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Vacuuming the stairs – how do you clean yours?

A set of carpeted stairs

Of all the jobs around the house, vacuuming the stairs is the most groan-invoking. But there are several different ways to approach the problem – so how do you clean yours?

Personally, I carry my small cylinder vac about and use the main floorhead to clean each step. I then return to the bottom, attach the crevice nozzle and go round the edges of each step – or rather, the ones I can’t get away with not vacuuming.

On the other hand, my other-half will move the vac from stair to stair and use just the crevice nozzle, or alternatively use just the hose without a nozzle attached.

An upright conundrum

It can be an especially annoying task for owners of upright vacuums, as these types of vac tend to be heavier than their cylinder counterparts. They also don’t take well to sitting on stairs.

Unless, of course, your upright vac has a hose long enough for you to leave it on the floor while you tackle the stairs with the hose and attachments. One of our Which? members is lucky enough to have one such vacuum:

‘This enables the vacuum to be stood at the bottom of the stairs and you can then reach to the top stair. This is one of the reasons why I prefer an upright vacuum. It is much safer than trying to have a vacuum stood on the stairs.’

Then there are cordless or handheld vacs, which are lighter than the typical vac and generally a lot less effort. However, they often come with added expense.

How do you clean your stairs?

Some people have two vacuum cleaners – one upstairs and one downstairs – to avoid lugging anything up and down the stairs. But what’s your preferred method of cleaning the stairs themselves?

Do you use more than one vacuum cleaner or an attachment for cleaning the stairs? Do you keep a handheld vacuum as well as a full-size model?


First, I remove the large head from my Miele cylinder cleaner and replace it with the the small cleaning head. Then I start vacuuming from the bottom up, moving the vacuum cylinder a few stairs at a time. The long hose enables me to reach a few stairs ahead of the step where I and the cylinder stand. The electrical cord is always behind me and not tripping me up. Sometimes, when I’m in a rush, I lift the cylinder and carry it up the stairs while I give a quick vacuum to the stairs.

I have a handheld vacuum but it would take too long with this as the head is very small.

I would love to buy a smaller, lightweight, powerful vacuum for the stairs, but would not pay the extortionate prices some well know manufacturers charge.


If I am stuck with vacuuming the stairs, I tend to use my Vax bagless upright vacuum, because it’s very light indeed. I’ll have to balance it on the stair, holding it with one hand, while I use the hose with a crevice nozzle on it to vacuum up. But it certainly isn’t easy – and even a light vacuum cleaner gets heavy after long enough!

I tried with my Henry Hoover once…but I’ll never make that mistake again.


When I lived in a house I used to use a cylinder vacuum, do the landings with the floor tool and then work upwards with the small brush attachment, holding the vacuum in the other hand. Half way up I would run out of cable and have to plug in at the top of the stairs. Hand-held vacs are great for cars and for anyone who finds a normal vac is too heavy, but the performance is not great.

I’ve lived in a bungalow for 30 years, so vacuuming stairs is just a memory. 🙂


I use a Dyson DC 44 Animal, handheld with powered brush head.


This is a good example of poor design because it will put unnecessary strain on the wrist, made worse by the weight of the internal battery. An orthopaedic specialist should be able to confirm this.

My grandmother’s Hoover Dustette – designed in the 1940s – did not have this problem.

If the DC44 is intended to be held in two hands I will take back my criticism.


I had not appreciated that the battery is below the handle, which will help reduce wrist strain. However, I have found numerous criticisms that this handheld vac is a problem for users, particularly those with arthritis, so I stand by my claim that it is a poorly designed product.


Hi Philmo and wavechange,

Philmo – thanks for leaving a comment, it’s very much appreciated. Just to help me with my research, can I ask if you have another vacuum cleaner you use at home, or do you use the DC44 for everything?

wavechange – I think I’d have to disagree with the DC44 being a badly designed product. We first looked the model in November last year and our researcher found it seemingly did a good job of cleaning away dust and was easy to vacuum around the house. She used the DC44 in handheld mode (without the wand/tube) to clean the stairs and commented that it was as easy as cleaning the floor – not something you usually hear about vacuums!

The problem we had with the DC44 is that you have to continuously hold down the trigger, which can get quite tiring. Our researcher suggests that a locking mechanism for the trigger (or similar) might be an improvement.

While we appreciate that others may have had difficulties with this vac, we generally found the DC44 to be quite well designed. Here’s the review: http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/laundry-and-cleaning/reviews-ns/stick-vacuum-cleaners/dyson-digital-slim-dc44-animal/



I am not saying that the cleaner is ineffective, but after I posted my first comment I found quite a few users’ comments supporting my view that the DC44 is tiring to hold and a strain on the wrist, particularly by those with arthritis. If you are going to carry something heavy it is best to have the handle horizontal or sloping towards you, or to use two hands, and definitely not with weight in front twisting the wrist. I don’t know whether Which? enlists the help of elderly and arthritic people to test products that are not specifically designed for their needs.

I did pick up the criticism of the switch in a couple of the online comments. This is quite a common design fault with household products. Sometimes it is related to safety but often it is just lack of thought by manufacturers.