Copper gutters are unique in that they can naturally change color over time. When left to progress, the finish may develop a patina as it goes through an oxidation process. At this time, you can clean the copper gutters to restore their natural color. Whether the gutters are allowed to oxidize or not, copper gutters will require regular maintenance and cleaning for proper function.
Clean copper gutters work better, last longer, and enhance your home’s curb appeal. Regularly cleaning your copper gutters will help them maintain their natural shine and color and prevent overflows that can cause ground erosion. If you’ve wondered how to clean copper gutters, you’ve come to the right place.
Cleaning copper gutters is done in four simple steps, which are:
- Removing the debris
- Choosing a cleaning solution
- Using the cleaner correctly
- Rinsing and drying the surface to prevent spots and streaks
We have practical tips for cleaning your copper gutters safely and effectively using cleaning solutions and soft tools.
Bear in mind that you should only clean your gutters when comfortable at heights on a ladder while wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment. Otherwise, it’s best to hire a gutter cleaning professional.
Removing Debris From Copper Gutters
Learning how to clean copper gutters begins by removing any loose debris. Pine cones, large leaves, and twigs can accumulate in your gutters and even lead to an overflow.
Overflows can cause erosion, so keeping your copper gutters clear is essential to preventing landscaping and foundation damage.
Copper is easier to scratch than other gutter materials, such as aluminum and steel. As a result, you must use less abrasive tools when cleaning them to prevent permanently damaging the surface.
Here are a few practical tips for removing debris from your gutters:
- Use a stable ladder, along with ladder stabilizers, to access the gutters from above. Avoid resting your ladder against the gutters. If using a ladder is impractical, consider renting scaffolding or hiring a local gutter professional.
- Wear the appropriate PPE, such as eye, hand, and skin protection.
- Use a bucket with a hook to collect and dispose of the debris. Attach a rope to the hook to safely lower the debris to the ground instead of tossing it to the ground.
- Use a plastic gutter scoop instead of metal scrapers and trowels to avoid scratching or gouging the surface.
- Rinse the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose to spray out any remaining debris and avoid rubbing it into the surface, causing scratches.
- Try using a pipe snake on stubborn clogs in the downspouts. If necessary, drill out the pop rivets holding the downspout to the adapter and remove the downspout for cleaning.
Choosing a Cleaner for Your Copper Gutters
As previously mentioned, copper gutters develop a patina over time, indicating the copper has begun to oxidize.
If you prefer the patina color, you can preserve it with a clear coating. Otherwise, you can remove it using household materials or oxidation removers. If the shiny finish is to be preserved, you can apply the clear coating before the oxidation begins.
Matching the appropriate cleaner to your preferred finish will help you maintain your copper gutters and extend their lifespan.
Here are a few tips for how to clean copper gutters and preserve the finish of your choice:
- To keep your shiny copper gutters, use a commercial copper cleaner or polish designed to protect the finish. These often contain mild acids and abrasives to remove tarnish and restore the shiny surface. Then, apply a clear sealer.
- For copper gutters with patina, try a homemade cleaner made of vinegar and salt or lemon juice and baking soda to remove dirt while preserving the patina.
- Water acidity can cause copper gutters to rust. Corrosion will usually require a professional-grade cleaner that contains oxalic acid or phosphoric acid to dissolve the corrosion. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly an N95 respirator mask, eye shield, and gloves, when using these caustic cleaners.
- For lacquered copper gutters, use only mild soap and water to avoid damaging the protective coating.
Applying the Cleaner
You can use various methods to apply cleaning solutions to the gutters but ensure your tools are not abrasive. You can use natural or synthetic sponges, cotton cloths, or any soft material to help dislodge dirt and grime left over from the debris removal step.
Cleaning copper gutters requires less aggressive methods than those used with other materials, like aluminum and galvanized steel. Cleaning solutions reduce the physical pressure required to remove dirt and grime, reducing the chances of damaging the copper surface.
Pressure washers are not generally recommended for applying the cleaning solution to copper gutters, but follow the directions on the bottle.
Here are a few more tips for applying the cleaner to your copper gutters:
- Always wear gloves, eye protection, and other PPE to avoid contact with any harsh chemicals.
- Apply the cleaner in small sections to reduce the repositioning of the ladder.
- Typically, rub the cleaner in circular motions or along the grain of the copper. If using a polish, follow the directions carefully to avoid damaging the finish.
- Allow the cleaner the flash time it requires. The goal is to reduce hard scrubbing, so follow the instructions on the label.
- Wipe off any excess cleaner with another cloth or sponge. This will help remove residue and prepare the gutters for rinsing and drying.
- Use an environmentally friendly cleaning solution. You can combine vinegar and salt, lemon juice and baking soda, or purchase premade copper cleaning solutions.
- Find out if you’ll be required to collect the runoff. Some municipalities are concerned with the quality of the groundwater and may restrict some chemicals from being washed into the soil.
Rinsing and Drying
Rinsing and drying your copper gutters after a thorough cleaning will help preserve the finish and help reduce spots and streaks.
Experienced copper gutter owners recycle old bath towels for this purpose. This ensures no abrasive dirt makes its way into the towels and accidentally scrubbed onto the shiny finish.
Here are a few tips for rinsing and drying your copper gutters:
- When rinsing out debris, use a garden hose with a nozzle to spray clean water over the entire gutter system. This will remove the cleaner residue, as well as any remaining debris.
- Use a soft cloth or towel to dry off the gutters thoroughly. To speed up the process, you can use a leaf blower to help dry the gutters.
- Apply a thin layer of mineral oil or car wax to protect the copper from tarnishing or rusting. You can also purchase copper gutter wax in spray form, which is handy when the gutter system is unusually large.
- Repeat the process as needed or at least once a year. Ideally, you’ll want to clean your copper gutters in the spring to remove winter debris and again after the leaves fall in autumn.
Contact Us To Install a Premium New Copper Gutter System or to Clean Your Existing Gutters
Cleaning your copper gutters enhances your home’s curb appeal while saving you money on avoidable repairs. Plus, your home will be the envy of the neighborhood.
Remember to remove the debris, select and use your cleaner carefully, and rinse and dry your gutters to prevent spots.
If you prefer to leave your home’s copper gutter cleaning in the safe hands of professionals, request a free estimate from our local gutter professionals. And if you’re considering installing new copper gutters or gutter guards, our experienced gutter experts are ready to offer a helping hand. We also assist homeowners coast-to-coast with their roofing and siding needs. Contact our home improvement team today!
What can I use to clean copper gutters?
Be careful not to use a brush that could scratch the copper. Avoid steel brushes in favor of nylon and soft plastic. Using aggressive tools will eventually wear away the surface of the copper and shorten its lifespan.
How do you remove tarnish from copper gutters?
How long does it take for copper gutters to turn green?
Some owners of copper gutters try to speed up the oxidation process. Many use products made especially for the process, including some that control the color. Copper gutters can be treated to patina in shades of blue as well as green.