Guide to Gutter Cleaning

In the first part of our series on guttering, we considered the reasons why it’s important to regularly clean and maintain your gutters. In this instalment we take a closer look at the process of cleaning your gutters, including a few tips and tricks for easy cleaning if you’re looking to tackle the job this weekend.

What are the first steps I should take? 

Before you get the ladder out, the first step is to take a good look at your guttering from the ground and decide what jobs need carrying out - a routine clear out or something more substantial, such as repairs or replacement. If you’ve neglected the cleaning of your guttering for a while, there could also be moss and other plant life growing there, and during cleaning you may unearth another host of problems, such as leaky joints or loose screws. 

Enlist the help of a friend and set up a ladder to get a better view and see what kind of state your guttering is in. Don’t lean your ladder against plastic guttering, as it could break under your weight. Instead, utilise a ladder stand-off accessory and always ensure that the ladder is level and stable.   

Ladders are dangerous, so it’s a good idea to download a free copy of the HSE’s Safe Use of Ladders. It’s your life that’s at risk should you fall, so take a few minutes to read that document and be safe. 

The result of an unmaintained gutter

What tools do I need? 

Cleaning out gutters doesn’t need to be a complicated task, and there are even a few DIY hacks that you can create at home for an easy method of cleaning.  

As a general rule of thumb, you only need a few tools to clean out your guttering: 
For scooping out large amounts of debris, a gardening trowel is an effective tool, or you can create a homemade scoop by cutting the top and one side off an old milk carton. It’s also a good idea to spread a large tarpaulin on the ground, or a bucket to collect the debris.  

For blockages in downpipes, a plumbing snake is a useful addition to your guttering maintenance toolkit, or simply make your own blockage-busting tool by cutting a small length of hosepipe with which to tackle the problem. 


Methods of cleaning  

If you’re carrying out a routine clean then a tennis ball attached to the end of a decorating pole makes an excellent tool for cleaning gutters without a ladder, and inexpensive too.  

However, if the amount of debris in your gutters is more substantial, then adopt the ‘scoop and drop’ method; scoop out the debris and drop it onto a tarpaulin on the floor or into a bucket. A nifty trick to keep the bucket in close range is to saw the handle in half, then hang it around the guttering. If you’re unsure of where to start or have never carried out the job before, this video is an excellent look at routine gutter cleaning and maintenance, to give you some idea of how to go about cleaning your gutters.

To unblock downpipes either use a plumbing snake or short length of hosepipe to pierce the blockage by moving it up and down inside the pipe a few times. Once the gutter is clean and the downpipe unblocked, flush through with water to check that the flow is good, and to determine any potential leakages or areas which need repair. 

Keep checking back for more tips and tricks on gutter maintenance, including how to repair and replace guttering, the many types of guttering available, and which types might be suitable for your property.