Learning how to clean gutters easily and safely are important lessons that can ensure the safety and longevity of your home. Utilizing proper gutter maintenance before clogged gutters overflow will help prevent a leaking roof, water in your walls, and fascia board that becomes rotten over time. Poorly cleaned gutters can cause water damage that leads to mold, mildew, and other general water damage to your home. Cleaning gutters regularly, on the other hand, can save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
Before you learn how to clean gutters and remove leaves and other debris, there are a few things you’ll need to make the process safe and effective.
Tools and Supplies For Cleaning Gutters
- All-Purpose Work Gloves (Preferably Water Resistant)
- Gutter Scoop
- Plastic Bags (For Disposal)
- Hose Nozzle With “Jet” or similar setting
- Screw Driver (If elbows are attached)
- Mask (protective gear)
- Protective Eyewear
- Garden Hose
How To Clean Gutters
Step One: Remove The Elbow At Ground Level Debris Removal
Start by putting on your gloves, eyewear, and protective mask. Whenever working at heights, we also recommend telling someone you will be cleaning the gutters. Let that person know you’ll check in with them when the gutter cleaning is complete.
The eyewear suggestion might surprise some of our readers. You may be surprised what will come flying up from your downspout during cleaning. Bees, birds, wasps, and other flying creatures have been known to fly out at high speeds and they may cause damage to your eyes during an unexpected collision.
To efficiently clean your gutters you’ll start at the bottom of the downspout. Remove the final piece of the downspout from the elbow joint. You may need to remove several screws that are holding the elbow joint to the final piece of track.
If it has been a while since you’ve cleaned your gutters, there’s likely to be a good amount of residue build-up where the elbow attached to the final piece of track. Start by removing this residue by hand or by spraying water into the elbow to loosen the residue. The gutter may have sharp edges, we recommend wearing a pair of all-purpose shop gloves for this process. We specifically use water-resistant gloves which can be easily cleaned afterward.
Gutter Cleaning Safety Tip: Birds can carry all kinds of diseases including St. Louis encephalitis, an inflammation of the nervous system that is carried in a virus often associated with finches and sparrows. Birds will often bath in gutters and collect sticks and leaves that have collected, leaving behind feces and other potentially hazardous materials. Other animals such as squirrels and raccoons may also leave droppings that can contain harmful bacteria.
We always wear gloves when cleaning our gutters to avoid potential infections. Immediately after cleaning our gutters we soap down our gloves and rinse them off completely with a hose. This is also why we put on a mask to avoid respiratory intake during the cleaning process.
Some suggestions online have recommended a pair of rubber gloves but they will not protect against many types of debris punctures and should not be used as a safe gutter cleaning substitute.
Why not just spray into the bottom of the downspout to loosen debris? While using a hose to loosen the materials may seem like the logical choice, it can also cause debris to splatter. If the material is already dry, we use our hands to avoid spraying potential bacteria-ridden materials all over our work area.
Step Two: Remove Heavier Debris From Inside The Gutter
After the elbow has been clear of debris it’s time to move into the actual gutter. To clean gutters we start by removing any large collections of materials by hand. Here’s what our gutter looked like before we started the cleaning process.
When determining how to clean a gutter as easily as possible and with an added degree of safety, we tracked down a gutter scoop. This small tool costs less than $10 and can assist in the removal of certain materials that may pierce your gloves. As you can see, our gutter was full of pine needles we didn’t want to grab by hand. The gutter scoop is flat on the bottom and matches the edges of a gutter, allow it to be scrapped easily along the sides. This is a three-inch gutter and our scoop just fit into place. You can find gutter scoops at most hardware DIY stores.
Plastic scooping tools made for gutters are unique in that they provide a flat scooping edge that is very thin. The thin design, as pictured above, helps pick up a uniform amount of debris from the bottom of the gutter.
Important note for gutter cleaning with scoops: We do not recommend cleaning gutters with metal scoops. Metal can scratch the coating on your gutter, cause rust, and ultimately lead to deterioration of your gutters.
Place the materials you remove from the gutter in a plastic or paper bag. We prefer paper bags when cleaning gutters since our city picks those bags up from environmentally-friendly processing. If you use a plastic bag, you may want to double bag to avoid tearing caused by loose sticks and pine needles if applicable.
Step Three: Flush The Downspout With A Pressurized Nozzle
After you’ve removed the larger materials from inside your gutter, you can begin the rinsing portion of the process. Start by turning your house onto the “Jet” setting and then aiming the hose straight down the downspout. This will remove any material stuck in the downspout before the next step is completed. You can use a pressure washer for this process but it’s really not needed in most circumstances.
Tip: You can avoid splatter by holding the nozzle directly over the opening in the downspout. Turn the water pressure up fully on your hose and watch for water at the downspout. Once water is flowing freely, your downspout should be free of debris.
Step Four: Spray Out The Gutter In Sections
The next part of the process is also easy. Move partway down your gutter and spray any remaining debris toward the downspout. Next, move a little further away from the downspout and continue spraying into the gutter to move more residue out of the way. We suggest moving partially down the gutter in intervals to avoid damming that can occur if you start too far away from the opening.
Once you’ve cleaned out the gutter you’ll find a bunch of residue at the bottom of the downspout. We clean this mess up using a broom, although a shop vac can provide a simple alternative if you have one on hand. You can also place a small container at the bottom of the gutter, drill several holes in the container, and line it with a mesh wire to allow water to escape.
Even after using the gutter scoop to easily clean our gutters, we still flushed out quite a bit of old roofing asphalt and smaller pieces of debris that the shovel failed to pick up.
The process for how to clean gutters is not hard, although, we’ve seen plenty of people simply attempt to flush their gutters from the top only, causing the additional build-up of leaves in their downspouts. Too much build-up can lead to further steps needing to be taken, something we want to avoid whenever possible.
Gutter Cleaning: Before And After Results
Learning how to clean gutters isn’t a time-intensive process but making sure you flush the gutters and downspouts around your home is important for maintaining the safety and integrity of your house. Even if you don’t have trees around your roofline, it’s important to check your gutters during the spring and the end of fall. Roof asphalt can quickly cause water damning and high winds can care leaves, pine needles, and other debris into your gutters.
Alternatives To Using A Scoop And Hose For Gutter Cleaning:
We use the method shown above because we like to maintain a clean yard. By removing large debris by hand, then moving onto a hose that pushes the remaining small bits of debris to the bottom of the downspout, we are able to clean up all debris from our gutters without leaving behind a mess in our yard.
If your goal is to quickly clean up your gutters, for example, on a cold day when water may freeze or you simply don’t want to be outside, there are some simple alternatives.
Cleaning Your Gutters With A Leaf Blower
Your first instinct may be to simply aim your leaf blower and let it clear out your gutters. Before you do this, pause for a moment and think about the damage a high wind device at close range may cause to the asphalt at your roofline. Also, take into consideration that you might send dangerous debris flying, such as small pebbles. Instead, start at a low-powered setting and gentle push out the debris from the gutters. This will remove smaller materials while exposing any potential hazards.
As a pro tip, you can often find gutter nozzles at your local hardware store. These nozzles feature a narrow tip that allows for isolated removal of debris. These tips can also extend the reach of your leaf blower, allowing you to remove materials without leaning out over your ladder.
Position your ladder so that you can work gradually toward the downspout, blowing out obstructions as you go. (Be careful to avoid blowing leaves into the downspout.) As a final step, remove any lingering leaves or twigs with a hose. Don’t want to stand on a ladder? A specialized attachment can extend the reach of your leaf blower.
Use A Shop Vac To Clean Your Gutters And Dispose Of Material
Can’t get up on a ladder to clean gutters? Why not try a wet/dry vac and attachments from the hardware store. There are attachments that offer a curved end. These attachments can allow you to stand on the ground while sucking up debris from your gutters. The disadvantage here is that you won’t see any missed debris, but it’s a simple solution if getting onto your roof is difficult.
We love the shop vac method for regular cleaning. If you can clean out your gutter fully using a traditional method, you can shop vac on a weekly or monthly basis to keep debris from piling up.
Using A Power Washer To Clean Gutters (With A Few Warnings)
A power washer is a great way to fully clean all stuck-on material from inside your gutter. With high-pressure water, you’re certain to remove extra gunk. However, you need to be sure your pressure isn’t set to a level that strips the paint off your gutter. Power washers also send debris flying and you should be prepared to spray down your siding, windows, and other structures after using this method, especially if no further prepping is utilized.
What we really love power washers for is spraying down the downspouts around our home. A power washer can remove even the heaviest of debris from a downspout, creating a clear channel that even a hose set on the jet setting can’t necessarily accomplish.
Learning how to clean gutters is simple, keeping them clean, unfortunately, is an ongoing process. If there’s one tip we can leave you with it’s this; purchase gutter guards to keep leaves and most other debris out of your gutters. If you don’t want to spend money on full guards, invest in screens to protect leaves and other debris from at least entering your downspout. There should be various types of gutter protecting materials available in your local DIY store’s home and gardening section.