses much more metal and higher-density plastic.
As you’d expect, Miele also has a vastly superior reputation for durability when compared with Dyson. Their models come with a 7-year warranty on the motor and casing, and 1 year on all other parts.
While the beater brush works fairly well on low and medium pile rugs and carpets, it’s not the best bet for deeper, plush carpets.
It’s 20 pounds. While the C2 rolls easily and is heavy as a result of good build quality, it is a few pounds heftier than other vacuums. You won’t want to vacuum with the canister in hand.
What makes a great vacuum for pet hair on stairs?
- a flexible hose that you can adjust to different heights and angles
- an ergonomic design that’s easy to maneuver in strange positions
- lots of attachments and settings
- a long cleaning radius
- a compact footprint
- lots of room for captured fur!
How to Shop for the Best Stair Vacuum
Choose the right vacuum for your stairs:
When you’re shopping for your new vacuum, make sure you take your flooring material into account. Hardwood stairs require a vacuum with soft bristles, that will protect the finish on the stairs as you vacuum. Carpeted stairs require a vacuum with either a smaller powered brush head, or a secondary brush attachment to scrub hair out of carpet fibers. We particularly like these smaller, powered hand brushes for vacuuming vertical carpets on the kick plates of your stairs.
Look for the longest cleaning radius possible:
Most vacuums will provide cleaning range in terms of radius. This number combines the length of the power cord and the attachment hose on a given vacuum. For stairs, we recommend a vacuum with no less than 20 feet of cleaning radius. That means you’ll probably want a canister or stick vacuum.
Stay away from uprights:
While upright vacuums can handle short flights of stairs, they generally have shorter attachment hoses of 10-12 feet. That’s not really enough to clean all the way up the average flight of stairs. We also warn against uprights because of their ergonomics. Upright vacuums are heavier, bulkier, and much less maneuverable in a stairwell situation.
Which Vacuum is Best for Your Home?
If you’re on a budget, we recommend going for the Shark Rocket. It’s a lightweight, versatile vacuum that can handle all types of stairwell cleaning, both on the ground and on the ceiling. With cordless power, it’s also perfectly capable of cleaning the rest of your house. It’s substantially less expensive than the Dyson or Miele, but offers a comparable range. However, it does lack some of the power and durability of our other choices.
For something with a bit more power and sophistication, we recommend going with the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball. It has much higher suction than the Shark, thanks to its radial cyclone system. The Dyson also has a much bigger dust chamber, so you can vacuum all over your house without emptying the canister. However, it can’t handle deep carpets very well. It’s also made with a heck of a lot of plastic given the exorbitant price.
The Miele offers markedly better build quality than the Dyson, for a pretty close price. Its metal parts and heavy plastic feel much more reassuring as you’re cleaning. The other major advantage is that the Miele offers adjustable suction. While the Dyson is all raw power, the Miele is more refined, and allows you to cater the vacuum’s suction to each surface. Overall, we’re impressed by the smart, compact design, which is maneuverable in the tightest stairwells. The Miele’s rubber wheels and bumpers make it a much safer choice than the Shark or Dyson for vacuuming hardwood stairs and around molding. If you can afford it, you’ll be extremely pleased with the C2!
We hope you’ve got a better sense of how to find a vacuum that will make cleaning your stairs quicker and easier. If you’re still not confident that you’ve found your ideal vacuum, you can read more from our Best Vacuums for Pet Hair!
We also suggest taking a look at Amazon’s top-selling vacuums here! You can compare prices, features, and see what buyers are saying about how these best-sellers perform on their stairs.