How To Clean Gutters You Can't Reach (Do This!)

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Your gutters are an integral portion of your roofing system. Over time, leaves and other types of debris can clog the gutters up. At best, this will be a minor inconvenience and an eyesore. At worst, it can lead to damage to the woodwork of your home. When gutters are high up, they can be difficult to clean.

To clean out gutters you cannot reach, you will need a ladder to help you reach the gutters. One secured, you can mount the ladder and either remove the debris by hand, with a wet or dry vacuum, or a leaf blower. Once removed, flush out the gutters entirely using a water hose.

Let’s take a look at how we can clean gutters that are out of reach in just a few steps.

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Steps to Cleaning High Gutters

Step 1: Preparation

Make sure that you have proper protection when cleaning your gutters. Not only can it be dirty work to clean the gutters, but they can also be very sharp to the touch. So, make sure that you wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and wear thick, durable gloves.

Even if it is hot outside, it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves. The long sleeves provide proper protection from the sharper edges of the gutters and from pesky insects that can bother and bite you. You should also wear eye protection and even a face mask. This prevents pollen and dust from kicking up and aggravating your lungs and eyes.

Step 2: Set Up Your Ladder

This is the most important step of the process. A properly secured ladder will keep you with a sturdy base, allowing you to climb comfortably, confidently, and safely. If the ladder isn’t stable, it can tip and send you crashing to the ground.

A good rule of thumb is to put your toes against the ladder feet and extend your arms; if you can reach the rungs comfortably with your palms, it’s in a good position. Always make sure to test out the ladder before climbing all the way up. If it wobbles or leans, you’ll need to reposition for safety.

Should the ground be wet and soft, the ladder could sink. You’ll want scrap wood under the feet of the ladder to prevent that sinking. Reposition and retest the balance of the ladder again before climbing all the way up. Safety is paramount and leaving it to chance can leave you seriously injured.

Step 3: Attach a Bucket

Instead of simply tossing the debris to the ground as you go, attach a bucket to your ladder. This is a great way to clean your gutters effectively without having to clean up even more mess on the ground. Best of all, most of the debris in your gutters is biodegradable. You can toss it on the compost pile or let it decompose on its own.

If you don’t have a bucket, you can also bring a plastic bag with you. Keep in mind that plastic bags can be a little bit awkward and difficult to manage, especially when you don’t have a lot of space to maneuver.

Step 4: Remove by Hand or with an Air Compressor

After making your way safely and carefully up the ladder, the easiest way to remove the debris is to do so by hand. You can use your gloved hand to scoop it out of the gutters and drop it into your bucket. You can also use an air compressor to simply blow the debris out of the gutters.

If you don’t have an air compressor and don’t want to use your hands, you can use something like a hand spade or garden trowel to scoop out the debris.

It is imperative that you do not overreach. Overreaching has the potential to compromise the stability of the ladder and it could lead to a fall. No matter how high your roof is, any kind of fall can be seriously dangerous.

Step 5: Reposition the Ladder and Continue

It is important that you do not try to move the ladder while you are still on it. Needless to say, this is what will lead to falls and serious injury. When you’re done clearing out a section of the gutters, climb all the way down to the ground and reposition the ladder to the next section.

Continue doing this until you have completely cleaned out all of the debris in your gutters. Keep in mind that it may take some time depending on the size of your house, so have some patience to ensure that the job is done safely.

Step 6: Flush with Water

When you’re confident that all of the debris has been cleared out of your gutters, it is time to break out the hose. Fasten your hose to a pole, a sturdy branch, or a tree trimmer for easier use. Loose hoses can be difficult to handle and you don’t want to drop it when you’re all the way up on the ladder.

Keep an eye on your gutters as you rinse them out. By flushing the entire gutter, you can get a better idea of how clogged up they are. If you’ve cleaned them entirely, the water should flow out of the downspouts with no issue. If you notice that the downspouts are still flowing weakly or unevenly, there are probably still blockages in the gutters that will need to be cleaned out.

Step 7: Cleaning the Downspouts

Should you find that the downspouts aren’t working properly, there are a couple of things that can be done. Set up the ladder next to your spout and tap along the length of it using a screwdriver, starting from the top and working down.

If you hear a dull, thudding sound out of your downspouts, that is a good indicator that there is a blockage of some sort. In some cases, you can use the hose to flush the blockage. For really bad blockages, you’ll need a pressure washer to lodge the debris free.

Even better, downspouts can be unfastened from the gutter and the house completely. This makes it far easier to clear out the blockages using a leaf blower, pressure washer, or even a really long stick. The point is to clear out the blockages before putting them back up as blockages can cause water damage to your home if allowed to persist.

Do You Need Your Gutters or Downspouts Cleaned?

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How Can I Make My Gutters White Again?

If your gutters are starting to look yellow and dulled, it only makes sense to want to get them looking their whitest again. The good news is that you can get them looking white again with relatively little effort and a household cleaning agent.

Mix white vinegar and water together to create a potent cleaning solution. This is a great solution because it is strong enough to clean the outside of the gutters without corroding the aluminum. You can also create a cleaning paste using cream of tartar and water. In addition to acting as a cleaning agent, it will also provide a gentle buffing, too. That leaves your gutters looking white and shiny as if they were just purchased.

For the downspouts, it is a good idea to detach them from the gutters and the rest of the house. Not only does that mean less time spent on the ladder, but it also allows for an even surface for cleaning the downspouts.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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