Chances are, when anyone asks what you’re looking forward to this weekend, “cleaning gutters” isn’t your answer. However, it’s an important part of preventive maintenance that helps keep your home in good shape. Clean gutters protect your walls, foundation and frame from water, directing it away from your home. The last thing you need is unseen water damage creeping up to surprise you because you failed to get your gutters cleaned. If you don’t even want to think about doing this yourself and you have the extra cash, there are always professionals you can hire. However, if you’re into the DIY thing, we have some gutter-cleaning tips that can really help. Before you type “gutters cleaning” into that search engine, read this!
Gear you might need
- Old rags
- Gutter pole
It’s a good idea to clean your gutters at least twice a year, preferably just before spring and again in late fall, but a third or even fourth annual cleaning could be necessary. It depends on how much debris tends to collect in your gutters. If you have tall trees around your home, you’ll likely require more gutter cleaning. If you have a roof made of composite materials that naturally degrade over time, releasing sandy particles, this will also add to your task. If your roof tends to stay moist and grow moss, this is another important reason to maintain clean gutters.
While it’s possible to clean gutters without a ladder — and we’ll discuss those options later in this post — most people will use one. To be clear, we don’t recommend walking around on your roof. It’s far too easy to fall. Avoiding it altogether is the safest choice. However, if you’re determined to use a ladder to clean your gutters, be smart about it! Consider a harness to protect you from a fall. Never turn your back on the edge. Make sure you use a strong extension ladder that can handle your weight. Double-check that it’s secure, well-anchored on dry, level ground, and tended to from the ground by a second set of strong arms and eyes. Never climb a ladder without a spotter.
Option 1: From a ladder
Avoid stepladders. Make sure to work at chest height and face the house so your center of gravity keeps you stable on the ladder — no extreme stretching or teeter-tottering toward difficult-to-reach spots in either direction. A good rule of thumb is to never lean far enough to take your opposite shoulder past the side of the ladder you’re leaning toward. Climb down the ladder and move it instead of attempting to reach. Pull debris toward you with the pole or scoop. Dump piles into the bucket or wheelbarrow on the ground.
Option 2: From the roof
If you’re more comfortable on the roof than on a ladder, despite our advice, you can clean gutters from the roof. Move along the outside edge of the roof extremely carefully, scooping out gutter debris as you go. Wear gloves. Toss handfuls or scoops of debris over the side in the general direction of your bucket, wheelbarrow or tarp. Tossing this debris toward a tarp allows you to be less precise and to clean up more easily once you’re back safely on the ground. When you finish emptying the debris, you can blow out the gutters from the roof with a blower, but you might want to block the downspouts with rags to ensure they remain clear.
Option 3: From the ground
If you want to prioritize safe gutter cleaning, your best option is to clean gutters from the ground. This technique will surely take longer because you won’t be able to see inside the gutters from the ground. However, you can still make it work well by using a wet/dry vacuum or even a pressure washer, assuming you find the right extension attachment designed specifically for gutter cleaning from the ground. An entire industry of gutter-cleaning gadgets is designed to make cleaning gutters a lot easier. If any of these gadgets seem too good to be true, they probably are, but extension spray arms (with bends in them) made for ground-based gutter cleaning are legitimate options.
Whichever approach you use, your gutter-cleaning task isn’t over until you clean the downspouts and make sure they’re free from obstruction. First, remove the elbows, which connect the gutters to the downspouts, with your screwdriver. Take care not to cut yourself on sharp edges. It’s best to wear gloves for this part, too. Using tools on hand, eliminate any remaining clogs in the elbows and downspouts. Try a plumbing snake on any problem areas you encounter, and keep an eye out for extra screws that may have snagged debris.
Whether you’re on the ladder or the roof, or on the ground and depending on what sort of fancy attachments you have for your pressure washer or wet/dry vacuum, your last step is a wet one. Once you sweep up or blow away any leftover residue from your work area, your final step for cleaning the gutters is to use as much water pressure as you can to flush out the system. This last step is best accomplished with a pressure washer, but a standard garden hose can work well. Just make sure you use a nozzle to build up pressure first. Flushing water throughout the system of gutters, elbows and downspouts should clear away any remaining debris and knock out any leftover clumps or clogs.
If you still lack gutter guards (also known as screens, caps or even helmets), it’s time to act preventively and guard your gutters. Gutter guards can make a huge difference and save you a ton of labor by keeping sticks, leaves, flowers, dirt, dust and sand from accumulating in your gutters, making cleaning so much easier. They allow the rain to flow through while blocking all the other uninvited guests you want to keep out of your gutters. Professional installation is usually required, but this investment is well worth it.
Thanks for reading all we had to say about how to clean gutters! We hope it helped you narrow down the possibilities for your gutter-cleaning project. Whatever approach you choose, be sure to do it safely! While you’re at it, you might also want to look into some of our ideas for other summer DIY projects. You might even be wondering about how to clean a French drain or any number of other random DIY possibilities. Luckily, we have a huge selection of helpful, free-to-read posts on all sorts of home improvement and maintenance topics for people interested in a DIY approach (or even those who are not) — and they’re all right here, at your fingertips.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.