7 Steps to Keep Your Gutters Clean

When debris builds up, clogged gutters and downspouts can cause problems for your foundation, siding, and landscaping. Thoroughly cleaning the gutters as part of your regularly scheduled home maintenance routine helps protect your home from the costly effects of water damage. No matter the time of year – whether you need to gutter clean annually or with each change of the season – use these 7 steps to keep the gutters clean year-round.

Step #1: Be Prepared

Assemble everything you will need to clean the gutters. It makes the job easier when you don’t have keep running back and forth.

Dress for the part – wear appropriate ladder-climbing clothes, safety goggles, and thick work gloves.

Inspect the ladder to ensure that it is in good shape.

Essential tools for gutter cleaning include a gutter scoop, a plastic scraper, a broom to clear off the roof, and garbage bags.

Check the forecast. If it’s going to rain plan to DIY gutter cleaning two to three days after the rainfall to allow the debris to dry out – it won’t be as difficult or heavy to remove.

Step #2: Sweep off the Roof

Begin cleaning the gutters by sweeping off the roof. When there is a noticeable amount of debris scattered across the shingles, it’s going to land in the gutters eventually if you don’t.

Step #3: Start at the Downspout

Start cleaning the gutters by placing the ladder at the downspout. Pay attention to leaves and debris collected around the gutter outlet. If there is standing water in the gutter channel, when the debris is removed, the water will begin flowing again. Keep removing the detritus until the gutter outlet is totally free of debris.

Step #4: Remove the Debris

When the top of the downspout is clear, work your way up the gutter run, removing twigs, leaves, and large pieces of debris. Use a gutter scoop – typically made of plastic with higher sides than a garden trowel – it won’t scratch aluminum gutters. Wear gloves to protect your hands from unwelcome surprises such as sharp pine needles or the stray nail.

Before moving the ladder along the gutter run, use a plastic paint scraper or putty knife to loosen the finer debris such as stubborn clumps of silt, grime, and roof shingle grit that can be stuck to the bottom of the inside of the gutters. A plastic tool such as a paint scraper is safe to use on aluminum gutters, while being easier to manipulate than other types of manual gutter tools.

After all the debris has been removed and before proceeding on to the next step, check inside the gutter channel for standing water. When water doesn’t totally drain from the gutters it can be an indication of loose nails (sagging gutters), an improperly installed gutter system, or the gutters have become misaligned (pitch has been altered somehow). Hire a reputable gutter contractor to fix this problem if it’s not something you can DIY.

Step #5: Flush out the Gutters

Use a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle to flush out the gutters. Work toward the downspout.

If you have two downspouts, one at each end of a gutter run, start in the middle, flushing out residue toward the downspout on the right side. Go back to the middle and do the same on the left side of the gutter run. This will typically apply to gutter systems that have runs longer than 30 feet.

Spray the outside of the gutter sections to remove visible grime. If marks and stains can’t be sprayed off, wipe down these areas with a soft cloth and a soapy solution of mild detergent and water. Rinse off.

Step #6: Flush out the Downspouts

Look for debris inside the mouth (bottom) of the downspout. Flush out the downpipes from the top of the downspout (at the gutter outlet) to ensure the water freely exits the pipe. If it doesn’t, any clogs inside the downspout will need to be removed – use a plumber’s auger to make it easier.

Step #7: Inspect and Repair

A windy day in spring, a heavy rainstorm in fall, or blustery weather in winter can shake something loose. In between gutter cleanings inspect the gutter system, particularly after a storm. Periodic inspections will alert you to anything that might need immediate repair or replacement.