How to clean gutters like a professional – with or without a ladder

Get a pro finish using a pressure washer or leaf lower, or tackle this job from the ground with our advice on how to clean gutters (safely)

Clear leaves from guttering
(Image credit: SPAB)

We can all have a pretty good guess at how to clean gutters, but as with any job at height, getting those eavestroughs cleared safely is sometimes a job left to professioals. However, you can save so much money doing it yourself, and we are going to show you how you don't have to get up a ladder to do it if you can't (or don't want to).

The gutters of a house have an important job to do. If they get blocked so water overflows onto the walls of the house, damp and mold can be the results – an outcome you won’t want to have to deal with.

It’s fallen leaves and other types of debris that can build up in gutters over time, so cleaning them should be part of your seasonal maintenance throughout the year. If you have the right tools like the best pressure washer, or even a leaf blower, the job will be a whole lot easier. But don't despair if not – whatever your set up, our guide includes a way to clean those gutters that will work for you.

How to clean gutters like a professional

A pro will stay safe when cleaning different types of gutters, so you need to be as attentive to this as a professional would be. 

If you’re using a ladder, you'll need to stay safe and avoid putting yourself in danger, and use a bracket to prevent the ladder damaging the gutters.

And, when working at that height it’s worth taking a look at the roof, too, as a sound roof – just like clean gutters – is fundamental to the integrity of your home. How long a roof lasts depends, but there are tell-tale signs when it needs attention.

How often should you clean gutters?

How often gutters should be cleaned depends on your home’s situation. ‘We recommend that gutters should be cleaned, on average, at least twice a year to prevent damage to your roof and foundation,’ says Chris Counahan, president of LeafFilter (opens in new tab)

‘The location of your home can impact how often your gutters need to be cleaned – for example, if your house is surrounded by trees, you’ll need to tend to your gutters more than twice a year since your gutters are exposed to more debris and leaves. 

‘Outside of location, seasons influence maintenance; since springtime is full of heavy rain, attention to gutter maintenance should be heightened to avoid mold and mildew growth.’ Cleaning gutters is also often done as part of fall home maintenance checks.

Pick a day with fair weather to make working at height safer.

How to clean gutters step-by-step

To achieve the same results that calling in a contractor would:

1. Put on thick gloves as well as suitable clothing, then place a ladder securely. ‘Double check the stability of your ladder before climbing up,’ says Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy (opens in new tab)

‘Ladders should only be placed on solid ground and should not be used if any defects or dents are found. Fiberglass and aluminum ladders are the best choices for this job as they are the sturdiest.’

2. Once you are in position on the ladder, if there are any large pieces of debris in the gutter, you can simply remove them. After that, you’ll need a tool to help with any slushy matter. ‘The easiest way to clean your gutters is by using a trowel and bucket to scoop out debris,’ says Ricky Southers, owner of Southers Construction (opens in new tab).

Alternatively you might want to get yourself a gutter scoop (here are some gutter scoops on Amazon (opens in new tab)) to do the job. ‘It's a shovel designed to fit into the gutter, and it’s sturdy,’ says Melanie Musson, home improvement expert with ExpertInsuranceReviews (opens in new tab).

Be cautious when using a ladder. ‘Move your ladder frequently so you are not over extending your reach,’ advises Lindsey Egner, president, Carolina Power Washing (opens in new tab). ‘A great investment is a ladder stabilizer and it is important to have a second set of hands holding the base of the ladder to keep you safe.’

3. Once the gutters are clear, it’s time to wash them down. ‘Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to flush the gutters with water,’ says Sean Chapman, founder of Tools'n'Goods (opens in new tab).

‘If the water pools or it doesn’t come out freely down the gutter, it means there’s a clog. You should go down and feed the hose up the downspout to push the clog with the pressure of water. The debris will fall down once you do it.’

What is the easiest way to clean gutters?

If you already own a leaf blower, you might want to use it for the job. ‘Using a leaf blower with enough power can push out everything in the gutters,’ says Benjamin Nguyen, owner of exterior cleaning company Full Color Cleaners (opens in new tab)

Don’t like the idea of working with a leaf blower from a ladder? ‘Employ a blower vac with a special gutter cleaning nozzle to vacuum the gutters,’ says Sean Chapman. A kit with tubes allows you to reach gutters from the ground.

‘You can also use a leaf blower to remove debris by blowing the air up your home’s downspout,’ says Ricky Southers.

Be aware, though, that a blower works best on dry leaves and debris, so you may not be able to get rid of everything you need to this way.

You might think about getting an attachment for your hose as an alternative. ‘You can purchase a gutter hook attachment (opens in new tab) that will allow you to scoop out most of the debris and wash out the rest with water,’ says Ricky.

‘The next best thing would be using a gutter vacuum that’s professionally made for gutter cleaning,’ says Benjamin. ‘A gutter vacuum can suck and blow debris.’ One of these is an investment buy, however. 

To make life easy, it’s worth considering the installation of gutter guards (opens in new tab) so less debris gets into the gutters in the first place. ‘Getting ahead of the problem can prevent more significant issues such as foundation damage or mold/mildew buildup,’ says Chris Counahan. ‘Gutter guards can also put a stop to pest infestation by restricting access to insects and animals.’

Should you walk on a roof to clean gutters?

We don’t advise it. Standing on a ladder, or cleaning the gutters from the ground (see below), are the best alternatives if you’re doing this job yourself.

‘Walking on your roof should be left to a professional,’ says Ricky Southers. ‘Roofing shingles can hide underlying structural problems very well. These can pose a serious risk of injury for those with an untrained eye.’

‘The only person who should walk on a roof is a certified roofing expert,’ agrees Zach Reece, owner and chief operating officer (COO) at Colony Roofers (opens in new tab).

How can I clean my gutters without a ladder?

If you want to clean gutters without a ladder, it is possible. A gutter hook attachment for your hose or pressure washer like the Mingle Pressure washer attachment from Amazon (opens in new tab) is the best alternative. Of course, you won’t be able to see into the gutter, so you might miss debris but with a high pressure there is less chance of that. Plus, it will mean you can keep your feet firmly on the ground as you work.

Leaf blower attachments designed specifically for cleaning gutters – like the WORX WA4092 cleaning kit leaf blower attachment currently on Amazon (opens in new tab) – are another option if you don’t want to use a ladder, as is a gutter vacuum. These are what the pros use, and priced accordingly but rental may be available near you if you like the idea – and you could share it with a neighbor to make things less costly.

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.

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