Kazou asked, “I might need to clean out the gutters soon. We’ve never had gutters. How do you clean them?”
The purpose of gutters is to keep rain water flowing away from your home to prevent mold, mildew and other problems that standing water around your home can cause. The problem is that gutters need to be kept open to allow the water to flow, but that can cause debris to collect, which then defeats the purpose of a gutter. It is best to inspect and clean your gutters at the change of every season. This schedule keeps the job manageable and can help identify problems before they become expensive home repairs.
Safety Warning! Cleaning your gutters will most likely require some time on a ladder at varying heights, depending on your home. It is a good practice to make this a two-person job for personal safety and follow the ladder safety tips found in the Additional Tips and Advice section.
Cleaning the Gutters
You Will Need:
- Work gloves and rubber boots
- Ladder hooks or S-hooks
- Old rags
- Small shovel, garden trowel or gutter scoop
- Large yard debris bags
- Garden hose
- Scrub brush
- Plumber’s snake
- Powdered laundry detergent
- Hydrogen peroxide
- White scrub pad
- Gutter seal
Steps to Clean the Gutters:
- Wear work gloves for protection against any sharp metal on the gutter, and wear shoes that can give you proper traction on the ladder and have flat soles that cannot easily catch on the steps, such as rubber boots.¹
- Attach ladder hooks² or S-hooks³ to the ladder. If you don’t have either, you can make an S- hook by bending a wire coat hanger into the shape needed.²
- Tie a rope to the bucket and hang it from the hooks.²
- Set the ladder up, following the safety guidelines in the Additional Tips and Advice section. Keep in mind that the ladder should never be leaned against the gutter itself or the gutter could be damaged. Invest in a gutter attachment for your ladder if needed, which can be purchased at your local hardware store.¹
- Use old rags to plug the top of the drains or downspouts.²
- Begin at a downspout or drain area and work outward from there.³
- Using a small shovel or garden trowel, scoop any large debris into the bucket.² If you have a lot of gutters, you may want to invest in a gutter scoop, which you can purchase at a hardware store.¹ Do not push the debris over the side of the gutter, as you can easily create a new task for yourself of cleaning the siding after you clean the gutters.²
- As the bucket fills, lower it to your partner on the ground for disposal into the yard bags.²
- Remove the rags from the downspouts.
- Have your partner guide a garden hose up to you.²
- Run a steady flow of water through the gutter toward the downspout and down each downspout.³
- If there is any stubborn dirt stuck in the gutters, use a stiff bristled scrub brush.²
- Have your partner check for leaks as you spray the water in the gutters. Mark each leaky area with chalk for repair.²
- Have your partner check each downspout to ensure water is flowing clear.
- If water is not flowing from a downspout, proceed with cleaning the downspout.
- To clean the downspout, insert the garden hose into the downspout at the bottom and spray the water skyward.³
- If the downspout is still clogged, spray through the spout from the top.³
- If downspout remains clogged, use the plumber’s snake. Guide the snake up the downspout and gently pull at the blocked area.³
- Once the downspout has been cleared, run water through it from above to make sure the water is flowing freely.
- Combine ½ cup borax and 1/3 cup powdered laundry detergent in one gallon of water. If there is mold present, add 2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide to the mixture.¹ Test this mixture on a hidden area of the gutter and siding first to check for any adverse reactions, as hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect on darker colors.
- Gently scrub the outside edges of the gutters with the mixture and rinse well. It is best to use a white scrub pad, as these are more gentle and will be less likely to scratch your gutters.¹
- Once the gutters have dried completely, you can return to marked leaky areas and seal with gutter seal (available at your local hardware store), following manufacturers guidelines.¹
Additional Tips and Advice
- Follow ladder safety guidelines. See Wikipedia for more information.
- Although it may seem tempting to use a pressure washer or high-powered hose to clean out the gutter debris, this can easily lead to a big mess on your siding or yard, water under the siding or possibly even damaged gutters.³
- If you can see any “daylight” between the gutter and the house, your gutters are coming loose and will not function properly. You can purchase gutter bolts from your local hardware store to make repairs.¹
- If an area of your gutter seems to be sagging, use pliers to bend the bracket nearest the sag upwards to level the gutter.²
- Check regularly that the base piece of your downspout is pointed outward from the wall⁴ or has a splash block to carry rainwater away from the house. If not, you can easily end up with erosion of your foundation soil or water in your basement.²
- You can make or purchase screens to cover the top of your gutters to prevent leaves and larger debris from getting into gutters. You will still need to inspect gutters regularly as smaller debris, particularly pine needles, can still cause problems.²
- If you would rather not clean your gutters, you can hire a professional to do so for you.³
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning by Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli
- 1001 Do-It-Yourself Hints & Tips by Reader’s Digest
- Cleaning Plain & Simple by Donna Smallin
- Fix It, Clean It, and Make It Last by Gayle K. Wood