As any homeowner who has stairs in their home knows, cleaning stairs can be a huge pain especially with a big, clunky vacuum. For stairs, you need a specialized solution. So in this post, we’re going to talk about the best handheld vacuum for stairs.
We’ve kind of taken liberties with the definition of handheld here to include cordless stick vacuums too, since those are technically handheld.
Even though you may buy one of these vacuums for cleaning stairs, you’ll see that they’re actually quite versatile and can be used around the house, too. Plus you have the advantage of carrying them around without really breaking your back.
There are a few options when it comes to these portable stair vacuums: corded and cordless models. There’s also whether your stairs are carpeted or not, as some vacuums don’t have enough suction power to really work into carpet fibers.
For pet hair, you’ll need something even stronger.
Not to worry though, as we’ve got all these bases covered.
Best handheld vacuum for stairs: our favorite picks
1. Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute
The Dyson Cyclone V10 is one of my favorite vacuum cleaners on the market right now. Dyson is just leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else (or so it seems anyway).
The Cyclone V10 is powerful, light(just 6 pounds), and you can run it for up to an hour on the lowest power setting. Plus, you can pull the stick assembly out to convert it into a small handheld vacuum, making it ideal for stairs.
Carpeted or hardwood, the Cyclone V10 should not have any issues with stairs, and neither should you – the 6 pound weight will be really easy to move up and down, and for getting into those tight spaces you can use it in handheld mode.
There are two heads available: one motorized meant to agitate carpet fibers to pick up dirt, and one soft roller that’s meant to pick up dirt and polish hardwood floors.
The motorized head and the highest power setting will drain your battery, though, so you won’t get the full hour – more like 20 minutes.
Without the motorized head, you’ll get around 30-40 minutes.
With incredible suction, a wide variety of available tools, and extreme portability, the Dyson Cyclone is our number one choice for handheld vacuums for stairs – that can serve a dual purpose of being your overall home vacuum as well.
- The most powerful suction of any cord free vacuum. Tested to ASTM F558, against cord free stick market
- Up to 60 minute's run time when using a non motorized tool. Cyclone technology : 14 concentric cyclones. Filtration : Advanced whole machine filtration
2. Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus Handheld Vacuum
The Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus is a handheld vacuum that’s just 1/10 the price of the Dyson – but that’s because the Dyson is a full featured cordless vacuum that you can clean your whole house with, too. You’d be hard pressed to do that with this Dirt Devil, but it does what it’s designed to do pretty well.
It has a powerful motor that generates a lot of suction and it can deep clean carpeted floors, too. The Quick Flip tool helps you get into crevices to get the hard to reach spots too.
This is a cordless vacuum powered by a 16 volt li-on battery. They also charge quite fast so you don’t have to wait for too long. You’ll know when the battery is low through a red indicator light.
There’s no charging station per se – just a simple power adapter. This is not a deal breaker as the vacuum is not clunky and you can just put it anywhere without much hassle.
Because you’re powering a heavy duty motor, 20 minutes is the most you can expect from a full charge.
The dirt cup is pretty large, and overall, the vacuum is quite small and compact.
On the whole, for small areas and spot cleaning, the Dirt Devil is a good deal. If you have just a few stairs or need to get into crevices and spot clean(and you already have a full-sized vacuum), the Dirt Devil is a good vacuum to pick up.
- 2X FASTER CHARGING: The power of the 16 Volt Lithium Ion battery provides fade free and longer running power
- STAIR AND UPHOLSTERY CLEANER: Attach the powered turbo tool to quickly clean stairs and upholstery
3. Dyson V7 Trigger Handheld Vacuum
The number one product in this list was the Dyson V10 Absolute, which doubles as a full sized vacuum and a handheld vacuum. However, it is at a steep price. If you want similar suction power but just something small and compact, the Dyson V7 Trigger is a good option.
It’s a small vacuum and as such great for cleaning up small spills, spot cleaning, and for cleaning a few steps on a small staircase here and there. It’s really light at just 4 pounds and a full charge will get you around 30 minutes of runtime.
There’s also a small motorized tool which agitates carpet fibers for maximum cleaning, and a crevice tool to get into tight spots.
- Cord free. Hassle free. No cord to unravel, plug in, drag around and restrict your reach. You can quickly and easily clean when you need to
- Tools included: mini motorized tool, combination tool, crevice tool. Dyson V7 Trigger vacuums provide up to 30 minutes of fade free suction. 15 cyclones work together to capture fine dust and microscopic particles as small as 0.5 microns
Best corded handheld vacuum for stairs
4. Bissell Cleanview Deluxe
The Bissell Cleanview is a small, compact vacuum cleaner that comes with a long 18 foot power cord. As far as handheld vacuums go, the Cleanview is actually really unique because it comes with a 2 foot long hose. The nozzle of the vacuum is made of rubber which allows for efficiently picking up hairs and debris.
If you’re going to vacuum stairs with this, you may hand to get on your knees, but if it’s just 2 to 3 steps, the hose can help you relieve your back.
- Lightweight, handheld vacuum cleaner with powerful 4 amp motor
- Curved carrying handle with power switch on the end; 18-foot power cord
Best handheld vacuum for stairs and pet hair
5. Shark Rocket Corded Hand Vac
The Shark Rocket is a hand vac but only in size – as far as features go, it’s almost like a full sized vacuum cleaner. It comes with a 15 foot power cord, a decent sized hose, and a dedicated motorized tool for picking up pet hair.
There are also other tools that help you clean everything else: steps, upholstery, even lampshades.
Armed with 400 watts of power and only weighing around 4 pounds, this lightweight machine is quite powerful. Plus you don’t have to worry about the battery running out since it is corded, though the cord can be a limitation if you have a really big room.
It also has very high quality washable filters that help keep dust and allergens out of the air.
One disadvantage of this model is that the motorized tools(and indeed, the other attachments) will decrease the overall suction power of the vacuum. It may take one or two passes to suck up really stubborn pet hairs.
Maneuvering this model on stairs and carrying it up and down is pretty convenient thanks to the light weight and size. Even though the suction power is slightly less using the motorized head, it’s still a good deal for the features and flexibility.
- Portable and ultra-lightweight. Less than 4 pounds in total
- True Pet Motorized Brush for handheld deep cleaning
6. Electrolux EL4335B Ultra Flex Canister
Alright, so you were not expecting a full sized canister vacuum to be on our list of best vacuums for stairs, right? Well, this Electrolux model happens to be an extension.
This vacuum is comparatively light at just under 12 pounds, and the air hose and power cord combined allow you a reach of 33 feet, which should be enough to cover a decent sized staircase.
Note: you will have to move the vacuum up and down maybe half of a full flight stairs.
It has a bagless HEPA filter which is one of the most efficient kinds of filters available on any vacuum out there. Additionally, there’s a lot of adjustment and customization available and the rollers are self cleaning to get any hairs and threads out.
- On/off Brush roll switch and 3-level height adjustment
- Motion control system. Motor (Amps): 12
Handheld vacuum for stairs: buying guide
So the first thing you’ll want to consider is what kind of vacuum do you want to get for your stairs? You have a choice between an upright, a stick, a canister, or a handheld. Each have their own pros and cons, so let’s get into each one in detail:
Stick vacuums are really awesome and they’re quite popular these days. They’re light, relatively compact, and easy to carry, so you can haul them up and down stairs without much trouble. Today’s stick vacuums are quite powerful and can generate a LOT of suction so there is not much objective performance loss either.
Plus there’s no dreaded end of the line where your cord has snaked around your furniture and you just can’t go any further!
Some stick vacuums even let you detach the stick and essentially turn it into a handheld vacuum, making it a two in one machine.
Uprights are the classic vacuum cleaner and the design has lasted for so many years, so you know that it’s doing something right.
You don’t have to bend over to use them and they’re fairly easy to push so there’s not much strain on your back, so you can use them for extended periods of time without much discomfort.
However, they tend to be heavy, and not fun to haul up a flight of stairs. Even if you lift weights regularly, the weight of the upright is not distributed equally and you won’t be comfortable hauling it up and down.
One caveat here is if you just have a short flight of stairs, an upright with a long hose can take care of them without having to haul the vacuum up and down the stairs.
Handheld vacuums are arguably the easiest vacuums for stairs. They’re small, easy to carry, and have decent suction. They’re very basic, though, so no hoses and usually no specialized tools. The advantage though is that anyone can use them. I remember we had a simple handvac and even when I was really young I’d just grab the handvac and clean up my spills.
The disadvantage though is that they’re not quite as powerful as full sized vacuums. There are some models that can rival cordless stick vacuums but most of them just don’t measure up.
However, if light weight is your deciding factor, then there’s no doubt that a handheld is the way to go.
Canisters are powerful and versatile and can be used on many surfaces. However, they’re very bulky and forget about moving them up and down a staircase. Additionally, there are no cordless canister vacuums (yet), so that’s one more thing to deal with.
The only way I see a canister working with stairs is if the hose is long enough for you to cover the entire staircase. Just carrying the hose and attachment will not be a big deal.
Matching the vacuum to the surface
Now that you’ve gotten the type of vacuum in mind, you need to make sure that the vacuum you’re buying will do the job correctly on the surface you have(tile, hardwood, carpet, etc).
Carpeted floors generally require more suction power and motorized brushes are a plus because they agitate the carpet fibers and dig out the particles of dust and debris from inside the fibers.
Most manufacturers list suction power in their specifications and when dealing with carpets, more suction power is better. Obviously, more suction will drain the battery faster, which will not be an issue with corded vacuums.
Some vacuums even have special pet hair functions like tangle resistance. As you know, hairs can get caught in the bristles and tangle up. Manufacturers have gotten around this by making the brushes rotate in both directions to prevent tangling.
Finally, you need to make sure you can actually reach all the spots you need to reach. My personal favorite nowadays are cordless stick vacuums because they’re light, powerful, can reach almost everywhere, and you can convert most of them into handheld vacuums too.
They also come with a whole host of tools you can use for specialized cleaning applications.
Ease of use
As you can imagine, flat surfaces and stairs are not the same when it comes to cleaning them! Flat surfaces are quite simple, whereas stairs are far more nuanced, which is why you need to make special considerations for a staircase vacuum. The main factor to consider of course is the weight of the vacuum and the size, and a vacuum that is very easily maneuverable.
Upright or stick models that have swivels are very good for these uses, as you can really turn and twist it in any which way without much fuss.
You also need to consider the type of handle on the vacuum. Believe it or not, the handle is super important. An ergonomic handle means you will be able to hold it(sometimes whilst holding the trigger down) for a long time, whereas a poorly designed handle will have your wrists paining in a very short time.
All vacuums have some sort of filters, because vacuums have an exhaust that the air sucked in goes back out from. The filter catches any dust and airborne particles.
Some vacuums have regular filters, and others have HEPA filters which are specifically designed for people with allergies. You can expect to pay a premium for HEPA filters, though.
Even if you don’t have allergies, HEPA filters are still very much preferable to regular filters. If you have the option to, why not breathe in cleaner air?
Corded vacuums vs cordless vacuums
Corded vacuums have the obvious advantage of being supplied with a (sort of) limitless stream of power so you can really vacuum all day long at the highest power setting, but for stairs, lugging up a potential trip hazard is not very fun.
Cordless vacuums have come a long way and the lithium ion batteries powering them are super powerful. Dyson and Shark make cordless vacuums that have enough suction to beat a regular upright vacuum too.
Personally, I feel cordless is the way to go!
Stairs don’t need to be a pain to clean if you are using the right equipment. I hope that the information in this post and the suggested models helped you choose the right one.
Here’s a quick summary:
Cordless stick vacuums are light, portable, easy to use, but only run for a short time before needing to be recharged.
Upright and canister vacuums are heavy, but very powerful.
The two things you want to find a sweet spot between are the suction power and the portability. It’s no use having a powerful vacuum that’s difficult to transport, just as there is no use having a portable vacuum that does not clean properly.
HEPA filters are always a plus, and LED lights and a wide variety of tools will make your cleaning life much easier.