How To Safely Clean My Own Gutters

It is Saturday and you are really looking forward to climbing the ladder and seeing the gunk that has collected on top of your roof and your gutters! Fear not! We are going to get you safely up and down that ladder in one piece.

Need help removing leaves from your gutters? Aside from cleaning your gutters twice a year, early spring (after the winter to check damage from ice and whatnot) and after the leaves fall, another time that is good to check your gutters is after large storms such as hurricanes or unnamed storms that have caused damage. This is the first defense of your home and it needs to be taken care of by gutter cleaning companies.

If possible, try to do this chore when the weather has been dry and on a sunny day. That way the leaves are dry and your job is MUCH easier.

Now the title is how to SAFELY clean your own gutters. In that light, here are some guidelines:

  • Wear safety goggles or glasses
  • Wear boots with hard soles
  • Wear long sleeves and jeans (or similar)
  • Be awake (your brain is important safety equipment!)
  • Have a helper

Equipment:

  • Ladder (with stabilizer or offset)
  • Gutter scoop
  • Garbage bag

Tip: Make sure you place the ladder on a stable ground every time. Do not place it on gravel or landscape rocks because the ladder may shift causing injury.

Tip: When you are up on the ladder, if you see debris on your roof, chances are it will end up in your gutters at some point. If you can, take a broom and sweep your roof carefully so you can scoop up the debris and put it in your trash bag. Use careful controlled motions and do not walk on your roof unless it is safe to do so (better if you have a helper with you).

If you have a one-story home

A folding ladder, garbage bag and a gutter scoop (at a local hardware store) are all you really need. (I would also suggest some hard-soled boots to hold down leg fatigue on the ladder, but that is just me, those rungs can get to be painful when you stand on them awhile.)

Set up comfortably close to the gutter and scoop through the gutter with your scoop and place your debris in your garbage bag. (The bag really saves you time from cleaning up afterward!) 

DON’T – overreach when you are on a ladder! This may cause over tipping… and that will result in ER visit. A couple of feet either side of you is usually good enough, then move your ladder and pick up where you left off.

There really isn’t much to it, but keeping your gutters clean is so beneficial when you think of all the dollars you save not having to repair your home from damage (if you don’t do it!)

If you have a two-story home or a home with a steeply pitched roof

Look for something called a ladder stabilizer or offset. You can find this at the local hardware store. Attach to the top part of your ladder and it will land on your roof OVER the gutter so you don’t damage it while you clean. It also (as the name implies) stabilizes your ladder very well. In this case, walk your ladder carefully up before placing it on your roof over your gutters and you have a nice wide area to clean before you have to climb down and move your ladder.

Now I would highly recommend if possible have someone out there with you as a safety precaution. At the very least, maybe you can take turns going up the ladder. If you have to do it alone, wear boots (those rungs are rough on your legs) and carry a cellphone. If you get tired, take a break. Better to rest than go up a ladder tired when you are not used to it. ER visits are pricey.

Can I clean my gutters with a leaf blower?

Now you may be saying, this is all fine and dandy, but I don’t have a ladder. I live in a one-story home and I have a leafblower. Can I clean my gutters with a leaf blower?

Well, you can. If you have the right attachments. Is it faster? Depends. Do you have to clean up afterwards? Then no. But if you feel the need for power tools, then break out the leaf blower, attach a tube that can reach your gutter and then make a u-turn at the end to point down to the gutter so the leaves will blow out. Basically your attachment to your blower will look like a “J”. Point the hook end to the leaves and they will scoot right out of your gutters like a tiny tornado is pushing them. Cleaning up is up to you – but if you want to use more power tools, you could just use the lawnmower and chop up the leaves and make mulch for your lawn.

Ok, all your leaves and debris are clear, now you have to check your downspouts. If your hose will reach, this is a good time to use it to see if your downspouts are running clear. If you have a blockage, this is a good time to use that plumber’s snake you have in your garage or basement so you can clear those leaves and dirt. Then try the hose again. To prevent large clogs in the future, you can install screens on top of your downspouts to block leaves.

If you don’t have a hose, you will have to use a bucket of water, and the principle is the same. Water has to pass through – that is what makes the work on the gutters worth all the effort. You are saving your home from water damage.

Now you have water through your gutters and downspouts… everything is in good working order. Or is it? Why is there pooling water? Looks like you need to adjust the grading on your gutters or downspouts. Detach the hangers and adjust a small section at a time until the water drains properly. If you adjust too dramatically the whole system may fall and then it is very time consuming or costly to fix.

Time to check your hard work. Run water through your gutters and downspouts and make sure everything is in working order. If you see a problem, it is easier to fix now, than a repair bill later. Add gutter hangers if needed, check the ground to make sure everything drains away from the house.

Pat yourself on the back, good job! 

Check out our next blog about Best Brands of Gutter Guards for 2020