Copper is a strong and long-lasting metal – and when it’s fabricated into traditional seamed or seamless rain gutters, copper gutters add unique beauty to a home. Although copper gutters are often associated with traditional and historic homes, they also add distinction and dazzle to modern architecture.
Before we get into the 5 simple steps of cleaning copper gutters, it’s important to understand the unique features of this beautiful metal. Once copper gutters are installed, a natural oxidation process will begin. In just a few months, their golden sheen will start to turn to a dull brown (think of an old copper penny). As oxidation continues, eventually the gutters will develop the classic green patina.
Some homeowners love the subtle blues and greens that develop in the rich patina while others want their copper gutters to remain shiny and bright. Whichever finish you prefer, properly maintained copper gutters will provide excellent water protection for your home.
So let’s dive into how you can clean your copper gutters in 5 easy steps, and then how to maintain the finish you prefer.
How to Clean Your Copper Gutters
1. Select the right materials and equipment
- Use a sturdy ladder* that will rest against the roof, not against the copper gutters
- Plastic bucket (copper is sensitive to corrosion when other metals touch it so that’s why plastic tools are recommended)
- Bucket hook to hang the bucket within easy reach
- Plastic garden trowel
- Garden gloves
- Garden hose and nozzle with jet setting
- Optional polishing materials: cotton gloves, cleaning paste, soft-bristled brush, and clean soft rags
2. Remove debris
Once you’ve secured the ladder, don your garden gloves and climb on board. Scoop out any twigs, branches, leaves, or flotsam and jetsam by hand, placing the debris in the bucket. Twigs and some seeds and berries can be surprisingly sharp so be sure to protect your hands with gloves.
3. Loosen caked-on dirt
Use the plastic garden trowel to gently loosen any caked-on dirt that has accumulated in the gutter.
4. Check the downspouts
Starting at the end farthest from the downspout, use the jet nozzle to spray down the inside of the gutters, removing any remaining dirt. Make sure the downspouts flow freely.
*Using smart safety precautions is a must whenever you’re using a ladder to reach high spots on and around your home. If you’re getting ready to clean your copper gutters, a safe ladder is an integral part of the job. Although copper is strong, when you add the weight of an adult to a ladder, the copper gutters can get dented and scratched. Use a ladder standoff so the ladder can lean against the roof, not the rain gutter.
Maintaining Your Preferred Finish
For Shiny Copper Gutters
If you don’t like the look of the patina that develops on copper over time, you’ll want to polish it to remove hard water stains, tarnish, oxidation, and fingerprints.
- As soon as you notice the patina beginning to develop (the copper will start to turn dull brown), it’s time to polish the copper.
- Although there are commercial cleaners specifically made for copper, one of the most effective is a non-toxic paste you can make at home. You’ll need:
- Four cups of flour, four cups of salt, and four cups of vinegar.
- Using a plastic spoon, thoroughly mix the three ingredients in a plastic bucket.
- Hang the bucket on the ladder, and with a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the copper.
- Work in small sections at a time, brushing the paste in a circular motion.
- Before you move on to a new section, buff the polished area with a soft moist cloth to remove the paste.
- When the entire gutter run is polished, gently spray the gutter with water to remove any cleaning paste residue.
- If you’d like to maintain the shine, paint on an antioxidant product that contains a UV protectant. Avoid using lacquer – it will discolor over time and is a bear to remove.
For Copper Gutters with Patina
The beautiful patina that develops on copper is a result of a combination of environmental factors that include moisture levels, amount of pollution, and the temperatures around your home.
- If you want to maintain the patina, be sure to wear cotton gloves anytime you touch the copper. The natural oils on your fingers and hands will mark the copper and disrupt the patina.
- Every time you inspect the copper or perform repairs, be sure to wear gloves.
- The copper will brighten and shine when any type of acidic material or solution touches the metal, disrupting the conformity of the patina.
Rain gutters – a necessity in protecting your home from water damage – are usually more practical than glamorous. But copper rain gutters have the edge on glamour – they add style, charm, panache, and extraordinary beauty to a home. And they can continue doing so for many many decades. With proper care, copper rain gutters can last from 60 to 100 years! If it’s time to clean your copper rain gutters, you can add to their longevity by making sure the job is done right.
Cleaning rain gutters isn’t for everyone. Maybe you don’t have the time or the inclination to be climbing up and down a ladder. If that’s the case, hire someone to do it for you. Just remember, anyone working on your property should be licensed and carry sufficient insurance – and for good measure – hire a professional who understands how to clean and maintain copper gutters. Spout Gutter Pros can quickly connect you with trustworthy copper gutter cleaners near you. At Spout Gutter Pros, we vet every gutter cleaner and contractor in our network to not only make sure they’re licensed and insured, but completely reputable.
Forget about climbing a ladder. Spout Gutter Pros connects you with experts near you who understand how to properly clean and care for copper rain gutters. Request a fast free quote now!