Practically every person who lives in a home with stairs has had some kind of nightmare with a vacuum. Whether you got stuck on a landing corner with too long a wand, or ended up sending your canister to its doom because it wouldn’t sit safely on a step, the struggle is real!
It’s particularly hard to clean hardwood stairs, even compared to carpeted steps. After all, most hardwood stairs have hardwood kick plates, moulding and banisters as well!
For this guide, we’ve selected our favorite vacuums for homes with stairs, hardwood or otherwise. There’s something here for every home and flooring type, but the one thing all these models have in common is that they excel on hardwoods!
Read on to find our most ergonomic, versatile recommendations on the market right now!
Check out the winners!
Best Canister Vacuum
Top Stick Vacuum
Best on a Budget
Miele Compact C2 Electro+
Dyson V8 Absolute
Miele Complete C2 Hard Floors
Best Stair Vacuum Reviews
1. Miele Complete C2 Hard Floors
“A sleek, high-performance canister model that makes light work of hardwood floors and stairs.”
Canister models are our go-to format if you’re looking for a primary, full-sized machine that also does well on the stairs! A good canister model will be able to handle the entire floor space of your home, not just the steps. Plus, it will give you more range and room to maneuver than any upright!
This particular canister model is one of the latest additions to the Miele lineup. We think it’s absolutely stellar. The C2 Hard Floors is exactly what it sounds like–a canister system designed specifically for cleaning hard flooring. It excels on hardwoods, and is our top recommendation to folks with all hard flooring and hardwood stairs.
Like other Miele models, the C2 impresses us with its sleek, minimalistic appearance and design. Though it’s a very light machine, it still has a substantial feel, and the smooth edges, high-quality components and quiet operation feel premium and reassuring!
Unlike other Miele models, however, the new C2 Hard Floors doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to own. It’s one of Miele’s least expensive models, sitting comfortably in the lower end of the mid-range price bracket. This is the cheapest of our picks by more than $100! We think it’s the most affordable canister model that’s worth owning.
“the most affordable canister model that’s worth owning.”
The C2 truly shines on hardwood and other hard surfaces, though also it performs well on area rugs and other low-pile carpeting. You get two dedicated floor tools in the box:
The first is Miele’s All-TeQ attachment. It’s a multi-setting floor tool which switches between flooring types quickly and easily with the flick of a switch.
On the hard floors setting, it’s a wide brush head with bristles all the way around. Instead of wheels, it has a single roller at the joint. It’s rubberized to protect your hardwood floors. The roller also has beveled sides, which make it extremely easy to swivel.
Flip the foot-switch, and the All-TeQ’s bristles retract. What you’re left with is a smooth stainless steel gliding plate, which moves easily over flat carpets and rugs. In addition to providing an excellent suction lock, it has velour and rubber strips to dislodge pet hair and other stuck-on debris.
So, while this model is primarily designed to handle hard flooring, it can handle all your flat-woven rugs and small areas of flat carpeting, such as on entries. We’ve used this attachment on carpeted stairs with good results, too, although it can’t quite compare to something with a spinning brush.
The All-TeQ is by far our favorite multi-floor tool on the market right now. It has excellent suction to the sides, means it does a great job cleaning to the edges without you having to fetch the crevice tool. Gaps in its bristles also allow larger debris and hairs to pass through, rather than getting stuck on the front of the floor tool.
The second floor attachment you get with the C2 is a parquet brush, and this is the one you’ll want to stick with for hardwood stairs. Its nice, shallow suction head fits easily on steps, and fits between banisters too. As on the All-TeQ, gaps in the bristles keep hair moving into the vac instead of getting stuck on the floor tool.
What’s also great is that the suction on both floor tools is evenly distributed across the head (unlike most models, which are strongest at the center of the head and weak at the edges), making it easy to extract debris from corners in a single pass.
Though it’s quieter than most vacuums, the Miele still produces very powerful suction, more than enough to extract dirt and dust from nooks and crannies in hardwood floors. While Dyson’s canisters achieve slightly higher lab scores, you’ll find that it’s Miele’s which show their worth in real-world use!
The C2 also features a knob which allows users to adjust the suction level to accommodate more delicate surfaces. You can choose the right settings for curtains, rugs, and so forth, while still having the ability to crank things up for the floor.
The extendable wand and balanced, compact canister body are two key features which make the C2 great choice for the stairs. It sits easily on landings, and doesn’t tip easily. You can adjust the wand to get the right angle for cleaning in front of you, too.
When you’re cleaning on stairs, the last thing you want is lots of clutter. That’s why we love how self-contained the C2 is. You can store the attachments under the hood, and the cord retracts into the canister automatically, too!
“enough for most people to clean their whole staircase and leave the canister on a landing.”
The C2 also gives you more cleaning range than comparable models. It has a 21-foot power cord, plus the hose and wand. All told, you’ll have 33 feet of cleaning radius to work with. That’s enough for most people to clean their whole staircase and leave the canister on a landing.
Like other Miele’s, this one uses filter bags to keep everything that goes in the vacuum, inside the vacuum! We’re in the minority these days, but we actually prefer bagged vac’s. Older models were a pain to use, but Miele’s self-sealing bags are super convenient, and they’re not messy at all.
It’s built extremely well. When you’re going to be lugging a canister up and down stairs every time you clean, not to mention adjusting the wand length a few times, you really need something with solid build quality. The Miele is as good as it gets! There are fancier Miele’s, but nothing from them or any other brand is made better.
This one’s covered by a 7-year warranty on the motor and casing, with a 1-year policy covering the rest of the system. It has a spotless reliability record, too, so you’ll probably never need to use your warranty in the first place.
Though the Miele C2 Hard Floors is great for homes with hardwood, low-pile carpets and other firm surfaces, it delivers weak results on high-pile carpet. It lacks the beater brush roll necessary to dislodge particles from deep in the carpet. So this isn’t the best option for homeowners who have a high-pile carpeting in their home.
If you have entire rooms of carpeting, or deeply-carpeted stairs, go for either the Dyson or the Miele Electro+ below.
Some shoppers may also be reluctant to purchase a bagged model with so many bagless alternatives on the market. Replacement bags aren’t very expensive, but they do add a minor extra cost to your cleaning budget.
It’s pricier than many other canister models. We’ve skipped over those cheaper options because they have such pathetic build quality and suction. Still, we know the price tag on this might be more than some folks want to spend. We’d encourage you to make the investment in something that will last and be easy to use!
This isn’t actually the least-expensive Miele, either. We think it’s worth the extra cost over the cheaper Pure Suction because it includes the excellent parquet tool, and this one has a completely sealed air system. Plus, the fact that you can store the attachments inside the canister makes it much more enjoyable to use.
As with any corded vacuum, you’ll be limited by the length of the power cord. If you want to go completely free-range, the cordless Dyson below will be more up your alley!
2. Dyson V8 Absolute
“the best cordless model on the market these days”
The Dyson brand has quickly become one of the best-known in the business, and their V-series stick models are the most powerful, convenient cordless options out there. This V8 model is currently their flagship offering. We think it’s the best cordless model on the market these days, and it’s also a very good choice for stairs!
The convertible V8 works in a lot of different configurations, making it ideal for cleaning thoroughly in a stairwell. And because it’s battery-powered, you don’t have to worry about things like outlet placement or cord length. Most notably, this is the first cordless model we’ve ever reviewed which could feasibly be your primary vac!
The V8 is capable of surprisingly powerful suction, comparable to that of many full-sized upright models. In fact, by our estimation, it beats a significant number of full-size offerings! It also features a “boost mode” that can increase suction power for difficult spots.
“it beats a significant number of full-size offerings!”
It comes with two dedicated floor tools, so that you can handle all flooring types. One is a hard floors attachment, which features soft carbon fiber bristles and a larger front opening. It’s that wider mouth which helps the hard floors tool capture larger debris better than previous Dyson’s.
The hard floor attachment comes with a soft brush head that won’t leave scratches on your hardwood. Between its carbon fiber brushes and the powerful suction, the V8 leaves no small or large dirt and dust particles behind. In tests, the V8 outperforms most stick vacuums and competes with many full-size models, with Consumer Reports rating it “Excellent” on bare floors.
The all-carbon hard floor brush head is the first Dyson attachment that we can confidently say won’t scuff hardwoods. Most of the company’s other tools have stiff nylon bristles which always feel too aggressive to us!
The V8 earns equally high scores on carpets when using the Direct Drive cleaner head attachment, which uses rotating bristles to dislodge particles embedded deep in the carpet. The V8 is a great choice if your home has a combination of carpet and hard floors! We especially like it for carpeted steps, since the shallow attachment fits so easily on each step.
The V8 is a cordless, bagless stick model that weighs a mere 5 pounds. Vac’s don’t come any lighter than this, which is impressive given the sucking power it demonstrates. It’s a breeze to carry around on stairs.
“The fact that you can convert the V8 into so many different configurations really comes in handy in a stairwell.”
In addition to being light, it’s highly ergonomic. The slender body has a center of gravity closer to the handle, giving it a more balanced, natural feel in the hand. That’s true in any configuration.
The fact that you can convert the V8 into so many different configurations really comes in handy in a stairwell. You can adjust the length of your reach for cleaning on the stairs, in addition to other hard-to-reach spots like the ceiling and the interior of cars.
The wand of the V8 also detaches completely to transform it into an even more portable handheld model. You can use that on stairs, but it’s also an ideal car vac! Having so many options adds a lot of value to this one.
The most notable feature of the V8 compared to other cordless models is its runtime. This thing can go for about 40 minutes, which is twice what the old V6’s could achieve. It’s the V8’s extended battery life which makes it the first cordless option you could use to clean your whole place!
” the first cordless option you could use to clean your whole place!”
The wall-mounted charging station for this model doubles as a convenient storage place.
It’s more reliable than the older Dyson cordless models, which had spotty track records over the long term. While it’s far from heavy-duty, it’s built more sturdily than any other cordless vac’s we’ve reviewed. It’s also covered by a 2-year review. We’ve also linked to Amazon for this one, where you can get a few years of additional coverage at the checkout if you like.
The 40-minute runtime will be enough for most people to get through their cleaning. There are some caveats, though. You’ll get a significantly shorter runtime when you use the carpet attachment, and either floor tool uses more power than one of the smaller tools.
Plus, some larger living spaces simply can’t be cleaned in even 40 minutes, no matter the flooring type. So, this might not be able to serve as a primary cleaning machine for every home.
This is far from an affordable vacuum, especially for a cordless stick model. Since its release, Dyson has dropped the price a significant amount, but it still costs about what you’ll pay for the full-size Miele Electro+ below. It’s the most expensive cordless model on the market, but the only one that makes practical sense for us.
3. Miele Compact C2 Electro+
“this is the best vacuum on the market by a long shot!”
The Miele Compact C2 Electro+ is our top recommendation for homes with stairs and a mix of carpets and hardwoods. It packs a lot more power than the Dyson V8 Absolute, and you won’t be limited by the battery life. The Electro+ can handle absolutely any flooring, and it has a compact, ergonomic design that really lends itself to stairs. As long as you’re not attached to going cordless, we think this is the best vacuum on the market by a long shot!
It works on any flooring types. While the C2 model above is specifically designed for hard flooring types, the Electro+ gives you the versatility to tackle anything from hardwoods to deep-pile carpeting.
That’s mostly because it includes a motorized carpet brush, which is the best on the market in our opinion! Miele’s electric brush head has its own motor, powering bristles which scrub hair and dirt out of your carpet fibers.
The best feature on this attachment is its adjustable height, which has 5 different settings. Having the ability to tweak the height to match your specific carpeting makes the Miele much more versatile than the Dyson attachment, which can get bogged down in deeper pile.
“stays tangle-free on all carpet types”
In our experience, this Miele attachment stays tangle-free on all carpet types, and it’s also maneuverable enough to use on carpeted steps!
If you’ve got carpeted rooms to clean, but have hardwood stairs, you’re in luck as well! The Electro+ also comes with the same parquet attachment as the C2 Hard Floors model, which we’ve recommended above. It’s excellent for hardwood stairs, with a shallow, wide nozzle that makes quick work of each step.
We’ve found that the parquet attachment does a great job on stairwell moulding as well. You can use the smaller dusting brush, but the parquet head gives you the same amount of protection while also covering ground faster. It swivels well enough to use vertically, and the brushes won’t damage your finishes.
Both floor tools will handle any flooring types in the rest of your house, too! They have excellent ergonomics, and deal well with all types of household debris (pet hair, dirt, dust bunnies, etc.) You can read more lifehacks on cleaning out pet hair here.
The Compact C2 has the smallest canister design of the Miele’s. It doesn’t sacrifice any power to get there, though! It simply packs more into its small footprint. This one sits safely on a landing, and can even sit on most steps with care (just be sure to brace it). It’s also very convenient to carry up flights as you go.
The Electro+ shares all the key features of the C2 Hard Floors (find detailed writeups of these key features in our review above!):
- combination filter bags
- adjustable suction (6 settings)
- set of three basic attachments
- crush-proof hose
- telescopic stainless steel wand
- retracting power cord with convenient foot button
- excellent German build quality
- rubberized wheels
- lots of cleaning range for stairs, 33 feet just like the other C2
- 7-year motor/casing warranty, 1 year of coverage on the rest
One internal difference: the Electro+ has HEPA-certified filtration. It’s an excellent choice for allergy control. Plus, unlike the Dyson, you aren’t going to release any allergens when you empty the vac. That’s the biggest benefit of Miele’s self-sealing bags.
“our top pick period, not just for stairs!”
This is our top pick period, not just for stairs! There are some more expensive Miele’s out there, mostly the C3 series. They’re luxurious to use, with things like headlamps and fingertip controls. We don’t think most people really need them, though.
The C2 gives you the same suction power and all the key features. It also offers a lot better value than the ~$1000 C3’s. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the best buy on the market these days.
The carpet head is bulkier than the Dyson’s. It weighs more, so it takes a bit more effort to use on steps. Still, once you shorten the wand, we think it’s ergonomic enough for anybody. This one’s larger, though, so you have to be a bit more careful not to keep bumping your kick plates as you go.
The Electro+ offers a very generous cleaning range, but no corded vacuum will give you the convenience of a cordless model. If you know you don’t want to deal with cords, the V8 is a better choice.
It’s pricy, at close to the same cost as the V8 Absolute. Still, it’s no more expensive than a Dyson canister model, even though we think the Miele is vastly better. Our verdict: if you don’t have any serious carpeting to clean, it’s overkill. Otherwise, it’s more than worth the money.
You can’t store the attachments inside the canister, unlike the Complete C2 model.
Which Stair Vacuum Should You Buy?
Vacuuming hardwood stairs can be a tough task, but the right vacuum can make it a lot easier. The best pick for you will depend on your personal preferences and your budget.
We suggest the Miele C2 Hard Floors to those buyers who don’t have any carpeted rooms to clean. It’s outstanding on all kind of hard flooring, and does a good job on flat-woven rugs/small carpeted areas. The C2 is very convenient for stairs, since it has a compact design with lots of cleaning range. Don’t expect it to do entire rooms of carpeting though, or anything with depth to it. The Electro+ is a better choice in that case.
If you’re looking to go cordless, the Dyson V8 Absolute is a fantastic choice. It’s one of the best rated stick vacuums on the market, wielding impressive power from its lightweight frame. We think it’s the only cordless vac that can be a practical primary cleaning machine! It works very well on both carpeted and hardwood stairs, and has a long enough charge to get you through the entire place.
Still, like any cordless model, the battery poses some limitations. You’ll run out of juice more quickly if you use the powered attachments, and folks in larger homes might not be able to get a whole cleaning in.
For those buyers with a mix of hardwoods and carpets, we suggest the Miele C2 Electro+. It’s the best of the bunch on carpeting. Unlike the Dyson, it’ll work on absolutely any carpeting! It’s not limited by a battery runtime either. Don’t bother investing in it if you don’t have mixed flooring, though.
Looking for more great vacuums for your hardwood floors? Check out the best hardwood vacuums on Amazon for more top rated picks and read the hardwood vacuum reviews!