How to kill tree stump without breaking a sweat?

best way to kill a tree stump

A chainsaw is all you need to remove a tree that has turned into a nuisance.

However, you are left with a tree stump that can be an eyesore and an accident waiting to happen. That said, felling trees but forgetting to remove tree stumps increase the chances of family members or guests tripping over dead stumps and winding exposed roots.

At the same time, some species of broad-leaf trees may shoot up suckers even after they have been cut, making it crucial to kill tree roots. Unfortunately, large stumps and tree roots firmly lock themselves to the ground and are not easy to pull out.

You may consider letting them rot naturally, but the natural decomposition process may take years. Needless to say, it’s best to “root” out the problem today for a safer and better-looking yard.

And to help you out, we’ve prepared this guide on how to kill tree stump easily and remove one for good.

How To Kill A Tree Stump

It’s no secret that removing tree stumps is accompanied by some challenges.

But, on the bright side, you have various options to choose from. That said, you can remove a tree stump naturally with a little bit of elbow grease or use a chemical stump killer to help out. Moreover, you can experiment with several home remedies that deliver excellent results — albeit slowly.

Nevertheless, take a peek at the different methods of killing tree stumps before you decide.

Physical Removal

If you are ready to get your hands dirty and have some time to put in the labor, you can kill a tree stump with these physical removal methods. Apart from ample time and energy, you will need a few tools for each process so, ensure that you are ready with these resources before beginning.

Using Fire

Setting a tree stump on fire and letting it slowly burn is an effective strategy, but it is unsuitable in various situations. For instance, you must not attempt to make open fires if you live in a forested area or a region that experiences a dry climate. Before commencing, it is best to contact the local fire department to check whether it is safe to burn a tree stump.

Step 1

If the local authorities allow it, you can take the first step and use a power drill to drill as many deep holes as you can on the tree stump. Alternatively, you can use a saw to make several criss-cross cuts across the surface that are at least five inches deep.

Step 2

Then, pour some kerosene into the holes or slits and place some scrap wood, wood chips, or dried twigs and leaves all over the surface of the stump.

Step 3

Now, you can ignite the kindling by making a flame trail from a distance and watch as the fire engulfs the tree stump. Although it may take 12-24 hours for the stump to burn to the ground, you need to monitor it closely and routinely kindle the fire to keep it aflame.

As a safety measure, we recommend keeping a fire extinguisher nearby. Also, make sure that you do not use a flammable liquid like gasoline, as it can often cause uncontrollable fires.

Using A Tree Stump Grinder

Using a stump grinder requires a strong back — needless to say, this job is best left to the experts. However, if you have some experience working with this heavy tool, you can use it to kill and remove a tree stump.

Step 1

First off, you need to wear proper protective gear, including heavy-duty clothes, work boots, and eye protection. Once geared up, start digging around the stump to remove rocks and create a furrow for flying wood chips to settle. Also, remember that running the grinder straight into the stump can damage the sharp teeth.

Step 2

Slowly, roll the grinder up to the stump and set the brake. You can then pivot the grinding head and move forward and back to chip away at the wood.

And once you have removed four to six inches of the stump, you should turn off the engine. Then, slowly roll a bit further ahead, set the brake, and start grinding again.

On average, an experienced individual may need about an hour to grind down a 20-inch stump.

Step 3

As a final step, fill the furrow with soil and dirt. You can top it up with mulch if desired.


Digging a tree stump and its root structure is a widely-used natural method of killing and removing tree stumps. However, it may also be the most time-consuming and laborious alternative among the lot. Here’s how to go about it:

Step 1

Use a shovel to dig around the tree stump, removing any tree roots in the way. Here, you may need to use a chainsaw to cut through more extensive roots and clippers for smaller ones.

Step 2

Once the root system is destabilized, you should be able to lift the tree stump out of the ground.

Step 3

Spread soil and dirt over the trench left by the stump and its root. You may choose to cover it with mulch or topsoil.

Using Chemicals To Kill Tree Stumps

Sometimes, you may have to cut down a tree that blocks natural lighting, preventing sunlight from reaching your home or other plants in the vicinity. You may not necessarily need to dig out the stump after cutting the tree in such a case. In fact, you can integrate the stump in your outdoor decor in creative ways — but that is a topic for another day.

Whether or not you want to remove the stubborn stump, here’s how you can use chemicals to stop the growth of aggressive shrubby suckers:

Step 1

Firstly, you will need to buy a decomposing agent, chemical stump killer, or an herbicide labeled for this application. On that note, most stump-removal products contain active ingredients like glyphosate, potassium nitrate, picloram, triclopyr, and sodium metabisulphite.

Needless to say, herbicides are loaded with harmful chemicals and shouldn’t be used around children or pets. Additionally, you must wear chemical-resistant gloves, safety goggles, and a respiratory mask to prevent breathing in toxic fumes.

Once geared up, you can begin treating the stump.

Step 2

Drill holes on the cut surface using a suitable drill bit that ensures each hole is more than a few inches in diameter. Alternatively, you can make slits across the surface to absorb the product.

Step 3

Next, you should read the instructions provided on the product label and apply it over the surface of the stump. For instance, liquid herbicides need to be spread over the surface with a paintbrush or sprayed on visible shoots. And if you are working with granulated stump killers, you have to sprinkle them around and pour hot water over the stump.

Step 4

Once you have applied the chemical solution over the stump, keep it covered to contain the toxic fumes.

Step 5

Keep in mind that chemical alternatives do not work instantly and may need to be reapplied every few months. However, it does hurry the rotting process, providing a significant improvement from the natural decay time.

Step 6

After about a few months or a year, the stump will have decomposed, leaving a hole behind. You can then fill the hole with fresh soil and cover it with topsoil or mulch.

Common DIY Method Alternatives

Herbicides contain harsh chemicals that can kill a tree stump, but they may also end up harming nearby plants. Moreover, leaving herbicide-treated stumps out for many months may not be appropriate if the tree stump is in an area that is frequented by children and pets.

On that note, here are a few safe and easy home remedies that you can try:

Boiling Water

Pouring boiling water on a tree stump is one of the most inexpensive techniques to kill it. Moreover, the tools for this method are readily available in most homes. But, considering how scalding hot water can easily burn the skin, you still need to be careful throughout the process.

Step 1

First off, you have to prepare the tree stump by digging around it to expose the roots.

Step 2

As the water boils away, drill as many holes as you can on the surface of the stump. At the same time, ensure that you drill deep enough to allow the hot water to reach the roots.

Step 3

Now, all you have to do is pour piping hot water all over the stump. Although you want to pour out the water in a quick motion, be careful not to let it splash.

Step 4

You may repeat the process to damage the root system, which will eventually die, giving way to the decaying process.

Epsom Salt Method

It is with noting that a dead tree stump may take as many as seven years to decompose. Fortunately, Epsom salt may help speed up the natural rotting process and cut down the duration to less than a year.

Here’s how to use it:

Step 1

Begin by drilling deep and wide holes on the cut surface of the tree stump and cover it with a generous layer of Epsom salt crystals. That said, Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfur, which are capable of drying out plants only in large quantities.

Step 2

Now, pour a little bit of water over the Epsom salt so that the tree stump can absorb it. However, it may take a few weeks for the salt to seep through the stump, so you should cover the stump with a plastic tarp.

Step 3

Reapply Epsom salt and water every few weeks and keep checking the progress. Eventually, you will notice that the Epsom salt has sucked away the moisture, leaving the stump dead and dried out.

Rock Salt Method

Don’t have any Epsom salt lying around? You can try using rock salt instead. Indeed, this common kitchen condiment can accelerate the decaying process, especially when used with a potassium nitrate fertilizer.

Step 1

First off, drill holes on the surface of the stump and pack them with a generous amount of rock salt. You can also spread a thick layer of rock salt over the surface to ensure that it seeps deep into the roots.

Step 2

Next, you can add another layer of mulch or topsoil over the salt and top it up with fertilizer to promote the growth of fungi and speed up the decomposition process.

Step 3

As a final step, pour water over the mulch to allow the salt solution to dissolve. Also, ensure that you keep the stump hydrated by watering it every day.

Trash Bag

As you’re already aware, trees need sunlight to survive. So, perhaps the easiest way to kill a tree stump is to force darkness upon it. Here’s an easy way to do it:

Step 1

Cover the tree stump with a black trash bag or plastic bag. Alternatively, you can place a dark-colored bucket for a smaller stump.

Step 2

Use weights, such as rocks and bricks, to keep the plastic bag in place and check back to see if the stump is dead after two or three months.

Hire A Professional

Although there are various chemical and natural solutions you can use to kill stumps and prevent future growth, complete removal may involve some physical labor. Not to mention how you may need to use dangerous heavy-duty equipment to get the work done quicker.

At the same time, herbicides are filled with chemicals that are not only toxic to the surrounding vegetation but also your family and other passers-by. In fact, even safer alternatives like Epsom salt can dry out and damage other plants in your yard or garden.

On that note, you may want to hire a professional to finish the job for you. Apart from using heavy-duty equipment that cuts down the time it takes to finish the task, professionals are well-trained for all kinds of stump-removal projects. Needless to say, they bring their expertise and use equipment and products that are safe for your family and the surrounding plants.

Final Words

Whether you are an amateur or a seasoned gardener who often powers heavy-duty tools, you can learn to kill tree stumps successfully. That said, we have detailed several methods that involve different tools, techniques, and skill levels.

Needless to say, you don’t need to be “stumped” anymore — this comprehensive guide provides several alternatives suitable for almost everyone. In fact, all you need to do is look in your garden shed or kitchen for the right equipment.

And if you still don’t have the resources to do it yourself, consider hiring a professional to do the dirty and dangerous work of killing invasive tree stumps today.