How To Clean Gutters

By Gutter Expert Henry Gerbin
Updated On

Are you wondering how to clean your gutters?

Well, you definitely came to the right place!

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why your gutters become dirty in the first place
  • How to clean them
  • How to keep them clean
  • The risks of not cleaning your gutters

And much more!

RGR FEATURED How To Clean Gutters

So, if you’re looking for how to clean your gutters and why, keep reading our guide below to learn everything you need to know.

Why Do Gutters Become Dirty?

Your home’s gutters are exposed to the outdoors 365 days per year and every hour of the day. 

That means they’re constantly exposed to all types of precipitation, all of which can add dirt from your roof and the atmosphere.

Besides the stresses from the rain and snow, gutters are exposed to birds, insects, and other pests which like to build nests and breed in gutters. 

Along with pests, gutters catch leaves and twigs from what may seem like every tree on your street. 

Here are the dirty details on how gutters get filthy:

Shedding Trees

If you have lots of trees and foliage near your home, your rain gutters will tend to get dirty and clog faster. Throughout the year, and especially during fall and spring, trees shed their leaves and fruit, plus their branches break.

Leaves, acorns, pine needles, twigs, and tree fruit can all fall into your rain gutters and clog them. 

When this organic matter stays in your gutter for long periods, it provides an ideal environment for mold, insects, and critters to thrive. 

Over time, the buildup of decaying tree parts can lead to problems beyond clogging, such as sagging and leaking. Both of which could lead to even more damage to your property, like roof and foundation damage.

Ice Dams

Ice dams are another huge cause of clogged and dirty gutters. 

Poor attic ventilation can lead to it getting too hot, which thaws the snow and ice on the roof of your home. This melted snow then slides into the cold gutter and refreezes into a large block or dam. 

When the snow melts, it can trap leaves and wash dirt from your shingles into your gutters. When the ice dam forms, it clogs up your gutter and prevents dirt from flowing out and away from the gutter. 

Instead, the dirt stagnates and builds up in the gutter, making it dirty. 

Incorrect Gutter Installation 

In some cases, a poorly installed or designed gutter system can trap debris and have standing water. If the gutters have an improper slope, rainwater will accumulate in areas. The standing water could lead to the growth of algae, mold, and become a breeding ground for insects.

Ultimately, poorly installed gutters lead to an increased buildup of dirt and grime. 

Environmental Conditions

If you live in a dusty climate, like the western U.S., you know that the dust ends up everywhere– including your gutters. Additionally, areas with frequent wildfires will deposit even more dust and soot into your gutters. 

Thankfully, dust alone usually doesn’t cause your gutters to “bite the dust” and will typically easily wash away during the next big rainstorm. However, too much can clog a downspout. 

How Do You Clean A Gutter?

There are various methods to clean gutters; most methods involve a ladder, garden hose, gutter scoop, and a lot of elbow grease. 

Cleaning your gutters on your own is a DIY option, but there are risks– damage to your gutters, fascia, and roof along with the hazards of falling off the ladders and injuring your hands on sharp areas. 

Here are the basic steps our gutter pros use for cleaning and maintaining gutters.

Use a Good Ladder

Always choose a stable ladder when cleaning your gutters. If you don’t already own a ladder, consider an aluminum one instead of a wooden one. Aluminum ladders weigh less, and you’ll be moving it around a lot. Plus, it is just as sturdy as a wooden ladder. 

While you’re at it, pick one with wide shelves to support the bucket you’ll use for gutter waste collection. 

Depending on the height of your home (two-story or taller), you may need an extension ladder or a telescoping one. Carefully position it so you do not damage your fascia boards. 

When you set it up, make sure you properly lock the hinges so that your ladder doesn’t collapse and set it on level ground. 

And always inform someone close by when using a ladder– they can call for help in the event of an accident.

Wear Protection

Clearing out gutters with your bare hands can lead to injuries. You can get cuts due to sharp edges. Plus, insects and small animals might pop up and try to bite or sting you. 

Additionally, the accumulated gunk in your gutter is a haven for bacteria and germs that can cause skin irritation and infections. To avoid pulling out the first-aid kit, or worse, a trip to the hospital, use appropriate gear to protect your hands. 

Since the germ-filled gutter gunk can get on your body, it is best to wear protective rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and googles. Once you finish cleaning blockages out your gutter, we suggest taking a long shower to ensure you cleanse yourself of any bacteria and germs. 

Wash your work gloves and clothing too. 

Lay Down a Tarp

A tarp on the ground gives you a wide target to toss all your gutter gunk. The advantage of using a tarp is three-fold: 

  • Compared to using a bucket, you won’t have to make as many trips up and down to empty it
  • Cleaning the tarp is fast and easy, just fold it, lift it over a waste bin, and slid the gunk in
  • It protects your yard and landscaping and keeps it looking nice

Remove Gunk

Removing the gunk from your gutters is the most tedious part of gutter cleaning. But before you start scoping out your gutters, clear leaves and debris from your roof first. Our pros like to use a roof rake.

To scope the debris out of your gutters, you can use a gutter scoop, trowel, or any small plastic scoop. Alternatively, you can use your hands instead of a garden trowel but beware of hidden critters and snakes.

Use a Garden Hose

Once you have all the large gutter junk scooped out, you can use a garden hose with a pistol grip handle and spray nozzle to rinse out the inside of the gutters. A quick rinse flushes out all the smaller debris and allows you to check the flow.

For an even better rinse, many of our gutter technicians will use a pressure washer to blast stuck-on gunk and remaining debris with high pressure down the spout. 

Check Flow

While rinsing the gutter with a power washer or garden hose, it is best to check for proper flow too. 

Usually, all water within the gutter will flow towards a downspout at the end of the gutter. If it does not, the gutters have an improper slope. When our gutter experts notice something like this, they can recommend a repair and fix it the same day. 

Additionally, they will ensure that the water flows uninhibited through the downspouts.

Seal Leaks

While checking for proper flow, the gutter expert can also spot other issues, like leaks. If the gutter has leaks, the technician will seal it with gutter sealant to fix it. 

How Often Should You Clean Out Your Gutters?

Ideally, you should clean your gutters two to three times a year, but the frequency depends on your location. 

Towards the end of the summer season, you can use a leaf blower to clean off the dirt, dust, and remaining debris for a quick “mini cleaning.” 

Typically, you should have a complete gutter cleaning – remove all dried leaves, twigs, and other debris before the end of fall and the start of winter. During the fall months, trees shed at a much faster rate, which can fill your gutters with dry leaves and clog them very quickly.

At the end of the fall season, you need to clean out the grit that’s blocking your gutters. You should do it before winter arrives as it tends to bring plenty of snow which will melt and need a place to drain. Clean gutters allow water to flow easily through the drain pipes.

If your home is in an area with many trees, you may need to clean your gutters more often than twice a year to keep them from clogging.

What Happens If you Don’t Clean Your Gutters?

If you don’t clean your gutters, they will eventually get clogged. Clogged gutters prevent the proper flow of rainwater away from your home, which could lead to various issues and expensive damage. 

Clogged gutters could lead to the following problems.

Pests Problems

Leaves, branches, sticks, and other plant matter accumulates in gutters. The worst part is that these materials act as the perfect breeding ground for pests.

Roaches, spiders, and ants – oh my! 

Gutter infestations of these bugs can also spread throughout the inside of your home. Some of them, like carpenter ants, can eat wood and lead to very expensive structural damage. Others are usually just a nuisance but can spread germs and bacteria too.

Unclean gutters can also act as a breeding and nesting ground for pests such as rodents, birds, and snakes. And unless you want some new, probably not-so-friendly pets, you should keep your gutters clean.

Foundation Damage

A blocked downspout drain means the water will fill up the gutters and spill over the side. It will fall onto your roof and down the walls of your home on one side of the gutter and straight onto the ground on the other side. 

Water dripping over the sides like this can leak to damage the building’s structural integrity over time. Plus, a clogged downspout can cause rainwater to settle around your house’s base, which can seep into the foundation and leak into the basement. Hello, water damage!

Without timely repairs, this can lead to expensive repairs and maintenance work.

Driveway Problems

In some cases, an overflowing gutter can force water to run under your paved or concrete driveway. Why does that matter? 

It matters because the flow of water will wash away the dirt under it and create sinkholes. When this happens, a portion of your driveway can collapse when you drive over it with your car. Uh-oh!

If you have a gravel driveway, you might be thinking you’re safe. Unfortunately, you’re not– water from overflowing gutters will wash away the stones and gravel of your driveway. This will lead to potholes, mud, and a bumpy ride. 

Ruins Your Landscape

While rain is excellent for the shrubs, flowers, and other plants in the landscaping alongside your home, too much water at one time can kill them. 

Similarly, overflowing gutters can take a toll on your yard. Since the water doesn’t drain properly, excess water can flow back to your lawn, kill your grass, and turn it into a mud pit.

And, unless you’re looking to add a mud pit as a new central feature to your backyard, clean your gutters to avoid it. 

Expensive Repairs

In the U.S., gutter repairs cost between $150 to $600 on average. The cost will vary, depending on the extent of damage, the height of your home, and gutter size and type. 

A complete gutter system replacement can range from $1600 to over $2000 if you neglect it beyond the point of repair.

Besides the costs to repair the gutters themselves, you may have to fork over thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for a roof, foundation, landscaping, driveway, and other repairs due to dirty and clogged gutters.

How Can You Prevent Dirt From Accumulating On Your Gutters?

You can use various preventative measures to prevent dirt and other debris from accumulating in your gutters. 

Common methods involve Installing gutter covers to keep your gutter debris and dirt-free and keeping up on routine maintenance.

Here are the top ways you can prevent dirt from piling up in your gutter:

Regular Gutter Maintenance

Routine gutter maintenance ensures your gutters are free of clogs from dirt, debris, and other materials that could accumulate in your downspouts. 

Cleaning your gutters at least twice a year can help prevent overflowing gutters and the damage they can cause.

Trim Surrounding Trees

Dried leaves are a significant cause of clogged drains and gutters. Therefore, it is vital to prune nearby trees so that they don’t deposit all of their leaves into your gutters. 

However, Some will still get in your gutters no matter what preventative measures you do.

As a rule of thumb, trees should be about 25 feet away from your roof. However, you might already have old trees closer than that, so keep them pruned.

Use a Gutter Filter 

Gutter filters, or gutter guards, are typically manufactured from heavy-duty, sustainable materials like vinyl and include small openings to allow water into the gutters.

The filter covers the entire length of your house’s gutter to prevent leaves, twigs, and other debris from entering. There are a variety of gutter hoods or filters in a wide variety of designs to match your unique needs.

Upgrade Your Gutter System

While regular maintenance is inexpensive and effective in maintaining your gutters’ performance, they can still corrode and fail beyond repair given enough time. 

Therefore, most homeowners may need to upgrade their gutter systems around once every ten years to ensure full functionality.

If your gutters are older than ten years, you may have some necessary home improvements in the near future. 

How Can A Professional Gutter Technician Help?

Gutter professionals have the proper tools, like plumber’s snakes, and years of experience to effectively clean your gutters.

Since they have appropriate training and experience, professionals can repair your gutters without causing damage to your shingles, fascia, and gutters themselves.

Gutters are hard to reach, and if you’re dealing with severe clogging and gutter issues, our pros can get you fixed up right out. For assistance with your gutters, fill out our form or give us a call today.

Meet Your Gutter Expert

Henry Gerbin


Whether your gutters are leaking, broken, or you're just someone considering the purchase of your first set of gutters Henry is here to help. He regularly contributes his thoughts and knowledge with the RegionalGutterRepair readers publishing guides and studies on the latest in gutters.

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