By Sam Wasson
Updated Oct 12, 2022
Cleaning your gutters is a necessary but difficult and dirty job. The typical gutter system contains leaves, twigs, branches, animal refuse, insects, bird nests, pollen piles, and roofing materials that have built up over time. This harmful debris can eventually clog your gutters and downspouts, leading to overflows, ice dams, pest problems, and much more.
When cleaning your gutters, you want tools that make the job easier while protecting you from this nasty gunk. Some tools can even let you clean your gutters without stepping on a ladder. We’ll look at all your options in this guide on every tool you’ll need to make cleaning your gutters a breeze.
When cleaning your gutters, you must keep a few things in mind. First, you need to clean at the right time. Cleaning too early in the season or too late will result in more debris making its way into your gutters post-declogging. You should always clean your gutters once at the end of the spring and again at the end of the fall. The spring cleaning will remove all the built-up pollen from trees. Removing this material is important because pollen-coated plant matter will build into an acidic film that erodes gutter materials and sealants. The fall cleaning will remove all the built-up leaves, tree limbs, branches, general blockages, and potential pests from the fall leaf drop. Both are essential in keeping your gutters functioning all year.
Next, you’ll need to understand the hazards associated with gutter cleaning. As we mentioned earlier, cleaning out gutters is a tough job. Accidents can be too common between balancing on top of a ladder, slowly scooping, rinsing, and declogging debris. To do this safely, take the following precautions:
There are two categories of tools, those designed to help clean gutters more efficiently and those that protect you from hazardous materials in your gutters. First, we’ll go through all the major tools that help make cleaning easier.
The most important tool in your arsenal is a good gutter scoop. These make removing even the most difficult debris from clogged gutters extremely easy. These small tools resemble plastic hand trowels. Several different variations of these exist, and each is modeled to fit the shape of different kinds of gutter systems. They also come in several different materials, but we recommend the ones made out of hard plastic, as they are durable yet flexible enough to fit into all your gutter’s seams.
The best thing about gutter scoops is that they’re cheap, only running you about $10 or less, like this Getter Gutter Scoop from Amazon.
Gutter guards, also sometimes called gutter screens or helmets, are attachments that make cleaning gutters quicker and easier. They are add-ons that attach to the top of your gutter system, blocking debris from falling inside but leaving openings for the flow of water. Gutter guards come in a wide variety of designs and materials but are typically a mesh made of plastic or metal. When using gutter guards, all you have to do is brush the remaining debris and leaves from the top of the guards onto the ground or into a plastic bag or bucket. This process is much easier and quicker than scooping materials from inside the gutter. The price of gutter guards depends on the linear feet of your gutters, the brand of gutter guard, and its materials. Most high-quality gutter guards will run you between $200 to $1000 for about 250 linear feet, and if you want them installed, it’s typically at least twice that.
These tools allow you to clean or rinse your gutters from the safety of the ground, removing the need for a ladder entirely. Telescope wands are extension poles with an insert for your gardening hose, allowing you to spray your gutters from the ground. Depending on your gutter system’s level of grime and the power of your hose, you can completely clean out your system without ever needing to climb up a ladder. However, you’ll typically need something that can handle larger amounts of debris for fall cleanings. Hose extension wands will usually cost you between $30 and $70. When shopping for these, make sure not to confuse them with pressure washing wands, as search engines show both under most search results.
Telescope claws, sometimes called gutter hoes, combine the reach and ease of use of telescopic poles with the declogging power of a gutter scoop. These tools are large claws, scoops, or brushes attached to the end of a telescoping wand. There are many different telescope claws, some acting as single tools, with others possessing multi-tool attachments. We recommend aiming for single-purpose but higher-quality variants. Remember that most of the scoop and claw versions still require you to be on a ladder to use, as you cannot get proper leverage while on the ground. The benefit of these is that they allow you to stay in place while clearing out the gutter, avoiding the need to move your ladder down while scooping out debris.
If you’re looking for a telescoping tool to remove debris while still staying on the ground, the cleaning brush variants work much better, as they can bend and mold around the inside of the gutter regardless of leverage or position. Telescoping tools like these typically cost you between $20 to $50.
Leaf blowers, while less controlled than a gutter scoop, are much faster at clearing out the debris from your gutters. You can purchase a standard leaf blower, climb onto a ladder, blow out your system from above, or purchase a gutter cleaning attachment and take care of it from the ground.
When standing on a ladder, we recommend medium-sized, handheld models. Backpack variants are too large and cumbersome to use on a ladder, and their long hoses make cleaning gutters unnecessarily difficult. When choosing your handheld model, you’ll want to consider the size of your gutters and the average amount of debris you experience. Larger gutters with heavier debris might require stronger, gas-powered leaf blowers. Lighter battery-powered models can handle smaller gutters or those with less debris.
If you decide to opt for the ground-based attachment route, you can use a backpack or handheld model, as long as it has enough power. As the air travels along the extension, it will lose some of its kick before it gets to your gutter, so we recommend using them with a leaf blower whose mile per hour (MPH) output is at least 190 or more. When it comes to extension kits, we like this mode from Worx.
If you dislike blowing leaves out of your rain gutter, why not try sucking them up with a shop vac instead? By utilizing a gutter cleaning kit for your favorite wet or dry vacuum, you can suck up all the debris and materials clogging your gutters and put them into an easy to dispose of receptacle all at once. These systems are simple to use. Grab a reliable shop vac, use a blower attachment and extension, and then begin sucking up or blowing out your gutters. The only snag is that some debris (tree limbs, bird nests, and the odd shingle) may be too large to suck up. Unlike the leaf blower, you cannot use a shop vac while using a ladder, but the extensions allow you to remove debris while working on the ground.
Sometimes your downspout needs to be flushed out along with the rest of your gutters. Normally, a good spray from a hose is enough to dislodge debris, but sometimes a clog requires a more direct approach to remove. A drain snake and auger are one of the easiest ways to unclog a downspout quickly. Start by feeding the snake down the top of the downspout until it meets resistance. Then work the auger’s crank left and right until the resistance from the clog lessens. Finally, flush the remainder of the debris out with a garden hose. Smaller, handheld augers will typically cost you between $25 to $60. There are also more powerful electric models, but these are typically overkill for cleaning out downspouts.
Gutters contain nasty things like bugs, animal refuse, bird nests, pine needles, pollen, and roofing materials like asphalt, granules, nails, and staples. So, you’ll want protective gear that keeps you safe from this nasty stuff.
Along with worrying about what’s inside your gutters, you’ll also have to manage:
Thankfully, plenty of gear, tools, and clothing can help mitigate these potential hazards.
The first important piece of protective gear you should invest in is a good ladder. You should try to steer clear of cheaper wooden ladders. Instead, we recommend extension ladders made from durable materials like aluminum or fiberglass. Furthermore, you should aim for a ladder with a higher weight tolerance, preferably 250 pounds, as many of the tools you’ll carry will be heavy, like hoses or leaf blowers. Ladders are one of the home improvement tools you can’t go cheap on, as they can be a lifesaver (literally), so you can expect to pay between $150 to $350 or more for a good extendable ladder, like this one from Home Depot.
Even a good ladder can wobble and fall if improperly placed or faced with extreme conditions. Even worse, some homes with improperly designed roofs or uneven landscaping can lack optimal locations for placing your ladder. In these situations, we recommend using a tool like a stabilizer. They act as a set of supports for your ladder, distributing your weight over a larger area and creating enhanced stability. They can be used on most sections of a home but are valuable when window cleaning, working over eaves, or cleaning roof gutters. While you can purchase cheaper stabilizers for around $30, like ladders, we recommend not skimping on these tools and purchasing a higher-quality, more reliable stabilizer with sturdy fasteners and a wide base. Higher-end stabilizers will cost around $100 or more but are well worth it for the extra safety.
Gloves are another major safety tool every homeowner should invest in for home maintenance, especially when cleaning gutters. Gloves protect your hands from the unpleasant materials inside the gutter system, which you may need to stick your hand into for difficult clogs. Even more important, they protect your hands from the sharp edges of the gutters, which can cause nasty cuts if handled incorrectly. We recommend a heavy-duty pair of PVC work gloves. These will allow you to safely handle the gutters and their contents without risking cuts or infection. While leather might be a tempting option, leather gloves aren’t as flexible and can be damaged by the wet, acidic materials you’ll be handling.
Hazards like avian waste are common inside gutter systems, which can contain dangerous pathogens. Because of these harmful contaminants, you’ll always want to wear face and eye protection when cleaning or repairing your gutters. We recommend a set of high-quality eye safety glasses or safety goggles. Full face shields, while effective, aren’t necessary.
For face masks, it depends on how clogged and damaged your gutters are. If your gutters are well maintained, and this is a regular cleaning, you can get by with a standard dust mask. However, if you haven’t cleaned your gutters in a while, especially if you know they’re infested with pests like rodents or birds or even mold, you’ll want a high-quality N95 mask. Remember that thinner, lower-quality dust masks found in home improvement stores only protect against larger nuisance particles, like dust. Only masks properly labeled as N95 approved can protect against smaller, dangerous particles.
Maintaining your gutters can feel like a chore, but cleanup can be a breeze with the proper tools. At a minimum, you’ll need a good ladder, a hose, a thick set of gloves, eye protection, and a face mask. Other tools like scoops, telescope wands, leaf blowers, and gutter brushes can make the job easier, often removing the need to climb up a ladder.
Typically, yes. Most homeowners use a ladder and other handheld tools to clean out gutters. However, tools like extendable gutter brushes, telescope hose wands, gutter claws, and leaf blower extensions can remove the need for using a ladder. We always recommend climbing up and giving your gutters a good inspection after using these tools, as they can occasionally miss pieces of debris.
Some homeowners believe you need high pressure to clean out your gutters. In reality, you typically do not need a lot of force to remove dry leaves and most debris. Unless your gutters are extremely wet or have a particularly difficult clog, you won’t need more than 150 to 170 MPH leaf blowers to clean your gutters. The standard water pressure from a garden hose is also more than enough to out leaves, small twigs, and seed pods.
Yes, gutter cleaning services are common. The national average cost to have 200 linear feet of gutter cleaned is around $85.
Yes, but we do not recommend it. It does not take a lot of force to clean gutters, making a pressure washer overkill. In worst-case scenarios, if you do not carefully control the amount of PSI on your power washer, you can damage certain gutter materials, weaken connection joints, or damage seals. We recommend using a garden hose with a spray nozzle over a pressure washer with an adapter and gutter cleaning wand.
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