How to Clean Rain Gutters (Guide)
Not every home in Southern California has rain gutters and many homeowners question whether or not they are even necessary in an area where we spend more time praying for rain than actually experiencing it. But rain gutters perform an important function by protecting your home from water damage and diverting water away from your home’s siding and foundation. For folks who are concerned about the environment, rain gutters also allow you to divert water to rain barrels for later use.
If your home has gutters, you will want to clean them at least twice each year, and one of those times should be in the fall after any nearby trees have lost their leaves and before the rainy season begins. Even in years that are expected to be dry, it is important to make sure your gutters are clean and working properly before it rains.
The first thing to consider is whether or not you really want to climb a ladder and scoop leaves, dirt and other potentially icky debris out of your gutters. If that does not sound like a good time to you, you can always hire a professional to come perform this home maintenance task for you. Even if you are comfortable climbing a ladder and cleaning your own gutters, you should consider hiring a professional if your gutters are higher than those on a single-story home.
How to Clean Rain Gutters Guide
Some people blow the leaves and debris out of their gutters using a leaf blower with or without a gutter-cleaning attachment. If you use a leaf blower without a gutter cleaning attachment, you will still need to climb a ladder, which is not necessarily safe while trying to manage a leaf blower. With a gutter-cleaning attachment that allows you to blow debris out of your gutters from the ground, you can skip the ladder and more safely complete the task from ground level. However, you will still want to wear protective gear to keep debris from getting in your eyes or causing abrasions on your skin, and you will still need to climb a ladder afterwards to make sure the debris has been thoroughly removed.
Many people prefer to clean rain gutters by hand and this is what we will cover here.
In order to successfully and safely clean your gutters, you will need a ladder, non-slip shoes, sturdy gloves, protective eyewear, a bucket, a garden trowel or other scooping implement, a garden hose with a spray nozzle, a scrub brush and a dust mask. If possible, it is best to remove any remaining leaves, dust and debris from your roof before you clean the gutters. If debris is left on your roof, it will be washed into your gutters when it rains.
1. Gather Your Supplies and Stay Safe: The first step is to gather your supplies, check for any nearby power lines you need to avoid, make sure your ladder is functioning properly and consider inviting a buddy to hang out and spot you while you are on the ladder. If you do not want to use the buddy system, it is a good idea to at least let someone know that you will be working on a ladder so that someone will know to come check on you if they do not hear from you in a couple of hours. Be sure to put on your protective gear before you begin.
2. Scoop Out the Debris: The next step is to clear the leaves, pine needles and debris from your gutter by using your garden trowel or other scooping implement to scoop out the debris and put it in the bucket. This may be kind of gross and could even involve removing a dead mouse or squirrel, so be prepared for this. This is one reason to wear gloves. Aside from the ick factor, there is likely bacteria from animal droppings and rotting leaves, plus, there may be some sharp edges or screws that could cut you.
3. Remove Remaining Dirt and Debris with a Garden Hose and Scrub Brush: Once you have removed the larger debris with your scoop, the next step is to remove any remaining dirt and debris with your garden hose. Use your spray nozzle to direct the water at the debris pushing it towards the downspouts. If there are particularly stubborn spots, you may need to brandish the scrub brush, but it is often the case that you can successfully remove any remaining debris with your hose.
4. Clean Out the Downspouts: Your downspouts may have become clogged with leaves and debris since the last cleaning. You will know if they are clogged, because the water from your hose will not readily enter the top of the downspout and exit freely at the bottom. If this is the case, you may be able to knock small blockages loose by tapping on the side of the pipe in various areas or dislodgs the debris by spraying water into the bottom of the pipe with your garden hose and nozzle. If this is not enough, you may need to employ a plumber’s snake to unclog the pipe. If this also does not work, you may need to remove one or more segments of the downspout to clear the blockages before reinstalling.
5. Consider Installing Gutter Guards: Installing gutter guards can greatly reduce the need to clean rain gutters. In some cases, gutter guards can protect your gutters from debris so well that you may not need to clean them at all. In other cases, it will at least make the next cleaning a much faster, easier job.