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How Do I Unclog a Gutter Downspout?

Unclog a Gutter Downspout

Note: this page is about vertical gutter downspouts. To unclog horizontal rain gutters, see our gutter cleaning tools.

To unclog a gutter downspout try your easiest options first.

  1. Start by cleaning the bottom downspout opening.
    • Expose the bottom downspout opening, divert the flow away from any landscape drain, and then use a garden trowel to reach up into the opening and remove any clogged leaves and debris that could have accumulated there.
    • Then use a ladder to reach the top of the downspout, insert a garden hose down into the top downspout opening, ask a helper on the ground to turn on the water, and see if the clog clears.
    • If the clog has not cleared, it may be possible to force out the debris by creating a seal between the garden hose and the downspout opening with a small towel. After packing the space between the garden hose and top downspout opening with the towel, have the helper on the ground turn on the water to see if the household water pressure can push out the clog.
    • Important: when working at roof height, carefully position the garden hose so that it cannot pull itself to the ground, and use caution not to trip or get snagged on the hose as you move about the ladder.
    • Before you attempt any work at roof height, take into account the accessibility and condition of the downspout, gutters and eaves, the weather conditions, and any other factors that might complicate the job. Do not try this approach if you have no experience working on high ladders or aren't comfortable with the project. And if you're concerned about completing the job safely, consider hiring a gutter service company to help.
  2. Handheld Drum AugerTry using a handheld drum auger if the downspout is still clogged.
    • This is a good next choice, since the auger can work up or down through the downspout, can pass through most downspout elbows, and can usually break through the clogged leaves and debris.
    • A 25 foot handheld drum auger can be purchased for around $30.
    • To use the handheld auger:
    • Read and follow the auger safety instructions, then put on work gloves and eye protection.
    • Feed the auger into the top or bottom downspout opening by locking the cable, turning the drum in a clockwise direction, and then unlocking and feeding the cable as needed to pass the auger tip through any elbows and blockages.
    • After you have inserted the drum auger all the way through the downspout, pull out the auger cable as you feed it back into the drum. It may take several attempts to remove most of the blockage.
    • Use the ladder to access the top of the downspout, insert the garden hose down into the top downspout opening, ask a helper on the ground to turn on the water, and check to see if the clog has cleared.
    • Note: if you can't reach the clog with a hand held auger, you can try a flat sewer rod with a disk-shaped tip that can usually pass through more types of small diameter elbows and transitions, and is sold in lengths up to 100 Ft.
  3. Needle Nose Drain CleanerIf there is unusually stubborn debris clogging the downspout, you might be able to flush it out with a sewer jetter.
    • A Needle Nose™ drain cleaner is a sewer jetter with a tougher, braided steel jacket and a special compact nozzle tip that allows it to pass through more types of elbows and transitions in gutter downspouts and other drains.
    • If you are using a gas pressure washer rated 2.0 to 4.0 GPM, the downspout is not more than 2 stories high, and there are few bends present, you can try feeding the sewer jetter into the bottom opening to power it uphill.
    • Gravity can help the sewer jetter pass though downspouts that are several stories high or have rough and irregular elbows, so it's sometimes necessary to feed the sewer jetter downhill, starting at the top opening.
    • If feeding the sewer jetter downhill, you will need help from someone on the ground to stay near the pressure washer, control the trigger, feed up the sewer jetter hose, and guide the hose to avoid snagging it on gutters, flashing, and other objects.
    • Throughout the process you should carefully position the sewer jetter hose so that it cannot pull itself to the ground, being cautious not to trip or get snagged on the line as you move about the ladder.
    • Needle Nose Drain CleanerTo use the sewer jetter:
    • Put on fluid resistant work gloves and eye protection, carefully access the top downspout opening, and then guide the nozzle at least a foot into the opening before you start the flow of water.
    • After you have finished cleaning the downspout, pull the drain cleaner out. Use care to stop the flow of water before the nozzle reaches the downspout opening.
  4. Consider installing downspout strainers at each top opening to reduce the occurrence of downspout clogs.
    • Alternatively, you can install a gutter downspout filter close to the ground that makes it easy to dispose of gutter debris that can clog landscape drains, and provides an accessible opening for easier downspout cleaning.
    • When leaves and debris accumulate in your horizontal gutters, you can thoroughly clean them out with a gutter cleaning attachment for your pressure washer.
  5. If you're not comfortable performing any of these steps, hiring a gutter service company could save you money in the long run. To find a service company in your area:Service Professional
    • Start by asking family, friends and co-workers to recommend a company that has performed similar services for them.
    • If you are unable to find a good recommendation from someone you know, search local directories like Google Maps, Yelp and CitySearch for service companies nearby who have good online reviews. Don't always trust reviews from individuals who published very few other reviews, or from people who give only positive reviews to everyone. Be aware that good service providers sometimes get a small number of negative reviews for reasons that might not be relevant to your situation. Look for a company with several reviews that tell a positive, believable story about repairs that are similar to yours.
    • After you find one or more service companies that seem to have a good reputation, search online for the company name and the names of individuals at the company, if known. Take into account both the positive and negative information that you find about the company.
    • Be aware that good service companies sometimes have a backlog of several days during peak times when there are low temperatures, heavy rainfall or holidays. Sometimes heavy demand can be a sign of a company with lots of repeat customers.

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