How to Clean Gutters in 5 Steps

A person cleaning leaves from a gutter

We get it: cleaning your gutters isn’t fun. However, your gutters get clogged and dirty over time, and cleaning them is necessary to keep them working correctly. Putting it off leads to more work and expense on repairs later on, so you might as well clean your gutters now in five easy steps. 

Why Should You Clean Your Gutters?

Your gutters collect rainwater flowing off the roof and divert it away from the house, protecting your investment. Cleaning them doesn’t just make them pretty. There are important benefits:

  • Cleaning protects your home from water damage: Leaves, twigs, and debris can build up and clog your gutters and downspouts. If this happens, water will overflow through the gutters and down the siding, causing water damage to your walls.
  • It thwarts unwanted guests: Gunk and standing water invite rodents, mosquitoes, and other gutter pests to live rent-free, which creates health and safety risks for you and your loved ones. 
  • Prevents structural damage: In winter, ice clogs the gutters and causes leaks when it melts. Additionally, accumulated gutter debris puts pressure on your gutters, which causes them to sag or collapse.
  • Prolong your gutters’ lifespan: Though you’ll eventually need to replace them (no matter what shape they’re in), cleaning gutters ensures they work longer, saving you money on repairs.

Tools Needed

A person standing on a ladder and cleaning gutter
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Here’s a list of tools you’ll need to clean your gutters:

  • Extension ladder
  • Ladder stabilizer
  • Gutter scoop or trowel
  • Garden hose
  • Pressure washer (optional)
  • Plumber’s snake (optional)
  • Spray nozzle
  • Dry vacuum (optional)
  • Leaf blower (optional)
  • Work gloves 

Safety Tips

You’ll need a ladder to climb up to your gutters so you can clean them. However, using a ladder can be unsafe, so exercise caution:

  • Don’t use a step ladder; it’s prone to tipping. Use an extension ladder and a ladder stabilizer, both of which allow you to reach spots on your roof safely.
  • Always set your ladder on stable, level ground.
  • Always wear work gloves to protect your hands from debris or sharp metal.
  • Never walk on the roof to clean your gutters, as you could slip and fall.
  • Avoid cleaning your gutters after rain or if it’s windy.
  • Have a spotter hold up the ladder or hand you tools as you need them.
  • Stay clear of electrical lines leading to the house.
  • And don’t overreach.  

How to Clean Your Gutters, Step-by-Step

Gutter cleaning with a ladder is the preferred method if you have a two-story home. Use the following steps to turn gutter cleaning into a simple home improvement project:

Step 1: Prep

A person standing on a extension ladder
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  • Place your ladder on a dry, level surface. Use your ladder stabilizer to secure it in place.
  • If you don’t plan on using a spotter, attach two buckets to your ladder with hooks – one bucket to hold your gutter cleaning tools and one for debris.

Step 2: Remove Debris

  • Starting at the downspout, clean the downspout strainer (which holds all the leaves and debris). Scoop out all the debris by hand and put it in the debris bucket.
  • If there’s any compacted debris (like leaves, acorns, or twigs) or gunk, use your gutter scoop or trowel to clear them out. Put them in the debris bucket.

You can use a leaf blower or a dry vacuum to clean the debris. When the debris dries up, use your tool to clean it out. Start at the end and work towards the downspout. Equipping your machine with gutter-cleaning attachments lets you clean your gutters without needing a ladder.

Step 3: Flush Out the Remaining Debris

  • Put the spray nozzle on the garden hose.
  • Flush out the debris with a strong stream of water. Start at the end and move toward the downspout.
  • Avoid spraying under the shingles, as you could loosen them.

Pro tip: Use a pressure washer if you need a more powerful stream.

Step 4: Clear the Downspouts

Gutters on a house
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Your next step is to check for debris lodged in the downspout. Use the hose to spray down the downspout. If there’s more water going in than coming out, you have a blockage.

  • Put the hose up the spout and spray at full pressure to release the clog.
  • If that doesn’t work, use a plumber’s snake. They are available relatively inexpensively at any home improvement or hardware store. Put it inside the spout and rotate it around until the clog breaks up.
  • Pull out the snake to release the debris.

Step 5: Check for Function

Now that you’ve cleaned out your gutters and downspout, ensure they work correctly by running water through them to check for good flow and to spot leaks.

  • Use the hose to flush the gutters again.
  • If you see any standing water, your gutters aren’t sloped properly. To ensure your gutters drain water properly, they must be sloped at ½ inch for every 10 feet. Remove the hangers or gutter brackets to adjust the gutters to the proper slope.
  • Inspect your gutters for any damage. If there are any leaks, use sealant to seal them up.

And you’re done! Whew!

Gutter Guards: Are They Worth It?

A gutter guard installed on top of a gutter
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Gutter guards keep debris from entering your gutters but allow water to pass through. They don’t remove every problem, but they do ensure you don’t need to clean your gutters as frequently. Some can be installed without professional assistance, while others must be installed professionally.

However, gutter guards aren’t perfect. They still require some maintenance, and, as mentioned, they don’t block everything. For example, seeds can get through them and become gutter trees if not removed. Also, gutter guards can be expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my gutters?

Clean your gutters at least twice a year, once in spring and once in fall.

How long will it take to clean my gutters?

If you have a two-story or three-story home, cleaning your gutters will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. If you have a single-story home, it’ll take you at least 30 minutes. Factors that affect how much time gutter cleaning will take include:
• The condition of your gutters.
• The type of debris.
• The weather outside.
• How steep your roof’s pitch is.

How do you know when it’s time to clean your gutters?

Look for the following problems:
• Rainwater is overflowing from the gutters.
• Your gutters are sagging.
• Your sides are stained.
• You see pools of standing water near your home’s foundation.
• Critters, birds, and pests are crawling into your gutters.
• Trees and plants are growing in your gutters.

Get Your Head Out of the Gutter

Cleaning your gutters is vital to maintain your house. Our gutter professionals know that, so contact them and have them clean for you.

Main Image Credit: Lex20 / Canva Pro / License

Stuart Kushner

Stuart Kushner is a writer and aspiring product designer based in New York City. When he isn’t doing either, Stuart enjoys heavy metal music, exercise, and trying new food and drinks.