Cleaning the Downspouts of Your Home

When downspouts aren’t working properly, it could make cleaning the gutters in the fall more complicated. Part of the process of removing debris from a gutter system is to use water to flush out silt and grime. But if the downpipes are clogged, it will take longer for the water in the gutter channel to drain away. Clogged downspouts can also be the cause of overflowing gutters. Cleaning the downspouts of your home first can help make gutter cleaning easier the next time you have to tackle this home maintenance chore.

Successful Downspout Cleaning

While they play different roles – gutters collect water from the roof and guide it toward the downpipes; the downspouts deposit rainwater safely away from the foundation – downspout cleaning is similar to cleaning the gutters. You will need:

  • A pail
  • A garden hose
  • A ladder
  • Plumber’s snake
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Soft all-purpose cleaning cloths

Gather together everything you’ll need to eliminate the amount of time spent searching for stuff and running back and forth. Use ladder safety protocols and wear protective gear such as work gloves and safety goggles.

Clean the inside of the downpipes before the outside. If you’re using a downspout extender, move it out of the way. Don’t forget to put it back after the downspout is sparkling clean!

If the gutter system has more than one, repeat the steps for each downspout.

Top of the Downspout

Set up the ladder next to the downspout. Use it to access the gutter outlet; it is the place where the gutter system connects to the downpipes. Check to see that the outlet and the area around it are not choked up with debris. Clear away loose twigs, needles, and leaves if there are any – it will help reduce the possibility of overflowing gutters until you do a more thorough gutter cleaning if you plan to clean the gutters and downspouts at different times. You might have to remove the gutter outlet to reach the blockage.

Inside the Downspout

Depending on the height of the house, standard downpipes are made up of one, two, or more sections joined together; the downspout is then attached to an exterior wall by brackets. If they are blocked, it can be a challenge to find exactly where the problem is and then to clean the downspouts.

To get a sense of where the debris might be lodged inside the downpipes, gently tap on the outside, down the length of the pipe. If the downspout is clog-free, you will hear a ringing sound, but when there is debris blocking the pipe it will “clunk” rather than ring.

If the clog appears in the middle of the downspout or above or below any of the elbows that are a part of the downpipes, it will probably be easier to access any clogs by removing the bottom elbow of the downpipe. You will need to loosen the clog with a plumber’s snake. Flush out any remaining dirt, pine needles and leaves using the garden hose. Reattach the elbow.

Outside the Downspout

Inspect the outside of the downpipes for loose hardware, broken brackets, and damaged areas such as holes caused by rust or dents. Repair or replace the affected section as soon as possible. Depending on the extent of the dent, debris can be trapped inside the pipe and become a clog.

To clean the outside of the downspout, use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to loosen dirt and wash away grime. For stubborn stains or residual debris, fill a pail with mild liquid soap and water. Rub away marks and streaks with a soft, all-purpose cleaning cloth; use a soft bristle brush on really stubborn stains. Rinse with the garden hose.