How to Vacuum Stairs

Carpeted stairs being vacuumed with hose attachment closeup

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Vacuuming stairs is more time-consuming and potentially hazardous than vacuuming a room. You're dealing with lots of tight corners and narrow footing while trying to balance a heavy appliance. Unfortunately, stairs are usually high-traffic areas that need regular vacuuming.

This article offers recommendations on the best way to clean carpeted stairs or stairs with a center runner. With a bit of time and patience, you'll master the task.

How Often to Vacuum Stairs

Stairs that are used daily should be vacuumed at least once a week. Unused stairs can be cleaned twice a month. Skipping regular vacuuming allows dust and dirt to accumulate in the carpet fibers. Excessive grit in the fibers causes them to wear more quickly leaving carpets flattened or threadbare.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Vacuum with attachments
  • Medium-hard bristled brush
  • Broom
  • Dustpan
  • Carpet sweeper


  • Electrostatic duster


Materials and tools to vacuum stairs

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Vacuum Carpeted Stairs

The same steps should be followed whether vacuuming fully carpeted stairs or stairs that have a natural or synthetic fiber-based runner.

  1. Select the Best Type of Vacuum

    A canister vacuum or detachable upright canister with attachments is the best choice for vacuuming stairs. The flexibility of the hose and attachments will help maneuver the tight corners and crevices. If possible, choose a cordless vacuum to prevent the possibility of tripping over the cord. If using a handheld vacuum, which is usually less powerful, make multiple passes over the carpet to suction away as much dirt as possible.

    Select the crevice tool, powerhead, and upholstery attachments to use when vacuuming the stairs. Before you begin, empty and clean the bag or dust bin to make the vacuum as lightweight as possible.

    Cordless vacuum resting on bottom of carpeted stairs with attachments

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Clear the Stairs

    Before you begin vacuuming, remove any errant or decorative items from the stairs. You don't want to try juggling a vacuum and other items while perched on a stair step.

    Stairs being cleared of shoes before cleaning

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Dust Surrounding Areas

    Use an electrostatic duster or another type of duster to capture dust on banisters, baseboards, and trim before vacuuming.

    Long duster wiping staircase banister

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Start at the Bottom

    Begin vacuuming with the bottom step so that you have a firm foundation as you develop a rhythm to continue up the staircase.

    Vacuum hose with brush attachment starting at bottom of stairs

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Corners First

    Corners capture the most dust and debris. Use the slimmest attachment, usually the crevice tool, to suction and clean the corners. Move to a wider attachment, the powerhead, or the upholstery brush for the middle of each tread. Don't forget to vacuum the vertical part of the carpet on the front of each step.


    Using a powerhead attachment with a beater bar to clean the center area of the carpet on each stair will produce the best results. The beater bar helps lift the dirt particles to the surface to be suctioned away. If you don't have a powerhead attachment, you can use a medium-hard bristled brush to manually loosen the dirt on each tread before vacuuming it away.

    Vacuum hose with slim attachment cleaning staircase corners

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  6. Continue up and Back Down the Stairs

    Repeat the cleaning sequence on each stair tread as you work your way up to the top step or landing. As you return to the bottom of the stairs, capture any dust or debris that you might have missed.

    You may find it easier to do all of the corners and crevices on the way up and then change the vacuum attachment to do the center of each tread on the way down.


    As a final step when vacuuming stairs with a center carpet runner, you may find it easier to capture the dust on the exposed wood on each tread with an electrostatic duster.

    Vacuum cleaning top of staircase with brush attachment

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Carpeted Stairs Without a Vacuum

If you do not have a vacuum, you can still clean carpeted stairs. Always begin with the stairs cleared of all objects.

  1. Use a Broom and Dustpan

    broom and dustpan will remove dirt and debris from the carpet. The broom must have stiff bristles to effectively loosen and lift away the dirt from the carpet pile. For tight corners, a small handheld brush will be easier to maneuver.

    Start at the top of the stairs and work toward the bottom. Use short, quick strokes. If debris begins to pile up, sweep it into the dustpan before you reach the bottom of the stairs. After sweeping, you will need to dust the banisters, baseboards, and trim to capture the dust that was kicked up into the air.

    Handheld brush removing dirt from carpeted staircase with dustpan

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Use a Carpet Sweeper and Brush

    manual carpet sweeper will help capture dust, pet hair, and debris. Most sweepers use two or more electrostatic rollers that travel over the carpet. The collected dirt drops into the attached bin until you empty it over a trash can.

    Carpet sweepers do not require electricity and are operated with the same motions you would use with an automatic vacuum. Using a medium-hard bristled brush first will help loosen the dirt from the carpet pile, so it can be captured by the carpet sweeper. You can also use the brush on the vertical front (or riser) of each stair; doing this on all surfaces will help the sweeper pick up more dirt with each pass. Finish your cleaning session by dusting the surrounding area.

    Manual carpet sweeper running against carpeted staircase steps

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald