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How To Clean Gutters (2024 Guide)

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Default Author Icon Written by Mike Miller Updated 06/20/2024

Cleaning your gutters improves your home’s curb appeal, keeps vital home systems in top shape, and prevents costly gutter repairs down the line. Gutter issues, such as clogs and leaks, can cause serious damage to your roof, siding, and foundation. We recommend cleaning the debris from your gutters at least twice per year. Clean your gutters more frequently, about every three months, if your yard has deciduous or pine trees that drop their leaves and needles. Gutter cleaning can be a dirty job, and you’ll need a few pieces of equipment and some know-how for the task. Below, we outline how to clear debris from your gutters and downspouts, plus safety tips to keep in mind.

Why Should You Clean Your Gutters?

Gutters are an essential drainage system for your home. Below, we list several reasons why you should regularly clean your gutters.

  • Structural damage: Clogged gutters can result in expensive damage to your foundation, walls, fascia, lawn, and roof systems. Cleaning your gutters frequently also allows you to inspect them for cracks or other damage. If you notice cracks, you can apply gutter sealant.
  • Pest infestations: Poorly maintained gutters can also lead to pest infestations. Insects such as termites, bees, wasps, and ants can make nests in leaf-filled gutters. If you do find yourself in need of top pest control experts, read our in-depth review of the very best.
Debris buildup causes rainwater to overflow from your gutters and down your siding, causing water damage to your walls over time. Standing water from improper gutter drainage is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, which poses a health and safety risk.
  • Costly repairs: Another danger of blocked rain gutters is that debris, such as fallen leaves, birds’ nests, or sediment, can place pressure on your gutters when soaked with rainwater. This can eventually cause them to collapse, requiring expensive gutter repairs or even replacement. The typical cost of replacing gutters ranges from $625–$1,700. Gutter cleaning saves you money on future gutter replacements and helps cut down on repair costs of the home systems that gutters protect.
  • Longevity: Another benefit of cleaning gutters is increased longevity. You can prolong the life of your gutter system by performing frequent maintenance and upkeep.

*Cost ranges listed are based on data from Angi and HomeAdvisor.

How To Clean Gutters With a Ladder

Manual removal is the primary and most reliable way to clean your gutters. This process involves climbing a ladder and removing debris from the gutters by hand or with a gutter scoop. Use the right ladder to ensure your safety and an effective cleaning. We recommend choosing an A-frame ladder because it can support your weight without needing to lean on your gutters.

Remember that working on a ladder or roof is a dangerous and difficult job. Take the following safety precautions when undertaking gutter cleaning on a ladder:

  • Find a dry, flat spot to position your ladder.
  • Have a spotter nearby to stabilize the ladder.
  • Never overextend or overreach.
  • Reduce how often you have to climb up and down the ladder.
  • Use a structurally safe ladder.
  • Work on a clear, mild-temperature day.

In addition to a ladder, gather the appropriate gutter-cleaning tools. We recommend using the following items when cleaning your gutters:

Once you have all the necessary equipment, you can inspect and clean your gutter system. Here is a brief breakdown of how to manually clean your gutters with a ladder:

  1. Place your ladder in a stable, dry location.
  2. Inspect the underside of your gutter system from the ground. Look for cracks, sags, and gaps. 
  3. Ascend your ladder.
  4. Working from the corners of your gutter section to the middle, begin cleaning debris from your gutters. Use a scoop, your hands, or a brush to remove the gunk. Once you reach the middle of your gutter section, stop and go to the opposite corner. Work your way toward the middle. This allows you to avoid pushing debris into your downspouts.
  5. Use a garden hose to flush the central trough of the gutters. Watch for leaks; they can indicate seal breakages or difficult-to-spot cracks.

Some homeowners take the hose method a step further and use a pressure washer to punch through the grime in their gutters. While this method can remove gunk from gutters, we don’t recommend it. Power washers can cause damage to your gutter sections, even at the lowest pounds per square inch (PSI) setting. A regular garden hose with a spray nozzle is strong enough in most cases.

You can use a dry vacuum to suck up gutter debris if it hasn’t rained or snowed in a while. If you choose to blow the debris out with a leaf blower, block the downspout with a rag or other covering while you do this to prevent the debris from entering the downspout.

How To Clean Gutters From the Ground

It’s safer to clean your gutters from the ground than on top of a ladder, but usually not as effective. One way to clean gutters from the ground is to attach a telescopic water pole to the end of your garden hose. These attachments have a looped end that focuses the water stream directly into your gutters.

This Old House Tip
When using the hose attachment, start at the downspout side and work your way away from it. Then, repeat the process, starting at the opposite end and working your way back to the downspout. You can also use a dry vacuum to perform this same process if you have a long enough telescoping attachment and the debris isn’t wet.

Cleaning gutters from the ground is easier with a set of gutter guards. When leaves collect inside a gutter system, they pile on top of one another, collect water, and compact, making them difficult to dislodge with ground-based blowers and brushes. With gutter guards installed, the debris slides off completely or sits on the elevated, flat surface of the guard.

How To Clean Downspouts

Once you finish cleaning your gutters, the downspout cleaning process begins. Here’s a step-by-step process of how to clean downspouts.

  1. To check for blockages and efficacy of water drainage, aim a hose into the downspout and have a helper let you know if the water is flowing freely. If water is flowing but dirty or nothing is coming out, continue running water through your downspouts to clear them.
  2. If you are on the ground rather than a ladder, aim the hose stream onto the corner of your roof. This allows the water to run down the shingles and into the downspout. If you’re dealing with a few tough blockages in your downspouts, use a plumber’s snake to clear them.
  3. Remove minor clogs by spraying water through the downspout at high pressure. Repeat the process until the water runs clear.

Gutter Cleaning Safety Tips

Any home maintenance project requires a few tips for keeping yourself and your home safe. Here are some things to keep in mind when cleaning your gutters:
Wear a pair of work gloves. These not only give you a good grip on your tools, but they also protect your skin from whatever debris is clogging your gutters.
Do not use a step ladder or a platform ladder unless you are working on a stable, flat surface and have a spotter. Extension ladders are a great option for gutter work because they help you safely reach spots high on your roof.
Use a leaf blower to clear debris off your roof before the debris gets washed into the gutters with the next rain. Make sure you have a spotter while you’re leaf-blowing on a ladder.

Should You Install Gutter Guards?

Gutter guards prevent debris from sliding into and clogging your gutters while allowing water to flow through them freely. Gutter guards come in several varieties, such as foam, brush, and mesh. Installing gutter guards allows you to clean out your gutters less frequently. Some gutter guards require professional installation, and others are suitable for DIY installation.

While some gutter guard brands advertise that you never need to clean your gutters again, this claim isn’t true. No gutter guard can completely remove the need to clean and perform regular maintenance on a gutter system. However, gutter guards can reduce how often you need to clean your gutters and make cleaning much easier. With a good set of gutter guards, you should only need to clean your gutters once a year or so, as opposed to twice a year or more.

Should You Clean Gutters Yourself or Hire a Professional?

Prioritize safety when undertaking any home improvement project. Many homeowners can handle standard gutter maintenance and cleaning as a DIY project. However, there are multiple situations in which homeowners should hire a professional.

If you’ve never worked on a ladder or are inexperienced with roof work in general, we recommend contacting a gutter cleaning company. Additionally, consider contacting a gutter cleaning service if any of the following is true about your home:

  • It has complex roof structures.
  • It has two or more stories.
  • Its gutters or roof are damaged or in a state of disrepair.
  • Its roof pitch is very steep.
  • Its surrounding landscaping has difficult-to-navigate terrain.

Our Conclusion

Gutter cleaning is a crucial task for homeowners. Whether you opt for DIY or professional gutter cleaning, you should clear debris from your gutters at least twice per year—ideally, once in spring and once in fall. Clogged gutters can damage your home’s roof and foundation and pose other health and safety issues.

If you opt to clean your gutters yourself, you can do so on a ladder or from the ground.

If you’d like to lessen the amount of maintenance your gutters require, consider purchasing gutter guards. Gutter guards come in many styles and can keep debris from clogging your gutters, significantly reducing the number of times you have to clean them out.

FAQ About Cleaning Gutters

What is the easiest way to clean out gutters?

The easiest way to clean your gutters is to spray them from the ground with a garden hose and telescopic gutter cleaning attachment. This is the easiest method because it doesn’t involve standing on a tall ladder or using power tools. However, it may not be the most thorough because you can’t see what you’re clearing out of the gutters.

What is the best thing to clean gutters with?

Water and white vinegar is a great DIY gutter cleaning option. A paste made from cream of tartar and water is another solution for buffing the outside of your gutters. As for the inside, gutter scoops, dry vacuums, garden hoses, and leaf blowers all work well for thorough cleanouts.

How do you clean high gutters from the ground?

You can clean high gutters from the ground by using a telescoping attachment for your wet/dry vacuum or garden hose. You can clean the exterior of the gutters with a hose or power washer.

How often should I clean my gutters?

You should clean out your gutters at least twice a year. However, we recommend cleaning out your gutters once every four months. Cleaning your gutters more often makes the job less taxing each time and allows you to regularly survey your roof for damage.

Our Rating Methodology

We back up our gutter guard recommendations with a detailed rating methodology to objectively score each gutter guard product and provider. We conduct research by reviewing product specifications and provider website information, speaking with customer representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score each provider against our review standards for gutter guard design, customer support, the quote process, services, and reviews to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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