Gutters are an essential part of your beautiful home. They may not look as aesthetically appealing as most believe, but gutters are there to serve a purpose; not to look pretty.
Because gutters protect your house foundation from the damaging effects of rainwater, they need to be cleaned regularly. Since you want to avoid ugly tiger stripes from forming around your home, you should take better care of your aluminum gutters.
This guide will help you do just that. Here, we show you how to clean tiger stripes on aluminum gutters as well as explain what causes this phenomenon in the first place. Let’s get to it!
How to Clean Tiger Stripes on Aluminum Gutters
Before we get into how to prevent tiger stripes from happening altogether, this section will focus on the other pressing matter: getting rid of these black, gross stripes.
Below, we’ve written out the five main necessary steps needed to clean tiger stripes on aluminum gutters. Here they are:
1 – Prepare Your Tools
First things first, prepare yourself for a begrudging time of maintenance and cleaning up.
The process will require the proper safety tools, for instance, to ensure that you don’t harm your hands or eyes during it. Additionally, you need the right cleaner and washing products that’ll have your gutter looking squeaky clean in no time.
To make it easier for you, here’s our shortened list of items that we believe you should have beforehand:
- An aluminum-safe gutter cleaner
- A damp cotton rag, a soft sponge, or a piece of cloth
- Your garden hose or any water container
- Protective gear, including rubber gloves and goggles
- A safe ladder
- A scooper and bucket to collect the residue and debris
- (optional) a scrubbing brush
You may not need the scrubbing brush if your gutter cleaner is strong enough to soak up even the hardest of stains. However, if that’s not the case, then you may need to manually scrub the stains off the aluminum surface.
2 – Choose Your Cleaner
Choosing the right cleaner for the job is the most important part of cleaning any type of gutter from whatever debris it may have collected.
Aluminum gutters, for example, require certain, gentle cleaning products that won’t harm the metal. You don’t want to apply the cleaner just to have the aluminum rust after a short while.
Keep in mind though, the severity of the tiger stripes. In case it’s the next day after a heavy rain pour, you may only need some water and a soft cloth to wipe it all off.
On the other hand, if the black stripes have been around for a few days, then you might have to put together a homemade cleaning solution. You can invest in a mild cleaner instead too.
Finally, tough tiger stripes that have collected mildew will prove more of a challenge. For these, you’ll definitely need a stronger, all-purpose cleaner that’s both aluminum-safe and heavy-duty.
3 – Protect Yourself and the Ground Underneath
Regardless of how difficult the tiger stripes will turn out to be, you should still make sure that your hands and eyes are safe. Not only that, but any plants or grass you have underneath the gutter need to be protected as well.
That’s mainly because the black residue that’s formed on the gutter’s surface has a high content of harmful, toxic chemicals. That’s what that scooper and bucket you prepared beforehand are for, though!
As you clean and spray the gutter, ensure that none of the runoff channels itself down the pipe and into the mud beneath. You don’t want the plant roots to soak up these toxins while they feed on the soil’s nutrients.
In other words, the debris that you collect in your bucket should be safely disposed of. Don’t keep it in your home or throw it in a pond, for example. Most American states fine you for illegal dumping and for harming the environment as well.
4 – Start Cleaning and Scrubbing
Depending on the type of cleaner you got, the mode of applying will differ. So, remember to go through the product’s instructions before using it.
Typically, most cleaners will need a few seconds (or minutes, according to how tough the tiger stripes are) to soak up the filthy residue before you can wash or wipe it off. Even household solutions will need some time to interact with the chemicals so you can easily get rid of them.
For the difficult tiger stripes, you’ll need to use your scrubbing brush and get down and dirty with your hands. Spray more of the product onto the brush after doing the same to the gutter’s surface. Doing so should help facilitate the cleaning process.
Some of you may not like using ladders or perhaps don’t have access to one. In this case, you could opt for an extension pole. This is a great option for those with two or three-story homes as well.
Simply keep in mind though, that using an extension pole may not be as effective as using a ladder. That’s because you won’t be applying the cleaner at a close range.
Additionally, your clothes and eyes are more susceptible to getting harmful chemicals on them if you’re not careful.
5 – Rinse Everything Off
Once you’ve safely and effectively removed both the run-off and the tiger stripes, it’s time to give your aluminum gutter a final rinse.
This step should help wash off any spots you didn’t or couldn’t reach with your cloth. It’s better of course to use a garden hose when carrying out this process.
In case there were any chemical spills during the gutter cleaning, you may want to rinse those areas off too. That may be under your roof, your porch, and so on.
Having these chemicals laying around might harm your pets and children—if you have any. In the long-term, these toxins will eat away at your walls, flooring, and roof as well.
What Is the Best Cleaner to Clean Aluminum Gutters?
The best cleaner for aluminum gutters is any product that’s labeled safe to use on aluminum. If it’s all-purpose and heavy-duty too; even better!
Nothing beats homemade cleaning solutions, though. White vinegar, for instance, has proven to be a rather powerful substance against the harsh chemicals that form those tiger stripes.
No matter how much you apply white vinegar on an aluminum surface, you can rest easy that it won’t damage your gutter or even corrode it.
White vinegar is also favored because it’s environmentally friendly and won’t harm you or your family. Simply add a cup of vinegar to every gallon of water you use.
Other household items you can use as aluminum gutter cleaners include dishwasher soap and cream of tartar.
What Products to Avoid When Cleaning Aluminum Gutters
Since aluminum can be easily affected by the wrong product, it’s recommended that you know what cleaning solutions to avoid. Cost maintenance for aluminum gutters can be rather expensive so it’s better to stay on the safe side.
Bleach and bleach-based cleaners, for example, are a no-no. While they are powerful, effective products against tiger stripes, they can change the coloring of the aluminum and damage it in the long term.
Among other aluminum-eating chemicals are the following:
- Abrasive chemical particles and solvents
- Paint removers
Note also that scrubbing too hard will remove the glossy finish on your aluminum gutters too.
What Causes Tiger Stripes on Gutters?
In short, tiger stripes are a clear indication that you’ve gone too long without cleaning your gutters. It doesn’t mean that these stripes can’t happen overnight though.
If you live in a state where the wind is strong or rain pours are excessive, you can expect that your gutter may fill up with debris in one day even though you just cleaned it.
As such, tiger stripes form when the buildup of dirt, dust, and mildew increase to the point of overspill. This results in black streaks that imitate tiger stripes forming along the aluminum gutters.
High moisture levels are another cause of tiger stripes. This can occur due to morning dew, rain pour, or precipitation. Together with the debris, they form a grimy solution that sticks to the aluminum’s surface.
Why Are Tiger Stripes on Gutters Harmful?
When left undealt with, tiger stripes will become increasingly more difficult to clean and remove.
As a result, these black stains will ruin the appearance of your aluminum gutters. While cleaning them, you may notice some debris refuses to come off—and you can’t scrub it off too harshly or else you risk damaging the surface.
That means you’ll need to invest in professional cleaning which might cost you an arm and a leg.
That’s just one factor, though. Debris build-up is yet another reason why tiger stripes harm your beautiful aluminum gutters.
Leaving wet, grimy residue to overspill, will damage your home’s inner workings as well as walls, and might even seep into the house foundation. Not only that, but it won’t be long before it drips onto your garden, you, or one of your family members.
Our aim today was to help you figure out how to clean tiger stripes on aluminum gutters. We hope this extensive guide showed you what you need to prepare and the steps you should follow to properly clean out your gutters.
Additionally, we recommend that you keep our guidelines on preventing tiger stripes in mind as well. This should reduce the worry over any damage your aluminum gutters might face.
Remember to clean out all gutters regularly and to safely dispose of the chemical debris.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.