How to Clean Gutters

How To Clean Gutters

How To Clean Gutters

Gutters are designed to channel rainwater away from the exterior of a building and stop it from seeping into walls, windowsills and foundations where it can cause rot, damp and mould to set in. To keep them functioning properly it is a good idea to spend a bit of time on gutter maintenance once or twice a year to ensure they are kept in good condition. In this guide we will go over how to clean gutters and some of the equipment on the market that can help make the job a bit easier.

Why is it important to keep gutters clean?

Over the course of a year, gutters can accumulate lots of airborne debris (such as leaves and twigs) as well as living flora like moss. If this builds up, it can create blockages which will impede the drainage of water and cause the gutter to overflow. This can cause a series of problems: when gutters overflow, large volumes of water will collect around the foundations of the building. This causes soil erosion and can seep into lower floors like basements; if left unchecked it can eventually case structural damage to the foundations of the building. A clogged gutter also means water can start to soak into the roof and walls of the building and the weight of the water and debris can cause the gutter to sag over time, compounding the problem further if it starts to detach from the building. If water cannot drain it will freeze in winter, potentially causing a condition known as an ice dam during especially cold weather. An ice dam is a backed up ridge of ice on the edge of a sloped roof that traps melted snow, whereby it can start to leak through the roof and damage the timber, insulation and ceilings below. Dead leaves and plant matter can also attract insects which may begin nesting inside the roof.

How to Clean Gutters: Tools & Techniques

Given the complications that can arise from poorly maintained gutters, it is worth taking some time once or twice a year to get them cleaned out. Late autumn and summer are common times to tackle gutter cleaning jobs, and a dry sunny day is best as it gives you the opportunity to check for any leaks at the same time. First, all the solid matter must be removed from the guttering, taking care not to shunt any into the downpipes (where any blockages are much harder to clear).  After all the debris is cleared, it is a good idea to rinse the gutters clean. Filling the gutter with water will allow you to check for any visible leaks and ascertain whether the downpipes are draining properly. If any of the downpipes appear to be blocked, an attempt can be made to clear them also.

Thanks to the variety of gutter cleaning tools on the market there are a number of ways to approach this task. Let’s take a look at a few potential examples.

Ladder & Bucket

Gardena Gutter Cleaner
Gardena’s Combisystem gutter cleaners can be used with or without long reach handles.

The most traditional method is to use a sturdy ladder, and you will ideally want to hang a bucket or two on it for hands free waste collection and tool storage. Working along the guttering, remove all the solid debris, either with a suitable tool like a scraper, scoop, trowel or simply with your hands. Be aware that you may encounter hidden hazards such as old screws during this process so a suitable pair of gloves should be worn to protect yourself from cuts and grazes if you are getting hands on. Many people wear a durable pair of work gloves with disposable gloves underneath for waterproofing. Once you have collected all the debris in your bucket, rinse the gutters clean with a garden hose, check for leaks and inspect the downpipes for any blockages. If they are blocked, you may be able to dislodge the debris by flushing the pipes through with the hose; alternatively you can attempt to dislodge it with a drain auger. Any leaking joints or gaps in the guttering can be sealed with roof & gutter sealant.

Long Reach Gutter Cleaners

If the idea of scaling a ladder doesn’t appeal to you, there are also a number of solutions that enable you to clean them from the relative safety of solid earth. Gardena’s Combisystem range includes a couple of gutter cleaners, which can be used either handheld or attached to a pole: the standard Gardena Combisystem Gutter Cleaner Head is designed to be affixed to any Combisystem handle and includes a brush and scraper for dislodging debris, while the Gardena Combisystem Telescopic Gutter Cleaner is supplied with a removable telescopic Combisystem handle an includes an inlet for connection to a garden hose. This enables you to rinse the gutter clean after you have fished the debris out of it. If your long reach gutter cleaner doesn’t have a hose connection, you can also find telescopic wands like the Flopro Gutter Cleaner, which attaches to a standard garden hose and provides up to 174cm of extra reach, with a hooked nozzle for cleaning gutters from below. Although climbing a ladder enables you to clean your gutters more thoroughly, long reach gutter cleaners offer a safer and quicker alternative. If you are concerned about the mess created, a tarpaulin or similar piece of sheeting laid out over the ground will help to collect the waste and ensure a quick and easy clean up operation afterwards.

Pressure Washer Gutter Cleaning

If you own a pressure washer you may be able to harness its intensive cleaning powers for gutter maintenance. Probably the most fully featured accessory pack for this task is the Karcher Gutter & Pipe / Drain Cleaning Accessory Kit for K Series Pressure Washers. This kit is supplied with a debris trap which you insert into the downpipe to prevent waste from entering it; once in place you insert the special nozzle into the gutter and then blast it clear and clean with a high pressure water jet. The drain cleaning hose also enables you to clear blocked downpipes, meaning you can efficiently accomplish your gutter cleaning tasks with much less time and physical effort than required by other means. Pressure washers can also be employed for cleaning dirt and grime off gutters if they are fitted with suitable lances and angled nozzles (like the Bosch 90° Nozzle for AQT Pressure Washers). Due to the powerful spray employed by these machines, eye protection is recommended to safeguard against flying debris.  If you are concerned about the mess created, a tarpaulin or similar sheeting laid out over the ground will help to collect the waste and ensure a quick and easy clean up operation afterwards.

Karcher Gutter Cleaner
Karcher’s Gutter & Pipe Cleaning kit is designed for use with K Series pressure washers.

Whatever your budget or property requirements, you should be able to find a suitable solution, and remember that if you don’t feel capable of tackling this task yourself you can always call a professional (or draft a family member in to help).

Conclusion

Although they can cause a number of complications if they are not properly maintained, it is not too difficult to ensure gutters are kept clean enough to avoid any potential problems. When kept in good condition, they should provide you with years of service and help keep the water out of your property. If you want more advice on how to clean gutters or any of the gutter cleaning tools we stock feel free to contact our customer services team or pop into our Brimsdown trade counter for more information.


Categories discussed in this article:

Ladders

Buckets

Gloves

Gutter Cleaners

Drain Cleaners

Drain & Pipe Augers & Snakes

Roof & Gutter Sealant

Pressure Washers

 

4 thoughts on “How to Clean Gutters

  1. I use a wet & dry vacuum cleaner with a inverted U shaped extension made of sink waste pipe. Use compression fittings and you should be able to find some that will fit onto the end of the cleaner hose and can then be tightened to ensure the assembly does not fall apart in use. The only problem is that the right angle bends occasionally get clogged by large pieces of moss. Easy enough to detect by the change of note from the cleaner but requires the bend to be dismantled to clean it. Still a lot easier and safer to do this from the ground than on a ladder. Meets the H&S requirements to eliminate the hazard of working from a ladder.

    JohnM - 10th March 2018 2:48 pm
  2. Good tip John; on the other side of the coin apparently some people have also had success using a blower to clear leaves and debris out (though I imagine it would have to be pretty dried out first)

    Blog Admin - 12th March 2018 9:09 am
  3. Gutter cleaning is a very important activity. The kind of season, weather etc. affects the gutter situation very much. During spring time, there may be leafs stuck in the gutter drains, also other mess that can influence the workings of gutter should be taken care of. Thanks for the great tips.

    Gutter cleaning Essex - 27th June 2019 9:34 am
  4. Good read! These techniques will surely be of help. I’m just glad I enjoy the services from my local hired guys

    Linda Gray - 9th October 2019 8:56 am

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