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How to clean gutters

The gutters should be on your spring-cleaning list. Keeping them clear of debris will not only help protect your house but save you money. Here's how.
When gutters fill with debris — like sticks and leaves — it prevents rainwater and snowmelt from being able to drain off the roof of your house.
When gutters fill with debris — like sticks and leaves — it prevents rainwater and snowmelt from being able to drain off the roof of your house.Lex20 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you’re in spring-cleaning mode, it’s important to devote some attention to the outside of your house as well as the inside. One of the most critical home maintenance tasks that should never be overlooked this time of year is cleaning the gutters.

Clogged gutters can cause all kinds of damage. When gutters fill with debris — like sticks and leaves — it prevents rainwater and snowmelt from being able to drain off the roof of your house. This water can seep underneath your roofing and cause mold issues both outside and inside the home. It can also cause the gutters to sag, which can lead to structural problems on the side of the house — and even in the foundation. Another problem is that leaves and other debris in your gutters make ideal homes for rodents and other pests. There are many good reasons to keep your gutters clean!

Experts recommend cleaning your gutters twice a year: in the fall and in the spring. Neglecting to clean gutters can lead to expensive repairs down the line.

There are companies that clean gutters, but cleaning gutters isn't difficult so hiring a gutter-cleaning service usually isn't necessary. Besides, if you do it yourself, there's no cost for cleaning the gutters.

Here are our best tips on how to clean gutters.

What you’ll need

The right clothes

Cleaning gutters is a dirty job, so you'll want to keep that in mind when you suit up. You should wear rubber gloves, work pants and a shirt or jacket with long-sleeves. You may also want to consider wearing safety goggles to protect your eyes.

The right tools to clean gutters

  1. Make sure you have a sturdy, extendable ladder. You can also use a ladder stabilizer to increase support and prevent any scraping damage to the side of your house. Since you'll be working high off the ground, it's a good idea to have someone there to spot you. And remember, don't ever climb above the second highest rung.
  2. To get the mess out of the gutters, the main thing you'll need is a scooping tool. You could buy a gutter scoop and other gutter-cleaner equipment at the hardware store, but a garden trowel or child's sandbox shovel will work just fine. You could even use an old kitchen spatula (as long as it's not going back into the kitchen).
  3. A bucket or tarp for collecting the debris that you scoop out of the gutter.
  4. A garden hose to flush the gutters clean after you remove the debris.

How to clean your gutters

Try to avoid cleaning your gutters after a big rain. When the leaves and debris are wet they become much harder to remove. Wait for a nice clear day when everything is dry.

First, you'll need to place your ladder squarely on level ground. Climb up with your scooping tool and bucket. Begin cleaning out the gutter by the downspout. Clear away any large debris (such as branches that may have fallen) by hand. Then use your scooper to shovel the leaves and smaller bits out of the gutter. You can scoop all the debris right into your bucket for easy clean-up afterward.

If you can't reach something, don't overextend while on the ladder. Climb all the way down first and then move the ladder over to a new, level location before continuing to clean out the gutter.

After you've removed as much debris as possible, use your garden hose to flush the gutter clean. Fitting your hose with a spray nozzle will help ensure a strong stream that'll leave your gutters squeaky clean and ready for the heavy spring and summer rains. You can even use a power washer, if you have one.

When flushing the gutter, spray the water toward the downspout to get things moving in the right direction for drainage. This process is also a good way to check for any leaks in your gutters or downspout.

As you're flushing the gutters, check the downspout to make sure all the water is flowing through. If it's not, it may mean there's a blockage or leak. Check the whole gutter system for damage and seal any cracks with gutter sealant, which is available at most hardware stores.

Now that you know the steps and what gutter cleaner tools you'll need, keeping your gutters clear of debris and gunk this year will be a breeze.

This article was originally published on March 18, 2021.