Posted by Bruce Borden in Home Maintenance

From mud and fuzz to built-up pet hair, staircases are often some of the dirtiest spots in your home since they’re so heavily trafficked.

Cleaning stairs is an important and necessary chore for maintaining dirt-free, long-lasting floors. Find out how to clean carpeted stairs, wood stairs, and vinyl stairs with these easy-to-follow steps and tips!

[Carpeted set of stairs leading up to the second floor in a home]

How to Clean Carpet on Stairs

  1. Vacuum Each Stair
  2. Whether you own a sleek, cordless vacuum or a clunky shop vac, the first step for cleaning carpet on stairs is to vacuum each stair individually. This typically requires a small vacuum attachment.

  3. Vacuum the Corners
  4. Use an even smaller vacuum attachment on those tough-to-reach edges on each stair.

    pro tip

    Depending on how much hair you have to clean off your stairs, using a pet hair remover tool can be an effective way to remove clumps of pet hair and lint.

  5. Steam Clean or Shampoo
  6. Although it requires more effort, the best way to properly care for and maintain your carpeted stairs—especially if you have any stains—is to routinely use a steam cleaner or carpet shampoo with warm water and a dry brush after vacuuming.

    Some stains may require more work than others depending on the type of stain and how long it’s been sitting.

    Good Housekeeping compiled a list of the best carpet stain removers, according to cleaning experts.

  7. Clean the Banister and Legs
  8. Don’t forget to use a duster or microfiber cloth to wipe down the spindles and railing!

Carpeted staircase in a house heading upstairs with black spindles and a wood banister

How to Clean Wood Stairs

One of the benefits of wood stairs is that they’re typically easier to clean than carpet. Start by removing dry debris with a vacuum and small attachment or with a small broom and dustpan.

It’s important to note that each type of wood finish has unique care requirements. Determine which of the following wood finishes you have in your home:

  • Surface-sealed: The easiest to clean and the most common wood floor sealant. For surface-sealed wood stairs, all you need to do is vacuum and then mop each step!
  • Penetrating seals: These seals soak into the wood to create a hard finish. In addition to sweeping and mopping, you’ll need a liquid or paste to wax your stairs.
  • Unfinished wood: Similar to penetrating seals, your unfinished wood stairs will need to be vacuumed, mopped, and waxed to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance.

Typically, dish soap and white vinegar diluted in water creates the perfect, mild cleaner for mopping stairs with any finish. Otherwise, look for a floor cleaner that’s compatible with your wood finish when you’re shopping online or at the store.

Put the solution in a bucket, dip in a soft cloth, and wring it out. Then, wipe down each stair individually and dry them off with a clean microfiber towel.

pro tip

Never use an unnecessary oil or polish on wood stairs! This can cause a slippery and dangerous surface.

[Set of wood stairs leading up to the second floor of a modern home] [A few wood stairs leading up to a carpeted loft space in a bright home]

How to Clean Vinyl Stairs

Similar to wood stairs, vinyl stairs are very easy to clean and maintain. Start by sweeping up the dust and dirt. Mix a solution of white vinegar and dish soap with warm water.

To mop each step, dip a non-scratch cloth into the solution, wring it until it’s damp, and wipe down each stair. Blot them dry with a microfiber cloth.

For the hard-to-reach corners, consider using an old toothbrush, dipping it in the same homemade cleaner, gently scrubbing, and blotting it dry.

[Set of dark, vinyl stairs off a foyer in a home]

For a spotless home that holds up for years to come, it’s important to routinely clean and care for every part of your home’s interior, including your stairs!

Ready to tackle the next interior cleaning project on your to-do list? Give your home some proper TLC with this home maintenance advice, which covers necessary tools, cleaning tips, and seasonal maintenance tasks.


Bruce Borden


Bruce has been with M/I Homes for over 20 years, has been the National Customer Experience Manager for over 10 years, and has been in the home building industry for over 30 years. Happily married and a proud father, Bruce enjoys outdoor activities and home improvement projects, and has never met someone he didn't like.

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