How to clean your gutters

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Gutters divert water from your roof and function as your roof’s drainage system. This is why it’s essential to clean your gutters regularly. 

When leaves and debris clog your gutters, water can’t be flushed down the downspout. A clogged gutter can lead to: 

  • Roof leaks

  • Flooding

  • Mold buildup

  • Structural damage, and 

  • Insect infestation 

For this reason, cleaning your gutters can keep your home safe and prevent costly repairs. Here’s everything you need to know about gutter cleaning. 

Signs of clogged gutters 

  • Water overflow - This is the most obvious sign of clogged gutters. Look out for water pouring over the edges of your gutter and leaking through the seams.
  • Twigs and leaves sticking out over the edges 
  • Birds always going on or around your roof - Birds love to nest in clogged gutters.

Gutter cleaning tools 

There are two ways to clean gutters—while standing on a ladder or on the ground.

When cleaning gutters from a ladder, you’ll typically need the following tools:

  • A sturdy extension ladder - Don’t use a stepladder, as this is prone to tipping.
  • Heavy-duty work gloves
  • Gutter scoop or garden trowel 
  • A bucket for collecting debris 

If you’re cleaning gutters from the ground, you may also need protective glasses. Here are the different tools you can use for cleaning and unclogging gutters: 

  • Leaf blower 
  • Garden hose with a U-shaped gutter cleaning attachment 
  • A pressure washer or plumber’s snake 
  • Wet/ dry vacuum 

 We’ll be getting into each tool in more detail below.

How to clean gutters from the ground 

Cleaning gutters while standing on the ground is the best and safest way to clean your gutters. By cleaning gutters from the ground, you can avoid the risks of climbing a tall ladder while digging leaves out of the gutter. 

If your gutters need a more thorough cleaning from a height, you can always hire a gutter cleaning service

Here are the different ways to clean gutters you can’t reach.  

Note: These methods are also suitable if your gutters are new or regularly cleaned.  

Option 1: Using a garden hose 

You can clear out minor gutter clogs using a hose with a long-reach gutter cleaning attachment or a rigid tube with a curved end. The hose has to be long enough to reach your gutters.

  1. Lift the hose over the gutters.
  2. At the end closest to the downspout, spray water into the entire channel length. 
  3. Work your way back to the downspout. Be careful of water, leaves, and twigs flying over the sides! Make sure to wear protective glasses.  
  4. After doing each side, turn the hose off for a few minutes to let the gutters drain. 

Option 2: Using a wet/ dry vacuum 

A wet/ dry vacuum can reach clogged gutters. You can get this tool and the necessary hose attachments from your local home improvement store. 

  1. Vacuum out the debris with the wet-dry vac.
  2. After vacuuming out most of the blockage, flush the gutters and downspout with a garden hose. 

Option 3: Using a pressure washer 

A pressure washer is more suitable if your gutters have accumulated large chunks of debris. You can use a pressure washer with gutter cleaning attachments.  

Simply follow the same steps as cleaning gutters with a garden hose. cleaning gutters with a pressure washer

Do keep in mind that pressure washers can damage your gutters when you’re not careful. A pressure washer is powerful enough to damage concrete! 

Your safest bet is to hire a gutter cleaning professional who can safely and properly handle a pressure washer if your gutters need a thorough cleaning.

Option 4: Using a leaf blower 

If the weather is dry, you can use a leaf blower to blow out leaves and dirt from your gutters. A leaf blower with a gutter cleaning attachment can sometimes do the trick. 

How to clean gutters while standing on a ladder

You can clean your gutters by hand and with a combination of tools like a leaf blower, hose, and pressure washer. If you’re wondering how to clean gutters on a two-story house, this guide should also be helpful. 

Note: Never try to walk on the roof to clean gutters. 

Option 1: Cleaning gutters by hand 

scooping leaves from a gutter

  • While wearing heavy-duty work gloves, gradually scoop out the leaves and debris from the gutters. Place this debris into the bucket. 
  • Use a trowel or gutter scoop for compacted debris. 
  • When most of the debris is removed, use a garden hose to flush out the remaining dirt from the gutter and downspout. 
  • Fit your garden hose with a spray nozzle. Then, flush out the gutter with water, be sure to start at the furthest end, and move toward the downspout.
  • As needed: Repair gutter leaks by sealing the seams and joints. You can hire a gutter repair service to do this task for you. 
  • Avoid spraying under roof shingles.

If your gutters aren’t flushing, a plumber’s snake or a pressure washer may be a more effective tool. Feed the nozzle into the hole and rinse the shaft. You’ll know the gutter is unclogged when the water runs freely through it. 

A gutter cleaning specialist would typically have these powerful instruments on hand and know how to properly use them. 

Option 2: Cleaning gutters with a leaf blower 

You can also use a leaf blower to blast leaves and twigs out of your gutter. You’ll need a nozzle attachment that can release a powerful air stream to do this.

  • Cover the downspout with a rag or old towel to avoid further clogging.
  • With the leaf blower, blow out debris from one side to the other. 
  • Use a hose to wash out lingering leaves and twigs. 

Safety tips when cleaning your gutters 

1. Use a sturdy extension ladder. 

Use a sturdy extension ladder, ideally with stabilizer arms. You can also ask someone to hold the ladder’s base and hand you your tools. Avoid using a stepladder when cleaning gutters, as this type of ladder tends to tip when you lose balance. 

image of stepladder with an "x" to warn people not to use it for cleaning gutters

2. Wear protective clothing and eyewear. 

When cleaning gutters from the ground, wear protective glasses to keep falling debris away from your eyes. Also, wear long-sleeved clothing or waterproof gear (e.g., a raincoat) when using a hose or power washer. 

☞ Related guide: How much does gutter cleaning cost?

How often do gutters need cleaning? 

Clean your gutters often, ideally between two and four times a year. At the very least, clean your gutters twice a year – early in the summer and right after autumn. Other homes may require more regular gutter cleaning. For example, you may need to get your gutters cleaned more often if you live in a leafy area. 

Why hire a gutter cleaning service

For an average homeowner, DIY gutter cleaning always comes with risks of injury or property damage. Cleaning gutters may seem like a simple task. Still, your best solution is to hire a professional with the right equipment and training. A gutter cleaning service can clean your gutters properly, safely, and efficiently. 

a professional cleaning gutters with a pressure washer

Cleaning your gutters ensures you get adequate drainage and rainfall protection. Regular cleaning also prevents rusting and extends the lifespan of your gutters. Be ready for the next storm or heavy rain by keeping your gutters clean. Well-maintained gutters are your first line of defense against water and moisture damage. 

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