How to Clean Rain Gutters and Downspouts

rain gutters and downspouts

Keeping your rain gutters and downspouts clean will help extend the life of both. Cleaning them will prevent the build-up of leaves, sticks, and other debris that can cause leaking problems and create water damage. The best time to clean your draining system is in the fall when leaves are falling and the spring when trees are releasing seeds.

Knowing how to clean your gutters will help you keep your roof and home leak-free. Keeping your downspouts clean will also help your home. Luckily, the process is straightforward and many people can complete the process while staying safe.   

What You Need

Before starting your gutter cleaning process, you will want some materials ready. You will want a garbage bag to dispose of the debris and a rag to clean up. Having a leaf scooper and a bucket will make the process easier.

To get up to the gutters, you will want a ladder set on a solid foundation to stay steady. Work gloves will also keep your hands safe from anything sharp in your gutters. Your garden hose will clean everything out that your manual labor may have missed.

Most people have all of these materials and if you don’t, it’s easy to get them. The materials you use will also depend on the method of cleaning that you choose. No matter the method, you should have a partner to help you complete all the steps and keep you safe.    

Choose a Method

There are three main methods to cleaning your gutters. You can choose the method that works for you and your method will likely change depending on the kind of debris that is being cleaned out. Wet and soggy debris will be cleaned out differently than dry debris.

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  • The scoop and drop method involves scooping debris out of the gutter and dropping them on a tarp or cloth on the ground. As you move along the gutter, you move your tarp. When your trap is full, dump it onto a compost pile or in your garbage bag.
  • The gutter bucket method is one of the most common ways to clean your gutters. You will need a bucket with wire handles that you cut in half and turn each half into handle hooks. These hooks attach to the gutter and you move it along as you clean. This method will involve a lot of going up and down the ladder as you dump your bucket.
  • The gutter bag method is great for cleaning dry debris out of your gutters. You will use a bucket that hooks to the gutter. Only this time, there is a hole cut in the bottom of the bucket, and the debris is caught by a garbage bag attached to the bucket. As long as the debris is not heavy, you can clean a lot of gutters without going up and down the ladder.

No matter the method for cleaning the gutters that you choose, it’s important that you stay safe. Use a sturdy ladder on a steady surface as you clean. You also don’t want to overflow your bag or bucket as you clean. It’s better to take longer but be safer.  

As you clean, don’t overreach and work in short sections. Your ladder will need to be moved often to stay safe throughout the process.    

Clean the Downspouts

Cleaning the gutter downspout is also a key part of keeping your draining system clean and functional. The downspouts can build up debris as well that can create leaks and weaken the overall rain gutters and downspouts draining system.

If you have horizontal downspouts, you will need to remove the spouts from the gutters. Once it’s detached, you should run a hose through the spout. Someone can stand on the other side to check for the water flow.

As you run into clogs, you can tie a rag around the opening to seal it and create pressure. The pressure can remove the clog. If the clog remains, you can use a plumbing snake to remove the clog. Clogs are normally found at a curve in a downspout. 

After you have removed the clogs, run the hose through it to ensure that the water can flow through the downspout. If the water flow is disrupted, you will need to remove more debris that is blocking your water flow. Horizontal extension pipes should also be checked for any clogs.    

Rinse the Gutters and Downspouts

The last step in gutter cleaning is to rinse the gutters and downspouts. This will also remove any lingering debris.  

To rinse everything one last time, insert the hose into the section furthest from the downspout opening and run it. Your gutter contractors can install gutters so you may not need to get on a ladder to complete this step if your roof is not too high.

You want to run the water long enough so that it has a chance to flow through the rain gutters and downspout. Once the water can run through the system without running into clogs, your gutters are successfully cleaned. If the water has been blocked in some way, you will need to check for clogs and debris again.   


The best way to extend the life of your gutters and downspouts is to keep them clean and free of clogs. Regular cleaning will keep your gutters free of leaks and prevent water damage from developing.

To help keep your draining system functional, your local gutter installation team can add ways to prevent debris from building up in your system. There are numerous ways for gutters to keep water off your roof while also keeping debris out. Different gutter drainage systems can be used to help make maintaining your gutter system easier. To learn more about how to keep your gutters clean or to get help cleaning your gutters, we encourage you to call our professionals. We will help you extend the life of your gutters and determine when your gutters need to be replaced. 

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