Everything You Need to Know About Cleaning the Outside of Your Gutters

Mariel Loveland
Written by Mariel Loveland
Updated July 11, 2022
Dark colored gutters on home exterior
Photo: Alex White / Adobe Stock


  • White vinegar, cream of tartar, or dish soap are good DIY gutter cleaners.

  • Use a power washer or scrub brush for caked-on grime.

  • A specialized stain remover can banish black streaks.

  • Sand and seal light corrosion stains.

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You probably already know why it’s so important to clean the inside of your gutters. Nobody wants leaks and potential roof issues—but cleaning the outside of gutters is equally as important if you want to maintain curb appeal. 

The cost of gutter cleaning is usually somewhere around $160, but some people prefer rolling up their sleeves and doing the job on their own. So, how do you get it done? Here’s everything you need to know.

How to Clean the Outside of Gutters

If you’re not hiring a professional, there are multiple effective ways to clean the outside of your gutters. Most people either:

  • Use a power washer (if you want to clean without getting on a ladder)

  • Use a ladder to reach the gutters and scrub by hand

  • Clean with a hose and long handle brush

  • Use a gutter wand (which is a hook-like curved attachment)

If you do use a power washer, avoid spraying aluminum window caps because they could dent. Also avoid spraying damaged siding (check for common siding problems beforehand) and always wear protective eyewear.

If you choose to use a ladder, you’ll probably need one that’s about 10 feet tall. To keep things safe, ask a friend or family member to help. Have them hold the ladder at the base and point out areas that need the most attention.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Solution

When you’re cleaning the outside of your gutters, you’re going to need a good cleaning solution. White gutters are commonly made with aluminum, which is susceptible to corrosion by harsh cleaners, but they may also be made out of vinyl. Before you spray anything, check your gutter manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines and ensure you use an appropriate cleaner. Here are some options.

Store-Bought Gutter Cleaner

You can purchase a gutter cleaner online or at a big-box home improvement store. Popular brands include 409, Krud Kutter, 30 Seconds, Simple Green, and Chomp Gutter and Metal Cleaner. Just make sure that you’re choosing a cleaner that works with your gutter material. Read the bottle before you buy it to make sure it’s a good match.

White Vinegar and Water

White vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent that’s also environmentally friendly. Use one cup of vinegar for every gallon of water.

Cream of Tartar and Water

Use cream of tartar and a small amount of water to make a cleaning paste for your gutters. Scrub the paste along your gutter and rinse away.

Liquid Dish Soap and Baking Soda

A cleaning solution of dish soap, baking soda, and water will break up stains and also deodorize and decontaminate the channels and downspouts.

Removing Caked-On Grime

For compacted dirt or extra grimy gutters, use a soft-bristled scrub brush to wash away the buildup. You can purchase a brush at your local hardware store, but if you want to avoid getting up on a ladder, make sure you use an extendable brush. These can reach up to 15 feet in length.

If your gutters are made from aluminum, make sure you choose a softer brush. Materials like steel wool can scratch the surface. A PVC brush or melamine foam sponge are gentler solutions.

Removing Black Streaks

There are a number of theories as to why black streaks (known as tiger striping) form on gutters. Some say it’s from air pollution. Others say it’s residue from decomposing organic matter like leaves and twigs. Some professionals even claim it’s caused by the tar on asphalt shingles. Either way, it’s really difficult to remove once it’s oxidized. 

To clean black streaks, you’ll probably need to use a specialized gutter stain remover purchased from a hardware store. If that fails, painting and gutter replacement may be your only options.

The best course of action is to try and stop black streaks before they start. Hire a local gutter cleaner for regular cleanings to prevent the sort of build-up that causes overflows and staining. 

Removing Rust and Corrosion

Aluminum gutters are popular because they’re rust-resistant—but that doesn’t mean they don’t ever corrode. If you’ve neglected your gutters (hey, it happens) or live near the ocean, you may notice some staining from rust and corrosion. If you catch it early enough, it’s possible to clean.

If scrubbing with a traditional cleaning solution doesn’t remove rust stains, you can sand them down by hand or scrub them away with a wire brush. Keep in mind that this removes the protective outer layer of the aluminum, so you’ll need to seal the area with a rust sealant or paint. Unfortunately, if the corrosion has created a hole, you’ll need to call a local gutter repair contractor to help. The problem will only get worse, but you can slow it down if you catch it early.

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