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Gutter cleaning tips for homeowners

A white person wearing teal yard gloves and a gray shirt cleans out a gutter

We’re well into the new year, right in the middle of the foggy period between the sunset of winter and the dawn of spring. How do we make the most of it? By cleaning our gutters, of course! Seizing the opportunity to clean your gutters now can help prevent all sorts of concerns down the road. So let’s dig in with these gutter cleaning tips to make the task a little easier.

Gutter cleaning safety

It may be tempting to hop on a ladder and get started, but it’s important to practice gutter cleaning safety to avoid turning outdoor home maintenance into an easy way to have an accident.

Using a ladder to clean gutters 

When using a ladder to clean gutters, make sure someone else knows you’ll be on it, and inspect it for any defects or loose parts before climbing up. Many homeowners opt for an aluminum ladder as a strong, but light option. If you’re using one long extension ladder leaned against the roof, you may also want to invest in a roof ladder stabilizer, also known as a “standoff”, to prevent denting or gutter damage. Regardless of the ladder type, make sure it sits on sturdy ground (no loose stones or uneven ground!).

Wearing safety glasses to protect those precious eyes

Before you remove the first dead leaf, it’s important to make sure your eyes are covered. When you’re flushing things out of a downspout, all kinds of things and creatures can come flying out! Wearing safety glasses helps you avoid the possibility of sudden eye injuries (and the Itsy Bitsy Spider getting far too close)!

Using yard gloves to minimize contact with mess

Aside from the obvious chill of digging through muck, you want thick yard gloves for several reasons:

  • The muck may hold animal excrement, which you really don’t want on your skin.
  • It can also contain sharp objects like sticks, thorns, and possibly even sharp or rusty metal.
  • They can also keep your fingers warm and dry, which makes it easier to continue cleaning. 

Tools for cleaning gutters

Though your hands may be able to remove most of the mess, these gutter tools can help you a smoother time so you can get the job done quickly and effectively.  

Wear rubber bottom shoes for a good grip

Grip is your friend when you’re off the ground, and rubber is one of the materials that does it the best. Since rooftops tend to be damp (and sometimes, slippery) in the mornings, the best time to clean your gutters is late morning or early afternoon, when the sun has dried up the dew. Watch out for any growing moss, which can also be a slip hazard!

Use a hard plastic spatula as a gunk remover

Yes, you read that right. A hard plastic spatula works well in a pinch to scrape the gunk out of those gutters. You can also choose to invest in a gutter scoop, which is likely available at your local hardware store. Make sure it’s made of plastic, as metal can cause gutter damage, leading to faster rusting and a sooner need for gutter repair or replacement.

Use a spray nozzle hose with a pistol grip

Spray nozzle hoses with pistol grips come in handy for a couple of reasons. One, when you’re not using it, you can hang it right off the gutter for easy access. Two, there are times when having a little pressure behind the spray can help with cleaning, as well as unclogging downspouts. This nozzle is also available at most local hardware stores.

How to clean your gutters (Step by step)

Now that you know what you’ll need and how to clean your gutters safely—let’s get going!

  1. Spray down the roof. Spray down your roof before cleaning your gutters to limit how much debris can be blown into them once you’re done. This also helps to prevent pieces of nature from getting stuck in the shingles, which can lead to ice damming and roof damage in the winter.
  2. Scoop out the leaves and residual muck. Depending on your level of landscaping, you may want to put down a tarp, drop cloth, or bucket to catch what you pull out.
  3. Flush out the gutters and downspouts with your hose. This should take care of any remaining debris and highlight any existing leaks. If the water bubbles back up, you may need to temporarily disassemble your downspout to remove a clog. Plumbing snakes can be quite effective for this!
  4. Check for sagging metal. Now that the gutters are clean, it’s a good time to make any necessary repairs to your gutters before the next storm hits. You may choose to DIY these repairs, or you can hire a professional.

Congratulations—you’ve successfully cleaned the gunk from your gutters! How often should you clean your gutters? Just like winter roof maintenance, it’s a good idea to clean your gutters at least twice a year to keep them in good shape for years to come!