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We have regularly been asked whether there is a robot vacuum for stairs since launching the site. Indeed, hundreds of people query Google every month in search of something to clean the one part that most robot vacuums cannot reach.

Well, when we say most, we mean all – as this feature goes live, there is simply no such thing as a robot vacuum that cleans stairs. We will update this article when that changes, but we cannot foresee having to do so any time soon. Robot vacuums as we know them have been around for a few years, and while newer generations surpass the qualities of those that came before, there has been little by way of significant innovation. Most robot vacuums are still plain and black, and they tend to remain circular unless you go for a Neato Botvac.

Even capable robotic vacuum cleaners are unable to cope with steps of more than an inch or two, and while their drop sensors are reliable, they are specifically designed to avoid stairs altogether. Essentially, if you’re on the lookout for a robot vacuum for stairs, you won’t find one.

The Design Conundrum

The accepted norm in robot vacuum design is the aforementioned circle, and deviations are few and far between. They rely on a combination of wheels and brushes for propulsion. Neither of which really work all that well to climb stairs. You could attempt to drive your car up an escalator, but it would prove difficult, and you probably wouldn’t suck up all that much dirt in the process.

Robotics as a whole is a relatively young field, and even humanoid variants notoriously struggle with stairs. They’re still firmly in the research phase, so we would not expect to see a robot vacuum that can walk any time soon. Costs aside, we’re not sure the mass market on which Roomba and Eufy RoboVac sales rely are quite ready for a walking vacuum!

With No Robot Vacuum for Stairs, What Do We Do?

We are firm believers that a robot vacuum is mostly capable of replacing a full-size alternative, with only the stairs really poking holes in our theory. Nevertheless, if you make the right purchasing decision, there is little that an upright can do that a robot cannot. In flats and apartments, that makes them just about perfect. In houses and offices, we run into issues.

Option One: Protect the Stairs

You may well have applied Scotchgard to your carpets to give you a helping hand against stains. The same stuff works just as well on carpets on stairs, for obvious reasons, but doesn’t really help with getting up dust and dirt.

While never a permanent solution and not marketed as such, stair protection film can prevent your stairs from a beating. Sure, you could use it all the time, and just replace it when it gets too dirty, or even give it an occasional sweep. However, this film is best deployed when your stairs expect a lot of foot traffic. Whether you’re holding a party or having the bathroom renovated, this film will keep your carpet safe. At around £30 for 100m of Kenley’s film, you’ll have plenty left for next time too.

Option 2: The Backup Vacuum

We hinted that the time might come. Until such a time that iRobot, Eufy or someone else creates a robot vacuum for stairs, we’ll need a second unit in the home. Fortunately, they do not need to be large or costly. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the more you have to spend to clean such a relatively small area, the less you’ll have to spend on your robotic vacuum cleaner.

What to Look for in a Vacuum for Stairs

There are plenty of guides out there for anyone seeking a vacuum for stairs, but they are often held back because they were not created with robot vacuum owners in mind. Most guides include vacuum cleaners with cords and plugs, for example, and we cannot think of anything we would hate more when accustomed to the freedom and independence of a robovac.

For us, the ideal vacuum for stairs is:

  • Lightweight. Nobody wants to work up a sweat when they clean the stairs, so lighter is always better.
  • Handheld. Handheld vacuums often lack the power of their upright counterparts – although not always – but your stairs rarely match the traffic of main floors and there simply will not be as much dirt and dust if you stay on top of it all.
  • Cordless. With a corded vacuum cleaner, you either need to plug it in downstairs and have the wire trailing behind you or need to go to the top of the stairs and work your way downwards. Neither is the end of the world, but when we have the benefit of foresight in our choice of vacuum cleaner, we may as well make it perfect.
  • Cheap. We’d rather spend more on our robot vacuum, given that our current pick is solely there to clean the stairs. It does not need to be massively powerful for the reasons outlined above, and the battery does not need to last forever. We just went to check, and it took us six minutes to clean the stairs as thoroughly as necessary. Even if you double-dip on usefulness and use your vacuum for spot cleaning, you’ll need a consistent minute of power at most.

With that in mind, we present:

The Best Vacuums for Stairs – For Robot Vacuum Owners

 

ImageNameWeightDust Box CapacityRuntimeCharge TimeView
Black & Decker Lithium-Ion Compact Pivot Vacuum1.93 kg0.44 litres10 minutes4 hoursView Price and Reviews
Shark Cordless Handheld Cleaner1.3 kg0.25 litres8 minutes2.5 hoursView Price and Reviews
Gtech Multi MK21.5 kg0.4 litres20 minutes4 hoursView Price and Reviews

 

The Black & Decker Lithium-Ion Compact Pivot Vacuum – Star Buy

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 We’re not exactly masters of DIY, but we know the implications when we see Black & Decker on a machine. The Compact Pivot Vacuum is a quality piece of engineering that checks all the boxes. At 1.9 kg, it is almost a whole kilogram lighter than the Eufy RoboVac 30c and less than half the weight of the iRobot Roomba 981, so if you’re used to taking them up and down the stairs, this unit will feel practically weightless.

It’s a premium brand with premium features and all the power you could need for any carpet. The 18V battery takes care of minor spills, and regular cleaning and the convenience keeps on coming as this unit can be wall-mounted near the stairs – or anywhere else that takes your fancy.

Naturally, you probably don’t want to buy a vacuum just for the stairs or would at least like to buy safe in the knowledge that it is flexible. The Black & Decker Compact Pivot is excellent for cleaning out the car and can be used on just about any surface. It will probably even replace our treasured crumb vacuum over time.

Only two factors stand out as being non-premium. First is the price which, at around £70, strikes us as being an absolute bargain. Second is the battery life. There is a lot of suction emanating from a small unit, and it will only last for around 10 minutes before you need to put it back on its base. Fortunately, even that modest run-time comfortably exceeds our demands for a stair vacuum.

 

Shark Cordless Handheld Cleaner – Lightweight and Stylish 

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 We cannot so much as look at a Shark vacuum cleaner without hearing that woman from the adverts saying “brilliant”. We also can’t cover the best vacuums for stairs – for robot vacuum owners – without mentioning their cordless handheld cleaner.

With the Black & Decker above, you have the option to hang it on the wall. With the Shark, you’ll feel obliged to. You don’t see much cleaning taking place on Star Trek, but if you did, they would probably use this vacuum cleaner. Some might say it looks like an overweight hair straightener, but we must admit to being pretty fond of its appearance.

Looks only go so far, but the engineering efforts have gone further than this. At 1.3 kg, the Shark Cordless Handheld is significantly lighter than even the Black & Decker. With a crevice tool and specialised pet attachment, it packs a punch.

It falls behind the category winner for two particular reasons. The first is the runtime. At 10 minutes, the Black & Decker arguably cut it fine over the baseline requirement. At 8 minutes, the Shark cuts it even finer. It will still be sufficient to clean the stairs, but it does take away some of that flexibility, such as cleaning out the car.

We will not dwell on a two-minute runtime difference for any longer than necessary, save we waste two minutes of yours. Instead, we move straight on to the other differentiating factor. The Shark retails at around £130, almost twice the price of the Black & Decker. Sadly, while much newer and better-looking, we would not call the Shark twice as good. Besides that, for the price difference between the Shark and the Black & Decker, you could upgrade from the Eufy RoboVac 11S to the RoboVac 15C and beyond.

 

Gtech Multi MK2 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner – Big Performance at a Big Price

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We finish off our round-up of the best vacuum for stairs with the priciest model of all, but one that justifies it somewhat through power. The 22V of the Gtech Multi makes it just as powerful as some uprights. There is no need to sacrifice runtime for that power either. At 20 minutes on a full charge, this vacuum outlasts the Black & Decker and Shark alternatives put together. While we consider both models above as perfectly adequate for cleaning the stairs, the Gtech is for anyone that fancies cleaning once on the way up and then to do it all over again on the way back down.

This unit comes with a brush and crevice tool, which makes it as flexible as it gets at this size and the primary concern, once again, revolves around price. Don’t get us wrong; the Gtech Multi is worth the money. However, it is slightly more expensive than the Shark, and nowhere near as easy on the eye. Then again, it would take nothing short of a paint spillage to run into something this cleaner was unable to deal with.

As with the Shark, we have here a unit that is twice the price, but not always twice the value for those that do only want to clean the stairs. You get a lot for your money and the security of the Gtech brand – although none of the models featured here is exactly obscure.

No Robot Vacuum for Stairs but a Handy Sidekick

 We must say here that price has factored heavily into our ranking, and all three of these handheld vacuum cleaners will do exactly what you want on the stairs. We would still suggest that you consider spending what you save on a robot vacuum upgrade, but we also have to admit that we may be slightly biased! Incidentally, this is also the reason why we have opted against the inclusion of the Dyson V7 and V8 models in this feature. They are incredible vacuum cleaners, but not the relatively low-cost options we look for to work in tandem with a robot vacuum that does the bulk of the grunt work.

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