Tips and tools for safely cleaning gutters

Cleaning your gutters is among the most laborious of fall maintenance chores. Falling leaves from surrounding trees will not only cover your lawn, but land in your home’s gutters too. The result can be overflowing rain water that often leads to flooded basements, weakened foundations, and other costly water damage. Depending on the construction of your home, cleaning the gutters may be a simple task involving a bucket, ladder, and pair of gloves. Other homes, however, appear to require skilled aerial acrobats from the Barnum & Bailey Circus to reach the high areas safely.

No matter your circumstance, it’s important to have the right tools and follow some basic safety precautions.

Helpful tools
  • A ladder – it should be secure with wide rungs for stability, and equipped with proper locking mechanisms. Also make sure the ladder is tall enough; you should never stand on the top rung or highest step. An extension ladder should always have at least three rungs over the top of the roof to allow you to get on and off with ease. Move the ladder often to avoid overreaching, and wear secure protective footwear – never flip flops or sandals.
  • Waterproof work gloves – will help protect hands from foul-smelling debris and potential encounters with stinging insects.
  • A small trowel – like one used in the garden, will help scoop out materials.
  • A high-pressure garden hose – can help clear smaller remaining leaves.
  • Safety glasses – they’re a good idea too.
  • A five-gallon bucket – tethered to a rope, it can contain all the waste and be lowered to a trusty helper below to empty into a wheelbarrow before hoisting it back up. A leaf blower – some are equipped to help the process along and may require the use of hearing protection.

If you live in a heavily wooded area where leaves and debris from overhead trees are inevitable, or cleaning your gutters proves to be a dangerous aerial escapade, it may be time to consider hiring a professional, but make sure they have proper insurance coverage.

You can also purchase specially designed gutters or attachments to minimize the need to climb that ladder. But, do your research. According to Consumer Reports, many of the professional products are disappointing, while some do-it-yourself products found at local home improvement stores don’t fare much better.