How to Clean a Gutter & Downspout

Leaves, pine needles, dirt and other debris can build up in your gutters over time. This leads to serious clogging that can result in leaks, flooding and rot in your home.

The solution is to clean your gutters and downspouts at least twice a year. Cleaning out your gutters and downspouts can be done in the space of an afternoon, and the benefits far outweigh the mud and grime that may get on your hands.


1. Get set up. Wear old clothes, because you are going to get dirty. Put on a pair of work gloves to protect your hands from the debris in your gutters. Place your ladder in a firm, stable position that will enable you to easily see and reach into your gutters. Attach the garbage bag to the top of the ladder so that you do not have to hold onto it while you are working. Once you have done all of these things, your set-up is done and you are ready to move on.

2. Clean out your gutters. Start at the end near a downspout. Using your gloved hands, a garden trowel or a plastic scoop, scoop the debris in the gutters out and place it in the garbage bag. Do not overextend your reach. Once you cannot reach any uncleaned parts of the gutters easily, climb down and move the ladder. Before addressing the downspouts, clean all of the gutters around the house.

3. Wash your gutters. Use the garden hose to rinse out your gutters. As you do so, note if any of the downspouts are clogged or do not appear to be draining effectively. Use the sprayer on the hose (or your thumb over the end of the hose) to create some water pressure to remove any remaining dirt and debris inside your gutters.

4. Unclog the downspouts, if necessary. Any downspouts that are not draining probably have a clog caused by build-up in the downspout. First, try to simply power-wash it by aiming the hose down the downspout and turning on the water at full blast. Do not put your face over the downspout while you are doing this.

If this fails, run the plumber’s snake down (or up) the downspout until you encounter the blockage. Use the snake to dislodge the blockage, then rinse out the downspout until the water flows freely. You may have to repeat this step several times if you have a stubborn clog.

5. Rinse all the downspouts. Use the hose to spray the inside of the downspouts. Aim the water down all four sides of the downspout.

Tips & Warnings

Do not lean on your gutters for support or you risk bending and distorting them.

Never stand on the top two rungs of a stepladder.

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