How to Clean Gutters to Prevent Damage to Your Home

Use this step-by-step guide to safely and efficiently clean your gutters and prevent damage to your home’s roof, siding, and gutter supports.

Cleaning your gutters might seem like a thankless task, but it's a necessary job that should happen at least twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall. Skip it, and you might inadvertently end up with damage to your home. That's because clogged gutters can lead to water and weight overload, which in turn can stress your home's roof, siding, and gutter supports, leading to leaks. Blocked water can also result in costly rot and winter ice dams.

Fortunately, cleaning out gutters isn't that technical or difficult of a job, especially when it's done regularly. Here are the materials you'll need and steps to take to get rid of the debris and keep your gutters clean.

person cleaning leaves from gutter of a home
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How to Clean Gutters

We'll walk you through the best way to clean gutters, plus maintenance tips for any leaks or repairs.

What You'll Need:

  • Ladder
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Waste bucket, garbage bags, or tarp
  • Toolbelt
  • Small hand shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Drain snake or pressure washer (optional)
  • Gutter sealant (optional)

Step 1: Set up your ladder.

Follow any and all safety guidelines when placing your ladder on the ground and using the steps. Make sure you can easily reach the gutter while maintaining a secure footing. Consider using a ladder accessory called a standoff in order to prevent damage to your gutter, as well as a ladder hook to hang a waste bucket or garbage bag near where you are working.

Step 2: Gather safety gear.

Make sure you're dressed for the job before starting to clean gutters. Wear long sleeves, gloves, and safety glasses to protect your arms, hands, and eyes from debris when cleaning gutters. Use a toolbelt to safely carry a hand shovel. Once you have all your tools and safety gear, climb the ladder.

Step 3: Remove debris from gutter.

If you have gutter guards, remove them or lift them as you work, based on the manufacturer's instructions. Starting at the downspout, use gloved hands to remove large debris like sticks and tree bark from the gutter. Use a hand shovel to scoop away the remaining dirt and debris.

If using garbage bags, you can fill them and drop them to the ground to be picked up later. Alternatively, you can place tarps on the ground near the edge of the house, dislodge gutter debris, and drop the debris on top of the tarp. Generally, the material removed from gutters can be composted.

Step 4: Rinse gutters.

Once the debris is removed, rinse the gutter with a hose, pushing the water toward the downspout and dislodging any dirt from the bottom of the gutter.

Step 5: Check downspout.

Make sure that water runs through the downspout and that there are no clogs. Dislodge any debris blocking the downspouts by spraying the hose into the downspout. If this doesn't work and the downspout remains clogged, use a drain snake or pressure washer to work out any debris.

Step 6: Repeat process to clean remaining gutters.

Climb down the ladder and move it to the next section of the gutter; empty the garbage pail as needed. Continue cleaning gutters in sections until all debris is removed and water flows through downspouts freely.

Step 6: Check for leaks and make gutter repairs.

As you work, make sure to inspect the gutter. When rinsing gutters with water, look for leaks to be patched. Repair with gutter sealant as needed, making sure gutters are completely dry before completing this exterior maintenance task. Pay attention to any gutter pieces that have pulled away from the house. Rusted elements may need to be replaced. Once gutters are clean, consider installing gutter guards to prevent large debris from collecting.

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