If you have black streaks on your gutters, you’re not alone. They’re one of the peskier problems homeowners face on an annual basis.
When oily residue, dirt, and pollutants on the home’s fascia boards and siding are washed away with water, streets usually form. Rain loosens these materials, causing them to wash off onto the gutters. If there has recently been a power washing on your house, streaks may occur as paint washes off onto the gutter while it clears from around windows or between buildings.
The good news is that streaking can be solved with a bit of effort and knowledge to back it up. We’ll also provide some tips on how to prevent these ugly stripings from returning after you’ve just cleaned them off.
What are black streaks are how do they form?
Black streaks, more commonly called “tiger stripes” or “zebra stripes,” refer to the usually overlooked gray-black lines that you typically find across an aluminum gutter. These eyesores indicate many things, including the environment or climate, the property’s history, and even the homeowner’s maintenance habits (if there are any at all).
There are various theories as to how and why tiger stripes form in the first place. Generally speaking, most of the stripes you’ll see involve some form of electrostatic bond involving the anodized aluminum that makes up these gutters. The anodizing process makes the metal more durable and leaves it vulnerable to electrostatic or ionic bonding with pollutants.
Pollutants in rainwater
Rainwater, particularly from heavily polluted areas, can contain harmful contaminants. These can include anything from acid rain (when rainwater mixes with nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions) to automotive exhaust particles.
When water hits the front of the gutter, they drip and accumulate over time. Come sunshine, and the water eventually evaporates — allowing the pollutants to bind with the aluminum metal statically. If the gutter’s protective seal is not in place, these stains may be even harder to replace (hint: a replacement may be needed.
Aside from ionizing with the metal gutter, the acidic nature of rainwater can accelerate the corrosion process. This, in turn, catalyzes the formation of the streaks by weakening the gutter’s surface. Pollutants from car exhausts and other industrial activities are common culprits, while volcanic debris and ash blown from forest fires are rarer.
Dripping from asphalt roof shingles
If you’re seeing black streaks on your gutters, they may be caused by dripping from asphalt roof shingles. Rainwater can carry minerals and contaminants from the asphalt when the roof overflows, draining into the gutters. These contaminants will then undergo electrostatic bonding with the gutters, thus forming the characteristic black streaking you’ll see in older homes.
In this case, the black streaks are most likely not caused by pollutants in the rainwater but by the oils and tar used in manufacturing asphalt roof shingles. It’s important to note that these streaks are not just superficial stains, so cleaning (or removing them) requires specific tools to get the job done.
If you think this might be the case, you can try cleaning your gutters with a degreaser. This will help remove the oils and tar, thus freeing the surface from any remaining dirt. You can also try using a sealant to protect your gutters from future staining.
Accumulation of algae and fungi
Black streaks can also be caused by a buildup of algae, fungus, or mold on the surface of your gutters. Algae thrive in moist environments, and gutters provide these green and brownish creatures a suitable environment to proliferate. Over time, the algae will form a black film on the gutters, challenging it to remove.
Certain plants such as vines can also add to dirty residues if they’re touching your roof or getting too close for comfort for other plants in your yard; leaves can fall off deciduous trees along gutters of homes near rivers, creeks, lakes, and other waterways.
Why should you remove black streaks?
Some homeowners tend to leave black streaks along, thinking that they won’t do any harm. The bad news: most gutters that have streaks will wear down over time unless they’re addressed. From aesthetics down to security, here’s why you’ll want to keep black streaks off gutters once you spot them!
- Aesthetics and appeal: One of the main reasons homeowners want to remove black streaks from their gutters is the aesthetic appeal. Black streaks can be unsightly and make your home look dirty and run-down. If you’re planning to sell your home in the near future, removing any unsightly blemishes like black streaks is essential to improve its appearance.
- Damage control: This buildup can cause the paint or metal to peel and flake over time. If left untreated, black streaks can eventually cause damage to your gutters and roof. It’s essential to keep zebra strikes off all the gutters to prevent them from breaking down.
- Biosafety: Another reason to remove black streaks is for security purposes. If there’s a buildup of algae, fungus, or mold on the surface of your gutters, it can provide a hospitable environment for mosquitoes and other pests. These pests can pose a health risk to you and your family, so it’s essential to address any potential breeding grounds for them.
- Preventative maintenance: Removing black streaks from your gutters is good to perform preventive maintenance. If you address the problem early on, it’s less likely that streaks will form in the first place. Prevention is always key when you’re talking about maintaining your lovely abode.
How can you remove black streaks from gutters without damaging them?
So you’ve done some research, and now you know how big of a concern these streaks are. So now for the nitty and gritty: how do you remove tiger streak from gutters without damaging them? A little know-how helps in the long run, especially when it comes to the art of gutter brightening.
To begin with, let’s first begin with the necessary prep. The amount of work you’ll need to do depends on the underlying cause of the streaking you see.
If it’s just some algae lying around, a simple and more gentle wash will do. You might need to resort to more abrasive methods such as pressure washing for more serious concerns (such as those involving the chemical reaction between pollutants and aluminum).
Of course, knowing the underlying cause is a skill itself. And you might now have sufficient knowledge or experience to determine the causes. Either way, you can still take proactive steps to ensure you’re not letting the problem let loose.
To begin taking the black streak off gutters, here are the tools you’ll need:
- A ladder to reach the gutters
- Household cleaner or bleach (for general cleaning)
- A specialized solution that targets streaks for more serious concerns (e.g., Gutter, Butter, Gutter Zap)
- Garden hose with a spray nozzle
- Rag, sponge, or a soft-bristled brush (depends on how stubborn the streaks are)
- Protective equipment (eyewear, rubber gloves, mask)
- Pressure washer (optional)
- Soap (optional)
Once you’ve gathered the necessary tools for the job, it’s time to begin the task. Follow these steps and adjust accordingly depending on the type of gutter problem you’re facing:
- First, start by spraying the gutters and roof down with your garden hose. This will help remove any dirt or dust that has gathered on the surface. Your gutters may be dirty, so the first step is also another part of your house’s diagnosis.
- Next, mix your household cleaner or bleach with water in your bucket following the measurements given by the bottle’s instructions. Make sure to wear protective eyewear and rubber gloves while you’re doing this!
- Now it’s time to start cleaning! Starting at the bottom of the gutter, use a sponge or brush dipped in your cleaner mixture to scrub away any black streaks. We generally recommend using a soft-bristled brush instead. Just avoid any hard brushes such as those made with metal as they can do more harm than good.
- Once you’ve removed all visible streaks, rinse off the gutters with your garden hose and repeat if necessary until they’re nice and clean again!
- If pressure washing is more your speed, then, by all means, use that instead! But be careful not to damage the surface of your gutters in the process accidentally. Adjust the power of your pressure washer incrementally and avoid overdoing it.
- If the streaks don’t come off, you might need to resort to solutions that specifically target tiger striping. Spray the cleaner on a rag and start applying the cleaner to the gutters. Don’t forget to Immediately wipe it off (or let it sit if the package instructions say so).
- Alternatively, you can attach a mop onto an extension pole to reach the high-up places without using a ladder. This method can also help you apply the solution in the gutters’ nooks, crannies, and other hard-to-reach areas.
- Once you’re done with the solution, don’t forget to wash it all down with water. Some cleansers work best if you wipe them off, so be sure to read what the bottle has to say. Most alcohol-based ones dry off quickly, so there’s no need to rinse them with water.
- Finally, if you want to prevent streaks from forming again in the future, try using a protective coating on your gutters once they’re dry post-cleaning! This will help maintain that new look for years to come.
That’s it: a tutorial on how to get rid of black streaks from gutters in a step-by-step manner. When you clean black streaks, even if you’re not used to it in the first place, it can seem like a daunting task. But with the right tools and know-how, it becomes a breeze (and possibly, an enjoyable activity).
And the rewards speak for themself. With a little bit of elbow grease, cleaning your gutters will have you noticing better curb appeal, brighter outdoor lighting, less clogged drains, and increased property value. But the best benefit must be the peace of mind knowing your gutters are safe from harm (for the time being).
Which products work best?
Choosing which products to choose when cleaning your gutters boils down to the severity of the problem. Will a simple solution work, or do you need something stronger to tackle your unique streaking/striping problem?
Commercial gutter cleaners
Use a commercial gutter cleaner if the streaks are stubborn or if you have a lot of buildup from years worth of neglect. For example, try using Wet & Forget No Scrub Outdoor Cleaner for a no-scrub solution to your gutter problems! This product is excellent because it’s easy to use and effective at removing all types of algae, mosses, and lichens.
When choosing a commercial cleaner, you have various options selected. Not all cleaners are used the same way, so it helps to have a basic understanding of the different types out there:
- Alcohol-based cleaners are probably the most common type and work great on streaky surfaces. Be sure to read the product instructions carefully, as some of these cleaners can be harmful if used in excessive amounts or left on for too long.
- Chelated copper-based cleaners: These cleaners use a compound that helps break down organic materials like moss, algae, and lichens.
- Oxalic acid-based cleaners: These are a popular choice for removing tough stains and can be found in both liquid and powder form. Be extra cautious when using them, as they can corrode metal if left unattended.
- Sodium hydroxide-based cleaners: This type of cleaner is a little harsher than the others but is excellent for removing built-up grime and dirt.
Use a household cleaner or bleach if your gutters are only a little dirty and you don’t have any serious streaks. Be sure to mix them with water according to the instructions on the bottle for best results. Avoid using brushes that have metal bristles, as they can cause damage to your gutters.
You can also buy a commercial gutter cleaner or use a homemade recipe. For the homemade recipe, mix the following ingredients:
- one gallon of white vinegar
- one cup of dish soap
- two gallons of hot water
Pour this mixture into your bucket and scrub away! A word of caution: make sure you dilute these chemicals well.
Some advocates will say that abrasive cleaners made from bleach or household acids will worsen the problem. They believe that household acids or bases can erode the aluminum and copper from your gutters. While this is true to some extent, proper dilution will scale the solution’s strength to the point where they won’t do damage with the proper methods.
Most homeowners have great success using natural products for this purpose — lemon juice, vinegar, salt water, or baking soda are all excellent choices. Don’t forget to scrub both sides of your gutter before moving on to the next one — and if you have a lot of black streaks, it might be a good idea to enlist the help of a friend!
If you have any questions about gutter cleaning or maintenance, please feel free to contact us. Our professional team members are here for you and your home every step of the way.
Maintaining your gutters
The good news is that black streaks are not impossible to remove. But cleaning is not enough; you’ll need to put in the work to maintain these gutters. So how do you go about maintaining them?
First, you must keep an eye on them and make sure there are no physical obstructions. Debris like leaves, branches, or nests can easily clog your gutters and cause water damage over time.
Second, it’s best to have them at least once or twice a year. This will help do away with any organic or inorganic buildup and keep your gutters functioning correctly.
Third, you’ll need to inspect them for damage regularly. Seams, joints, and brackets are all common areas where damage can occur, so be sure to look out for these signs and repair them as needed.
Fourth, you should install gutter guards. These will help keep debris from building up in your gutters and can extend the life of your gutters by years.
Black streaks on gutters are not only unsightly, but they may also force you to resort to costly repairs or replacement (worst-case scenario) if left unattended. If you follow these simple tips, you’ll be able to keep your gutters clean and damage-free for years to come!
Tips for preventing black streaks from forming in the first place
Cleaning and maintenance are all good. But what about prevention. They say prevention is key, so how does one prevent these ugly stripes from returning or appearing in the first place? While there’s no guarantee that they’ll never form, you can take proactive measures to minimize the risk and severity of streaking.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
- Make sure your gutters are cleaned twice a year. This will help get rid of any buildup and keep them running smoothly. If you live in an area that experiences heavy rainfall, it’s best to clean more often than once per season — especially during spring or fall.
- Inspect your gutters for damage regularly. Seams, joints, and brackets are all common areas where damage can occur, so be sure to look out for these signs and repair them as needed.
- Install gutter guards. These will help keep debris from building up in your gutters and can extend the life of your gutters by years. You can find them at most home improvement stores for less than $20 per linear foot, which is a small price to pay when you consider the potential damage caused by not having these guards installed!
As always, if you need help cleaning or maintaining your gutters, our professional team members are here for you and your home every step of the way.
General tips when cleaning your gutters
- When using commercial cleaners, be sure to work only when at the proper temperatures. The day has to be warm enough for you to apply these cleaners. Some products only work when it’s 25°C or higher.
- Don’t dilute commercial cleaners too much. The manufacturer usually recommends specific amounts and if they tell you something like “one part cleaner to three parts water,” then follow their instructions exactly! If there’s more than one way of doing it (for example, with different concentrations), choose whichever works best for your situation.
- If you need to dilute the cleaner because of the complex application, you may work on the streaks at higher temperatures.
- If you’re using a bleach-based cleaner, mix it with an equal amount of water before pouring it into your bucket.
- Never mix different cleaning products, as this could cause some hazardous chemical reactions.
- Never use metal brushes when cleaning your gutters, as they can easily damage them. Instead, use a scrub brush or sponge that’s been dipped in the cleaning solution of your choice.
- Start at the top of the gutter and work your way down. Be sure to clean both sides before moving on to the next one.
- Be sure to adjust the pressure washer pressure so that it’s not too high, or you may end up damaging your gutters. You can also try spraying the area from the top down with a garden hose attached with a nozzle garden hose with a spray nozzle. If you have a lot of streaks, you probably have to spray the area a few times.
- Be sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear when using a gutter cleaner, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, be careful not to spill any of the cleaners on your skin or clothes, as it can cause severe damage.
- If you have a lot of black streaks, it might be a good idea to outsource some help. If you don’t know how to clean them yourself or are stuck during the process, it’s time to seek professional help.
How to Remove Black Streaks From Gutters: Conclusion
Black streaks on gutters are unsightly and can be a sign of trouble. It’s essential to remove them as soon as possible, but you don’t want to damage your gutters in the process.
We’ve rounded up some tips for removing black streaks from gutters without damaging them and some products that work best. Be sure to keep your gutters clean and free of debris so that black streaks don’t have a chance to form in the first place!
If you’ve been noticing black streaks on your gutters, we want to help. We don’t want that streaky mess ruining the look of your home or business, and there is no need for it with our Custom Gutters!
At Elysian Construction, our expert Roofing Contractors will work alongside you to create a plan that works best for your property’s needs. From vinyl siding down to damaged flashing, we’ve got the services you need to keep your abode in tiptop shape. Contact us today to learn more about how we can restore the natural beauty of your gutters!