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
Are there any points on the gutter system that cannot be reached by hand? Other tools might be
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.
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.
An efficient process for gutter cleaning
Clear your gutter
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.
Check your gutter brackets
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.
Clear the downspout
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.