It’s looming there on your to-do list: gutter cleaning. It might not be a fun task, but gutter cleaning is essential to good home maintenance. Clogged gutters and downspouts are problems, but they can lead to even bigger ones, like costly roof or foundation repairs. If you don’t enjoy gutter cleaning, you’ll enjoy paying for bigger home repairs even less.
WHY CLEAN THE GUTTERS?
Regular gutter cleaning is important to protect the foundation and walls of your home. The purpose of gutters is to carry water away from your home when it rains. This is especially important in the heavy rains of spring and summer. If your gutters are clogged with debris like leaves and pine needles, they will overflow—and the water will saturate the earth around your home, contributing to big problems like water damage, mold and more.
WHEN SHOULD I CLEAN MY GUTTERS?
The best time to clean your gutters is the early spring after the ice on your roof and in your gutters has thawed—but before the trees bloom and the buds and maple seeds come raining down. This way, you ensure that your gutters are clear of debris and ready to siphon water away from your home when it rains.
You should also clean your gutters in the fall to clear out leaves. Watch the trees around your home and clean your gutters at a time when many of the leaves are down, but before any water in your gutters freezes. Looking for more information? You can find more tips on when to clean your gutters here.
Now that you know why and when to clean your gutters, let’s move on to making the task easier. Here are eight tips for easy gutter cleaning:
GET ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE
It may seem obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: regular gutter cleaning makes gutter cleaning easier. It’s the same idea as going to the dentist for a professional cleaning every six months (we don’t have hard data on the overlap between conscientious gutter cleaners and conscientious dentist-goers, but we think these folks have a lot in common). Cleaning out the gutters twice a year—once in early spring and once in the fall—is sufficient for most homes.
The exception is if there are pine trees near your roofline or gutters. These are evergreen trees, not deciduous—which means that they’re constantly dropping a low volume of needles. These needles can build up, and they’re more likely to clog your gutters and downspouts. Homeowners with pine trees near their homes should plan to clean the gutters every three months in spring, summer, and fall. Yes, you can take the winter off.
TRIM BRANCHES AND TREES NEAR THE ROOFLINE
This brings us to the second of our tips for easy gutter cleaning: regular tree trimming. Because leaves and pine needles are common clogging culprits, regular trimming can cut down on the volume of debris in your gutters. There’s also a safety angle: trees and branches too close to your home can be a hazard, inflicting damage on your roof and gutters during storms. Allowing six to ten feet of distance between the tips of branches and your gutters is ideal.
The best time to prune or trim trees is during their dormant period in the fall and winter; contact a local tree service for more information.
WATCH THE WEATHER
If you don’t love cleaning gutters, you’ll love it even less in bad weather. Inclement weather and cold temperatures pose their own challenges. So do hot days and electrical storms. If you choose a day in which it’s delightful to be outside, it will be so much easier to channel your gutter-cleaning Zen.
WAIT FOR DEBRIS TO DRY
Did it rain recently? Give it a few days, if possible, before cleaning the gutters. This will allow the debris up there to dry out a bit, making gutter cleaning much easier (and cutting down on the mess).
Remember the saying, “Many hands make light work?” It’s true for gutter cleaning, too. A helper, especially the allowance-persuadable teenage type, can help the job go faster. Even simple assistance like pulling along a tarp for gathering debris can help.
Before you even start, take a really careful look around the area to remove or minimize risks. Kids running around? Send them inside for a bit or ask another adult to keep them out of the area (easier said than done, we know). Same with the dog. Remove toys, yard tools, pots, and other things that might get in your way, especially when you’re focused on the task.
LEAVE THE LADDERS TO THE PROS
This is the hardest one for most weekend warriors, but perhaps the most important. Any task that puts you up on a ladder also puts you in danger. Research has found that 97% of ladder-related accidents happen in non-occupational (read: non-work) environments—like at home, when you’re cleaning the gutters. Check out this article for more on ladder-related risks.
HOW TO CLEAN THE GUTTERS YOURSELF
All right, so if we’ve just told you to stay off the ladder, how can you get the job done? This brings us to the most important tip of all: invest in the right tool. Gutter cleaning is a dangerous, time-consuming, and messy task unless you’re using Gutter Sense. This lightweight, easy-to-use tool attaches to a 12- to 20-foot standard extension pole, giving you the ability to clean even second-story gutters from the ground, without climbing a ladder.
With powerful tongs, Gutter Sense grabs debris like pine needles, leaves, and muck. Simply find the gutter supports, lower the tool, and grab the gunk—then release it on a tarp. Best of all, at under $30, Gutter Sense is also a low-cost solution for easy gutter cleaning. Gutter Sense makes safe gutter cleaning easier, so you can get the job done and get back to what you really want to be doing.
This article originally appeared in February 2022 and was updated in February 2023.