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Easy Gutter Cleaning Tips for the Everyday Homeowner

rain gutter full of leaves from treesHave you ever wondered how to clean dirty rain gutters of debris and leaves? Well look no further! In this article you will find some of the best ways to clean gutters and restore them to their former draining glory.

Materials Needed for this Project:

  • A ladder (step ladder is recommended for single story homes)
  • a trowel (a small hand shovel would also work)
  • Garden hose or pressure washer
  • A high-pressured nozzle or gutter cleaning nozzle
  • Gloves- latex and work gloves are both recommended
  • Safety glasses
  • 2 buckets with hooks to hang from ladder

Things to Know Before You Start Cleaning Your Gutters

Leaves and debris clogging the gutters can be difficult to remove when wet. It is best to track the weather and plan this project for when the leaves and debris will be completely dry. This will make it easier to gather and dispose of it all, especially when on a ladder. It is also recommended that you clean your gutters out every spring and fall to ensure the gutters are draining properly and are not causing damage to the gutters themselves, as well as to the foundation of the home.

leaves in a house gutterWhen moving a ladder around the house, be extra careful that the ladder is nowhere near power lines while cleaning. It is not recommended to climb above the second step from the top of the
ladder. If you climb any higher, the ladder could become unstable and put you at greater risk for falling. Always place the ladder on a sturdy foundation, and if you’re not 100% comfortable
on a ladder then it might be best to have someone help or call a professional to clean them. Even if you are comfortable on a ladder, it is usually a good idea to have someone with you should you become unsteady or need to pass something to the ground. Safety is the most important thing to consider while cleaning your gutters.

The Process of Cleaning Clogged Gutters

First step: Preparation

Gather all materials needed. You will not need to worry about the hose or power washer until later. Start with putting on your gloves. Wearing two layers of gloves can help protect against the mud and smell of wet leaves and debris that can soak through the work gloves. So begin with the latex gloves and then put the work gloves over them.

For added safety put safety glasses on before cleaning. This will protect you from any dust or debris that could fall into your eyes. Being up on a ladder and not being able to see well could turn into a dangerous situation!

In one bucket place the trowel or small shovel; this will remain the work bucket. Leave the other bucket empty for now as it will become the “junk bucket” for the leaves and debris.

Second step: Let the games begin!

cleaning a gutter with leaves in itTo start cleaning the leaves and debris, place the ladder near the downspout. The downspout is a good place to start since all the water will drain out of the gutter at this point. It is also a spot where everything piles up since the gutter is on a downward slope to this point. With gloves on, begin grabbing leaves and debris with the trowel and placing them in the junk bucket. Work your way down the gutter until all debris is gone.

Third step: Rinse it all away

The next step in cleaning is rinsing out the gutter. Now you will get the garden hose or pressure washer, which ever you are more comfortable with. While the pressure washer might go faster to remove all the debris, if you do not want to rent or buy one for this project a garden hose will work too. Attach either a high-pressure regular nozzle or a gutter cleaning nozzle to the hose or pressure washer. If you use the gutter cleaning nozzle there is no need for a ladder anymore since the nozzle has a long wand and can reach the gutter without assistance. Depending on which regular high-pressure nozzle you choose, being on the ladder may be necessary. The prices for these nozzles vary from $10 to $20 and can be found at hardware stores. They are a good investment since it is recommended that gutters be cleaned twice a year. A quick note on the pressure washer- they are very powerful so make sure that you are stable on the ground and not on the roof or less stable surface. That could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Starting at the opposite end of the downspout, begin rinsing away all remaining debris that is left in the gutter. If there is no water coming out of the downspout, then there might be a clog.

Fixing a Clogged Downspout so it Flows Again

corner of a rain gutterWhen the downspout is clogged it can cause problems not only to the gutter, but also to the foundation of the home and basement. The water will overflow the gutters and leak out creating puddles that can seep into the foundation and cause problems. It is important that the gutters and all downspouts are properly maintained for this reason.

To see if the downspout is cleared, look to see if the water used to rinse the gutters drained down the downspout with ease. If not, an easy fix would be to put the hose up the downspout to try to flush away anything stuck. If water still is not draining, then you might need to use a drain snake to loosen any stuck debris.

For gutters that lead into the ground you will have to take apart the bottom piece of aluminum to allow access to the downspout. All you have to do is unscrew or loosen the part of the gutter that is inserted in the drain and repeat the steps for clearing the downspout.

To help prevent clogged downspouts, you can place leaf strainers at the top of the downspout. This will catch large debris from getting stuck.

Turn “Junk Bucket” Full of Leaves and Debris Into Compost

By the end of this project, you will not only have clean gutters but also a bucket full of leaves and debris. While you can throw this away, you can also take the decomposed leaves and turn them into mulch or compost.

Fun Fact: Mix the shredded leaves, or leaf mulch, right into your garden and by the time next spring rolls around your soil will be packed with earthworms and other beneficial organisms!

As said before, cleaning your gutters is important not only for the lifespan of the gutters themselves but also for the home. Cleaning them twice a year, in the spring and fall, will increase the life of gutters. Follow the steps above for a simple way to clean your gutters and return them to their former glory. And you might even get some free mulch and compost out of the deal! Now that is a win-win!

 

 

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