Your gutter system is a part of your home that tends to go unnoticed unless there’s a problem. Gutter issues, such as clogs and leaks, can cause serious damage to your roof, siding, and foundation. Cleaning your gutters is essential, but it can be a dirty job, especially if left undone for too long.

You should clean the debris from your gutters at least twice a year. If your yard has many deciduous trees that drop their leaves, you will need to do it more frequently. It’s a relatively straightforward task, but you will need a few pieces of equipment and some know-how, whether you clean your gutters on a ladder or from the ground. 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?

You should clean your gutters frequently enough that no blockages prevent water from flowing freely down your roof, through your gutters, out the downspout, and away from your home. Clogged gutters can’t function and present a danger to your home.

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 also a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, which poses a health and safety risk.

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.

Cleaning your gutters frequently also allows you to inspect them for cracks or other damage. If you notice cracks, you can apply gutter sealant.

Eventually, you will have to replace your gutters, because materials such as PVC and vinyl naturally degrade over time. However, cleaning them will extend their longevity, saving you money.

How To Clean Gutters With a Ladder

The safest ladder to use when cleaning your gutters is an extension ladder. You will also need a spotter to keep the ladder steady. You may wish to invest in a ladder stabilizer, which props the top section of the extension ladder against your roof, adding a firmer foundation.

You can choose from a variety of materials to clean out your gutters. If there are sizable chunks of debris in your gutters, you can remove them with a gutter scoop or a trowel. Once you’ve removed the larger chunks, you can attach a spray nozzle to a garden hose and rinse the smaller bits of remaining debris down the gutter and out the downspout.

Some homeowners take the hose method a step further and use a pressure washer to punch through the grime in their gutters. This will break down debris faster but will also splatter unpredictably. This can be risky if you aren’t experienced in using a power washer.

You can use a dry vacuum to suck up gutter debris if it hasn’t rained or snowed in a while. If you’re worried about clogging your downspout drain, this might be a good option. 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

Although it’s safer to clean your gutters from the ground than on top of a ladder, you can’t see what you’re doing as well. 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.

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.

How To Clean Downspouts

Once you finish with your gutters, the downspout cleaning process begins. 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, you will need to continue running water through your downspouts to clear them. 

If you are on the ground rather than a ladder, you can 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. You may also be able to 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. 

Even with gutter guards, you will have to perform some maintenance. Some gutter guards need cleaning of their own or replacement every few years. Others are expensive to install. If you tend to need to clean your gutters frequently and wish to reduce the amount of maintenance they require, gutter guards could be a good investment.

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 result in damage to 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. For cleaning from a ladder, you can use various materials, such as a gutter scoop or trowel, a pressure washer, or a dry vacuum. You’ll need a telescopic water pole to attach to your hose if you choose to clean your gutters 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.

FAQs About Cleaning Gutters

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