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4 Methods to Clean (and Unclog) Underground Gutter Drains

How to Clean Rain Gutters
January 4, 2024
Angela Stringfellow
Read Time
3 minutes

Underground gutter drains redirect water from your gutters away from your house, preventing foundation issues and ponding close to the house. Sounds great, right? Well, yes, underground gutter drains are excellent at doing what they’re designed to do… as long as they’re not clogged.

Just as you need to clean out your gutters regularly, if you have underground gutter drains, you need to make sure they’re cleaned out and flowing freely. Some signs that your gutter drain is clogged can include water pooling by the downspout connection, visibly overflowing gutters, water leaking into the basement, and even visible clogs at the end of the drain.

The good news is that there are a number of ways to clean out and unclog underground gutter drains. We’ll describe four of them in detail below.

In this article:

1. Use a Drain Snake

This is probably the easiest method: get yourself a drain snake and use it to manually clean out the pipe after disconnecting the underground drain from the downspout. This method is best if you have a minor clog caused by leaves, twigs, and other organic material that is easy enough to push through.

Sometimes, mud, bird droppings, and other sticky debris will accumulate inside the drain, trapping twigs and leaves along the way. This debris buildup can harden into a material that would be impossible to push a snake through.

In that case, you may need to contact a plumber who specializes in roto-rooting pipes. They will have an auger or other specialized equipment necessary to manually remove this type of debris.

2. Try a High-Powered Hose

You might also be able to dislodge debris with a high-powered hose. You can do this by using the spray attachment on your regular garden hose. Using the strongest jet setting, try to knock some of the debris loose. Once some of it starts moving, it will be easier to remove the rest.

Alternatively, some people have had luck using a pressure washer. This could work, but there is the potential of damaging the pipe with such an intense stream of water, so we don’t recommend it.

If your regular hose with the spray attachment isn’t working, you could hire a plumber to hydro-jet the pipe. A hydro-jet is a piece of equipment that will propel itself down the pipe, pushing the debris along as it goes.

3. Vacuum with a Shop Vac

A wet/dry vacuum, often called a shop vac, is yet another option you could try. You can use it to try to suction out debris, or you could use it the other way and attempt to blow the debris out. This would work best for dry dirt, leaves, and other small debris that’s causing a minor blockage.

You can also use a leaf blower to push dry debris out of the pipe. Again, you’re just going to use it to blow into the end that was attached to the downspout.

4. Prevent the Issue with Gutter Guards

Of course, many homeowners want to know if there’s a way to prevent the underground gutter drains from clogging in the first place. Our LeafFilter gutter guards are a permanent solution to clogged gutters.

Our patented, award-winning technology works by covering your gutters with a fine mesh that catches the smallest debris before it can accumulate in your gutter. Leaves, pine needles, and other debris, such as shingle grit and pollen, are all blocked.

LeafFilter gutter guards also come with a clog-free guarantee and a limited lifetime transferable warranty. To learn more, and to find out why over 1.5 million homeowners have trusted LeafFilter to protect their homes, call us today at 1-877-364-8457.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep buried downspouts from clogging?

There are a few ways to prevent clogs in buried downspouts. The most effective method is to prevent the clogs from forming inside your gutters.

This can be accomplished with more frequent cleaning (you should clean out your gutters at least twice a year) or by having gutter guards professionally installed. There are several types of gutter guards to look at, but our LeafFilter gutter guards are the most effective.

Are underground gutter drains worth it?

Underground gutter drains divert water away from the home and can prevent foundation damage, so many homeowners find that they’re worth it. Ideally, they’ll carry the water, including melting snow, at least 10 feet away from the foundation. If they’re kept clog-free, they can save you money in the long run that you’d otherwise be spending on repairs.

How do you check gutter drains for clogs?

Before a rainy or snowy season, you might want to test for a blockage. This is simple:

  1. Disconnect the drain from the downspout, and turn on your garden hose.
  2. Place the hose into the end of the drain closest to the house.
  3. Give it a few minutes, and if the water starts to rise or overflow within the pipe, it’s likely there’s a blockage.