How to Clean Gutters From the Ground

Gutter With Leaves

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Yield: 30 feet of one-story gutters cleaned
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $40 to $80

Cleaning gutters saves your home and foundation from serious, expensive water damage. Regularly cleaning gutters maintains water flow from the roof to the ground, and away from the house. All it takes is a ladder and some time.

But for many homeowners, climbing a ladder to clean gutters is a major obstacle, especially with two-story homes. You can clean gutters from the ground with special tools that either vacuum up the leaves or blow them out with air or water.

Two Ways to Clean Gutters From the Ground

Vacuum Leaves From the Gutter

A 2-1/2-inch gutter cleaning accessory kit specifically designed for wet/dry vacuums can vacuum leaves from one- or two-story homes while you stand on the ground. Several tubes fit or lock into place to form a long tube with a curved nozzle at the top called a gutter elbow. The bottom of the tube connects to a shop vacuum.

Vacuuming leaves is cleaner than blowing the leaves. Most leaves are deposited in the vacuum or on the ground rather than on the roof or the siding. Vacuuming is best for dry leaves only. Vacuuming will remove some damp leaves but not heavy clumps of wet leaves or solid sludge.

Tip

Vacuum power decreases with the height of the house. For second-story cleaning or for problem one-story gutters, use a 6.5 peak horsepower shop vacuum, rentable from most rental yards and from many home centers.

Blow Leaves From the Gutter

With a special attachment to a pressure washer, you can blow leaves out of gutters instead of vacuuming them up. Pressure washer attachments have a series of aluminum tubes that screw or snap together, extending from 9 to 18 feet, depending on the model. At the top is a curved gutter-cleaning elbow. The inlet at the bottom of the pole connects to a pressure washer.

Blowing leaves from the gutter with a pressure washer is a dirty project. Leaves and mud end up on the roof, siding, and windows. For thick sludge and heavy material, though, pressure washing leaves can be a better choice than vacuuming. The pressure-driven water breaks up mud and sends it down the downspouts.

When to Clean Your Gutters From the Ground

Cleaning gutters from the ground is best done when the leaves are dry, lightweight, and airy. After the leaves dampen and decay, they become much more difficult to clean from the ground. Try to clean the gutters in anticipation of rain, snow, or wind. High wind may blow large items like branches or pine cones into the gutters, hindering leaf removal.

Safety Considerations

Do not stand on the edge of the roof to remove leaves or to inspect your work. If using a step ladder to extend your reach, stand only on the lowest rung or two for better stability. Purchase additional vacuum tubes to reach second-story gutters. Keep all extension poles, particularly metal poles, far away from power lines. Do not direct the water flow toward electrical devices.

Wear eye and hearing protection when using shop vacuums and pressure washers.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection

Materials

Vacuuming Leaves

  • 1 2-1/2-inch gutter cleaning accessory kit
  • 1 shop vacuum

Blowing Out Leaves

  • 1 telecoping pressure washer extension kit with gutter elbow
  • 1 pressure washer

Instructions

How to Clean Gutters From the Ground With a Vacuum

  1. Assemble the Tubes

    Typically, four or five tubes fit together, with the male ends of the tubes pointing toward the vacuum. Fit the gutter elbow on the end. Make sure that the vacuum is on wet mode, with no filters or bags. The vacuum should be clean to start with.

    Tip

    Some accessory kits come with an optional nozzle. Do not use the nozzle on vacuum mode. It is meant for blower mode.

  2. Test the Length of the Tube

    Raise the tube to the gutter. The end of the gutter elbow should comfortably fit over the top ridge of the gutter without the need for you to stretch or over-reach.

  3. Begin at the Downspout

    Turn on the vacuum. Raise the tube to the gutter, starting at a downspout. Rest the end of the nozzle on top of the leaves and let the vacuum slowly suck them through. If successful, you'll hear debris skittering down the tube.

  4. Work Toward the Center of the Gutters

    For gutters that are thick with leaves, it's usually best to pick up the nozzle and set it on the next section of leaves rather than sliding the nozzle. For light debris, you may be able to slide the nozzle between gutter hangers. When you reach the center of the gutters, go to the other downspout (if there is one) and work back toward the center again.

  5. Remove Large Clumps of Debris by Hand

    Thick clumps of leaves, twigs, or non-organic debris will occasionally stick to the end of the gutter elbow. Leave the shop vacuum running. Slowly lower the tube. Hold the gutter elbow, with debris attached, over a yard waste container. Turn off the shop vacuum. The debris will fall off.

How to Clean Gutters From the Ground With a Pressure Washer

  1. Remove the Downspout Extensions

    If the downspouts have extensions, remove them.

  2. Assemble the Tubes

    Assemble the telescoping tubes, adding only as many tubes as is required to reach the gutters. Add the gutter cleaning elbow to the top of the tube assembly.

  3. Test the Pressure Washer

    Connect the tube assembly's water inlet to the pressure washer. Attach the tube assembly to the support harness, if any. Turn on the faucet for the hose feeding the pressure washer. Turn on the pressure washer and give it time to gain pressure. Test the pressure washer in the air to get a feel for it.

  4. Start at the End of the Gutters

    Place the end of the gutter elbow near the top of the downspout. The gutter elbow should be angled slightly away from the downspout and toward the center of the gutters.

  5. Work Toward the Center of the Gutters

    Gradually move the gutter elbow toward the center of the gutters. Blast the leaves over the top ridge of the gutters. Water and small particles should start to flow out of the bottom of the downspout.

  6. Start on the Other Side

    When you reach the center, move the cleaning apparatus to the other downspout, if any. Work toward the center until no more leaves are blown out of the gutters.

  7. Finish Cleaning the Gutters

    When the water running out of all downspouts is clear, the gutter is now clean. Power off the pressure washer and disconnect all tubes. Replace the downspout extensions.

Tips for Cleaning Gutters From the Ground

  • The 2-1/2-inch gutter cleaning accessory kit used to vacuum out gutters can usually be converted for blowing out gutters. Attach the tubes to the vacuum's air outflow port. Attach the narrow nozzle at the end of the gutter elbow.
  • Cover bushes, air conditioner compressors, and other items directly below the gutters with plastic sheeting to keep them clean.
  • Wipe the ends of vacuum extension poles before you connect them for a tighter fit.
  • Double-check the tightness of the gutter elbow to avoid losing it on the roof.
  • Check the status of the gutters by securely attaching a phone to a paint roller. Slip a paint roller cover on the roller handle. Next, attach the phone to the roller cover with heavy rubber bands. With the phone on video record mode, lift the phone on an extension pole above the gutters. The roller will automatically rotate to keep the phone pointing downward. Use this method at your own risk.

When to Call a Professional

Thick sludge, decayed organic material, moss, composite shingle particles, and large items like twigs and branches are difficult to clean from gutters from the ground. Call a professional gutter cleaning company to access the gutters with ladders and to clean the gutters by hand.