Gutter Cleaning Mistakes You've Been Making This Whole Time

Owning a home is all fun and games until the inevitable, dreaded leak happens. Whether it's in the middle of the fall and water starts to seep in from the weight of heavy, wet leaves, or it's the peak of summer and a strong storm brings enough rain to creep into the kitchen ceiling, always start by checking your gutters.

Keeping up with debris and leaves gunked in your gutters is key to avoiding any sort of leak down the line. It's a terrible task and a tough job — there's no doubt about it. Anything that requires a ladder also likely requires a good bit of time to talk yourself up to getting it done at all (we can't blame you there). The last thing you want to do is go through the effort of tidying up your gutters for a half-done job, and you definitely don't want to half-prepare for it, either — that's an accident waiting to happen.

We're here to break down some of the most common gutter cleaning mistakes so that when you do have the courage to climb that ladder, at least you'll be getting the job done right.

Don't use the wrong tools on your gutter

To clean your gutters, you'll need a few things, like a gutter trowel, a sturdy ladder, a hose, and a good chunk of time. One thing you definitely don't need? A leaf blower — sure, you're dealing with some foliage here, but leave the leaf blowing for the ground level.

According to Chimney Doctors New York, using any sort of blower or vacuum tool might make sense at first, but it ultimately causes more work in the long run when cleaning your gutters. Most people end up assuming the power tool will do the whole job for them, and end up stuck with half-clean gutters.

Another major con? Using a leaf blower usually sends all of that gunk elsewhere in your yard (or even your precious garden). It could even pile the mess up further on your roof. And while your gutters may end up relatively clean, chances are you'll be cleaning up the same mess somewhere else next.

Avoid putting harsh cleaners on your gutters

Some commercial grade cleaners may be of use if you're dealing with a particularly messy gutter situation, but before you head to the store, try getting the job done with a simpler at-home mixture. All Around Maintenance Inc. warns against using any sort of harsh chemical or cleaner when cleaning your gutters or roof, since you may inadvertently cause more damage to the area. If you aren't careful to keep the cleaner on the gutters, it could discolor your roof or eat away at the shingles, causing it to rot in small areas down the line.

Depending on the make and material of your gutters, commercial cleaners can deteriorate more than just the caked-on grime, causing the gutter itself to corrode and break down. This is particularly a problem with aluminum gutters, notes The Leaflet. In that case, the best option is to whip up a quick mixture of water and white vinegar — the foolproof DIY solution that cleans all!

And even if you are cautious enough, it's best to keep in mind that whatever cleaner you're using in the gutter will eventually run off and drain somewhere in your yard or on your house — so make sure that whatever cleaner you use is safe, in case you come into contact with it again.

Don't skip your semi-annual cleaning

Gutter cleaning is a time consuming job, and there's admittedly a sense of dread that comes around each time you have to pencil it in. Nonetheless, make sure that you're accounting for cleaning your gutters on a regular schedule — and no, we don't mean monthly.

Lowe's suggests a full clean of your gutter system at least two times a year. You don't need to hop on a ladder in the dead of winter, but try to spend some time removing the leaves each fall, and any piled-up debris every spring. There's no need to work on your gutters more often than that, but you should always check on them if there's been a significant storm, heavy rain, or you're starting to see signs of a leak or gutter damage. But twice a year doesn't sound all too bad in the grand scheme of things, right?

Don't rush when inspecting your gutters

Picture this: You've gone through the trouble of getting out the ladder, dragging out the hose, and even dug out your trusty trowel to get the job done. You might be in a rush to cross gutter cleaning off your to-do list, but it's better that you take your time and pay close attention to the state of your gutters beyond just the gunk that's piled up in them.

The last thing you want to do is break out the ladder a few weeks after cleaning because of a stubborn leak that reappeared. Instead, use the time that you've already accounted for to double-check for any indications of wear and tear. Keep an eye out for any cracks in the gutters, which may be a warning sign for the state of your foundation down the line. If these small damaged areas go unrepaired (which, chances are, they will, since you're only up on the ladder a few times a year!), you may run into foundational issues down the line as a result of unwanted water pooling up (via Best Contracting LLC).

Never laugh off ladder safety

While most of the mistakes on this list lead to things like damaged roofs or overpacked gutters, this one can cause a whole lot more damage: Ladder safety and general protective precautions are absolutely necessary when cleaning gutters — there's no exception. While it may be tempting to get the job over with on a breezy fall day all on your own, you should always wait until you have a spotter before pitching a ladder.

Gutter Helmet explains that "overreaching" — or extending yourself too far over the ladder, instead of getting down and maneuvering it closer — is a common mistake homeowners make when cleaning their gutters. Overreaching can cause your weight on the ladder to shift, which could lead to injury, especially if you don't have a spotter.

The safety measures go beyond your ladder set-up, too. Chimney Doctors New York says to always be sure to have on the proper footwear and attire before you start the job. You'll want to wear a good pair of shoes with a solid grip, a decent pair of gloves that will protect your hands from any surprise debris, and some sort of eye goggles — you never know what can fly out of your gutters after six months, after all!