Asked on Jan 12, 2013

How Do I Clean Out Downspout Drainage Pipe Without A Snake?

Jeff C
by Jeff C
While unclogging some of my gutters the other day which I'm thankful I did because water was backing up and freezing onto the wall of the house, I discovered that at least one of the ceramic drainage pipes was filled with debris from when I cleaned the gutters. I've reached as far down as I can go with my hands and arms to pull stuff out but as you can see, there is stuff I can't reach. Outside of using a drainage snake, what could I do to clean it out? We have an inch and a quarter of rain forecast for tonight and it's going to be 60 degrees today so I hope I can get this unclogged a little better.
Gutter Gunk
  14 answers
  • What is that in the pic & does this drain to daylight or... One trick I use is using a garden hose as a snake & if it drains outside I will attack it from both sides If you have one of those straight spray attachments on there that goes from mist to full spray, that can help some though most times I just use the hose
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jan 12, 2013
    If you have one of those old time hose nozzles you set it up with the narrow force full spray and feed the hose in the will blast its way through.
  • Sharron W Sharron W on Jan 12, 2013
    Yep! that's what I do as well....feed te hose down and let it blast it's way through.... LOL
  • HomeSpot HQ HomeSpot HQ on Jan 12, 2013
    A way to help the garden hose is to use a bladder. It will seal off the opening which forces all water to go down and force out the blog. But I'm not 100% sure if you can find one big enough for a gutter opening.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 13, 2013
    Have you tried using one of those extension to the arm thingies that people use to get things off taller shelves? A sort of grabber thingie...?
  • A good quality shop vac will do the trick. For distances beyond the hose length borrow a pool vacuum hose and use it. Be careful with any snakes on these old pipes as they often crack them if used incorrectly. A hose will help flush but you need to be careful as quite often it will end up packing the pipe even harder. When using the shop vac you will end up plugging the hose often. So you will need to pull it out, reverse the connection to clear and start again. Once the pipe is clear and you have access to both ends, Using the shop vac once again, put a fish line tied to a small rag and draw it through the pipe with the suction. Once the fishing line gets pulled through tie a nylon mason string on the end of the fishing line and use it to pull the mason line through the pipe. Once that has been done, tie the mason line off at the gutter so it does not fall into the pipe. In the spring, once again use a larger nylon rope tied to the mason line and pull that through. Once its through, tie the mason line on the end along with a larger rag that will catch any debris and allow you to pull it out of the pipe. As you clear the pipe you will be returning the older mason line back into the pipe where you will tie it off for use again when you need to flush the inside of the pipe out again.
  • Jeff C Jeff C on Jan 23, 2013
    Looks like I got enough debris out of the pipe to not have any problems after it rained. However, I have no idea where the pipe comes out and thus, not sure where I could get access. From the back of my house all the way to the very back of the yard, there is a drainage pond for a housing development. I wonder if that is where the drainage pipes go to. This nullified the idea of pulling something through the entire pipe. @Jeanette Funny thing is, yes I did! LOL. It didn't help much because I couldn't fully open the arms to grab the debris. The true solution to this problem is to prevent debris from going through the downspouts in the first place, something I can't afford to do right now. When I get the cash, I'm going to invest in the gutter brush. I've used those stupid wire nets for the downspout holes and not only do they cut skin easily, they make the problem worst.
  • Put some food dye. A whole bottle in and run water. Look for the color near the pond. I suspect that is where you will find the other end. We use septic dye tabs when looking for pipe outlets. Just do not get them on your hands. Will stain them quickly. Some plumbing shops sell them in small packages.
  • Sharron W Sharron W on Jan 23, 2013
    @Jeff C Are you talking about the mesh "egg" looking things that you stick in the downspout hole? I used those and didn't have a problem, except that any expanded metal will cut the fire out of you so I used leather gloves to install them, and it kept the robins from trying to build a nest in my downspout "depression"...One year I had to fish a robin out that fell down the downspout...that meant taking the gutter apart at the bottom...she's lucky I found her before the big rain or she'd have been a goner, because I have an underground drain system on that gutter....
  • Jeff C Jeff C on Feb 08, 2013
    Yes I was Sharron. They ended up catching debris that other wise probably would have been fine just going through the downspout. I ended up with debris jams at each downspout hole and one time, I saw water spilling over the gutter during a heavy rain storm. Getting rid of those mesh things fixed the problem.
  • Aaron Aaron on Feb 22, 2017

    I 've cleaned thousands of gutters, literally. I do it every day. Downspout screens are great but you gotta do it right. Not those metal ones that look like a light bulb. In a downpour all the debris slooshes up over the top and covers it, downspout sealed off, game over. They don't cut my calloused hands at all, but when I find them in some ones gutter and it is still in good shape and not rusted out like they do, I unroll it, open it up, and do a reverse bend outward on the upper few inches. Roll it back up, shape the bottom to fit nicely into the downspout hole, and flare out top and try to make a nice cyclone shape. It holds back the debris beautifully, (until it rusts out) keeps that nice cylinder hole open so the water can get out. Prevents clogged downspouts and ground drains. Here in the Northwest, an annual gutter clean, is always recommended. In some cases 3 or 4.

    But the best way to go is with the black plastic downspout screen. I buy it in 40 foot rolls at the hardware store. Cut it about 8 or 9 inches, roll it up and stick it in the downspout hole and spread it out like a cone shape with a nice open cylinder hole. Make sure to place it at the right height, not too low, not too high. About 2 inches below top edge of gutter. I install them for free for my customers, that way I know their gutters will be working great until the next annual gutter clean, and I won't have a bunch of clogged headaches. They remain flexible, hold their shape, clean easily with a quick tap, reusable. A much better way to go than most types of gutter covers. In a few cases I have seen quality covers that are well done and prove their worth, but most of the time, bad idea.

    Just my 2 cents!


    • Paul Paul on Aug 26, 2017

      Ordinarily I'd suggest a sewer jetter attachment for your pressure washer to flush out yard debris from a landscaping pipe, but since this is an older style ceramic (clay) pipe there's a risk that either a mechanical drain snake or sewer jetter could get stuck in any crack or breach that might be present in the line. Therefore you might get a plumber to inspect the drain pipe with a video camera before attempting to clean it.

  • Richard Marotta Richard Marotta on Jan 30, 2019

    I have 2 clogged downspouts on my 2 story house. The roof is too high and pitched for me or my sons. Is there a hose or tool that can get past the angled piece at the bottom of the downspout that I can then feed up the downspout and then use water pressure to clear the blockage at the top of the downspout?

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Feb 16, 2024

    Use a Pole with a wire hook attached to push down into it. Then flush it through with water from a hose. When clear cover your inlet to pipe with gutter guards.

  • Dee Dee on Feb 24, 2024

    I use my hose with an attachment that makes the water flow hard so it clears the drain. I have also used my power washer when gunk was really thick.