Watching leaves turn to beautiful hues of red, yellow, and orange every fall is one of the best things about nature. The only problem is that they don’t stay those vibrant colors for quite long enough before they wither up and fall onto our yards and roofs. Although you can get away without raking up the leaves (they make great mulch for your lawn!), there’s no getting around how difficult it can be to unclog the buildup that always makes its way into our gutters. For those who like to get the job done themselves, it can be a difficult task involving a ladder and a lot of patience to scoop the debris out by hand. Even if you’re brave enough to not be bothered by the heights, this method clearly come with some potentially serious safety issues. Of course, letting the gutters become so stuffed can lead them to expand in freezing weather, which can cause major damage. So we asked the pros how to clean gutters without a ladder — here, their genius ways to do it from the safety of solid ground.
Why it’s important to keep your gutters clear
The role of roof gutters is to prevent rainwater and melting snow from pooling around your home. “If you don’t maintain your gutters twice a year — spring and fall — they will likely get clogged with leaves, other tree material and dirt,” cautions roofer and gutter expert Cris Stevenson of 730 South Exteriors. “Clogs can cause your gutters to get waterlogged, which may lead to roof leaks, ice dams, moss, mold and mildew damage,” he explains. “And if the weight of the debris in the gutters gets to be too much, the gutters themselves may warp or come loose.” Now that you know why it’s essential clear your gutters, just read on for a few easy ladder-free how-tos.
Why you don’t want to use a ladder
You know the old saying, “It’s as easy as falling off a ladder” — and that’s the truth. In 2014, the CDC released a study that found found that falls remain a leading cause of unintentional injury mortality nationwide, and 43 percent of fatal falls in the last decade have involved a ladder. Indeed, each year, more than 500,000 Americans are treated for ladder-related injuries. More than 97% of these incidents occurred in non-occupational settings; by homeowners working on their own homes. More than 300 die from these injuries annually. Long story short: If you can do a task without pulling out a ladder, it’s safer to do so.
4 easy ways to clean gutters without a ladder
Yep, you can put that extension ladder back in your garage. There are several simple methods you can use to get your gutters clear while keeping your feet firmly on the ground. Just consider one of the below options:
1. How to clean gutters without a ladder: Rent a wet/dry vac
Home-care expert extraordinaire Bob Vila advises grabbing a wet-dry vac — you can rent one for around $30 from hardware stores — and using a gutter hose attachment, also rentable, that allows it to reach the gutters. “Now you can just walk around your house and suck out the debris. Goodbye, ladder! Goodbye, clogs,” he says.
Check out how this works — and discover how to easily fashion your own attachment using PVC pipe — in this popular TikTok video:
If you already own a wet/dry vac and want to buy your own hose attachment, just make sure it will fit whichever make/model you own. Two options that are compatible with most models: WORX Universal Gutter Cleaning Attachment Kit (Buy from Lowes, $54) or the Toro Universal Gutter Cleaning Kit, (Buy from Walmart, $59).
2. Enlist your garden hose
If you don’t want to rent a wet/dry vac, no problem! Just grab your hose. This method works much like the wet/dry vac and requires a special extension wand that will allow your hose to blow debris out using high-pressure water. You just need to make sure your hose is long enough to access all the gutters around your home. To do: “Fit the extension wand on the end of your garden hose, then aim the spray so that it rinses the gutters clear — pay special attention around the downspouts,” says Vila. Find extensions at any home improvement store or consider two we like: Orbit Telescoping Gutter Cleaning Wand (Buy from Amazon, $30) or Super Blaster Home & Gutter Spray Wand (Buy from Walmart, $36).
3. How to clean gutters without a ladder: Use your leaf blower
With a special extension attached to your leaf blower’s front end, you can safely reach your gutters from the ground and blow their contents into oblivion. Check out how it works in this popular video:
The only potential obstacle with this method? Unlike the wet/dry vac, which sucks up and collects the gutter gunk, the blower will cause the leaves to fall around the perimeter of your house. “That’s why it can help to lay an old sheet or cut-open garbage bags on the ground under your work area,” says Kevin Busch of Mr. Handyman. “The debris will fall on the sheets; then you can easily scoop up and remove it all when you’re done.” You can find gutter attachments in any home improvement store, but because blowers come in so many different sizes, it’s best to look for one designed for the make/model of the unit you own.
4. Grab *these* household tools
If your home has windows that allow you to easily reach your gutters, you can still clean them by hand without needing a ladder: Just grab a spaghetti spoon, garden trowel or kitty litter scoop. “These tools are the perfect size and shape to scoop out the gunk that build up in your gutters,” says Busch. “Just have a bucket or garbage bag with you and scoop the contents into that, so you can easily discard it when you’re done.”
How to deep clean your gutters
While clearing your gutters twice a year — in spring and fall, when Mother Nature produces the most leaves and tree debris — is recommended, it can also be helpful to give them some extra TLC now and then.
“One thing I do every few years is make a gentle cleaning solution with 50% water and 50% white vinegar,” says Tom Monson, owner of Monson Lawn & Landscaping. “Once the gutters are cleared out, I just add the mixture to a bucket and pour it in the gutters — this really helps prevent buildup of mold and mildew. Once you’ve emptied the bucket, spray the gutters out with a garden hose and you’re done.”
How to prevent clogged gutters in the first place
Leaf/gutter guards are panels that slide over the top of your gutters and have filters to allow water in, while blocking leaves or other large debrs. They can be especially helpful for homeowners in areas with a lot of trees, which otherwise might require more frequent gutter cleanings than twice a year.
One thing to keep in mind about guards, is that your gutters will still need cleaning. That’s because guards can’t fully prevent dirt, dust and other small particles from collecting, so you’ll need to flush the gutters out once or twice a year — a hose is ideal for this — to keep grime from building up.
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