How to Clean Gutters

Man cleaning gutter

Like anything left unattended, gutters become unsightly and clogged over time. We get it, it’s tedious, messy, and downright unsafe if they’re unreachable, but the entire system needs an annual cleanup to work efficiently. Let’s learn how to clean gutters the right way.

Why Should You Clean Your Gutters?

Gutters are key to keeping water away from your home and foundation. They collect rainwater on the roof and divert it away from your home’s foundation. A few reasons to keep your gutters clean include:

  • To prevent water damage: Gutters prevent water intrusion into basements, around windows, and in crawl space.  Leaves, dirt, and debris can clog the downspouts and restrict water flow, causing the water to run over the top of the gutter channel and flow out. 
  • To prevent structural damage: Another reason your gutter needs proper clean-ups is to prevent backed up water from freezing in gutters. This not only clogs the gutter with heavy ice blockages, but it may also tear the gutter away from the roof due to the weight. 
  • Roof safety: Clogged gutters in the winter can also cause water to collect on the roof and form ice dams. Those dams create extra weight to your roof and might cause it to collapse altogether. 
  • Cost-saving: Cleaning services might seem unnecessarily expensive to some homeowners, but neglecting your gutters can lead to more expensive problems and necessitate repairs down the road. Also, there are some easy DIY gutter-cleaning methods that we’ll discuss later in the article.
  • Prevents pests: Debris that accumulates in clogged gutters makes a very favorable environment for pests. Gunk and standing water create a cozy home for pests ranging from fungi and bacteria to insects and rodents. Keeping the gutter clean will save you from much bigger nuisances.
  • Extends the life of the gutter system: Regular gutter maintenance will prolong the system’s life and save you from trouble in the future.

How often should you clean gutters? 

Gutter needed to be cleaned
Photo Credit: User:Randall1022 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Most people clean their gutters once a year in the fall, but you should tackle this job twice a year or more, depending on the types and number of trees in your yard. For instance, if you have pine trees in your yard, you should clean your gutters as often as every three months. 

The frequency of your gutter cleanings depends on your home’s condition, climate, and location. If you are surrounded by lots of nature, it’s recommended that you get your gutters cleaned three times a year – spring, summer, and fall.

Safety considerations when cleaning gutters

A tall ladder and lots of scraping and scooping are an easy recipe for disaster. Teetering on a ladder isn’t safe anyway, and you need to make sure you’re taking all the necessary precautions if you’re using one. Here are some safety tips to swear by:

  • The biggest risk when cleaning gutters is falling off a ladder. Check your ladder for any signs of corrosion, splits, bends, missing steps and rungs, or cracks.
  • Try to avoid using a step ladder altogether, as it is more prone to tripping. Instead, go for a stable extension ladder and have someone stand at the base to help stabilize the ladder as you work up there.
  • Never attempt walking on the roof to clean gutters; you could easily slip and fall.
  • Always place the ladder in a safe location. Avoid doors and slippery or uneven surfaces.
  • If it’s windy, abort your gutter cleaning mission for the day.
  • Do not carry heavy materials up the ladder. All your supplies should be raised to the work station on a tether.
  • Stay away from power lines.
  • Gutter cleaners have strong chemicals that can easily irritate your skin and eyes. Always wear protective rubber gloves, face masks, long-sleeved shirts, and goggles to protect yourself from harm.
  • Use appropriate gutter cleaning tools. For example, you shouldn’t have to tug or pull the hose so it reaches high up as it will easily throw you off balance and increase the risk of falling.
  • If you have aluminum gutters, make sure you pay special attention when choosing a cleaning product because aluminum can corrode under harsh chemicals and release toxic gas.
  • Also, Lawn Love has some excellent safety tips that can help you reduce your risks of landscaping accidents.

Tools needed to clean your gutters

Text: Gutter Guard Maintenance | Background Image: Gutter Guard full with leaves
Photo Credit: Canva Pro

Here’s a list of things you will need to clean the gutters:

  • Ladder
  • Hose
  • Ladder stabilizer
  • Gutter scoop
  • Power washer or a spray nozzle
  • Drill and bits
  • Buckets (one for debris and the other for tools)
  • Goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Garbage bags
  • Dustpan
  • Tarp 

How to clean gutters – a step-by-step guide

Gutter cleaning can be an easy DIY job if you have a single-story home. Here’s how you can clean your gutters safely:

Cleaning with a ladder

Step 1: The most common method for cleaning gutters is with a ladder and hose. Place your sturdy, extendable ladder on a plain, dry surface, or use a ladder stabilizer to prevent any damage to landscaping. Spread a tarp underneath your ladder and work area that will collect all the gunk from the gutter and protect your landscaping and lawn. Put your gutter cleaning tools in a bucket.

Step 2: You’ll now have to physically remove a bunch of debris before you can use a hose. Use a small plastic scoop to remove the gunk from the gutters. If you don’t have a gutter scoop, you can use a children’s sandbox shovel or an old kitchen spatula for the job. Just make sure they’re made of plastic so it doesn’t damage the gutter. Simply drive the dry leaves and debris to the end of the gutter and scoop it into a garbage bag. If the debris is dry, you may be able to use a leaf blower for this job. 

Pro Tip: Use a spring clamp to attach the garbage bag to the side of your ladder and save lots of time and effort as you work your way along the gutters.

Step 3: After removing all the gunk and debris from the gutters, use a garden hose or pressure washer to flush the remaining debris down the gutters and downspouts. You might want to remove, if they’re removable, the gutter guards before rinsing. Water should run freely through the downspouts without getting stuck anywhere. If your system has a drainage problem, now is the time to correctly slope the gutters and fix it. 

Step 4: Once all the gutters are clean, look for and repair any sagging metal. And you’re pretty much done!

Cleaning from the ground

Step 1: This method is a bit messy. You’ll need a gutter cleaning wand that reaches up to the height of your building while you stand on the ground. This wand also attaches to a hose and has a curved end to direct and angle the water pressure. 

Step 2: Use the gutter wand to scrap debris at one end or simply direct the curved end of the water hose and drive all the debris out of the gutter with the high-pressure water. 

Step 3: Keep hosing all the gunk toward the downspouts until you see water running freely. 

Frequently asked questions about cleaning gutters

Can I clean gutters from the roof?

Standing or sitting on the roof is not safe. You can easily lose balance, trip, and injure yourself. Professional gutter cleaners may walk on the roof, but it’s a dangerous practice for someone inexperienced at doing so.

Is it OK to lean the ladder against the gutter?

No, never lean your ladder against a gutter as it is unsafe. You need a sturdy resting point for your ladder’s support. 

How do you know it’s time for gutter cleaning?

Some common signs to look for include overflowing rainwater from the gutters, stains along your siding, sagging gutters, birds or critters around your gutters, etc. 

When to call a pro

Cleaning gutters can be a big, messy, even dangerous job. If you’d rather let someone else deal with this headache, reach out to a gutter professional for help.

Main Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / Flickr / Public Domain


Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.