The Best Way to Clean Gutters to Help Prevent Ice Dams and Other Problems

Doing your annual gutter cleaning? Here's the best way to do it—from prep work to gunk and debris removal.

Rain gutters protect your home’s landscaping and siding from severe runoff while also preventing damage to your home’s foundation. But when gutters fill with leaves, sticks, and other debris it can cause clogs that result in water creeping under the roof and eventually into the foundation.

Winter storms can wreck havoc on your home, especially the roof. One of the most common risks associated with heavy snow storms is the formation of an ice dam. Gutters clogged with leaves and debris can make it easier for ice dams to form since it prevents the melting snow and ice from properly draining. As water builds up behind the ice dam, it seeps under the roofing materials and can cause leaks and other damage that’s very expensive to fix.

That’s why it’s important to clean your gutters and keep them clear all year long.

You should clean your gutters a minimum of once a year. You should do it more often if you have overhanging trees and after a big storm.

How to Clean Gutters

  1. Make sure you have a good, sturdy, extendable ladder. Always place the ladder on a sturdy surface (beware of landscaping rocks below which can shift). You can use a ladder stabilizer both for safety and to prevent damage to the gutters. Also, it’s best to have a helper around in case you drop something or need a hand with the ladder.
  2. Dress for the job. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, work pants and rubber gloves. Cleaning gutters is a dirty job.
  3. To remove the gunk from the gutters, use a small, plastic scoop. Gutter scoops are available at the hardware store, or a child’s sandbox shovel also works just fine. If you have an old plastic kitchen spatula, that works too, and it won’t damage the gutters. If you really, really hate cleaning gutters, you can actually get a gutter cleaning robot to do the job for you!
  4. Spread a tarp underneath your workspace to collect all the gutter gunk and protect your lawn and landscaping.
  5. Once you’ve removed the debris from the gutters, use a garden hose to flush the gutters and downspouts and clear out any remaining debris. This will also show you if you have any leaks. Here, check out the best ways to fix gutter leaks.
  6. Once the gutters are clear, repair any sagging metal. You can do this by mounting a gutter hanger. Many gutter repairs are DIY jobs.
  7. Once you get the hang of it, gutter cleaning isn’t that bad, and you’ll feel great when it’s done! Now that you know how to clean out gutters, be sure to add it to your to-do list at least once a year.
  8. If cold weather is around the corner, take the necessary steps to prepare your gutters for winter.

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.