Gutters serve an important role in that they help direct water away from the house. Without them, fascia boards, walls, basements and even the roofs themselves would be compromised by the rainwater. When they get dirty, they need to be cleaned to restore their proper working.

To clean the downspouts for your gutters, start by getting rid of any dirt in the gutters, then clean and rinse the downspouts. If the gutter is located high up like from the first floor upwards and you’re not sure of how to get there, enlist the services of an expert since it’s a risky job.

1.Gather and Prepare Cleaning Tools

For this task, you will need the following supplies:

  • Ladder (extension ladder or stepladder)
  • Plastic gloves
  • Garden hose
  • Rags
  • Plastic bucket with a wire handle
  • Leaf scooper
  • Garbage bag

You may need any other items as per the task at hand. For example, a plumber’s auger may be needed if the downspout is clogged.


Keep the following precautions in mind to avoid accidents when working on your gutters and the roof:

  • Inspect the ladder to ensure it’s a steady one and carries your bodyweight comfortably.
  • Always aim to clean from the ladder and not the roof. Only step on the roof when it’s the last resort. But given that it’s a gutter you’re cleaning, there’s little reason to clean it from the roof with a properly-positioned ladder.
  • Never ascend a ladder to a point where your fear of heights – if you have any – takes over.
  • Always protect your hands and eyes with gloves and goggles respectively.
  • Do the gutter cleaning in mild weather.

These will keep you safe as you work up the gutters and roof.

2. Choose your scooping tool

First, you need to decide on the type of scooping tool you will be using. While there are dedicated items such as leaf scoopers, you can use many other items to scoop the leaves from the gutters. This can be a plastic jug, garden spade, trowel, spatula or any other of your choosing.

Always make sure the tool you choose won’t damage the gutter or the downspout.

3. Position your ladder against the wall or roof

If you’re dealing with the roof of a house without an upper floor, you’re better off using a stepladder as it’ll give you enough height to even reach the roof without straining. On the other hand, story buildings need to have an extension ladder to reach the upper floors.

No matter the type of ladder you choose to work with, you need to adhere to the safety protocols of working with a ladder as follows:

  • Do not climb to the top of the ladder. There is a limit indicated by ladders on which levels to reach to stay safe.
  • Put the ladder on a stable and flat ground before climbing it. The ground needs to be dry so that the legs don’t slip away from the wall when you climb on it.
  • Rest the top of an extension ladder firmly on the wall or the gutter making sure that both sides of the ladder are held firmly on it.
  • Keep the ladder at an appropriate angle from the wall such that the ladder doesn’t fall backwards when you’re using it.
  • Always place the ladder where your arms or tools can reach while your torso is within the frame of the ladder. Reaching out too much can lead to an accident when the ladder topples to the side or backwards.

Before going up the ladder, try putting pressure on it to make sure it doesn’t fall off or slide away.

4. Remove debris from the gutter

First, you need to remove the debris from the gutters using one of these methods:

The scoop and drop method

The scoop and drop method, as the name suggests, entails simply scooping the dirt from the gutters then dropping it in a bucket or on the ground. If you choose to use the ground, you need to have a piece of cloth or large basin to drop the dirt in it rather than having to clean the ground again.

The gutter bucket method

With the gutter bucket method, you need to put the dirt in the bucket rather than on the ground. The reason we chose on a bucket with a wire handle is so that you can use the handle to hook the bucket on the gutter.

You simply cut the bucket handle into two then make inward-facing hooks that will attach to either side of the gutter. This way, you just slide the bucket along the edge of the gutter as you scoop and put the dirt into it.

You then descend the ladder to empty the bucket then move the ladder to an uncleaned part of the gutter.

The gutter bag method

The gutter bag method combines the gutter bucket method with a garbage bag. While the bucket is attached to the gutter, cut out its bottom then attach a garbage bag under it. This way, you can throw in the dirt as you scoop it off the gutter until the bag is full. You then simply empty the bag when it’s full.

5. Clean the gutters

After removing the debris from the gutter, clean it with a brush and soapy water or with a gutter cleaner of your choosing. Clean the inside and outside of the gutters before the next step.

You can take the chance to inspect the gutter thoroughly before cleaning the downspouts.

6. Clean the downspouts

For the best cleaning results for your downspouts, remove any horizontal sections of the downspouts as they will often have clogs and generally make cleaning the rest of the downspout hard.

With the straight part of the downspout, put a hose into its top end then turn on the water. It should wash away any dirt in it.

If the downspout has a clog, remove it with one of the following methods:

  • Tapping the side of the downspout: holding the downspout in an upright position or with the same downspout still attached to the gutter, gently tap its sides making sure you tap each section on all sides. Do this from the top to the bottom then let the water flow in again.
  • Use an auger: feed the auger into the downspout from the top end and turn it on the moment it comes to a clogged part of the downspout. Make sure you have glasses and gloves on to protect your eyes from any dirt flying about. Let the auger eat away at the dirt until it appears on the lower end of the downspout.
  • Use a seal on the downspout: with a small towel or piece of cloth, push it down the downspout then insert the hose after the towel. Turn the water on then let it create enough pressure to push the clog out of the downspout.
  • Employ a power tool: the power tool in question can either be a wet/dry vacuum, power washer or leaf blower which can inserted into the top end of the downspout then turned on. They work best for clogs which cover the length of the downspout.

Once the downspout is clear, wash it as stated before.

7. Rinse the downspouts and gutters

Pour large amounts of water into the gutter from the sections furthest from the downspouts. You can simply place a hose in these sections then turn the water on. After a while, the water will reach the downspout. You may need to move the hose on the sides of the gutter to remove any dirt from it.

To prevent the clogging of your gutters and downspout, you can use a leaf guard which allows water to enter the gutter but not leaves, twigs and other large objects.

Dealing with clogged downspout

Tips to keep Gutter downspouts clean

To keep the downspout clean and free of clogs, follow the tips below:

  • Always clean your downspouts each month and gutters at least once every 6 months.
  • Remove any potential clogs be they trees with large leaves being too close to the house or broken shingles on the roof.
  • Invest in high quality gutters which won’t bend and make it easy for clogs to build up.
  • Avoid sectional gutters and go for seamless ones as they don’t have many potential failure points. Sectional gutters can have debris sticking between the joints and clogging the downspout or the whole gutter.
  • Trim the trees close to the roof to keep them safely away from it. If you trim the twigs and they fall on the roof or gutters, remove them immediately.
  • Install a leaf guard to only allow water and nothing else into the gutters. This helps keep the gutters and downspouts in general safe and free of potential clogs.
  • Install a leaf strainer in the opening of the downspout. The leaf strainer will capture all large debris flowing into the downspout thus allowing only water to go through. When it’s full, you just remove the strainer and your gutter is good again.
  • Increase the size of the spout opening to the downspout and the downspout itself. The main reason why a large number of downspouts clog up is because they’re quite narrow and debris tend to easily clog them up. With an oversized spout outlet and the spout itself, only the very large debris can cause an issue and those are quite rare.

With these tips, you’ll rarely have to deal with a clog or dirty gutters and their downspouts anymore. If you can’t carry any of them out especially the cleaning and inspection ones, always call in an expert to do it for you.

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