Tips for cleaning and maintaining your stairs

Stairs are an important part of your home and take a lot of daily use and abuse. But the chore of getting them clean doesn't have to be that hard with these tips.

Tips for cleaning and maintaining your stairs


  • To distribute the wear on your carpet and extend its life, move your furniture every few months in a way that changes the way people walk through the room. If you have a moveable rug, just rotate its position in the room.
  • If your stairs are carpeted, the carpeting is dirtiest just before you vacuum it, and you're just grinding in the dirt when you stand on an uncleaned step as you vacuum your way down the stairs. Instead, vacuum from the bottom of the stairs up, so you're always standing on a clean piece of carpet. Don't forget to vacuum the risers occasionally, too, to remove the dust that the carpeting traps there.
  • Is your back aching from hauling that awkward vacuum up and down the stairs? If you have a canister model, consider buying a couple more extension tubes, which can extend your reach several feet, enabling you to clean the steps from just one or two spots. If you have an upright with a hose, you can also add a couple of extension tubes.
  • An air-powered beater brush, called a turbo tool, attaches to the end of the vacuum hose and brushes across carpeting on stairs the same way an upright vacuum brushes across a carpet on the floor. Use a turbo tool to loosen and suck up lint, hair and dirt you would otherwise miss.
  • Dust painted banisters with a soft, damp cloth. If the banister is especially dirty, add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid to warm water. When using soap, wring out the rag, and wash small sections at a time, rinsing them immediately with a second damp cloth. Dry thoroughly with a separate cloth. If your banister has a natural varnish finish, dust it with a soft cloth dampened with a little furniture polish.

Stair lingo

  • The main parts of a staircase are the treads and risers. Treads are what you walk on; the rounded front edge is called the nosing. Risers are the vertical boards between treads.
  • The treads and risers are supported by stringers — boards with sawtooth notches for steps or with slots that the treads slide into. Some stairways have both types of stringers.
  • The balustrade, comprising a row of balusters topped by a rail, is often the most elaborate and pretty part of a staircase. Balusters are the vertical pieces that support the banister, or handrail.
  • The newel post is the large post that the railing is nailed to, at the bottom and top of the stairs.


  • If you have a squeaky stair that needs silencing, sprinkle talcum powder into the seam at the back between the tread and the riser. You'll need to apply it again when the powder works its way out of the joint.
  • Powdered graphite — just scrape a pencil lead — also works.
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