How to Clean Gutters Quickly and Efficiently

By Judy Schumer


Gutters just kind of passively do their job, so they may seem like an unimportant part of your home’s maintenance routine. However, they keep water from damaging the exterior of your house and from leaking into your home to wreak all sorts of havoc. So, it’s right to say that gutters deserve some care every so often.


When you make cleaning gutters a part of your regular home care schedule, you’ll not only increase the life of the gutters, but you’ll avoid costly repairs from water damage.


In this guide, we’ll teach you not only a few ways how to clean gutters, but we’ll walk you through signs that it’s time to clean your gutters, how to prevent future clogs, and in what circumstances it might be best to call in reinforcements.

gutter filled with leaves

Photo via Elena K, Hometalk Team


When to Clean Your Gutters

The easiest way to tell it’s time to clean your gutters is by the calendar. Gutters should be cleaned twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, to remove any debris and determine if they need repairs.

Cleaning in the fall prevents ice buildup in your gutters because ice easily attaches to leaves, forming a dam that can permanently damage your gutters. Cleaning in the spring removes pollen and leftover debris from winter storms.

It’s also time to clean your gutters if you see leaves or debris poking up over the top of the gutter. Gutters are fairly deep, so debris resting high enough to see is a sign of a clog building in the gutter.

If you see water spouting out the seams or flowing over the top of the gutter, you have a clog and need to clean the gutters as soon as safely possible. (Wait until the weather is clear and dry to attempt cleaning.)


Gutter Cleaning Safety Tips

Before we walk you through a few different methods for cleaning your gutters, we have a few words of wisdom to keep you safe:

  • Be sure to use a strong, sturdy extension ladder on a hard, level surface to avoid injury.
  • Wear work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges on the gutters and to avoid contact with any less-than-friendly creature that may have taken up residence in a pile of leaves.
  • Wear safety glasses to prevent the splashing of dirty gunk into your eyes.


How to Clean Gutters with a Hose

You can clean gutters a few different ways. Which one you choose will depend on what tools you have available and how comfortable you are using those tools while on a ladder. The first method we’ll teach you involves your garden hose.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Extension ladder
  • Plastic scoop
  • Tarp
  • Garden hose with jet spray nozzle
  • Gutter hangers (if needed for sagging gutters)
  • Gutter sealant (if needed)


Step 1: Set Up

Place your tarp directly underneath the section of the gutter you are cleaning. Set the ladder up in the middle of a gutter section. A section should only be as wide as you are able to safely reach inside the gutters to the right or left when you're on the ladder.


Step 2: Scoop Out Debris

Using your plastic scoop, remove the debris from the gutter. Throw it onto the tarp for later cleanup. Continue down the length of the gutters, clearing out all debris.


Step 3: Flush the Gutters

Begin at your original starting point. With a garden hose and sprayer set on jet to clean out the remaining dirt and debris from the gutters and the downspouts. Take note of any leaks as you do this; you’ll need to repair them when you’re finished.


Step 4: Make Repairs

If your gutters are sagging in any areas, repair them with gutter hangers. These are available in any hardware or home improvement store and come with instructions for installing specific to the type you get.

If you have leaks on the seams of the gutter, use gutter sealant to close the leaks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.




How to Clean Gutters with a Leaf Blower

Your gutters might just need a good blast of air to clear out, which a leaf blower can provide. Here is how to clean gutters using a leaf blower.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Extension ladder
  • Tarps
  • Contractor’s trash bags
  • Leaf blower with nozzle attachment
  • Garden hose with spray nozzle
  • Gutter hangers (if needed for sagging gutters)
  • Gutter sealant (if needed)


Step 1: Set Up

Place your tarps directly underneath the sections of the gutter you are cleaning. Set the ladder up at the end of the gutter section you’re working on. Stuff the contractor's bag into the downspouts at the top to keep leaves and debris from entering the holes as you blow them out.


Step 2: Blow the Leaves and Debris Out

Attach the nozzle to the leaf blower. Climb onto your ladder, turn on the blower, and point the end towards the inside of the gutter channel to blow leaves and debris out of the gutter channel. Continue until all gutters are cleared out. Remove the bags from the downspouts.


Take Your Time

Take your time using a leaf blower on a ladder. Do not overextend yourself, instead get down from the ladder and place it further down the gutter channel if needed.


Step 3: Flush the Gutters

From your original starting point, flush the gutters with the garden hose, with the nozzle set on jet, to clean out the remaining dirt and debris from the gutters and the downspouts. Take note of any leaks as you do this; you’ll need to repair them when you’re finished.


Step 4: Make Repairs

If your gutters are sagging in any areas, repair them with gutter hangers. These are available in any hardware or home improvement store and come with instructions for installing specific to the type you get.

If you have leaks on the seams of the gutter, use gutter sealant to close the leaks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.




How to Clean Gutters with a Power Washer

If you own a power washer, this machine does wonders in breaking up gutter leaf clumps and debris. Follow these steps for cleaning your gutters with a pressure washer.


Tools and Materials Needed:


Step 1: Set Up

Place your tarps directly underneath the sections of the gutter you are cleaning. Set the ladder up at the end of the gutter section you’re working on.


Step 2: Power the Dirt and Debris Out

Attach the fine-spray nozzle to the power washer. Climb onto the ladder, and point the tip of the nozzle inside the gutter. Turn on the power washer. A powerful stream of water will push all the leaves, dirt, debris, and mildew out of your gutters. Point the nozzle straight down the downspout to clear it out and continue until all gutters are cleared out.


Step 3: Make Repairs

If your gutters are sagging in any areas, repair them with gutter hangers. These are available in any hardware or home improvement store and come with instructions for installing specific to the type you get.

If you have leaks on the seams of the gutter, use gutter sealant to close the leaks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

gutter screen

Photo via Elena K, Hometalk Team


How to Prevent Gutter Clogs

Even with twice-a-year cleaning, the elements can get ahead of you, and your gutters can still end up clogged. To combat this, install a gutter screen or guard. You can install one yourself, or you can hire a professional company to do it for you.

Professional gutter systems go a step further and keep leaves and dirt from attaching themselves to the screen. The specially-made guards are angled to prevent leaves from sticking and are also cut to fit, making them a secure, tight system.

hand using power drill to fix gutter

Photo via Wet & Forget


Common Gutter Problems

Not all gutter problems are as simple as a clog that needs to be cleaned out. If you have the following issues, it’s time to replace your gutters:


Wide Cracks

Any crack that cannot be covered with a thin bead of gutter sealant will just get larger, making your gutters useless. You’ll have a stream of water that isn’t being directed away from your house, which could cause foundation problems. You don’t necessarily have to replace your entire gutter system—depending on the type you have, you may be able to replace just the troublesome section.


Rust

Rust is an indicator of standing water in your gutters, but a small rusted area of the gutter won't compromise the pipeline. Clear out the area near the rust, then repaint with exterior rust-resistant paint.


Mildew

Mildew is another indicator of standing water. You’ll need to find the obstruction allowing water to pool in an area and form mildew. Clear it out and use a mildew remover in the gutter to stop future growth.


Sagging

Sagging, if caught early, can be fixed by installing hangers. If the gutters are pulled away from the roofline, chances are they’re too damaged to use hangers on. Installing new gutters will ensure a tight, secure fit.


When to Call a Professional

There's no harm in calling in help when you need to. Here are some instances where a gutter-cleaning professional might help get the job done:

  • If you’ve cleaned your gutters and repaired them with gutter hangers or sealant but find they still leak. Professionals have the tools and equipment to perform tricky repairs.
  • If you’ve tried the above methods and the gutter won’t clear, you also might have a clog caused by a nest. A professional gutter cleaning service has the expertise and tools needed to safely clear the clog.
  • If your house has multiple stories. Attempting to clean gutters from a second-floor using an extension ladder is dangerous, as is trying to clean gutters while on the roof. Professional gutter cleaners have tools and equipment to do the job safely.

What method do you use to clean your gutters? Let us know in the comments, we love to hear from you!

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 2 comments
  • Mike Stanley Mike Stanley 5 days ago

    Hi guys! Newbie here, thanks for accepting me.

    interesting discussion and most importantly useful for me


  • Dee Dee Yesterday

    I have done this many times. It is a great tutorial. I usually stick the garden hose down the spout of the gutter and blast out the leaves and debris. I wish I could afford gutter guards.

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