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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?

Fiona says:
2 June 2013

After eons of searching I recently bought an Oreck which came with a hand held vacuum. The hand held Oreck is a star. I’ve been looking for it all my life. Stairs will now be cleaned once a month instead of once a year!


I follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the user guide for my Grandparents; 1947 Hoover Junior upright cleaner, which I use to do the job:

“Depress the foot pedal to switch the motor on. Place the handle in the upright position and grasp with one hand at the base of the handle and the other hand at the top. Slowly guide the cleaner from left to right and back over the tread. Lift the cleaner off the tread and turn to face the opposite direction. Reposition on the same tread and repeat the left to right action. Lift the cleaner to the next tread and repeat until the stairs are all cleaned. In this manner your stair carpet will be deeply cleaned and the pile rejuvenated using the famous ‘beats as it sweeps as it cleans’ action.”

I grew up cleaning mum and dad’s stairs in exactly this way with their 1962 Hoover Junior (which mum still uses) and I’ll keep on doing mine this way. There is little wrist strain as the cleaner is very light weight, there is no danger of the cleaner toppling on me as I pull the hose because there is no hose to pull, and there is no frustration of the hose not reaching for the same reason.

I clean the stairs about 4 times a week in this way – it only takes about 10 minutes to do the flight or 14 stair treads and the quarter-landing. Once every two or three weeks I connect the hose and tools to the cleaner and use these to get into the nooks and crannies at the ends of the stair rods and at the edges of the runner.

All your new-fangled Pana-Dys-olux cleaners can’t do that can they?!

Had to laugh at a Kirby salesman once – he tried showing me how to ‘convert’ the Kirby tradition to use on the stairs. In the time it took him to make it ready to use I’d got the Hoover, plugged in, vac’d the whole staircase and was waiting for him to start. Needless to say the Kirby could not pick up what the Hoover did either.


Forgot to say … in answer to Adrian’s last point in the intro … I have 8 vac’s……………

Hoover junior (1947 model 375 – Grandparents’ – daily use upstairs and stairs)
Hoover Junior (1970’s model 1354 – daily use downstairs)
Hoover Junior (1957 model 1354A – mint condition, used only to show off)
Hoover Senior (1960’s Model 652 – mint condition, used rarely)
Hoover Dustette (1960’s – used for cleaning the three piece suite)
Electrolux Widetrack Professional (Model C2112, about 1984 – used to impress!)
Hoover Constellation (1970’s version – used for high level cleaning as it has the ‘duble-stretch’ (TM) hose and amazing suction – spiders don’t stand a chance)
Hoover Commercial (Model 912 – used downstairs quite often as it’s almost silent, lifts the carpets off the floor and all cat hair out of them in seconds and the 15″ wide brush makes the job take seconds to complete)


I have one very good Miele cylinder vacuum and an almost useless hand held dustbuster.. I do not have space for even one more. Where on earth do you keep 8 vacuums and why do you have so many?


And vacuum the stairs four times a week? I reckon that Dave does not like throwing away decent quality electrical goods that are still in good condition. Or the ginger cat is moulting. 🙂

Don’t you collect anything Figgerty?

I’ve got the Miele for the bungalow (so no stairs to worry about), a 12 volt one for the car and the 33 year old Electrolux for the garage and when the car deserves a treat.


Poor Jasper (Ginger cat) died 3 years ago now, but Prudence moults even more than Jasper did. Not that the Hoover’s notice!

912 lives in Pantry with Constellation and 1970’s 1354 Junior. 375, 1354A, 652 and E’lux widetrack live in study-c*m-spare bedroom … though when a friend came to stay for 4 months we did have to evict the E’lux from teh wardrobe and lie it flat under the bed for a while.

Dustette lives in a drawer in a chest of drawers in the study.

Wavechange is right – onl the 375 (grandma’s) and the 912 were actually bought by me or my family; the others are cleaners that people have discarded because they were stupid enough to be taken in by flashy adverts for other machines which have yonks ago bitten the dust and been consigned to landfill. One lady threw out her Hoover Junior 119 (1955 model) to replace it with a daft Dyson and then came to me about 6 months later with a massive list of grumbles about the Dyson, top of which were it’s failure to pick up bits of cotton from when she was dress-making and the obscene cost of filters for it, and asked if she could have her 119 back. She’s still using the 119 now, another 7 years down the line, and gave the Dyson to the bin men.


If I had a larger house I would have probably have more vacuum cleaners from my late parents’ house. One went to a family member and I checked the other for safety and gave it to a charity shop. My parents must have disposed of their 1940s Hoover Dustette hand-held cleaner that had belonged to my grandparents. I can’t say it was very effective at cleaning stairs but it was old and interesting, complete with a brown bakelite BS 546 5 amp round-pin plug.


I am guilty of having too much, crockery, bedding, books and clothing, but they all fit in reasonably well, or so I think. I also have two kettles, one in use and the old slightly leaking one is in the loft. I would love to collect cars but not having a garage or the money to buy good quality old cars rules that out.