Cleaning stairs can be daunting task, aggravated even more by number of hard to reach corners, edges, stairs' material, stairs' cover etc. Having right tool for the job makes this job much easier - a good stair vacuum cleaner.
If you have only one stairs leading from one floor to another, do you actually need another vacuum cleaner, or your main vacuum cleaner can do the job well? Before deciding which vacuum cleaner to buy, one must consider few things about vacuum cleaners and cleaned area:
- size and shape of the cleaned area,
- surface of the stairs,
- availability of mains wall sockets,
- frequency of cleaning,
- health issues,
Small stairs can be cleaned easily even with ordinary upright or cylinder vacuum cleaners. Cleaning with uprights can be physically demanding, since such vacuums can be rather heavy - small cleaning area ensures that that job is not too hard to do. Vacuum hose from cylinder vacuums must be long enough to reach all stairs, without or with minimum need to move cylinder vacuum up or down the stairs.
Obviously, small and lightweight corded or cordless handheld or stick vacuum cleaners are much easier to use on stairs.
Shape of cleaning area dictates required shape of cleaning head - broad nozzles cover large area in a single sweep and are great for right angle corners. However, tight corners are sometimes hard to reach and special crevice nozzles must be used, requiring more time and effort.
If mains wall sockets are not near your stairs, you either must have a corded vacuum cleaner with long enough power cord (or have a power cord extension) or you must have a cordless vacuum cleaner. Corded vacuums are usually more powerful than cordless vacuums and can operate almost indefinitely.
On the other hand, modern cordless vacuums powered by lithium batteries can operate 15-30 minutes at full power and their suction (pressure difference) is often the same as suction of corded vacuums, at the expense of somewhat smaller cleaning nozzles. Being capable of operating for at least 15 minutes, enables them to clean relatively large area, even if stairs are covered with carpet, requiring use of rotating brush tool (slightly shortening operation time).
Carpet covered stairs require strong suction and rotating brush tool, which helps removing dirt buried deep in the carpet and removing pet and human hairs. If you have a pet with long hairs, be prepared for cleaning the rotating brush on regular basis, regardless of brush design - well designed brushes must be cleaned, too! Of course, such vacuum must be capable of providing good suction all the time and some systems with dirt bags lose their suction power when bags are full or almost full. Vacuum cleaners relying on the cyclonic effect for particle separation don't lose suction, even when dirt bins are full - but disposable bags are simply thrown away and replaced with a new one :)
Shampoo and steam vacuums can do wonders when cleaning carpets and similar surfaces, however, wooden surfaces don't like water in any form (liquid, steam etc). If you have hardwood stairs covered with carpet (fully or partially covered), don't use shampoo and/or steam vacuums to clean such stairs - water can penetrate the wood and cause it to change shape, color or even to rot.
Hardwood stairs should be cleaned with vacuum cleaners that are optimized for hardwood surfaces - their rotating brushes must be gentle enough to avoid making scratches and other damage to the wood, or at least must be turned off.
Vacuum cleaners for stairs must be light enough to be carried around - if you have dozens of stairs, you have to lift the vacuum that many times and there is great difference between carrying 5 pounds or 15 pounds vacuums. And if you have to pull the power cord all the time, vacuuming is even harder ...
Good air filtration is required for modern vacuums and even cheap, under 100 dollars/euros vacuums, come with decent air filtration. However, if you have problems with allergies, asthma or simply want to keep the home clean, good HEPA grade filtration is required. This requirement increases a price little bit, but already after first vacuuming, difference in the air quality will justify the price difference.
Long story short - good vacuum cleaner for stairs is lightweight, can clean hard to get corners and edges, have good air filtration, have easily accessible brush tool power off/on button, preferably it is cordless vacuum and dirt is easily disposed after the cleaning, regardless if it is model with or without dirt bag. Shampoo and/or steam vacuums should be used only in special cases.