Stairs present a unique set of challenges for vacuum cleaners. The crevices where the tread meets the riser provide a safe haven for dust, dirt, dander, and other allergens to collect.
But your full-size machine may be too unwieldy to successfully clean this area of your home. It may be too heavy to carry comfortably up and down the stairs, or it may be too large to maneuver around the small surface of a step.
The good news is, there are a number of pet hair vacuums that deliver great performance on staircases!
We’ve collected some of the best rated models and examined which models prove to be the best at tackling cleaning on the stairs.
There are a few important qualities of models that are suited for the stairs. They should be lightweight and compact, to better negotiate up and down the steps.
They should also have a long power cord (or no cord at all), so you can clean the whole staircase without having to change sockets.
Handheld models work great on stairs, and make a good option if you already have a full-size machine. Alternatively, many stick models are light and small enough that they can easily be maneuvered on stairs.
Another option is “lift-away” models, which combine benefits from both categories. Lift-away models are full-size machines with a detachable canister. The portable canister mode is useful for cleaning stairs and above-floor areas, while the full size is better for covering the floorspace of large rooms.
We picked a favorite from each group and weighed their strengths against their weakness.
Here are our favorite vacuums for staircases on the market right now!
Shark is well-known for their inexpensive machines, many of which deliver comparable performance to higher-end machines—at a fraction of the cost.
The Shark Rocket HV292 is a powerful corded handheld that includes attachments for pet hair. Despite its powerful performance, however, the HV292 remains easy to handle, standing out even among other handhelds for its light weight.
It includes a flexible hose attachment to reach more difficult spots, as well as a dusting brush and 12-inch crevice tool. The HV292 also includes a motorized brush for picking up pet hair and deep cleaning surfaces like carpets, upholstery and curtains.
The power cord for this model is 15 feet long. The HV292 is bagless, and emptying it is simply a matter of removing the dust cup and discarding the contents. The filter for the HV292 is reusable after washing.
The Shark Rocket HV292 offers powerful suction that gives many upright models a run for their money. Users say that this handheld makes short work of pet hair on the stairs, and removes a respectable amount of dust and dirt in the process.
The HV292 also does a great job on upholstery, car interiors, mattresses, and other fabric surfaces. This model isn’t marketed specifically for pet hair, but the motorized pet hair brush attachment performs just as well as more expensive “pet vacuums.”
With a light weight and comfortable grip, the HV292 shines in portability and maneuverability. Many reviewers purchased this one specifically for their staircase, and report that it does indeed manage to clean out all those hard-to-reach spaces.
A common source of frustration among many users is the length of the power cord. Many find it to be too short, and the body of it doesn’t provide a place to store the wrapped cable.
The dust cup presented another design flaw for many. Since it’s not fully removable, users are forced to carry the whole machine over to the trash to empty it out. These trips can add up with the small capacity of handheld machines.
Despite some minor design flaws, the Shark Rocket HV292 is a great option for homeowners looking to tackle dust, dirt and pet hair on their staircase. It offers a surprising amount of power for a handheld model, while still managing to remain lightweight and maneuverable.
Though it’s not marketed solely as a pet hair cleaner, it includes an attachment that makes short work of pet hair on carpeted stairs, upholstery, and other fabric surfaces.
If you’re looking for a machine that does well both on the stairs and the floor, “stick” models stand somewhere in the middle between handheld and full-size. They’re lightweight and easy to manage, but still allow you to clean the floor without bending.
Our favorite stick model for the stairs is the Dyson V6, a bagless and cordless model that can also be converted into a handheld by removing the wand.
The V6 has an eye-catching and futuristic design, with the body of it—the machinery and the dust bin—held in the grip of your hand.
It’s a very lightweight, balanced and ergonomic machine, weighing only 4.6 pounds (without attachments). To preserve the battery life, the V6 features a trigger control to switch it on or off.
The battery of it is charged via a wall-mounted charger, which also doubles as storage when not in use. The V6 has about 20 minutes of battery life on its normal setting, and about 6 minutes on maximum power.
The V6 has a motorized cleaner head compatible with all floor types. The dust bin can be hygienically emptied over the trash with the push of a button.
Dyson has released an updated model of the V6, the V6 Absolute, and dropped the price of the original model by about $200. Though the original model lacks some of the bells and whistles of its successor, both models are nearly equal in cleaning power.
Like many cordless stick models, the Dyson V6 is ideal for spot cleaning. Since they have relatively short battery lives, stick models are generally designed to tackle small, specific areas like the stairs, a car, or a spill.
In consumer tests, the V6 consistently delivers powerful suction and strong performance.
Even though it doesn’t have a special pet attachment, users say the V6 does a great job at picking up pet hair. The “max power” feature is great for dealing with stubborn dirt, dander, and pet hair.
The Dyson V6’s lightweight design and solid balance make it a good choice for cleaning stairs. It excels at any height, whether you’re cleaning the floor, shelving, or ceiling.
Its design also makes it a good choice for cleaning challenging spots beneath sofas or around furniture. As one buyer noted:
The short battery life proved frustrating for many users. Though the 20 minutes of charge is fairly average for stick models, some reviewers complained that the V6 didn’t have the stamina for the tasks they purchased it for.
Unless you live in a small apartment, the V6 will not have enough charge to clean an entire room. It’s designed to be a supplement to a primary model, and isn’t a substitute for a full-sized corded model.
The Dyson V6 makes a great secondary machine, and is especially well-suited for the stairs. Its lightweight body and balanced build make it perfect for navigating tricky areas like staircases, cars, and the underside of furniture.
The V6 stands out among vacuums in its class in terms of performance, beating out similar models in consumer tests. For tackling quick jobs, the Dyson V6 is one of the very best!
The other two models we reviewed here aren’t suited to replacing a standard, full-size vacuum. Instead, they’re ideal for homeowners who already own a primary vacuum, and are looking for a backup for cleaning difficult areas (like staircases).
For homeowners who are looking for a full-size vacuum that is also great for cleaning stairs, we strongly recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. This highly popular pet vacuum is a favorite for its low price, versatility, and solid performance.
Lift-away models are built like traditional upright models, but feature a removable canister. When the canister is locked to the body of the vacuum, it functions the same as a standard upright model and can be used to clean floors without bending over.
When the canister is removed, however, the vacuum converts into a more portable machine that can be used to clean tough-to-reach areas like cars, upholstery, and stairs.
The Navigator Lift-Away is an inexpensive, bagless vacuum that features Shark’s “Never Lose Suction” technology, which is designed to pull dirt from the filter. This increases the lifespan of the vacuum and maintains strong suction over time.
Shark includes an array of attachments with this vacuum, including the motorized Pet Hair Power Brush for picking up pet hair. There’s also an 8-inch crevice tool, a dusting brush, and the Dust-Away Hard Floor attachment—a tool that uses suction and a microfiber pad to attract smaller particles.
The Navigator is an allergy-friendly vacuum, with HEPA filtration to capture and retain allergens, instead of releasing them into the air.
The Navigator Lift-Away is a strong example of a versatile and high-performance lift-away vacuum, sold at a very affordable price. Owners say the Navigator delivers impressive suction for a vacuum with such a low price tag.
The lift-away canister is the selling point of this vacuum, and most reviewers were big fans of this feature. The high-capacity canister is lightweight, easy-to-use and makes short work of cleaning the steps. It’s also useful for cleaning higher-up areas and the interior of cars.
The motorized pet tool is a useful feature. Many owners reported that this vacuum managed to remove more dust, dander, and pet hair than other models they have owned. The pet tool is great at removing pet hair from fabric surfaces like carpet, car interiors, and upholstery.
For those who suffer from allergies, the HEPA filter system on the Navigator promises significant relief. Shark claims that the filtration system captures 99 percent of allergens, and owners with allergies report an improvement in air quality since purchasing this vacuum.
One common complaint reveals a design flaw in this vacuum: the lift-away feature, while useful, makes the Navigator Lift-Away a bit top-heavy. When using the wand or attachments in upright mode, it’s easy for the vacuum to tip over.
The short length of the wand hose was also problematic for a number of users, particularly when using the lift-away canister. The short hose makes it so that users must keep the canister in hand—if you set it down while vacuuming, even a slight tug will cause it to fall over.
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away is a high-performance vacuum that’s a great option for cleaning stairs and the floor! Coupled with strong suction and a useful motorized pet tool, this vacuum also makes removing pet hair from fabric a breeze.
The closed filtration and HEPA filter are both great features for pet owners with allergies. Some minor design flaws are to be expected in this price bracket, but in terms of value for the money, the Navigator Lift-Away is one of the best options on the market!
There are lots of lightweight, maneuverable vacuums that deliver excellent cleaning performance on the stairs. The best model for you for depends on your needs as a homeowner.
If you already have a primary vacuum you like, you should consider purchasing a handheld model. We like the Shark Rocket HV292, a powerful corded model that’s designed to suck up lots of pet hair. It’s a lightweight and maneuverable vacuum with strong suction—everything you need in a good stair vacuum.
Stick vacuums are another good option if you’re looking for a secondary vacuum for your staircase. They retain all the portability of handheld vacuums, while saving you the trouble of bending down to vacuum. Our top pick is the Dyson V6. It’s one of the highest-performing models among stick vacuums, and the recent price drop makes this vacuum even more attractive.
If you’re looking for a go-to vacuum that does well on the floor and the stairs, we strongly recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away. This highly affordable lift-away vacuum offers performance and versatility that surpasses its low price point.