How to clean gutters, 5 ways to quickly get rid of moss & leaves.
It’s a job that nobody enjoys doing or really wants to do, but cleaning your gutters and removing the moss, leaves, and debris is an important job that needs to be done regularly
But it doesn’t have to be a chore and done properly will take very little time and ensure your property is protected and looking its best,
Heres are my tips on how to clean your gutters:
To remove moss, leaves, and debris from gutters remove the largest items first and place them in a bucket, scrape the gutter surface clean working towards yourself, use a trowel to lift wet debris and place in a bucket, wash the gutter with a hosepipe and water and rinse with fungicide or detergent.
Cleaning your gutters regularly will mean that you should have years of trouble-free service from an important part of your roof structure, I go into more detail and have some really handy tips on easy ways to clean and maintain your gutters.
How to remove leaves and moss from gutters
Leaves, moss and other debris can collect and build up in the gutters around your home, which can lead to some serious issues if not dealt with regularly.
Water that is not controlled because the guttering is blocked will flow down walls, behind fascia boards and can lead to damp and mold issues inside and in really cold weather, freezing conditions will turn water into ice and cause cracking and damage to bricks and mortar.
Leaks and overflows during downpours and heavy rain can often be easily prevented just by removing the large build-ups that form in the bottom of the gutter valley and keeping your guttering clear, allowing water to flow in a controlled manner away to drains.
Assess the Guttering and checking for blockages
The first thing to do is check the condition of your guttering, look for obvious signs of damage like cracks, popped or loose joints, and build-ups of moss and debris
I like to do a first inspection from the ground if I see anything obvious I then grab my ladders and get up to have a closer look.
The best trick for looking at guttering and roofline from the ground is to use a pair of binoculars to help see what’s going on, I tend to do this whilst I am checking over the roof as part of my regular autumn jobs, you can check out my list of jobs to do in Autumn by following this link.
If you do see anything that you suspect is causing a blockage in the gutter and therefore making it leak, it’s time to get up and have a look.
If you really don’t like working at height or don’t have access to ladders or an access tower, but still want to check the condition of your gutters there are a couple of tips that can help you:
- using a long extension pole, fix a camera or smartphone securely to one end, and take a picture or video of the guttering.
- Buy a small drone with a camera and fly it over your house to view the roofline and guttering, Drones can be great fun and useful tools, just make sure you follow local and government guidelines and laws for drones.
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Clearing gutters by hand without tools:
If you can access the guttering safely either from a ladder or platform then lifting the clumps of moss and leaf debris by hand and placing them into a bucket is quite a simple, if not a pleasant job.
I always wear pair of good quality waterproof gloves when doing this job, working from one end of the house to the other.
Living in a detached house with a high pitch roof, when I clear my gutters I need to reach up over the second story, which means I need to work carefully from a ladder, with a second person standing at the base helping to foot the ladder, you can ask a friend or relative to help with this bit.
I work in small sections from one end of the guttering, so that I am not leaning too far in either direction, this helps to make sure I am stable on the ladder.
If you have to work alone on a ladder, which I don’t recommend, you should secure the base so that there is no possibility that the feet can move, preferably on level solid ground.
If possible tie off the base of the ladder to something solid and secure to prevent movement.
To help when clearing the guttering from a ladder I use a hook to hold the bucket, that way I can maintain tree points of contact on the ladder with one hand and use the other to remove the leaves, moss, and debris from the guttering.
How to clean gutters quickly with basic tools
Clearing gutters is by no means a job that can be automated fully and the cost of some tools means they are really only cost-effective if you are a professional.
however there several tools on the market and some that you probably already have, that the rest of us can use to really speed up the process and make clearing and cleaning gutters a doodle.
Using some ordinary hand tools, that most people already have, like a hand trowel and a hosepipe, the guttering on most homes can be moss and leaf-free in a short time.
You can get a longer reach and if you add an old broom handle and some duct tape, by fixing the trowel onto the end of the broom handle you can reach further and this means less climbing up and down ladders saving time.
Again using a bucket held by a hook on the ladder to collect the debris you can work quite quickly, first by removing the larger lumps and blockages, then with a stiff brush sweep the fine debris away, and then using the hose pipe to wash the remaining particles along the guttering and down the drain.
If you don’t have a hook for your bucket, you can use either some heavy gauge, green garden wire, or an old coat hanger to shape one, just make sure it is strong enough to hold the weight of a full bucket, as wet moss can weigh quite a bit.
Using specialised hand tools for clearing guttering
If you really want to speed up the process of cleaning your gutters, there are more specialized tools on the market that make even lighter work of the job.
Gutter Scraper tools that are shaped to match the profile of your guttering, allow you to remove the leaf mould, moss, and debris along the guttering quickly in a single pass, there are a few variations with different features, and you can even make your one profile from plywood using a jig saw.
Make sure that you buy a tool with the right profile for you guttering as they are not interchangeable, for example a standard half round profile will not work on a ‘high flow OGEE’ gutter system.
Most DIY gutter cleaning tools require that you to have access to the guttering which means working at height at some point, a ladder works and allows access but is slow and needs to be moved often.
Using a Mobile access platform or tower to reach the high areas is often a good idea and you can hire them saving a bit of cash.
The benefits to using a mobile platform makes the for cleaning gutters at height are that they safer and more stable than ladders, they can make the job quicker, as you can access a larger area in one go, without having to climb down and move the tower.
The down side to using an access tower is having to erect it and then store it when not is use, also the initial cost can put people off.
As alternative to buying one, you can rent or hire an access tower form you nearest tooling specialist. I tend to plan all the high level, roof line jobs together and then hire the equipment I don’t already have such as access towers to do these jobs in one go.
Using power tools to clean you gutters
If cleaning gutters by hand is not your thing then there are few alternatives methods that mean you don’t have to get your hands dirty…. well not quite so dirty, most of which means using power tools.
There are loads of options and choosing one which suits your needs and pocket will give you the best way to clean your guttering, so whether you want quick dedicated tools or multifunction equipment that can be used for more than one job which will save on storage space and make real use of the tools, here are a few ideas that will guide your selection:
Using a leaf blower to clean your gutters works well on lightweight, dry debris, use a model that has a small nozzle attachment that will allow you to position the blower in the guttering and blow the rubbish towards the downpipe.
The benefits of using a leaf blower to clear guttering are:
- It makes really quick work of the job.
- You can buy attachments that means you can do this from the ground rather than standing on a ladder.
- Leaf blowers are not overly expensive
The downsides to using leaf blowers are:
- Leaf blowers can be heavy and working on a ladder with a big weight is not ideal,
- Heavy or wet moss won’t really move unless you can really blast it out
- Lastly, it’s difficult to control where the rubbish will end up as blowers tend to blast stuff out in all directions, so allow some time for sweeping the ground below.
Leaf blowers are available in various types from corded electric units up to lithium battery and high spec petrol options I favour using cordless leaf blowers like this Dewalt w20 MAx XR, as they are lighter, quieter, and less messy than the petrol version and with no cords easier to handle than the alternatives.
Pressure washers are great for cleaning. . . well everything really, patios, garden furniture, fences, and guttering, the dirt, and grime that can build up on the inside and outside of your guttering can be really stubborn and needs a really good blast to clean it off.
I use my Karcher pressure washer for all sorts of jobs and they had loads of accessories to help make cleaning quick and easy
Using a pressure washer to clear gutters, will clean away the built-up dirt, moss, and leaves quickly, you can blast away blockages in downpipes and use specialist nozzles to clean the inside and outside surface as well, which will give the gutter a new lease of life it much nicer to look at.
You need to do is simply point the nozzle down the gutter towards the downpipe and let the water run until the guttering is clean.
As with using a leaf blower, there are pros and cons to using pressure washers to clear guttering, the positives are:
- Pressure washers make quick work of the most stubborn dirt and will even remove heavy moss.
- The wand on a pressure washer is not very heavy and with a long enough hose, you can work safely from a ladder.
- You can also buy wand extensions that mean you can do this from ground level making the job safer and quicker.
The negatives to using a pressure washer are similar to the leaf blower:
- You cannot 100% control the direction in which the debris will go and it can make quite a mess if you are not careful.
- You will need to allow time to clean down the local area to remove splatter from the walls or nearby windows.
- You need to ensure that water does not get under the roof or into anywhere that can cause damage, so be careful when spraying and keep the nozzle in the gutter valley.
Wet and Dry Vacuum Cleaner:
Wet and dry vacuums may not be the first thing you think of for cleaning gutters but they can work really well if used in the right way.
A powerful motor and good size hose are key to using wet and dry vacuums for clearing and cleaning gutters, with enough power to create good suction wet and dry vacuums will suck up all kinds of dirt that you would find sitting at the bottom of your guttering.
One tip that I found works well on stubborn moss that doesn’t want to lift out, is to use a hosepipe and run water down the guttering before cleaning, this helps make any moss soft and wet, which can help to make it easier to remove from the gutter.
A really long vacuum hose or gutter cleaning attachment is a good idea too, as you don’t want to be lugging a heavy vacuum cleaner up and down ladders.
The benefits to using a wet and dry vac to clean gutters are:
- Wet and dry vacuums work well removing all kinds of dirt and debris.
- They are a cleaner option than using a leaf blower or a pressure washer as they do not blast dirt around.
- The debris is collected for you in the drum of the vacuum, meaning there is very little to sweep or clear up and the rubbish can be easily transferred to a waste bin and thrown away.
The downside to using a wet and dry vacuum for cleaning gutters are:
- Large lumps of moss and dirt can get stuck in the vacuum hose, so factor in some time to clear out the vacuum and the hose occasionally.
- The motor and tank are quite big and heavy so you will need a long hose to reach up to high points
- You will need a power supply and cables as most units are corded.
Wet and dry vacuums are not cheap for good high-powered units, however, you can hire or rent them for a reasonable price, and for a job that needs doing once or twice a year this can make sense.
Using gadgets to clean your gutters
Cleaning gutters invariably means working at height, climbing ladders, or scaffolding, which is both time-consuming and adds risk to the job.
To avoid this and being able to work safely from ground level means using some long-reach equipment, which means that you are working without being able to see what is going on above you.
This where you can add some cool tech to make the job of cleaning gutters dare I say it a bit. . . . more fun?
With advancements in lightweight materials and innovative tool design combined with mobile phone technology, gutter cleaning has stepped into the 21st century.
The most common use of this technology comes as an attachment for high-power wet/dry vacuum cleaners, wand extensions for pressure washers, and extra-long nozzles for leaf blowers.
Made from lightweight material they are easy enough to lift and move around yet strong and rigid enough to clear even the most stuck on moss.
Combine this with mobile phone technology and blue tooth transmitting and you can get eyes on what is happening at high above whilst working from the ground.
By using a small camera like a Go-Pro or even your mobile phone which can be attached to the nozzle of your chosen tooling, this can and lifted up to the guttering.
The camera will then send you images of where the nozzle is pointing back to you, usually via an app on your phone or a handheld device, and show you where the blockages are, making control and cleaning even easier.
How to prevent moss and leaves collecting in your Gutters
As with a lot of home maintenance jobs, prevention is often better than the cure, and looking after your gutters is no exception. Keeping them clean and clear from moss and debris by regularly cleaning with tools and a hose will mean that you have years of trouble and leak-free use.
Here are a few ideas that can help prevent moss and leaf build up in your gutters and make the process even quicker:
- Fit gutter guards or gutter mesh to prevent moss and leaves from falling into the valley of your gutters.
- Install gutter brushes that help to prevent leaves collecting and moss from growing in your gutter
- Use foam Gutter filters these also help prevent leaves and moss collecting in the gutter valley.
- When cleaning gutters, wash the inside of the guttering with a fungicide to prevent spores from growing.
These ideas will help prevent moss and leaves from collecting but they cannot stop it 100% and regular cleaning is the best way to maintain clear trouble free gutters.
When to clean your gutters and how often should you do it?
Getting the timing right when cleaning gutters makes the job work much better and can save time, a little planning beforehand means you can get all your tools and equipment prepared and ready.
Take a look at our post on other jobs to do in Autumn for more ideas and how to save time and energy.
Gutters should be cleaned out twice a year to prevent leaves, moss, and debris from building up and blocking the valleys, downpipes, and runs.
I usually clear my gutters towards the end of the Spring season and in late Autumn or Fall, these are the best times as most of the activity for trees and plants is slowing down.
By the end of spring trees and plants have tended to bud and release spores and flower which means the gutters will be full and need clearing before summer and heavy thunderstorms arrive to overflow your gutters.
The same is true of Autumn or Fall, by the end of the season trees will have shed their leaves and shut down ready for winter, and clearing the guttering now will allow your home to be protected when the harsh wind, rain, and snow comes along to fill your gutters.
All in all cleaning gutters is a necessary job that is required regularly and if done right can be quick and keep your home safe and protected for years to come.
This article was written by: Richard Quinton – The DIY Help Desk Owner, Engineer & technical specialist.
Richard is one of the key partners in The DIY Help Desk team. He is a qualified Engineer, writer, and publisher, educated to Master’s level. He is a keen advocate of DIY and home improvements.
Richard enjoys helping others to learn new skills and reach their goals and believes that passing his knowledge and experience on through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the lifestyles and well-being of others on a larger scale.