Cleaning your gutters is an essential aspect of home upkeep. It should generally be performed twice a year but as much as four times a year depending on your environment. This is dirty work, and there can be some risk involved as well. Most people do not like doing it. Unfortunately, it has to be done, and unless you opt to pay a professional, there are some strategies you can use to make it a quicker and safer process.
Secure a Sturdy Extension Ladder
There are a lot of different ways to tackle this job, and some people like to get creative. In this guide, however, we are going to stick with strategies that OSHA approves. You can eliminate most risks with some simple practices, and it just is not worth your health to save a little time.
An extension ladder will be required for most homes. The recommendation is to have a safety ladder that is tall enough to have your arms above the gutters without standing above the top of the ladder. Each time you place that ladder, ensure that it is on a stable surface and that the feet are appropriately set to avoid slippage. A ladder stabilizer can also make cleaning gutters a bit easier.
Spread a Tarp Beneath Your Work Area
The next step is to spread a tarp beneath your work area and above any bushes and decorations that you may want to protect. If you have enough tarp, you can prepare the whole area in advance. But just one tarp is fine. You can get the next section ready before moving the ladder each time. You can also use painter’s plastic or another covering if you like. However, it is worth investing in a painter’s cloth tarp. They are not expensive, can be washed, and will last for years with little care.
Dress for the Job
The better you dress for the task, the easier this will be during the process and the cleanup. We recommend a long-sleeve shirt and long pants and preferably the kind you use to do yard work because there may be some stains that are not easily removed. An old baseball cap will keep the leaf matter out of your hair. Safety goggles will keep dirt out of your eyes. A dust mask will keep it out of your nose and mouth.
Waterproof work boots will protect your feet and give you stable footing. We also recommend rubber gloves since there is often decayed matter in a gutter that you will not want to touch. Of course, rubber gloves can pose a risk on a ladder especially when there is water involved, so we recommend investing in rubber gloves with textured surfaces that make it easier to hold onto the ladder rungs.
Use a Gutter Scoop and a Hooked Bucket
While you can use your gloved hand to scoop out the debris, a gutter scoop makes the process much easier. Plastic scoops are inexpensive and can remove far more matter in one motion than you can with your hand. If you have never used a gutter scoop, we cannot recommend it enough. It will change how you think about cleaning the gutters. If you opt for an impromptu tool, we strongly encourage you to choose something plastic. Metal tools can scratch the protective lining in your gutter.
For dumping the debris, we recommend a plastic pail with a handle. We also recommend a paint can ladder hook. You clip it to the pail handle on one end and hang it from a rung on the other. Not having to worry about holding a pail or a bag of leaves in one hand and a scoop in the other while trying to simultaneously hold the ladder uncomplicates the process. Also, using a pail ensures that most of the debris does not wind up on your landscape below.
A Note About Gutter Guards
If you have gutter guards, then you will not need the scoop. We still recommend the pail because leaves can accumulate atop the guards. Some type of soft-bristled brush is an ideal choice to clear away the leaves and other matter. If you notice that a significant amount of matter is getting past the guard and into the gutter, then it is time to remove the guard and clean as you would a noncapped gutter.
Flush the Gutters and Downspouts
The next step requires using running water from a hose, so you will want to be extra careful. You will start from the beginning again. Use the running water to clean the face and underside of the gutter and nearby downspouts. You will then want to use the running water to clean any remaining dirt in the gutter. Finally, thread the hose through the ladder and lay it in the gutter pointing toward the downspout, and let it run. This will help to clear any remaining debris.
Monitor the Drainage
Make sure that all of the water is emptying out of the downspout at an appropriate speed. If not, you may have to snake the downspout in order to clear any blockages. If the water is coming out of the downspout well, then you want to ensure that it is being emptied at an appropriate distance from the foundation. If this is no longer the case, then you will need to make some adjustments or call in a professional to correct the drainage for you.
Clean Gutter Faces and Downspouts Using a Household Cleaner
Chances are that if you clean your gutters twice a year, they will be dirty enough to undermine the overall aesthetic of your home. Rinsing them with running water from the hose will certainly help, but it often will not be enough. What many pros like to do at this point is to retrace their steps using a gutter cleaner and shammy cloth.
In most cases, any remaining spots and streaks will wipe away in a single go, and if you have more stubborn areas, you can polish them out. When you are done, you can give the gutters a light once-over using the garden hose.
Consider Painting Unattractive Gutters
So, what happens if you put all that effort in and the gutters still look bad? One option, of course, is to replace them, but gutters often lose their aesthetic shine long before they are fundamentally undermined. An option, in that case, is to repaint them using latex paint that is similar to the original color. If you opt to do this yourself, be mindful to brush in long strokes, which will ease the task.
Gutters and More in the Atlanta Area
Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has served the Greater Atlanta area since 1989. This is a family-owned and -operated company. We live in the area we serve and know firsthand how important it is to keep your gutters clean and looking great. Our company also offers a full range of heating, cooling, indoor air quality, and plumbing services, and you can learn more about them by calling us today!