Yes, gutter cleaning is a messy job, but it's an important maintenance item to keep both your gutters and your roof working as designed.  Twice-yearly clean-outs (spring and fall) and inspection are recommended.  Debris can build up in gutters, blocking the water flow.  This is especially problematic in the winter, because if snow melt can't run off due to blocked gutters, melting water can re-freeze and build up on the roof edge, causing damage to your gutters, roof, soffit, and fascia. You're probably going to get dirty, so dress for it.  Put on a pair of heavy rubber gloves or work gloves.  Then get out the ladder and the hose.  You'll also need a garden trowel or similar tool to scrape out debris.  Here are the steps to a good gutter cleaning:
  • Resist the urge to spray everything out with the hose until you've scraped out the debris.  Starting with a hose will only cause clogging in the downspouts, which can be difficult to remove.
  • Your first step should be to scrape out the leaves, sticks, pine needles, and other matter in the gutters.  You can grab the big clumps with your hands, and then scoop out the rest with a trowel.
  • If you have asphalt shingles, you may notice some paste-like gunk; this is a combination of roofing granules, dirt, and water.  Scrape this out as well.
  • When you have removed all the debris, flush the gutters with water from your garden hose.
  • As you are hosing the gutters out, look for any areas where water is pooling up.  This indicates you have a dent or sagging area that needs attention.  Gutters need a continual slow slope toward the downspout in order to work properly.
  • Once the gutters are clean, insert the hose in the downspout from the top and turn the water on as hard as it can go to thoroughly flush the downspouts.
  • If you notice any leaks at the seams in the gutters or downspouts as you flush, make a note of those areas and then repair with silicone sealer once the gutters are dry.
  • Check for rusted-through holes; these areas cannot be repaired with silicone sealer - it's best to replace that section of gutter.
  • If you notice any areas where the gutters are loose, you may be able to do some simple repairs with gutter hangers and gutter screws, which can be found at most home improvement stores.  Don't use regular screws - you need the holding power of gutter screws.
  • Don't try to replace missing or damaged straps yourself - this involves lifting up roofing material, which is best left to a professional.
If you notice rusted-through or broken sections of your gutters, it's time to call in a professional for sectional repairs or replacement.  Your gutters will help your roof function well throughout the winter, so it's a good idea to make sure they are in top working order before the snow falls.