Cleaning Gutters

by April Reinhardt
(last updated September 7, 2020)

Some people don't understand how clogged gutters can end up causing water damage to a home. Clogged gutters make it impossible for water to flow through the gutter to downspouts, out to drainage pipes, and into a sewer system. Instead, when gutters are clogged, water falls directly to the foundation of a house causing structural damage, damp basement problems, roof rot, plant growth within the gutters, stained siding, and icy sidewalks in winter.

Gutters should be cleaned twice yearly; once in spring to remove debris left over from the winter season and once again in fall before winter begins. Some of the supplies you need before you begin are a safety ladder, a garden hose with a sprayer attachment, heavy rubber gloves, a scoop, a large bucket, rags, and a wire hanger. Follow these steps to clean your gutters:

  1. Lean your ladder against the side of your house (do not lean the ladder against the gutters) and climb to the roof.
  2. With a scoop, remove all of the debris. You can make a scoop from an old, used plastic gallon milk jug by cutting away half of the jug.
  3. As you remove all of the debris, toss it to the ground for later collection or scoop it into a garbage bag while you're up near the roof.
  4. Once you've removed all of the debris from the gutters, move to the downspouts. Straighten an old wire hanger and form a hook at the end. Insert the wire hook into the downspout and pull out any debris that may be clogging the hole.
  5. With the garden hose, gently wet the gutters and clean them with rags, then spray them, directing the water to the downspout. Pay close attention to make sure the water flows freely down the downspout. If not, you can try unclogging the downspout with quick bursts of water.
  6. As you spray the gutters, check the seams for leaks. If you discover any leaks, go ahead and use some caulk to seal those leaks.

Once you've cleaned your gutters, take the next step to help reduce the amount of debris your gutters are going to collect by installing a gutter screening or brushing system. Gutter screens are installed on top of gutters, while gutter brushes fit inside gutters and are easily removed for cleaning. Visit your home improvement or hardware store and you will see that you can spend a lot of money—or a little money—to protect your gutters from debris. The most expensive gutter protection is gutter caps, but the caps prevent nearly all debris from collecting inside of gutters, while allowing water to flow freely to the downspouts. The most inexpensive pre-fabricated gutter protection system is going to be a gutter brush.

You can make an inexpensive gutter screen yourself. Buy a roll of plastic mesh, cut it to length, roll it into a tube that will fit inside of your gutter, then secure the tube with a wire or twist tie. Anchor the mesh tube to your gutter with metal strapping or a similar permanent anchor. It's a good idea to place a short tube of mesh inside of your downspout to keep debris out. Unlike wire screening, plastic mesh will not rust, nor does it become brittle and break.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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