Best Vacuum for Stairs (2017): Which Stair Cleaner for Pet Hair, Edges, Hardwood and Carpets?

Written by James Hall | 0 Comments| Last Updated: October 23, 2017

​Cleaning stairs with a bulky upright vacuum is one of the more frustrating household chores. Fortunately, there are vacuums that excel at cleaning staircases. In this article, we've listed our top UK models in this category - along with our pick for the best vacuum for stairs.

Our picks for the best stair vacuums

Many vacuum cleaners struggle to clean stairs. If you've ever balanced a heavy vacuum on a thin step, you know what I mean!

In the UK, we love our upright vacuums. It's true they are great for quickly cleaning floors, but uprights are often too wide to fit on a step and have weak suction through the hose.

Additionally, vacuum hoses are usually quite short, so you need to carry the vacuum up and down stairs to get rid of all dirt and dust. Plus it's impossible to clean the vertical part of steps using an upright's floor tool.

Cleaning stairs (and the rest of your house) can become even more difficult if you own pets. While most vacuums do an adequate job at removing dog or cat hair from carpets (although some are a lot better than others), many fail miserably on stairs. This is often because they don't come with motorised hose tools or can't handle edges.​

The good news is there are a number of excellent vacuums that are designed to make stair cleaning easier. Some of these are handheld (see our list of the best handheld vacuum cleaners) or cord-free vacuums, while others are corded vacuums that have innovative designs.​

On this page, we've listed our top 6 choices for a stair vacuum. We've included a range of cordless, handheld and upright models, so there is something for everyone on the list. If a vacuum is particularly good for pet hair, edge cleaning, carpets or hard floors we've noted this too.

What Makes a Great Stair Vacuum?

Before we get to the best stair vacuums, here's a quick guide to what we look for in this type of vacuum. This will help you make the right decision even if you don't choose one of the vacuums on this list. Some of the most important factors include:

  • Cleaning Performance. A vacuum must provide strong suction power, but it must also be able to deliver it through the tool you'll be using on stairs. Many uprights, for example, have great power through the floor head, but can't deliver the same results via the hose. A motorised tool can greatly reduce cleaning time on carpets, as it can stir up dust, hair and dirt.
  • Battery Life (Cordless & Handheld). If you only want a vacuum cleaner for stairs, then most models provide long enough run-time. Most people want a vacuum that can effectively clean their entire home including stairs, however, so run-time is important.
  • Weight & Portability. One of the most important factors when choosing a stair vacuum is weight. The lighter a vacuum is, the easier it'll be to carry up and down the stairs. A lightweight design also makes cleaning the rest of your house less tiring. Don't overlook the size of a vacuum either - compact machines are much easier to use in tight spaces, corners and edges.
  • Edge Cleaning. To properly clean stairs, a vacuum must be able to get rid of dirt, dust and hair along the edge of each step. Edge cleaning is important for any vacuum, but essential for stairs.
  • Cleaning Radius (Corded). If you buy a corded vacuum for cleaning stairs, the length of the cord and hose are things to consider. The longer they are, the easier it'll be to clean the stairs quickly. A short cord could mean you need to clean from both the top and bottom of the stairs.
  • Other Tools. We've already mentioned a motorised tool is useful if you have carpeted stairs, but what about hardwood floors? Or if you have pets? The tools and accessories that come with a vacuum can make the difference between a frustrating and stress-free cleaning experience.

Now you know what to look for, let's take a look at the best vacuums for stair cleaning!

Which are the Best Vacuums for Stairs?

RankProduct NameTypeWeightDust CapacityRun-TimePrice RangeRead More
#1
Dyson V6 AbsoluteCordless (+ Handheld Mode)2.7kg0.4 litres20 minutes££££View Price
#2
AEG AG71a RapidCleanHandheld (corded)2.6kg0.6 litresUnlimited£View Price
#3
Vax Gator H85-GA-P18Handheld (cordless)1.9kg0.3 litres20 minutes£View Price
#4
Vax U84-AL-Pe Air LiftUpright (corded)6.2kg1.5 litresUnlimited££View Price
#5
Shark NV680UKT Lift-AwayUpright (corded)6.6kg1 litreUnlimited£££View Price
#6
Shark HV320UKTStick (corded)3.5kg0.91 litreUnlimited££View Price

1. Dyson V6 Absolute (Our Top Pick)

The V6 Absolute is our top pick for stairs

The Dyson V6 series of vacuum cleaners is one of the most popular cordless models in the UK, due to its powerful suction and array of excellent tools. The Absolute is the top model in the range (closely followed by the Total Clean) - and is great for cleaning carpeted stairs.

The first thing that stands out about the V6 Absolute is its lightweight design. Weighing just 2.7kg without tools, it's one of the most lightweight cordless vacuums so you won't get tired carrying it on stairs.

Like all Dyson cordless vacuums, the Absolute is a bagless vacuum can be converted to a handheld by detaching the rigid tube. Unlike an upright vacuum's hose, you can attach the floor tool directly to the handheld body, so you get full suction power. This feature is one of the main reasons why the Absolute is our top pick for vacuuming stairs.

All V6 models are powered by Dyson's V6 motor and a lithium ion battery, which provides strong suction - especially for a cordless. The tools are what make the range really stand out though. In particular, the direct-drive cleaner head that comes with the Absolute is great for carpeted stairs. This floor head has tough bristles and a powered brush bar for digging deeper into carpets while providing decent edge cleaning.

Aside from the direct-drive cleaner head, the Absolute comes with a hard floor nozzle. This isn't as good as the head found on the Fluffy or Total Clean, but does a decent job of cleaning hardwood flooring without scratching. It also has a motorised tool that's great for pet hair, and a more effective filter system than other V6 machines. Whatever surface you throw at the V6 Absolute, it can probably handle it.

Quick Summary: The V6 Absolute is our top pick for a stair vacuum. The combination of powerful suction, innovative technology, excellent array of tools and handheld mode mean it makes quick work of dust, dirt, hair and any other debris on stairs. ​It's also lightweight - although the 20 minute run-time may be a problem for long cleaning sessions.

Note: If your home has lots hardwood flooring, we recommend the Dyson V6 Total Clean instead. It has a direct-drive floor head that's less powerful than the Absolute, but also comes with Dyson's soft roller head. This is great for getting rid of both large debris and fine dust on hard floors. For a full analysis of the various V6 models, click here.

2. AEG AG71a RapidClean (Best Handheld)

The AEG is a corded handheld that's easy to use on stairs

One of our favourite handheld vacuums is the AEG AG71a - and it also happens to be excellent for stairs. It's a corded vacuum, so it doesn't have the mobility of a cordless handheld, but makes up for this with excellent carpet cleaning performance. 

The first thing to note about the AEG is that it comes with a "stubborn brush" visor. This agitates carpet fibres, allowing you to get up more dust and dirt than a regular handheld. It also does a good job on pet hair.

Due to its size and bagless design, the AEG is very lightweight and convenient to use. It also comes with a stretch hose, which is useful for accessing tricky spaces such as corners, and a relatively large 0.6L dust capacity (for a handheld).

A downside is the six metre cord. This is enough for small staircases, but may not be long enough for larger stairs. If you don't have a plug socket near your stairs, or if six metres isn't long enough to clean all steps without changing socket, you may want to choose a cordless model.

Quick Summary: If you're looking for a lightweight and convenient handheld vacuum for stairs, the AEG AG71a is a great choice. It can handle dust, dirt and pet hair, while the agitating function digs into carpet fibres. This makes it perfect for carpeted stairs. The downside is the 6 metre power cord, which may not reach the top of your staircase.

3. Vax Gator H85-GA-P18 (Great for Pet Hair)

The Gator Pet excels at dog and cat hair

Another excellent handheld cordless vacuum for stairs is the Vax H85-GA-P18 Gator Pet. Unlike the AEG, it's a cordless handheld vacuum, which makes it highly portable and great for tall stairs.

As the name suggests, this vacuum has been designed specifically for pet hair. For this reason, it comes with a powered head for getting hair out of carpets on stairs (it also works great on upholstery). Even if you don't have pets, the powered turbo head is effective at removing dust and dirt from carpet fibres.

Aside from the turbo head, the H85-GA-P18 also has a built-in crevice tool that's handy for cleaning along the edges of steps. The 18V battery provides decent suction and allows for 20 minutes run-time before needing to recharge.

Finally, the Vax H85-GA-P18 is one of the lightest models on this list, with a weight of just 1.9kg. This lightweight design, combined with being free from a cord, bagless design and great cleaning performance, makes it an excellent choice for stairs.

Quick Summary: The Vax Gator Pet H85-GA-P18 is a great cordless handheld vacuum. While it can't match the all-round cleaning performance of full-size handhelds, such as the Dyson V6 range, it's lightweight and great for quickly cleaning stairs. The agitating brush also allows you to get up more pet hair and dirt from carpeted steps.

4. Vax U84-AL-Pe Air Lift (Best Upright for Stairs)

The Vax Air Lift has a detachable canister

We mentioned at the start of the article that the average upright vacuum is difficult to use on stairs. That's one of the reasons why Vax U84-AL-Pe Air Lift has a lift-out cylinder (see picture) for more convenient stair cleaning - and it makes a big difference.

Let's start with the most important feature (at least for stair cleaning) - the lift-away design. The cylinder of the can be easily lifted away from the floor head and carried separately. When used as a stair vacuum, this means you don't need to balance a bulky floor head on each step. No upright is going to be as portable as a handheld vacuum, but the Air Lift is much easier to use on stairs.

While a lift-out cylinder is nothing new (Shark have many popular vacuums that do this), we love the Vax as a vacuum for stairs because of its all-round performance. It features a multi-cyclonic suction system, which achieved high test ratings for both carpet and hard floor pickup. It also has a turbo tool that's great for getting rid of pet hair from carpeted stairs and upholstery.

At 6kg, the Vax is far from the lightest stair vacuum cleaner. It has a 1.5 litre capacity though, which is larger than many of the other vacuums, and the 10 metre cord is long enough to reach up almost any staircase.

Quick Summary: If you're looking for an upright vacuum cleaner for general home cleaning that's also great for stairs, the Vax U84-AL-Pe Air Lift is our top pick. It's heavier than other vacuums for stairs, but provides strong carpet, hard floor, upholstery and pet hair performance, so it can be used everywhere in the home.

5. Shark NV680UKT Powered Lift-Away

Image showing the Shark Lift Away in action

As we mentioned when talking about the Vax Air Lift, a removable canister can make cleaning stairs much easier. Assuming the canister is relatively light, a vacuum becomes much more manoeuvrable when the canister can be held separately.

Another vacuum cleaner with this feature is the excellent Shark NV680UKT. It's an expensive vacuum, but has strong filtration, powerful suction and an easy-to-steer design. The brush bar is also powered even when the canister has been detached, so it's effective at cleaning both carpeted and hardwood stairs.

Aside from the lift-away design, the Shark also has a powered pet brush attachment for removing hair. This is particularly useful for getting rid of pet hair on stairs. The handle has also been ergonomically design to be comfortable when cleaning. Like the Vax, however, it's a relatively heavy stair vacuum at 6.3kg.

Quick Summary: The Shark NV680UKT is an excellent upright vacuum cleaner that excels at floor cleaning. The lift-away canister also makes it much better suited to cleaning stairs than other upright vacuums, while the pet tool attachment is great for hair.

6. Shark Rocket True Pet HV320UKT

The True Pet has a handheld mode

If you're looking for a cheaper corded option than the Vax or Shark uprights on this list, the Shark Rocket True Pet might be a good option. It's a corded stick vacuum that's able to convert into a handheld (like the Dyson V6 and V8 range), so it's great for cleaning both the horizontal and vertical parts of steps.

Like the other Shark vacuum on this list, the HV320UKT comes with a powered pet brush tool. If you struggle to get rid of hair stuck in carpeted stairs, this tool will quickly become indispensible.​

One of the best features of the HV320UKT, at least when it comes to stair cleaning, is that it can convert to handheld mode. ​While the handheld mode loses the powered floor head, you can attach the powered pet tool for deep cleaning of carpets. A dusting brush, upholstery tool and dust-away attachment are also included.

A bonus of the True Pet is that the stick design reduces its overall weight to just 3kg. It also has a relatively long 9 metre cord. If you want a lightweight vacuum that's easy to carry up and down stairs, yet still has the versatility of an upright vacuum, it could be a great choice.

Quick Summary: If you want the floor cleaning performance of an upright with the convenience of a handheld, the True Pet HV30UKT is one of the best vacuum cleaners for stairs. It doesn't quite have the suction power of the upright Vax or other Shark on this list, but is cheaper and the handheld mode makes cleaning stairs quick and easy.

Summary

While cleaning stairs with a typical upright vacuum cleaner isn't easy, that doesn't mean all vacuums struggle with this task. The best vacuum cleaners for stairs are lightweight, powerful and come with tools that make it simple to clean carpeted or hardwood steps.

The first thing to remember is that the type of floor affects the best stair vacuum. If you have carpeted stairs, you'll need a powered brush bar to dig deep into the fibres. This is especially important if you have pets.

On the other hand, if you have hardwood stairs then a powered brush bar isn't as important. Instead, you'll need a vacuum that doesn't just push dirt and other debris around potentially slippery surfaces. Hard floor attachments, such as those found on some of the Dyson V6 range, can help with this. It should also clean close to the edge of steps.

For all-round performance, the Dyson V6 Absolute is our top recommendation for a stair vacuum.​ It's an expensive cordless vacuum, but the combination of handheld mode, powerful suction, motorised pet tool and excellent floor heads mean it's difficult to beat.

If you have a large budget, you may also want to consider the Dyson V8 Absolute. It's more powerful than the V6 and has a longer run-time - but it's even pricier.​

Do you have any questions about choosing the best vacuum cleaner for stairs? Or do you have a recommendation you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments!​

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