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When and how to clean your gutters

Most of us would happily get our minds of out the gutter if the gutter in question is attached to our homes, and not just a figure of speech.

Cleaning gutters is a thankless, often gross chore, but it needs to be done if you want to properly maintain your home. The question is, how often should you do it and what’s the best way? Here are some tips on how frequently you should clean your gutters, how to stay safe while you’re doing it and ways you can expedite the process.

You should clean your gutters at least twice a year: once in the Fall and once in the Spring. Autumn is an obvious choice to clean out your gutters. You want to make sure you get rid of all the leaves that fall annually from the trees, as well as the sticks, dirt and grime that have accumulated throughout the year. 

Spring is equally important. Dirt and other debris most likely built up throughout the winter and scraping it all out will help ensure our gutters do not back up in heavy rainfalls, which will protect your exterior walls and foundation.

If you live in a heavily treed neighborhood or have a messy tree like a Southern Magnolia, Cottonwood or Sweet Gum, you may want to clean your gutters out more frequently. Southern Magnolias drop twigs and leaves year round and, trust us, Sweet Gum balls—the seed and fruit of a Sweet Gum tree—are not sweet at all. They are messy. 
Always remember, the more frequently you do it, the less time it’ll take.

How to clean your gutters

Unfortunately, there’s no way around it: you have to get up there. When it comes to actually scooping the goop, there are no shortcuts. Get a ladder and prepare to get dirty. It’s true, you can purchase gutter scoopers or use a trowel to clean out your gutters, but in our experience there’s no substitute for using your hands. Make sure to get a good pair of water proof gloves.
Start at the downspouts and work your way back. When you’ve removed all the leaves, sticks and major clumps, run water from a hose down the gutter to get rid of the rest of the debris and also check for any cracks or leaks or to see if your downspouts are clogged.

Safety first

The most time-consuming part of cleaning your gutters is moving the ladder. It’s tempting to leave it in one spot as long as possible and reach further and further away as you scoop out your gutter debris. Really, though, there’s no need to take that kind of risk. You aren’t saving yourself much time, in the long run, and even a relatively short fall can cause lasting injuries. Make sure your hips are between the sides of the ladder and don’t reach out too far.
Also, do not attempt to clean the gutters from above, leaning over them from the rooftop. Attacking the dirt from a steady ladder down below is the best, safest way. 

A few quick tips

  • You can eliminate some of the mess if you wait until your gutters are dry. 
  • Try to clean your gutters at least two days after a heavy rain. 
  • Spread a tarp under the area you’re cleaning to catch the debris. It will make the final stage of your gutter cleaning easier. 
  • If you are really not fond of climbing a ladder or doing this kind of maintenance, consider replacing your cutters with a covered system. There are also after-market products you can purchase to help eliminate the build up in your gutters, including gutter whiskers, mesh guards and snap-on covers. 
With the right kind of maintenance and regular cleanings, you can keep your gutters flowing freely—and that will help protect your walls, your foundation and your home, in general.

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