How to Clean Rain Gutters and Downspouts

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How to Clean Rain Gutters and Downspouts

Cleaning your gutters is one of those jobs that’s easy to put off but the longer you wait, the bigger the job can get. Just follow these tips for cleaning your gutters and making simple gutter repairs.

Thoroughly cleaning your gutters every spring and fall will help keep them working like they’re supposed to. Debris can build up and clog the downspouts, which can cause damage to your roof and your fascia and all that water pouring over the gutters can end up next to your foundation and ultimately in your basement or crawlspace. Now before you tackle the cleaning, check your weather forecast. If you clean your gutters after a few dry days the debris isn’t quite as soaked or heavy and that makes cleaning a lot easier.

Here’s what you might need to clean your gutters: a trowel, a ladder, two buckets with wire hooks, a garden hose with a nozzle or gutter cleaning attachment, work gloves, latex gloves and safety glasses. For any repairs you might need gutter sealant, a drill with bits, touch up paint and additional hardware as needed. You can find the materials list in our printable instructions at

Cleaning your gutters means working on a ladder, so if you’re not comfortable doing this, call a professional for help. Also be careful when working near power lines. You want to use a stepladder whenever possible on solid level ground and don’t climb above the second to last step. For two story homes, you might have to use an extension ladder. To make your job a little easier use two buckets, one for gathering debris and the other for carrying your tools. Carry them up one at a time and hook them to the ladder and don’t try to carry your tools in your pocket.

Okay, let’s begin with cleaning. Start near the downspout and clean up any large debris like leaves and twigs. You can use a trowel to clean out smaller or packed in material. Also, remove and clean any downspout strainers. Debris that’s wet can soak through your gloves and give your hands a bad odor but if you wear latex gloves under your work gloves, it’ll protect your skin. Now once you remove the large debris, flush out whatever remains with a hose starting at the end opposite of the downspout. If you prefer, you can also use a gutter cleaning attachment.

Now if the water doesn’t drain, there’s probably a clog in the downspout. Now for gutters that run into an underground tiling system you want to remove the bottom end of the downspout. You might have to temporarily remove some of the bands. If the nozzle on your hose will fit into the downspout, set it at full pressure then turn on the water and feed the hose up from the bottom of the spouting. If this still doesn’t clear it or if your nozzle’s too big, use an electrician’s or plumbers snake. Reattach your downspout and flush the entire gutter one more time.

Any standing water is a sign that the gutter is not sloped correctly. The length of the system should decline one quarter inch every ten feet toward the downspout. If yours doesn’t, detach the hangers to adjust the gutter enough to drain properly, then reattach. You might need additional hangers for support and they should be spaced every two feet along the gutters. On this house we have spike and ferrule hangers so we mark where we want to position new hangers, drill the holes and drive gutter screws. Your gutters might use a different type of hanger, so check our printable instructions for more information.

Now if you have any leaks you can easily fix them, but wait until the gutter is dry. For leaks at the seams, make sure the gutter lengths are tight against each other then run a bead of gutter sealant on all of the joints. For leaks at the end caps, seal inside around the entire cap. Some areas of your gutters may have a few blemishes which can be covered up with just a little touch up paint.

Now your gutters are clear of debris, but it’s better to keep that debris out in the first place by adding gutter screens. You can learn how at