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How to Clean and Unclog Gutters and Downspouts

Wasn't our fall color spectacular in the Ozarks this season? But now it's November and all of those beautiful leaves had to go somewhere....and you know a bunch of them landed in the gutters. If you procrastinated gutter cleaning, you may now have a clogged downspout on your hands. Here's what you need to do.

Prep for the job.

  • If possible, get help from another person to hold the ladder steady and to turn water on.

  • Select a sturdy, extension ladder to reach the top opening on high roofs.

  • Wear thick suede gloves to protect your hands and work goggles to protect your eyes.

  • If possible, clean from the ladder – and don’t step on the roof.

  • Wait for mild weather conditions to clean the downspouts.

Start at the Bottom

  • Remove the downspout extension to expose the bottom opening. This is especially important if the downspout is connected to an underground drain. Otherwise, trying to remove the clog may simply push it further down.

  • With your gloves on, insert a garden trowel into the downspout and remove any leaves or debris you can reach. Rinse the downspout extension with water from a garden hose to dislodge debris caught here as well.

Back to the Top

  • Climb a sturdy ladder with the end of a garden hose in one hand. When you reach the top opening of the downspout, ask a helper down below to turn on the water. If water flows out of the bottom carrying leaf debris with it, your job is complete.

  • If water backs up into the gutter, a clog is present in the downspout, and you must remove it.

Tips to Remove a Stubborn Clog

Try each of these tips to get that clog to move along:

  • Tap the side of the downspout: Walk down the ladder one rung at a time, gently knocking on the side of the downspout as you go. Then, climb back up and try rinsing the downspout with your garden hose again.

  • Create a seal: Pack a small towel into the top of the downspout, and then insert the garden hose. Ask your helper to turn on the water. The seal you created may be enough to force the blockage out of the bottom opening.

  • Use a handheld auger: Wearing gloves and eye protection, feed the auger into the top or bottom downspout opening and turn the drum clockwise. Once it’s all the way through, pull the cable back. You may need to do this several times to remove the clog completely.

  • Use a power tool: Insert the end of a leaf blower, power washer, or wet/dry vac into the top of the downspout opening. These powerful tools should be able to dislodge stubborn debris.


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