One weird trick that the gutter cleaners don't want you to know
October 24, 2014 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I don't mind cleaning my gutters (at least the ones I can reach), but I feel like there has to be a better way. Gutter enthusiasts, share your wisdom!

My current method is 1) climb up ladder; 2) put leaves in bucket; 3) climb down ladder; 4) move and repeat. It's fine for the first floor gutters, but I can only reach an arm's span of my second floor gutter if I put my ladder on our back stoop (which is stone and 5'x10' or so, and a fine place for a ladder, don't worry!), and my enthusiasm for DIY is inversely proportional to the height of the ladder I'm on. We do not currently have any kind of gutter guard--just your basic K style open gutter.

I've heard of people using a leaf blower to get the leaves out, or a power washer, or an air compressor, etc. And, of course, there's the gutter cleaning robot.

I have a gutter guy coming in a week or two, and hopefully my gutters will be left pristine. I'd like to keep them in good shape.

Are you using a leaf blower? A Looj? Do you swear by your gutter guard? I want to hear all about it! If you have gutter guards, where did you get them (I know Costco sells gutter installation; is it as competitively priced as their hearing aids)? How much did it cost? We have a small house--maybe 150' of gutters on the first floor and 40' on the second.

FWIW, most of what gets in our gutters seems to be leaves from our oak trees, with probably small volume from the neighbor's pine tree. Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing if this were an option, you would have said so. But FWIF: I clean the gutters by getting up on the roof and then shuffling along.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:36 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I just get up on the (two-story) roof, sit down about a meter from the gutter and very very carefully scootch close enough to pull out handfulls and toss them on the ground. Slide sideways and repeat. I have mild acrophobia, but this doesn't bother me as long as I go slowly and CAREFULLY.

You can keep your gutters clean after your guys come by spraying them out with a reasonably forceful garden hose nozzle (you'll have to move the ladder a couple of times).
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:37 AM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sitting on the roof and shuffling along is not a good idea. It's a long way down. Clean your gutters while standing securely on a ladder.

I have gutters, which are getting a little dilapidated and should be replaced pretty soon, but I have been wondering whether I actually need them. I look around at a lot of houses and see few gutters. I might actually take them off and observe things for a year before getting new ones.
posted by beagle at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't bother with a bucket; I just hurl the leaves at the ground, which is satisfying. The clumps dissipate within a few days.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've used a hose before - blast all of the detritus down to one end of the guttering, then fish it all out in one go.
posted by pipeski at 8:52 AM on October 24, 2014

I call one of those gutter cleaning guys. They get up on my very high, scary roof which I cannot reach with my ladder and my roof is to steep for me to climb up on. They're cheap enough and my time is worth it.

But on the occasions when I do clean my low gutters, I get up on the ladder and pull the leaves out. After that I use a hose and flood them to make sure they're draining properly.
posted by bondcliff at 8:59 AM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Buying a small leaf blower had been a godsend when dealing with the gutters. So much faster and easier.
posted by markblasco at 9:00 AM on October 24, 2014

Gutter screens. End of problem. Easy to DIY, too.

Barring screens, I have scooted along the roof and hand-cleared leaves and stuff. Hoses just tend to push stuff into the downspout, often clogging them. And, imho, it's a much bigger pain to climb a ladder with a hose, spray the gutter, climb down, move the ladder over, climb back up, lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 AM on October 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I use this shop vac attachment for cleaning the gutters on my single story house. I like it because it really gets all of dirt out of the bottom of the gutter. I put the hose on the outlet side of the vacuum as a final pass to blow the last bits out. Takes me about 20 minutes to do 100 feet of gutter. I have to clean them almost every week in the fall because of the oak trees that overhang the house.

You will need a good shop vac to use that attachment and you may need more extensions for your second floor. I have seen people use PVC pipe for the upright portion and only purchase the crook piece.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 9:31 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I stand on a ladder like you, but I use a small trowel or similar tool to extend my armspan so I don't need to move the ladder as often.

My neighbor has this sort of grabby contraption that fits on an extension pole and lets him pull stuff out of the gutters while standing on the ground.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:34 AM on October 24, 2014

I use a stainless steel ladle duct taped to the end of a long pole. The pole was originally from a pole saw for pruning trees. The scoop portion of the ladle, as well as the angle of the handle have been bent slightly to better fit the gutter. This allows me to extend my reach. I can do an entire 35 foot run on one side from just two ladder positions. After I pull a clump of leaves towards me along the gutter ( this has the effect of cleaning the inside of the gutter, like a squeegee btw) I hurl them down, not onto the ground but into a waiting wheelbarrow. It's not too hard to aim them. A bucket up on the ladder sounds pretty tedious.

On preview, something like mbrubeck mentioned, but as long as possible. Watch out for power lines!
posted by werkzeuger at 9:38 AM on October 24, 2014

I also know someone who improvised leaf guards using rolls of hardware cloth. You figure out the size needed to fit the gutter, cut them all, roll them up and secure with wire, and pop them into the gutter. Every five years or so they can be pulled out for a good cleaning.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:41 AM on October 24, 2014

I made wedges out of heavy wire and placed them over the downspouts. The leaves flush over the top and the water goes down.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2014

We use a compressor and an air hose. You still need to get up on a ladder but it makes the job nine thousand times faster.
posted by lydhre at 10:17 AM on October 24, 2014

I used to climb on the roof and pull them out. One year I did some kind of DIY gutter guard which worked pretty well. When we had the roof re-done we had proper guards installed and they are great, I don't even look at the roof anymore.

For me it was less the climbing on the roof (I enjoy being up there and it isn't really that high) and more the laziness of having to actually do it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:09 PM on October 24, 2014

For me, the sketchiest time is being on the ladder. Once I am on the roof, everything feels much more stable. Standing and walking around on the roof is fast and easy.

Regarding gutter guard, I grew up in a place that had those helicopter leaf things in great quantities... those would get through the guard and make cleaning a nightmare because you had to remove the guard to clean.

Lastly, and most importantly, this job goes so fast with a leaf blower. I would buy a leaf blower for this even if I did not need to blow leaves... get that wind nozzle down in the gutter and you can basically just walk along the edge of the roof. The pain becomes pulling out the ladder and going up it once (which is more relief to you at the moment than it is pain).
posted by milqman at 1:56 PM on October 24, 2014


I have one. I love it.
posted by caryatid at 5:19 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the slope of your roof allows you to walk up there, using a leaf blower is super fast and easy.
posted by peeedro at 6:03 PM on October 24, 2014

The first obvious consideration is to wait till everything in the gutter is very dry. Then you can blow them out.

And yes, gutters are necessary unless you live in a very dry climate (where coincidentally, you'd likely not have a leaf problem anyway). Gutters and downspouts direct water away from the building foundation which is a good thing.

You may say "But those big office / industrial buildings don't have them, right? " Those buildings have internal downspouts which are hidden in chases buried within the walls.
posted by mightshould at 11:48 AM on October 25, 2014

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