Gutter cleaning is an industry in itself. Clean gutters on a home is a crucial step in any home maintenance program. Home ownership is a growing trend in the USA and people are always looking for new items that will help them take care of their house. Gutters need to be cleaned out, everyone knows this but not all people do it because it is a difficult and sometimes dangerous task. Being in the gutter cleaning industry and having a tool on the market ourselves, I am always alert when new tools hit the market and will sometimes take the plunge and purchase it for testing.
All the years of gutter cleaning, and the constant purchasing and testing of these tools have given me a good knowledge base of what works and what doesn’t. I will briefly review the ones I know about, and give my opinion that may help you pick one that may be right for you.
Gutters can be cleaned one of two ways; with a ladder or while standing on the ground. Professional gutter cleaning companies use ladders to accomplish the task, mainly because it is all they have ever known. Extension ladders are not a familiar tool to a lot of homeowners s and working at heights is something many are uncomfortable with. I have seen a few new tools specifically targeted for homeowners who do not like ladders.
Removing gutter debris from ground level.
Let’s start with the gutter cleaning tools you use from the ground. The most popular tool for homeowners who want to clean gutters from the ground,appears to be the long, lightweight stick, that has two spoons on the end that act like tongs. Gutter Sense was one of the first to bring this type of tool to the market. Their company has been around for a awhile and we are now starting to see other similar tools make it into the fray.
– Different attachments are available such as cameras and mirrors so the gutters can be viewed from the ground.
– For gutters that are cleaned regularly, the tools work quite well.
– You can’t beat the safety factor. You may drop some debris on your head here and there but you will be on the ground when it happens.
– The worst problem I had when using these tools was my neck and shoulder fatigue. Looking straight up the whole time, while holding the tool working the tongs takes a little work. A small home or a home that you are not in a hurry to complete may be a good fit for this type of tool.
– If you have a dirty gutter system, get ready to spend a lot of time ensuring it is cleaned out, it will take you longer to do your gutters. If you want your gutters cleaned but don’t want to use a ladder, these tools are for you.
Using vacuums to clean gutters is starting to get popular especially with professional gutter cleaning companies. Having workers stay on the ground reduces costs on a lot of levels, mainly workman’s comp and safety.
These systems are basically a shop vac system. There are high quality versions out and there are add on kits for Wet/Dry Vacs that you can buy in any box store or online. There are also a lot of actual gutter cleaning systems that you can buy that are “professional” grade. These are stand alone systems that are rather expensive for any homeowner, but would serve anyone cleaning gutters for a living quite well. We have been cleaning gutters in the Raleigh NC area for a long time and I have been asked to demo a couple of these systems. I am not a huge fan. They do work, but mostly not for us.
They do work well WHEN you are cleaning gutters that are well maintained. We clean gutters for a lot of new customers who have not done any gutter maintenance done for a couple years. The gutters are usually packed and full of wet debris and mud. The vacuum systems will clog up easily from what I have seen. The other problem is what do you do about all the accumulated debris in the roof valleys?
A picture from Home Depot site.
While the vacuums are handy, they will not handle all situations.
These are pictures of gutters we see daily. Packed to the top with a layer of composted mud on the bottom, or full of water. A vacuum will clean this but will take forever. We could clean 2 or 3 more gutters on homes before a vacuum would finish a home like this. The mud and water would fill the tank on the vacuum pretty quick and the pine straw will fight and clog of the vacuum tubing. That is just my opinion after trying it.
Gimmicks and Gadgets
I group all the rest of the tools in the gimmicks and gadgets category They are targeted at the homeowner demographic that wants to clean their gutters safely from the ground. From robots to cordless drill operated systems, I really don’t have the time to write about them all. They all work OK or to some degree on gutters that are regularly maintained. They don’t work so well on gutters that are clogged up and full of a lot of wet or muddy debris. Again, what do you do about roof valleys? Chances are very good that a good amount of people buy them and either return them or use them once or twice. Most will be stored in a corner of the garage where they sit until you finally throw them out one day.
They all address the problem of slightly dirty gutters. What they do not address is the types of dirty gutters that most professional cleaners see daily.
Well, not quite this bad, but you get the picture. The only way this gutter is getting cleaned is with a ladder and hands.
Gutter cleaning from ladders
Now we can move on to gutter cleaning from a ladder. This is where the real cleaning happens, window cleaners call it “nose to glass” cleaning. I would like to throw in a quick safety plug. PLEASE, never use an extension ladder to clean gutters without a ladder stabilizer. I have seen a lot of bent gutters where contractors have leaned their ladders directly against them.
Gutters are not meant to hold any real weight except the flow of water as it rolls through during rain. Not only does the ladder stabilizer hold the ladder off the gutters, it is 100 times safer. Your ladder stands less of a chance of slipping off the roof, the rubber feet acts as grips. If you are not using a ladder stabilizer, you have no business cleaning gutters. I have been in this industry for 11 years and I have heard of a few falls from colleagues. Every one of them was not using a stabilizer bar.
The best way to clean a gutter is to get up close and personal. Gutter cleaning tools are available for anyone who does work from a ladder. The good ones are the ones that you can screw on to a pole so that your reach is greatly extended. They are a spoon or scraper typed device that allows you to pull the debris to you instead of having to move your ladder every time to reach it. They are a great addition to your gutter cleaning toolbox.
They are not designed for efficiency when trying to get around the gutter hangars. It takes a good effort to get the debris past the hangars.
The best tool for cleaning out gutter systems that we have found is,coincidentally, the one I designed! Don’t act surprised, it’s my blog!
THE GUTTER TOOL was designed and refined over a period of 4 or 5 years by me. I have cleaned, literally, thousands of gutters. All day, most every day in the fall and winter, and again after pollen season in the spring. Plus most of the time before we clean a roof. I like this tool and my guys love it because it is efficient, user friendly and designed specifically to work around gutter hangars.
More safety tips: Wear protective gloves! Gutters have lots of sharp edges and hidden screws that will cut you up pretty bad.
It allows you to clean gutters comfortably 20 feet at a time. You will get debris through the gutter hangars much more quickly.
Especially relevant, angled hook on the tool allows you to pull the debris to you and under the hangars each time you come to them. The same hook allows you to reach up behind skylights (with a long enough pole) and clean debris out from behind the tops where it tends to accumulate. You can use it to clean around and behind most structures on your roof and it is wide enough that you can hand the tool on the ladder, so that you have your hands free when climbing or descending the ladder.
The scraper or spoon part of the tool is angled to fit all gutters. You can use it to push out debris or pull it to you. See our video section for tips.
One of the best features of the tool is that you will be moving your ladder a lot less. On a 2300 square foot home with a two car garage it will save you -guessing conservatively- 6 ladder moves. That is 6 times up and down ladders. If you are a professional gutter cleaning company, and do gutters all day, that is a lot of fatigue saved. It is also less time moving a ladder and less chance of anything happening.
Not really a con but;
You will need to use your own pole or buy one. We do not currently stock them but we are working on that. This is another area where I have used a bunch of different brands. I do not favor adjusting the length of a pole with a screw type handle. Just a pain. Around 3 years ago, we settled on the Wooster Sherlock. It is a standard 6-12 foot extension pole with the push tab lack locks in place quickly and easily. They are available at most box stores
It is not the be all end all tool. None of them are and they will all serve your gutter cleaning needs in some fashion. While it is a great addition to any tool box, there are situations where you may find one of the other tools more suitable. But for the price, it is worth having handy, to be sure.