5 Tips to Clean the Outside of Your Gutters Safely and Efficiently

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated September 22, 2021
Dark colored gutters on home exterior
Alex White - stock.adobe.com

Safe and efficient tips for boosting your home's curb appeal

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You probably know that cleaning the inside of your gutters is vital for keeping water in its place, preventing roof issues, and even avoiding structural damage. But it turns out, cleaning the outside of gutters is equally key for maintaining curb appeal, preventing dirt buildup, and keeping your home looking like new.

There’s no sense sugarcoating it, though: cleaning the outside of gutters isn’t glamorous, as it’s one job that likely requires you to get up on a ladder and apply some serious elbow grease. If you’re not up to the task for any reason, consider whether hiring a local gutter cleaning professional makes more sense for you.

In this guide, you’ll learn five simple steps to help you clean the outside of your gutters safely and efficiently.

1. Choose a Cleaning Strategy

The average cost to clean gutters is $159, so doing it yourself can definitely save you some cash. There are multiple effective ways to clean the outside of gutters, though, and one might work better for you depending on your circumstances.

Based on your equipment and comfort level with heights, you could either clean your gutters from a ladder or the ground with a power washer (just be very careful to avoid spraying aluminum window caps, as they could dent) or hose.

Depending on which you choose, you’ll need a hose or power washer, a cleaning solution, a scrub brush, and potentially a 10-foot tall ladder. 

For safety reasons, we highly recommend asking a friend or family member to help out when tackling a DIY gutter cleaning job. Having them hold the ladder at the base is a basic safety best practice—and they can also point out the areas that need the most attention.

2. Choose a Cleaning Solution

Close up of white gutters on a home
Tamas - stock.adobe.com

Today, white gutters are commonly made with aluminum, which is susceptible to corrosion by too-harsh cleaners. You have a few options for a cleaning solution, most of which fall on the gentler side.

Before you spray anything, check your gutter manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines and ensure you provide an appropriate cleaner. Generally speaking, though, good gutter cleaning solutions include:

  • 409 brand cleaner (available at major retailers)

  • Chomp Gutter and Metal Cleaner (available at online retailers and big-box home improvement stores)

  • Water and vinegar (use one cup of vinegar for every gallon of water)

  • Cream of tartar and water (applied at the end as a paste to help prevent oxidation)

If your gutters are covered in dried dirt, use warm water to loosen it faster.

Some gutters are made from vinyl, which requires different cleaning supplies. A squirt of Dawn brand dish soap mixed with a half cup of bleach and two gallons of water is a good homemade solution.

Tip: If you choose to use a ladder, you could also clean the inside of your gutters. Cleaning your gutters is important for many reasons, and you can use the same water-vinegar mixture both inside and out. (Boy, what isn’t vinegar good for?) Cap the ends of your gutters, fill with solution, and let it sit for one hour. Then, unplug your gutters and rinse the inside thoroughly with a hose.

3. Get an Outdoor Scrub Brush

For compacted dirt or really grimy gutters, consider getting a soft-bristled scrub brush to help wash away the buildup. These brushes can be purchased at home improvement stores or online and start at $20 to $30. A longer, extendable brush (up to 15 feet in length) may cost up to $100 but could be worth it for two-story homes or gutters in hard-to-reach areas.

Avoid using abrasive scrub materials like steel wool, as they’ll scratch the aluminum. (A melamine foam sponge, on the other hand, works great on tough stains.)

4. Wash Once, Rinse Twice

Whether you’re using a store-bought cleaner or a homemade concoction, rinse it away thoroughly. Rinsing your gutters a second time will help prevent any excess cleaner or solution from drying on your gutters or siding.

If you notice white residue or streaks the day after you clean the outside of your gutters, hit the affected areas with a hose or power washer again to remove them.

5. Paint Gutter Fascia

If you’re in the mood to combine home improvement projects that boost curb appeal, now’s also a great time to paint the wooden boards behind the gutters on your house, known as gutter fascia.

These boards serve vital purposes such as reinforcing your roof, sealing off your attic from moisture, and keeping your gutters mounted. Weather and time can cause the paint under your gutters to wash away, which may stick out—especially if you’ve maintained or are considering upgrading your siding.

Use quick-drying acrylic paint that matches your siding. Oil paint takes longer to dry and can lead to mildew, especially in shaded areas.

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