How to Clean Clogged Rain Gutter Downspouts

Paula Ezop

Most people don't give their gutters a second thought until they become clogged. It is then that you notice water from a heavy rainfall is streaming out of and over the gutter instead of flowing down and out of the downspout. This problem creates a puddle on the ground below the overflow.

And if left alone, it will erode the ground and create a trench below the overflow. Downspouts commonly are clogged with leaves and twigs and can be cleared by pushing the clog down through the spout.

  1. Position your ladder by the problem downspout. Make sure that it is on level ground and that it is secure so it will not slip when you climb it.

  2. Bend your wire coat hanger so it is straight. Climb the ladder with the coat hanger and bucket.

  3. Examine the downspout and remove any leaves or debris you can reach, placing the material into the bucket. Poke the coat hanger wire down the downspout and see if it goes in easily. This will loosen any lodged debris. Note that problem areas are usually at the curves, or elbows, of the gutter.

  4. Shoot water down the downspout with a garden hose to confirm that it is clear. If it is still blocked, you may need to use a plumbing snake to clean the downspout. Wind the device into the spout to press through clogs. Then try shooting water down the downspout again to make sure it is clear.

  5. Tip

    Clean your gutters twice a year -- once in the spring and again in the fall after all of the leaves have fallen. If you do this routine maintenance, you should be able to avoid clogged downspouts. If the above procedure hasn't worked, the only thing that you can do is to take the gutter downspout apart by removing the elbow to locate the blockage. This should be your last resort.


    Metal downspout parts typically are screwed together with sheet metal screws at elbows and other connections. The screws extend inside the spout and can have very sharp points. Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands from screws.