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 Ultralight is a powerful, convertible stick model that includes several great attachments for pet hair. Despite its powerful performance, however, the Rocket remains easy to handle, standing out even among other handhelds for its light weight. It’s less than 9 pounds all told, and it has a jumbo-sized dust cup that’s ideally-suited to collecting pet hair.We think this is a great option for people who want a convertible, versatile stick vacuum, but can’t afford a Dyson. It’s also a practical choice for people who simply prefer a corded stick machine over the battery-powered Dyson’s. The Shark has a very similar design, and plenty of features to help with pet allergens on stairs and around the house.
The Shark Rocket offers powerful suction that gives many upright models a run for their money. It makes short work of pet hair on the stairs, and removes a respectable amount of dust and dirt in the process. This one might not be as powerful as a Dyson, but it can still easily handle full rooms as well!
It has a full-fledged, motorized floor head for carpeted rooms and carpeted stairways. We love that the motor head has a set of headlights onboard! They help you spot dust bunnies in hiding and other allergens which are tough to see under furniture and in corners.
The TruePet also includes a secondary motor brush for cleaning pet fur and dirt off of upholstery, or other fabric surfaces. It’s a handy tool for stairways with vertical carpeting, where the big floor head just isn’t practical to use. It’s also ideal for pet beds, where allergens can accumulate quickly. This scrubber gets them all up easily.
Oh, and there’s another floor tool in the box as well! One of the reasons we think the Shark is such a bargain is the sheer number of attachments you get for the price. This additional floor head is Shark’s DustAway attachment, which combines a wide sweeper pad with a long, narrow suction nozzle. It cleans in front of the sweeper, while the microfiber follows up behind to capture fine dust which can aggravate allergy symptoms.
The DustAway head is perfect for hardwood stairs where a motor brush or bare crevice tool could scratch up your woodwork. It protects your finishes as you clean, and still does a great job.
All the different tools and floor heads are easy to fit under and around furniture.
This special “pet”-branded Rocket has a jumbo dust cup. It’s twice the size of the collection chamber on the normal Rocket, which is a huge boon for picking up fur. While you still don’t have as much room in the bin as you would with a canister or upright vac, the Rocket is much better at getting through your house in one go than other stick’s.
Since it’s corded instead of cordless, you can clean as long as you need to. There aren’t any limits on your cleaning time, and the extra-long cord gives you more than enough range to get up a flight of stairs.
It has a lot of the same features as a Dyson stick vacuum, but for half the price!
We think the power cord should be more than long enough for most stairways. However, it does limit your range eventually. So, the Rocket isn’t quite as effortless to move around the house as a cordless stick model. If you’re in an older house, where outlets aren’t common near the stairs, you might want to go for the cordless Dyson below.
The dust cup is a weak point of the design. 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 relatively small capacity of the collection bin.
Overall, the Rocket just isn’t as ergonomic or user-friendly as the Dyson V8 Animal we’ve recommended below. It’s nearly twice the weight, and the weight isn’t balanced as well when you’re using it as a hand machine. The floor head is a lot heavier and bulkier, and it doesn’t fit as well on smaller steps. The attachments aren’t as intuitive to use, and it’s simply less convenient overall.
The Rocket also can’t compete with the Dyson in the suction department. It’s not nearly as powerful, and it doesn’t have HEPA filtration built into the airway.
While it's an imperfect design that can't quite compete with more expensive stick models, the Shark Rocket is a very capable, affordable choice for people who want a convertible vac for stairways. The cord design gives you ample cleaning time, and the number of floor heads and attachments you get in the box make the Rocket even more of a bargain. We think it's an excellent budget option for folks who need to clean carpeted stairs.
If you’re looking for a machine that does well both on the stairs and the floor, convertible stick models can give you a versatile middle ground between handheld and full-size machines. They’re lightweight and easy to manage, and most models convert between different lengths and formats. So, you can set yourself up with a short hand model for cleaning the step in front of you, and then simply extend your machine to allow you to clean the floor without bending.
Our favorite stick model for stairs on the market right now is the Dyson V8 Animal. It’s a bagless and cordless model that can also be converted into a handheld by removing the wand.You can adjust the length, swap attachments, and switch between two different suction modes.
This new addition to Dyson’s V-series has an eye-catching and futuristic design. It’s super light, and it feels very balanced to use since the body of it—the motor and the dust bin—are held in the grip of your hand. It feels light and ergonomic in any position.
It’s one of the lightest machines on the market, too, weighing only 4.6 pounds (without attachments). That makes it a real star performer on steps, where every ounce can be a pain to maneuver.
To preserve the battery life, the V8 Animal features a trigger control to switch the suction on or off.The battery is charged via a wall-mounted charger, which also doubles as storage rack when you’re not cleaning. The new V8 Animal really stands out in the power department. As well as coming with even more suction power than the previous generation, it doubles the cleaning time capacity! This machine has about 40 minutes of battery life on its normal setting, and about 12 minutes on maximum power.
The V8 Animal 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.
Many cordless stick models are ideal only for spot cleaning and covering a house in chunks. 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.The Dyson V8 Animal is different because you can easily clean for half an hour straight, and still have power to spare! That’s enough for most of us to get through the house, unless you’re in a very large space. So, the V8 Animal is the only cordless model we recommend as a primary vac!
In consumer and professional tests, the V8 earns superb marks for consistent, powerful suction and strong performance. This is one of the best-rated models in Consumer Reports, and it has an extremely loyal following among buyers. The V8 version has even more power than the best-selling V6’s! We don’t think you’ll have any complaints in the suction department. The V8 Animal holds its own even compared to full-size canisters and uprights!
This special Animal edition of the V8 a special pet attachment, which does a great job at picking up pet hair on upholstery and vertical carpeting where the floor head isn’t practical to use.The “max power” feature is also great for dealing with stubborn dirt, dander, and pet hair. We like it for cleaning in cracks and crevices along stairways, where allergens can accumulate.
The Dyson V8 Animal’s lightweight design and solid balance make it an ideal 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.
It’s also a fully-qualified pet allergy unit! The V8 Animal has HEPA filtration, and the sanitary bagless design makes it easy to dispose of allergens without coming into contact with them.
While this latest V8 Animal has double the battery life of the previous generation, it’s still limited. Depending on the size of your house, and your own cleaning routine, you may or may not find that the battery life is a problem. If you’re in an especially large home, and like to clean all at once, this may not work for you. We think it’s perfectly up to cleaning a small to medium-size home in one go, but in bigger spaces it’s better suited to people who clean in chunks throughout the week.
There’s no getting around the price of this machine. It’s pretty darn expensive, especially compared to the budget-priced Shark’s. Plan to make a serious investment when you buy this one. However, since Dyson’s are much more reliable than Shark’s, we think it’s worth the extra money in the long run. Plus, the difference in ergonomics and power more than justify the difference in price!
The Dyson V8 Animal is one of the only cordless models on the market that makes a great primary machine, and it’s much better-suited to cleaning stairs than canister or upright vacuums. Its lightweight body and balanced build make it perfect for navigating tricky areas like staircases, cars, and the underside of furniture. Plus, the versatile floor head and pet attachment make this one a gem on any surface.
The V8 Animal also stands out among cordless vacuums in terms of battery performance, doubling the cleaning time you’d get with most other models! It’s our top quality pick by far for homes with stairs, especially carpeted ones!
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!
Maneuverable: the biggest issue with using a vac on the stairs is getting the thing around. Upright models are just plain nightmares on steps and in tight spots–many canister models are just as bad. You want something with a floor head that fits nicely on a step, and a body that can be easily moved around in a stairwell.
Versatile: depending on the kind of stairs you have, and the materials they're made from, you'll need different features and functions from your vac. The best options will handle both carpets and hardwoods. They'll also help you out with nooks, crannies, and other stairway areas which accumulate pet allergens!
Powerful: don't forget suction on your cleaning machine! There are all sorts of corners and crevices to clean in a stairway, and you need to be able to suck out the dust, dirt and fur. Having some extra power under the hood really helps out with that!
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’re on a relatively tight budget but like the idea of the convertible Dyson stick vacuum, you should consider the Shark Rocket Ultralight. It follows roughly the same format as the more expensive Dyson, only with a corded design. The Shark gives you a complete, convertible vacuum which switches easily between a hand unit and a variable length stick machine. It might not be as durable, ergonomic, or powerful as the V8 Animal, but it has all the basic features you need to keep your stairs clean, and pet allergies under control throughout your living space!
The Dyson V8 Animal is our top quality pick overall. It has much better suction power than either Shark model, and it’s the most versatile of the bunch. You can use it in practically any format, and the floor head is adept on both hardwood and carpeted stairs. It’s one of the highest-performing models we’ve ever reviewed, and not just in the stick vacuum category! This latest version strikes the best balance between power and maneuverability of any vacuum we’ve reviewed for stairs! The new Animal model finally has the cleaning time to handle your whole home, too! It’s got HEPA filtration, an extra pet attachment, and much better durability than any Shark. Just don’t expect to get it for under $400.
Finally, if you’re looking for an affordable choice, and don’t need all the flashy features on the Rocket, have a look at the Navigator. It’s a solid, capable go-to vacuum that does well on the floor and the stairs, so long as you don’t have carpeted stairways. While this one isn’t quite as maneuverable as the Dyson or the Shark Rocket, its sweeper attachment is perfect for hardwood stairs. The motor head can handle the rest of your home, and the canister lifts conveniently along with you. This highly affordable lift-away vacuum offers performance and versatility that surpasses its low price point.