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How to Vacuum Stairs (The Right Way!)

Written by Hannah Hall |

How to vacuum cleaner stairs

Struggling to vacuum your stairs? Here are our top tips for this tricky job.

After reviewing hundreds of vacuums here at SpotlessVacuum.co.uk, we’ve picked up more than a few tips on the best way to clean stairs.

The narrow treads and tight corners make them a tricky place to navigate a vacuum – but fear not! We’ve lined up some top advice on how to vacuum stairs and keep them looking fresh.

Tip: Are you looking for vacuums that excel at cleaning stairs? Read our guide to the best vacuums for stairs for all the top models.

Before You Begin…

Clear any objects off the stairs before you start vacuuming. Things like shoes and pets are trip hazards, while tissues and other chunky debris can block the vacuum. 

Empty the dust bag or canister to make the vacuum as light and easy to manoeuvre as possible. This is also the best time to dust bannisters and skirting boards, as any dust that’s stirred into the air will re-settle and be picked up by the vacuum.

4 Tips for Effectively Vacuuming Stairs

1. Know the Difference Between Carpet And Bare Floors

Different stair surfaces need different tools for effective cleaning. 

  • For carpeted stairs, use a tool with a brush bar, such as a mini turbo tool. The rotating brush can agitate carpet fibres and remove more dirt.
  • For hard floor stairs, avoid a brush bar as this can scratch the surface. Instead, use a hard floor attachment or soft dusting brush.

Our advice in this article is mainly targeted towards carpeted stairs, but the method stays the same regardless of which tools you use.

2. Choose The Right Attachments

Tools and attachments are your best friend when it comes to cleaning stairs. The main floorhead is too wide and bulky, so you ideally want a mini motorised tool and a crevice tool. Extension wands and hoses are also a top pick for extending the reach. 

The crevice tool is a long thin attachment and is great for getting right into edges. Mini motorised tools have rotating brushes and often come included with pet vacuum models. You can buy them separately if not.

If you don’t have a mini turbo tool, try the upholstery attachment instead. Of course, different vacuums come with various attachments, so test a few until you find the ones that work best for you.

3. Start by Working Into The Corners

Dust loves to gather in corners, so start in these sections and give them a thorough clean with the crevice tool. Get into all the nooks and crannies before working along each edge. 

It’s easier to do all the corners and edges first, rather than swapping attachments over with each step. It saves time, which is crucial if you’re working with a cordless vacuum with limited battery life.

We suggest starting at the bottom and doing the corners on the way up, then tackling the rest of the stairs on your way back down. It saves you from treading dirt back into your freshly vacuumed steps.

4. Move Into The Middles

Once you’re happy with the corners, swap to your mini turbo tool or other chosen attachment and work your way back down the stairs to clean the middles. The centre of steps have the highest level of foot traffic, so they tend to need more attention. 

In an ideal world, you should also clean the risers with a turbo tool. These are the vertical sections between each step. While you don’t walk on them, dust still gathers in the fibres and needs cleaning.

It is an awkward area though, so we won’t blame you for not doing these every time you vacuum!

How to Use Different Types of Vacuum on Staircases

Vacuuming with different types of vacuum

You can clean stairs effectively with any vacuum, but some types are more suited to the task than others. Anything lightweight and easy to handle is a good bet, and extra attachments are always a bonus. 

Cordless

A cordless vacuum is a strong choice for vacuuming stairs. There isn’t a power cord to trip over, they’re lightweight, and many of them convert into handheld cleaners. 

You do need to watch out for battery life, though. Cleaning the stairs isn’t a quick job, so can the battery handle it in one go?

For more details, take a look at our guide to the best cordless vacuums.

Handheld

Handheld vacs are light, easy to navigate in small spaces, and less effort overall than their larger counterparts. But they’re not always as powerful as a full-sized vacuum, so you may not get such an effective clean. 

Modern handhelds tend to have more powerful batteries capable of impressive suction power for enhanced cleaning performance. Look for a model with a turbo nozzle, as this provides a deeper clean.

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is a handheld vac praised for its powerful suction. You can also check out our top handheld vacuum cleaners for more inspiration.

Cylinder

Some cylinder vacs work well on stairs, as a long hose and range of attachments give you more flexibility. They are also more powerful than the average cordless and their weight is concentrated in the vacuum body, making the floorhead and hose quite light. 

If you use a cylinder to vacuum stairs, make sure you keep it below you. As cylinder vacuums are on wheels, you don’t want to risk accidentally pulling the vacuum on-top of you!

The Miele Complete C3 Pure Red is an example of one of our top-rated cylinder vacuums. 

What About Upright Vacuum Cleaners?

Upright vacuums for stairs

Upright vacuums pose more of a problem for cleaning stairs, as they’re often heavy and bulky. The hoses aren’t always long enough to cover a whole flight of stairs, so you have to balance them on the steps. 

It’s much easier if the hose is long enough to reach all the way, but the compromise is often reduced suction power. 

Tips For Vacuuming Stairs With an Upright

Vacuuming stairs with an upright isn’t the easiest, but there are a few things you can do to make it as painless as possible:

  • Make sure the vac is securely positioned on the stairs. Keep hold of it with one hand to stop it from toppling over, and always keep it below you.
  • Lift with your legs! You don’t want to damage your back, so keep your torso straight and bend your legs when lifting the vac.
  • Use extension wands and hoses to increase your reach, so you don’t have to move the vacuum as much. The hose on the Hoover Breeze Evo is renowned for covering a whole flight of stairs.
  • Use attachments on the hose to make the job as easy as possible.
  • Opt for an upright vacuum with a detachable canister, like the Shark AZ910UKT. You don’t need to carry as much weight around with you, and it has a long power cord.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Vacuum Stairs?

It depends on how much you use them. Stairs tend to get a lot of footfall, so regular cleaning is a good idea. By this, we recommend once a week to stop grit, dirt, and dust from accumulating. 

You can get away with less frequent cleaning if they’re not used very often. 

Can I Use a Robot Vacuum to Clean Stairs?

No, you can’t. Robot vacuum technology has come a long way, but we still wouldn’t suggest using one on your stairs. 

Robots use sensors to stop them from falling off edges, and they can’t climb steps. You’d have to place it on each step at a time, and even then, their shape isn’t ideal for corners. Save your robot vacuum for a flat surface.

Summary

Stairs are one of the trickiest areas to clean, and having the right vacuum makes the job much easier. Something lightweight, portable, and with effective suction power is an ideal choice. 

We’ve compiled a guide to the best vacuum cleaners for stairs to help make this task a little less tedious. 

Do you have any questions about how to vacuum stairs? Let us know in the comments section below.

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