Cleaning Gutters Can Be Fun (No, Really)

A couple weeks ago, Stephanie and I attempted to clean the gutters.  The way I’ve done this the past few years is with a long (but not quite long enough) wand with a hook on the end and a nozzle that directs water to the side in a wide fan.  The idea is that the water spray will get under the cruft and just blow it out of the gutters.  The truth is that it kinda pushes it whatever direction you want it to go, and then you scoop it out by hand from there.  While this wasn’t terrible – you only need the ladder in 1-2 places – it’s horribly time consuming (you have to do small sections at a time), tremendously water wasting, and unbelievably tiresome to hold your arms up over your head for a few hours.  Plus it requires that you go up and down the ladder a lot, or have someone stand on the ladder to do the “catching” – difficult to do when someone’s got to watch the kids too.  So Sunday night I bought a Looj, and got to play with it Wednesday and Thursday after work for the first time.  This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

The Looj is by iRobot, the makers of the Roomba robotic vacuum.  This appears to be their second-generation of the device, and it seems to fix many of the shortcomings I found listed in the previous generation (older models were too light and would flip more easily, and had an external antenna that could get caught).  Before spending over $100 on something, I like to do a bit of research and this was no different.  I did find many reviews of it, but some were from just plain idiots (those who didn’t follow directions and expected miracles) and others were more realistic.  Most seemed to say that while the Looj might not save you much time, it will save you energy; I would tend to agree with this.  Here’s what I did.

I setup our 8′ ladder on the back deck, since that would somewhat easily let me get on the flat roof over the dining room.  I cleaned that gutter by hand (with the hose) because it was a sloppy mess and I didn’t feel like moving the ladder out of the way.  Plus, flat roof, standing above it, no big deal.  Next, on to the gutter at the back of the house.  I started cleaning out some space for the Looj to fit into the gutter, and got it into position.  Turning on the auger, it began throwing crap out of the gutter and down to the ground, so I nudged it forward with the remote control.  Before too long I ran into a problem – one of the gutter straps was bent, and the robot wouldn’t fit below it.  So I had to climb back down and move the ladder to fix it (though once done, that problem shouldn’t happen again) and then back up to the roof to watch the progress.  From there, I was able to slowly move the robot forward as it threw the leaves and gunk out of the way.  A couple times it did flip over – usually because I was getting overzealous – but my cunning use of logic told me that a symmetric device with two tracks for locomotion would move backward if I were to press the “Forward” button, so I was still able to control where it was going and only once had to bring it all the way back to me to right it.  By paying attention to its progress better, I was able to prevent that from happening more often than not.  But even with that setback, I still didn’t have to move the ladder 20 times and constantly go up and down with dirty hands to clean the muck manually.

I should mention in here, if you’re looking to just plow through the gutters and clean them out in an instant, you’re going to be sorely mistaken.  Much like any power tool, you have to let the tool do the job, don’t try to force it through.  You don’t take a drill with a spade bit and jam it into a piece of wood, you gently push it while the drill is spinning the bit and let the speed of the bit carve away the wood until you’re all the way through.  Likewise, if you ram the Looj headfirst into a logjam of leaves and muck, it’s either going to stop spinning altogether, climb up the pile of muck and over it (and possibly out of the gutter) or the auger will stop and the Looj will flip over instead.  Let the auger spin, and slowly nudge the Looj into the muck.  It will break it up, it will throw it out, and it will move on, but you have to be patient and pay attention to what you’re doing.

I did run into two problems cleaning the gutters with the Looj.  The first was that the metal gutters blocked the signal from the remote control a bit, so I had to keep it down close to the gutter to use it as an antenna of sorts (which doesn’t work that great once you pass on to another gutter section, because our gutters aren’t bonded together 😛 ).  The second problem – related to the first – was that I couldn’t quite reach the far end of the run from where I was.  I tried using water to bring the leaves and cruft closer since the Looj is waterproof to one foot (good enough for spinning and slopping through the cruft of a murky gutter) but still wasn’t able to get close enough, and ended up giving up for the night.  Even still, I got more done in less time than I ever had before, and with very little ladder climbing.

Thursday when I got home from work, I setup the ladder on the front porch and went right to the cleaning.  Most of the gutter we had cleaned with the old wand, but that broke midway through the job (which was part of what prompted this purchase).  So there wasn’t a lot to do, but the Looj powered through it with ease.  I did have to fix a couple of the gutter nails – though they needed fixing anyway, so that’s no loss – and I got caught on a couple of the seams, which I think I want to silicone anyway since they all leak like a sieve and should be caulked.  The problem was the “hubs” on the wheels of the Looj got caught, once going forward which I was able to get past, and once on the way back which I gave up trying to spin the auger different directions and powering past it and just setup the ladder to go grab it out of the gutter.  But again, even with that setback I still got more done in less time than I ever have before when trying to do the gutters.

Emboldened by my success I took the extension ladder out back and leaned it up against the side of the house, climbed up, dropped the Looj in the gutter (now closer to the middle of the house) and finished cleaning the section in the back that I couldn’t reach the previous night.  When I brought it back, I sent it the other direction and proved my theory – instead of cleaning that back gutter from the dining room roof, I should do it from a ladder in the middle.  No problems whatsoever on that one.

So am I happy with my purchase?  Extremely.  I have previously spent entire days cleaning the gutters, and wasted I don’t know how many gallons of water doing so; if you think about it that way alone, I’ll probably save the cost of this device (around $130) in a single year, since I should clean the gutters more than once a year.  And with how easy it is to do, I’m more likely to do it too – iRobot suggests at least once per season.  Our gutters still need a bit of work here and there, but I don’t think of it as “I need to alter our gutters to make this device work” but more of a “I need to fix our gutters anyway, and then the gutters will work better; it just so happens that so will the Looj.”


  • Less water usage
  • Less time to clean gutters
  • Less up and down (and moving) the ladder
  • Easy clean-up (hose off the Looj when done)

  • Gutters must be the right size or Looj won’t fit
  • Remote control may not reach far enough without moving/repositioning ladder
  • Device occasionally flips over (but sometimes will flip back again)
  • May need to manually retrieve Looj if it becomes stuck somewhere

Leave a Reply