How to Properly Clean Rain Gutters

A man cleaning out his rain gutters after reading our how to guide

While cleaning out your home’s rain gutters can be an easily forgotten chore, it’s an important one to tackle at least once a year (preferably twice, in the spring and fall). When your rain gutters go without cleaning for too long, it can lead to problems like insect infestation, roof damage, clogged downspouts, damaged landscaping below, and water-damaged basements or crawl spaces caused by water pooling at your home’s foundation. If you’ve never cleaned your gutters or downspout before, the following are beginner-level steps on how to make sure they’re clean and functional this winter season.

  1. Check the weather.

    Try to clean your gutters after a few dry days in a row. This will make cleaning out the debris much easier.

  2. Gather your supplies.

    You’ll want to have:

    • Trowel
    • Ladder
    • 2 buckets with wire hooks (to connect them to the ladder while you’re working – one for gathering the debris, and the other for carrying your tools in)
    • Garden hose with nozzle or a gutter-cleaning attachment (such as this one or this one)
    • Work gloves
    • Latex gloves (to be worn under your work gloves to protect your skin in case of wet debris)
    • Safety glasses
  1. Begin cleaning debris. You can start anywhere, but it may be the best to start near the downspout (if you’re new to gutter-cleaning, the downspout is the pipe that connects to your gutter and flows down to the ground, usually located on one of your home’s corners). Scoop out large, loose debris (such as leaves and sticks) with your hands – be sure to wear your work gloves for this. Use the trowel to lift out anything smaller, wet, or packed in.
  2. Spray out the remaining debris. Use the hose and/or the attachment to spray out what’s left of the debris, spraying it towards the downspout so it drains out.

A few points of note:

  • If the debris doesn’t drain out, there’s probably a clog in the downspout. If your downspout runs into an underground drain, unscrew the bottom portion of the downspout. Spray up into the downspout using your hose to loosen any clogs that may be there. Then reattach the bottom portion and spray out the gutters once again.
  • If there’s any standing water leftover, this could mean that your gutters are not sloped properly and may need to be unattached, readjusted, and reattached so that water drains properly.
  • If your gutter has a leak, wait until it’s dry and then use sealant to fix them.

And voila – you’ve just cleaned your gutters! Remember, it’s wise to clean them out at least once, but preferably twice a year as the seasons change. You can also help prevent excess debris buildup throughout the year by installing simple gutter screens like these.