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Landscaping 101

How to clean gutters

5 min read

safely cleaning house gutter from leaves

Learning how to clean the gutters on your home can be a dirty job, but there are several ways to make the task more efficient. The simplest way is to call a lawn service company, and have them include it with other seasonal services. If you choose to tackle gutters yourself, the following tips will help with safety issues, preventative maintenance, and just getting the job done overall!

Get to know your gutters

There are tons of different styles of gutters. Some are made from vinyl while some are made from metal. There are open channel and screened varieties. Gutters can corner, climb, and curve with every angle of your home’s roof.

Before you start cleaning them, take the time to visually inspect your gutter system. To understand how to clean gutters in the best way, be sure to acknowledge the following:

  • Where are all of the attachment brackets, downspouts, and channel length couplers? These points tend to collect the most debris.
  • How high do your gutters reach? This is important for choosing the right ladder to use.
  • What material is the gutter system made from? Metal gutters can create more dangers for your hands.
  • Are there any points on the gutter system that cannot be reached by hand? Other tools might be needed.
removing water and debris from gutters

Tools you will need to clean your gutters

Like many lawn and home projects, the quality of the job depends on the quality of tools used. Here are the main tools you will need.

Sturdy twin stepladder

Use a ladder that is tall enough for your house. You should be able to look directly into a gutter without standing above the top two steps. If you are using an extension ladder for very high gutters, always use a tool that keeps the ladder from leaning directly on the gutters. These tools can be found at most home and garden centers.

Waterproof gloves

One of the worst things about cleaning gutters is having to stick your hands in decaying matter. Use latex or rubber gloves that come up to your elbow. This will prevent nasty surprises.

Bucket and wheelbarrow

Eliminate extra trips up and down the ladder with a bucket that has a ladder hook. Empty your bucket as you fill it into the wheelbarrow. Eliminate the hassle of yard cleaning later by not throwing gutter waste onto the grass.

Long garden hose with spray nozzle

Gutters might have small debris like roof shingle asphalt that is easy to spray out. Use a light and supple hose that has a handled nozzle. Drape the nozzle on the ladder instead of dropping it to the ground.

Nut driver and screwdrivers

Gutter tracts and brackets are attached with metal screws. Use these items to tighten any loose screws if you notice them.

Insect spray and safety glasses

Some critters love the shade and tight spaces of gutter systems. Also, there is nothing more unsafe than being on a ladder when something gets into your eye. Always be cautious and adamant about your safety.

There are many little extras that you might consider using. It depends mostly on how your home is constructed. For instance, you might need to lay sheet plastic across decorative porches if you are cleaning gutters directly over them.

how to remove dirt from your gutters

An efficient process for gutter cleaning

The best way to learn how to clean gutters is to always "keep pushing down."

After you have cleared your gutter line of things like wasp and spider nests with a careful walk-around (yes, insect spray comes in handy), position your ladder on any high point along your roof line.

When you look into the first length of gutter, you will probably notice a lot of leaf and stick debris. You might also notice some standing water. Both sticks and water indicate blockages that must be removed.

Foot by foot, remove caked debris by hand. This means pulling all of the leaves, sticks, and bio-matter from the gutter and placing it into your bucket. Be sure to feel for asphalt in the bottom of the gutter. This matter comes from the shingles on your roof. These are tiny stones, but they should not be allowed to cake and weigh down your gutter. You can remove this matter by hand, or push it down with a powerful spray from a hose nozzle.

Each length of your gutter has brackets. These brackets hold your gutters at the correct height to channel water and debris toward downspouts. If these brackets loosen, they will cause a trough to form. You can tighten all brackets unless they are stripped. This might require the attention of a gutter system specialist.

Places where brackets have become loosened tend to pool water. These troughs are detrimental to gutter systems. Tighten the bracket screws with a nut driver. When the brackets are tightened you will see the gutter drain pooling water toward a downspout.

Along with checking loose brackets, look for couplers that have shifted. Couplers connect lengths of gutter tracts. They are usually equipped with rubber gaskets that need to be flush with each other in order to create a smooth channel. Weathering can cause these couplers to shift, and they sometimes need to be coaxed back in place to work well.

When you have removed all the debris from a length of gutter, you will probably arrive at a downspout. This is where the gutter system channels the water away. Vertical downspouts can become clogged with debris, and they can be “taken over” by critters like doves. Doves and other birds love to build nests on downspouts.

Clear the opening of downspouts, and use your hose to force water into the downspouts. If downspouts are clear, they will allow water to flow without any clogging. Look for discharge at all downspout locations.

Continue this process until the entire perimeter of your home’s gutter system has been addressed. Take note of the places in your gutter system where the buildup of debris is particularly bad. This indicates a place where the gutters need to be reinforced.

Anyone can perform gutter maintenance if they are willing. Learning how to clean gutters is a matter of will and having the right tools. If you understand what role gutters have for your home maintenance, your cleaning job will be quick and relatively simple. Clean your gutters at least twice each year. Notice all structural problems that gutter specialists can address. Prepare each job with good tools, and always be safe.

Lawn and home care specialists can provide services that make tough jobs like gutter cleaning easier. When you want to learn how to clean gutters effectively and efficiently, take advice from professionals. Equip yourself with the best tools, prepare for the unexpected, and always make your personal safety a priority.

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