As an essential part of any drainage system, a gutter can be cleaned, and the best way to do this is to use a proper cleaning technique. During downpours, a clogged gutter can send a cascade of water down the side of your home. This could create canyons of flower beds and affect a home’s foundation. In addition, during a rainstorm, gutters direct runoff from the roof to where it can drain away from the building. Thus, such installations protect facades, windows, doors and foundations from water damage and help prevent flooding in basements. To help clear them of leaves and other clogging debris, here are some useful step-by-step cleaning instructions you can follow.
Table of Contents
- How often should you clean a gutter?
- What you need to clean gutters
- Note on the use of ladders
- Instructions on the simple cleaning procedure
- Cleaning gutters from the ground
- How to use a ladder to clean your gutters
- How to clean gutters manually
- How to prevent accumulation of dirt and clogged gutters
How often should you clean a gutter?
Clean gutters at least once or twice a year if you have overhanging trees. Once should be in early spring, before the spring rains come, and again at the end of fall, after the leaves have fallen. While there are some instances where you might need professional help, cleaning is often a fairly simple household task. Accordingly, after big storms, this job needs to be done more often if the gutters are clogged. Such collections of debris often occur where downspouts feed into the gutter system, which is why you should check these areas more closely. Otherwise, clogged gutters could damage the foundation and interior of your home. In addition, regular maintenance will ensure that your drainage system continues to function properly.
It also happens that winter melt and freeze cycles cause snow on the roof to melt and freeze into the gutters. These ice-filled gutters are sometimes so heavy that they detach from the roof. Learning how to clean a gutter, however, should not necessarily be difficult. With the right precautions and a variety of options, fall leaves and other debris can be easily removed from gutters before they clog and cause damage. However, there is no one best method for every homeowner. Some people don’t like using pressure washers, while others don’t like climbing up a ladder. The best way to clean gutters is to use a safe, effective method that you are familiar with.
What you need to clean gutters
Cleaning your gutters requires a few tools:
- Gloves: not only will they help keep your hands clean, but they will also protect them from sharp edges. You can either use rubber gloves or regular work gloves.
- Ladder: make sure the ladder is sturdily balanced and properly anchored before you climb up.
- Garden hose or pressure washer: After removing debris, a garden hose and sprayer are necessary to remove any remaining debris. However, be careful when taking the hose up the ladder.
- Stiff brush: If you have a lot of encrusted mud on your gutters, you may need something to remove it properly, as a garden hose may not be enough.
- Shovel: A garden tool suitable for this purpose is the shovel, which is available in most hardware stores. However, its shape and size should fit your gutters to easily scoop out dirt. If you can’t find one, a children’s garden spade or sand shovel may work as well. Otherwise, hands are effective for larger debris.
Note on using ladders.
If you must climb a ladder to clean gutters, don’t use a stepladder, which can easily tip over if you lose your balance. Instead, take a sturdy extension ladder and provide an auxiliary stand at the base to stabilize the ladder. For any homes that are higher than one story, it is best to hire a cleaning service to do the work for you. These companies have the proper equipment to safely access high gutters. Do not attempt to climb on your roof to clean gutters as it is not worth the risk.
If gutters are in good condition, handle a ladder leaning directly against them. Gutters that are corroded, damaged or coated with a delicate paint are not stable. Therefore, it is recommended to invest in a stabilizer to take the weight off them. If the gutters are in really bad shape, you can consider replacing them completely. If possible, try to center the ladder on the tops of the gutter to minimize the risk of damaging the outer wall. Also, keep in mind how easily an aluminum ladder can slide across gutter surfaces, possibly damaging paint finishes or worse, causing a fall.
Guide to the simple cleaning procedure
The actual process of a routine gutter cleaning is pretty simple. Here are the simple steps:
- Scoop out loose debris. It’s usually best to start at a drain and gradually work your way away from it. The best time to shovel is when the dirt is slightly damp and therefore pliable, rather than completely soaked, or conversely, completely dry and crusty.
- Use a hose to wash out gutters. Use a sprayer to wash out each length of gutter and spray in the direction of the drain. Be careful because this job can be messy and muddy.
- As mentioned above, if you have encrusted sludge that can’t be removed with the hose, a stiff scrub brush should do the trick.
- Then clear any blockages in the drain pipe. If water is not flowing freely through the drain pipes, try flushing the debris into the pipe with a house. If that doesn’t work, plumber’s tongs can be used to either pull the debris from the bottom or push it through from the top.
Clean gutters from the ground
Cleaning gutters from the ground is effective and by far the safest method. You’ll need to go slowly and systematically because you can’t really see what you’re doing. In addition, it will probably take a little longer than if you were standing on a ladder. The most common ways to clean gutters from the ground require either a garden hose or a commercial wet/dry vacuum, plus a few handy attachments. Here are the two best cleaning techniques for those who prefer to work with their feet firmly on the ground.
- Use garden hose and clean gutters: As long as they are not completely clogged, it is relatively easy to clean your gutters from the ground with a garden hose. However, this should preferably be equipped with a telescopic attachment or another such water pipe with a bent end. This will make it easier for you to direct the stream of water into the gutter accordingly. Starting at the end closest to the downspout, spray the entire length of the channel and then work your way back to the downspout. Water, leaves and small twigs will likely splash over the sides of the gutter, so dress in appropriate protective clothing.
- Clean gutters with wet-dry vacuums: Another way to remove debris from your gutters is to use a wet-dry vacuum, which comes with the hoses and curved attachments. You will need these to reach the clogged gutters from the ground. You can easily find these cleaning kits at home improvement stores and online retailers. Once you’ve removed most of the debris from your gutters, you can flush them and the downspout with water from a garden hose.
How to use a ladder to clean your gutters
Climbing a ladder to clean your gutters is not as safe as cleaning from the ground, as there is always a risk of falling. To reduce this risk, it is important to use the right ladder. As mentioned earlier, you should avoid using a stepladder that can tip over. It is safer to use a sturdy extension ladder that is equipped with stabilizing arms. These brace the ladder against the siding and prevent it from sliding sideways. It’s also always a good idea to have an assistant on the ground who can hold the ladder and reach tools up as needed. Before you climb up high and get ready to clean, decide which of the following methods best fits your situation.
Use a leaf blower on the roof
Many leaf blowers come equipped with a nozzle attachment that releases a powerful stream of air. This is perfect for “blasting” leaves or twigs out of your gutters. Position your ladder so you can work from one end of the channel to the other, blowing out obstructions as you go. Block the downspout first with a rag or old towel to prevent leaves from blowing into it. When you’re done blowing, you can again rinse out any leaves or twigs left behind with your garden hose .
Clean gutters with pressure washer.
If you haven’t cleaned your gutters in a while, be prepared for a layer of dirt and debris that has likely accumulated in the meantime. Blow it away with the fine jet nozzle of your pressure washer. This kind of cleaning can get messy. Therefore, you may need to rinse the roof and sidewalls afterwards. This is especially true for clogged gutters and downspouts. There is no better solution for this than a pressure washer. Simply point the nozzle at the hole and rinse the shaft until the water can pass through unimpeded.
How to manually clean a gutter
To clean gutters by hand, you’ll need a ladder, a bucket, a gutter scoop or garden trowel, and heavy-duty work gloves. Remove leaves and debris by the handful and place what you remove in the bucket. When you’re done, flush the gutters and downspout with water until you’re sure both are clean and working properly. Tip: If your downspouts are clogged and you don’t have a pressure washer, try using plumber’s pliers to break through the obstruction, then flush with a hose.
How to prevent accumulation of debris and clogged gutters
Preventing clogged gutters saves a lot of time and money. This goes a long way toward keeping your drainage system clean and free of debris. To reduce the frequency of cleaning gutters, consider installing a screen as a stainless steel gutter guard. This allows water to drain through a screen and blocks leaves or twigs. Other types of gutter guards direct running water, which itself can clean the gutters by keeping leaves and debris out. However, each type of system usually requires professional installation and is extruded on site to the length of the roof edge. This prevents the appearance of splices in the gutter. A seamless run of the gutter means little to no leaking and dripping.