Ask any teenager: Cleaning gutters ranks very near the very bottom of the list of chores a human could be asked to do. Wet leaves, high ladders, weird bugs crawling around in the decaying, smelly detritus—it's a hateful, thankless job.
But gutter-cleaning tools have come a long way since my dad had me up on a ladder with a hockey stick. Here are a few I've noticed recently. If I was 16 again, I might even be volunteering for this chore while my brother wore his knuckles to the bone scrubbing the the whitewalls on the Oldsmobile.
A Clever Blower Unit
So simple, so smart, which is par for Stihl. This product is a series of interlocking, hard-plastic tubes that affix to the business end of a handheld or backpack leaf blower. The air screams up the tube and blasts leaves and whatever else clear out of your gutters, while you are safely on the ground. The extensions allow you to reach most residential gutters 10 feet up. Better for dry stuff, but also works on damp debris, depending on how powerful your blower is.
The Best Ladder
Even with the leaf-blower thing mentioned above, you'll probably need a ladder. Werner is a trusted manufacturer, and their telescoping multiladder will get you where you need to go. As an extension ladder, it can reach up to 19 feet, and up to 9 feet as a step ladder. It can also convert to scaffolding or act as a two-person stepladder. Versatile, safe, strong. And tall. Quite tall.
The Gutter-Cleaning Tool Kit
A handy kit that promises you can clean 14 feet of gutter from a single ladder position—less ladder-repositioning, which increases the safety of the overall activity. Rake the leaves into the scoop, shoosh them away.
Waterproof Work Gloves
This is key. Underneath the peaceful top layer of dry leaves lurks a thick layer of wet stuff that you will find yourself handling in some way. Better to be handling it with these cold-weather, waterproof, Thinsulate gloves from Youngstown, a California-based company since 2002 (their warehouse is in Missouri) named for a great American industrial town.
A Good Bucket
When you're up there scooping leaves, you could throw them down in a dirty flurry onto the lawn or driveway to be cleaned up later—or you could deposit them neatly into a bucket. This strong, reinforced-plastic 7-gallon bucket from Hudson has a slim, tall design, making it well-suited to hanging on ladders. And it's not every day you see a 7-gallon bucket.
A Smart Bucket Hanger
I vaguely recall, many years ago, twisting up a coat hanger until it kind of worked as a hook that I could use to hang a bucket from the rung of a ladder. This product is eons beyond that, a smart design that accommodates any bucket and can more than hold the weight of your gutter leaves and drippings.
I can't tell you how many gutters I've cleaned with a hockey stick. The blade is at the perfect angle to flick leaves out of the gutter, and the fiberglass construction adds strength for digging into caked-on gunk. The other new tools are way better, but I always keep one of these nearby. Also good for playing hockey.
Of Course, You Could Also Get These
We haven't tested this particular product, but it comes well-recommended and looks to be a smart design. Cheaper gutter guards with wider mesh may let more water in, but they also let in leaf stems, pine needles, seed pods, dirt, and other fine organic material. The Raptor system is stainless steel and uses a fine mesh to keep most everything out of your gutters. It screws in, requiring some labor—but nothing compared to hours and years of gutter-cleaning. One box covers 48 feet of gutter and fits most any size.
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