Cleaning your home’s gutters and downspouts is easy to overlook – quite literally, since it’s difficult to see any buildup from the ground. However, neglecting this task can lead to costly water damage inside your home and exterior damage to your home’s siding. While it's best to hire a professional for the job, if you're unable to, here are the steps you can take to stay safe.

1. Mark your calendar.

This annual task is best done mid-fall because winter weather can cause clogs if the gutters are already filled with leaves. You may want to clean again after a storm has blown more leaves and twigs onto your roof.

2. Gear up.

Wear gloves (thick suede ones are the most durable) and protective goggles while cleaning as a precaution against insects or tiny animals that live in debris.

3. Keep steady.

Choose a sturdy ladder designed for outdoor use, and check the maximum load.1 Each year, falls from ladders cause 164,000 emergency room visits.2 Never clean your gutters alone. Follow the “three-points-of-contact rule” (both legs and one arm, or both arms and one leg, touching the ladder at all times).2

4. Start scooping.

Remove gutter covers and take care to stay away from power cables or loose electrical wires. Use a scoop made from plastic – metal scoops can damage the gutter – to dump leaves and debris into a bucket.

5. Spray water into the gutters.

Attaching a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle to a garden hose will help clear out the gutters and downspouts. Make sure that the downspouts are draining properly. If they are clogged, remove the spray nozzle to clean them from the bottom up and flush out debris.

6. Prevent buildup.

If you don’t have gutter guards or covers, consider contacting a professional to install them. By keeping debris out of the gutter and downspouts, they’ll help minimize the amount of cleaning that you need to do each year.

Taking care of what you can control, like your gutters, is key to protecting to your home. But if the unexpected should happen, you want to be sure you have proper insurance in place. Take a look at which policy may be right for you.