Home Gutters How to Clean Downspouts (A Guide from a Pro)

How to Clean Downspouts (A Guide from a Pro)

Gutter downspout cleaning is vital to keeping your downspouts clear. But most homeowners don’t have the first idea of how to clean downspouts. Not to worry, though. We’ll explain more about how to unclog a gutter downspout in a bit. But first, let’s talk more about downspouts.

How to Clean a Downspout Using Different Methods

Generally, how you clean a downspout will depend on the location and severity of the clog. Before you begin any work, make sure you use suitable personal protective equipment for the project. These can include eye protection, gloves, and fall protection.

Here are a few practical tips from the pros you can use to clean your downspouts safely:

Remove the Debris Manually, With or Without a Tool

Wear durable gloves if you use your hands or a tool. The debris could contain sharp objects, like a roofing tack, that can injure your hands. Be especially careful around the opening of the downspouts because the edges are usually jagged and sharp.

This method is simple and easy to perform. Just use your hands or a tool to remove debris or blockages from the opening or bottom of your downspout.  You can also use a trowel, spatula, or a plumber’s snake to dislodge a clog if needed.

Collect what you gather in a trash bag instead of tossing the debris to the ground. Roofing tacks or other sharp objects can become dangerous if struck by a lawn mower or trimmer, so it’s a good idea to keep them out of your yard.

Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions to using a garden hose to clean your downspouts. Some municipalities require that homeowners collect any discharge water used to clean their downspouts, especially if they use chemical cleaners. Always check before using water to clean your downspouts, just in case.

Using Water Pressure

Water pressure is an effective and powerful method for cleaning a downspout with a deep or stubborn clog inside the pipe. 

Professionals will use a garden hose, pressure washer, and even a sewer jetter to dislodge stubborn clogs. However, this job is best left to professionals if you don’t have the safety gear, assistance, and experience to work with a pressure washer on a wet, sloped surface.

There are tools you can use from the relative safety of the ground to help dislodge downspout clogs. Accessories are available that extend your reach and pressurize the water from an outdoor spigot. Many are angled downward to make the job easier.

You can also spray water upward from the bottom of the downspout. Sometimes, a combination of a sewer snake and running water works well but be prepared to get wet. If the clog doesn’t easily dislodge, professionals drill out the rivets, remove the downspout, clean it, and replace it.

Hiring a Professional

Hiring a local downspout cleaning pro is the safest, easiest way to keep your gutter system in top condition. It’s also the cleanest for you because cleaning downspouts is a messy job. 

If you decide to hire an expert, contact a reputable roofing company with the experience, credentials, and warranties to provide quality gutter cleaning services. Many will perform an inspection for free upon request, so there’s no downside to requesting a free estimate.

How to Prevent Future Clogs in Your Downspout

Regular inspections and cleaning of your roof, gutters, and downspouts are the best way to avoid future downspout clogs. You can also reduce the causes of downspout clogs by:

  • Installing Gutter Guards or Screens: Gutter guards are mechanical devices that attach to the opening of your gutters and either filter or deflect the debris away from the opening. The available designs include foam, screen, brush, mesh, and reverse curve gutter guards.
  • Trimming or Removing Nearby Trees or Branches: Trimming away the source of the debris is probably the most effective solution for keeping your downspouts free and clear. Hire a professional for this task as the work can be dangerous.
  • Inspecting Your Roof and Gutters for Damage or Wear: Inspecting your roof and gutter system regularly will go a long way toward preventing avoidable problems. If you notice roof shingle granules piling up in your gutters or drip that wasn’t there last time, you can take corrective action immediately and avoid further damage.

What Are Downspouts?

Downspouts are an essential part of your gutter system and are the vertical tubes that safely control water runoff from your roof to the ground. They function as a drain for your gutters and prevent erosion of your yard and landscaping. 

Clean downspouts are much more efficient than ones clogged with dirt, twigs, needles, and leaves. Clogged downspouts cause water to pool, which invites birds, pests, and mold into your attic. 

When downspouts become clogged, the runoff from the roof becomes trapped inside the gutters and overflows forcefully and uncontrolled, causing damage to your home’s roof, framing, and foundation. 

Knowing how to unclog a gutter downspout through regular cleaning can save you time and money, while avoiding the hassles of a clogged gutter system.

Fortunately, using the tools and methods available today, gutter downspout cleaning is easier than it used to be. Ideally, gutter downspout cleaning should be done from the ground, but there are safe methods for tackling the project from the roof.

If you want to learn how to clean downspouts the professional way, stay tuned. Regular cleaning is the key to preventing clogs in your downspouts, so we’ll offer practical tips to make the project more manageable.

How to Identify a Clogged Downspout

Clogged downspouts usually offer clues you can see from the ground, like overflowing gutters, dripping, sagging, and standing water. If you find a gutter downspout clogged, the problem is probably debris from the roof.

Here’s a checklist of common signs you have a clogged downspout. 

  • uncheckedLook for debris or blockages at the downspout’s lowest end. Often, grass clippings or mulch can become lodged in the end. Sometimes a lawn mower crimps the opening at the end of the downspout, which can impede its function. 
  • uncheckedTap on the downspout with a metal tool, like a screwdriver. Most downspouts are formed from aluminum, so this metal-on-metal contact should echo through the downspout. If it doesn’t, a blockage is preventing the sound from traveling. 
  • uncheckedSafely run water through the downspout with a garden hose. If the gutters become over half full before the water begins to drain, stop and note if the water takes more than 30 seconds to drain away. 

Use this option only if the others don’t work. Using water on the roof makes the roof more dangerous and slippery, so have a helper if you flush the downspouts.

If the gutter downspout is clogged due to a lightweight cone or leaf, the water should help push the clog downward. If the object is heavier, it might need to be worked more.

  • uncheckedTake note of leaves, twigs, dirt, or other debris collected at the opening of the downspout. If these obstacles cannot disburse after they contact the ground, they can pile up and impede the water flow.
  • uncheckedLook for water dripping from either or both ends of the gutters. Long gutter sections sometimes drain to both ends, while shorter sections tend to drain to one end or the other. If water is dripping from anywhere else, your gutter system is overflowing,  leaking, or both.

Common Causes of a Clogged Downspout

Inclement weather, poor design, and a lack of maintenance are the most common factors leading to clogged downspouts. Consider installing gutter guards if your home’s roof is subjected to leaves, twigs, needles, cones, animal debris, or ice dams.

Residential-size downspouts are usually only 2” x 3” square. Poplars, maples, and oaks all produce leaves larger than this opening. Pine cones and compacted needles, seeds, and nests can also block the opening.

Many gutter professionals suggest replacing 2” x 3” downspouts with the larger commercial size, which is often 3” x 4” square. These larger downspouts are more capable of passing a large obstruction, helping prevent overflows.

If upgrading your downspouts is inconvenient, you can dislodge and flush the debris causing the clog.

Clean Your Downspouts The Pro Way

Become more familiar with your downspouts by inspecting them after heavy rains. You might discover a clog or a leak or learn that they’d benefit from splash blocks, drains, or other adjustments to help prevent erosion of your landscaping or foundation.

Cleaning your downspouts will maintain your home’s curb appeal and prevent wood rot, mold, pest infestations, and other destructive actions from affecting your home.

Contact our gutter and roofing professionals to learn more about your gutter system and downspout cleaning. Whether you’re a DIYer or need professional assistance on how to clean downspouts, our experts at All Star Home are here to help.


How do you clean downspouts that go into the ground?

You can use a pipe snake, trowel, your hands, and running water to help dislodge a stubborn clog and clean your downspouts.

How do I know if my underground downspout is clogged?

Underground downspouts aren’t downspouts but drain pipes. Many are made from corrugated black plastic, which articulates and bends. These often require no fittings to assemble. Others are made from Schedule 20 PVC plastic, which often requires fittings.

Water will usually pool upstream from the clog when either underground drain becomes clogged. This will usually cause a wet spot on the ground, helping to indicate the approximate location of the clog.

Can you snake a downspout from the ground?

Yes. You can often clear a blocked downspout from the bottom up. Using a pipe snake from the a bit more complicated but still possible. Snaking the downspout from the ground means you’ll be fighting gravity, so you’ll probably have to retrieve the snake more often to reduce the friction.

What is the easiest way to clean gutters from the ground?

The easiest way to clean gutters from the ground is to use running water that can reach the gutters. Some devices attach to a garden hose to transfer the pressurized water to the gutter. Most are angled downward at the tip, which directs the water into the gutter.

Other tools, like brushes and scoops, can be attached to extension poles up to 12 feet. Clogs located any higher will likely require a professional assessment.