How to Naturally Eliminate a Tree Stump? How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump? How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump with Commercial Stump Killers?

electric, sharp orange chainsaw on wood stump in forest
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How to Naturally Eliminate a Tree Stump? How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump? How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump with Commercial Stump Killers?

Getting rid of a tree stump in your yard can be challenging and costly. It’s even more frustrating when, despite your efforts and expenses, you’re left with an unsightly stump that continues to grow shoots and linger long after the tree is gone.

There are various options to deal with a tree stump, whether you want to prevent its growth or completely remove it from your yard. No matter your situation, one of these solutions is likely to be helpful.

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What to Know Before Start My Stump Removal Project?

Before you start, keep in mind that removing a tree stump requires effort and patience. The quickest methods involve heavy tools or force, while less physically demanding approaches take time. If the task seems too overwhelming, you might consider finding a creative use for the stump. However, if you’re determined to eliminate the stump, you can do so by physically digging it up, using natural remedies, or treating it with salt or chemicals.

The most suitable removal method depends on local regulations, the stump’s size and location, your willingness to exert physical effort, your comfort with using herbicides, and how quickly you want the stump gone. Regardless of the method chosen, cutting the stump as close to the ground as possible will yield the best results.

How to Naturally Eliminate a Tree Stump?

If you’re not in a hurry to remove a tree stump, you can effectively get rid of it by weakening it and preventing new growth. The following methods expedite the natural decay process by breaking down the wood, making it easier to eliminate. If you’re okay with a gradual solution, consider trying these simple home remedies using common ingredients.

1. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring compound with essential plant nutrients like magnesium and sulfur. In concentrated amounts, it can extract moisture from a stump, leading to its demise in about a month, depending on its size.

Materials Needed:

  • Chainsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Drill with a spade bit
  • Epsom salt
  • Water


  1. Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as low as possible.
  2. Starting about 3 inches from the stump’s outer edge, drill 1-inch-wide holes spaced 1 inch apart into the top of the stump. Drill as deeply as you can.
  3. Fill the holes with Epsom salt, adding enough water to saturate it without causing spills. Sprinkle additional Epsom salt around the stump’s base.
  4. Cover the stump with a tarp to prevent rain from washing away the Epsom salt.
  5. Wait about a month as the Epsom salt deprives the roots of moisture, leading to the stump’s demise.
  6. Once the tree stump is dead (no green wood or emerging shoots), you can either dig it up, grind it down, or find a creative way to incorporate it into your landscape.

2. Rock Salt

Rock salt is another effective option but use it with caution to avoid harm to neighboring plants:

  • Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as low as safely possible.
  • Drill 1-inch holes in the top of the stump, starting 3 inches away from the edge.
  • Pack the holes with rock salt.
  • Cover the stump with soil and top it with mulch.
  • Pour water over the mulch to saturate the stump.
  • Monitor the stump for a month, and if you see green shoots, repeat the process until the stump is dead.

3. Tarp or Plastic

This method involves blocking light to starve the stump:

  • Use a chainsaw to cut the stump close to the ground.
  • Cover the stump and exposed roots with a tarp or thick plastic.
  • Pile organic waste over the covering.
  • Wait up to 6 months for the stump to die off.

After decay, either dig it up, grind it down, or find a creative way to incorporate it into your landscape.

A stump is shredded with removal, grinding the stumps and roots into small chips

How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump?

The fastest way to eliminate a tree stump is through physical removal methods, which include digging, grinding, or burning. However, each of these methods has its challenges. Let’s explore the digging method in detail to understand if it’s the right approach for you.

1. Dig It Out

For stumps around 12 inches in diameter, digging is a practical solution that doesn’t require expensive machinery. While it demands some physical effort, it’s achievable with basic hand tools.

Tools Needed:

  • Chainsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Spade
  • Mattock
  • Digging bar


  1. Use the chainsaw to cut the stump as low as safely possible.
  2. Employ the mattock to loosen the soil around the stump. As roots become visible, chop through them.
  3. Work from all sides, moving downward and inward towards the taproot beneath the stump. Use the digging iron to loosen the soil or pry the stump sideways for better access.
  4. Once the taproot is exposed, chop through it using the sharp edge of the mattock.
  5. Remove the stump, its root ball, and any significant roots.

This labour-intensive method requires the right tools and effort, but it’s a feasible solution for smaller stumps without the need for large, costly equipment.

2. Burn It

Before attempting this method, be sure to check local regulations as burning a stump may be restricted or require a permit in your area. Consult your local fire department to ensure there are no burn advisories or bans in effect. Keep in mind that burning a stump might take longer than other methods like digging, and it may not eliminate roots below the soil level.

While some DIY enthusiasts suggest using flammable liquids like kerosene or diesel fuel (never gasoline), it’s advisable to avoid these substances. They can be challenging to control, and unless the accelerant penetrates the wood for several days, it tends to burn off without igniting the stump. The method described here uses charcoal, but firewood and kindling are also viable alternatives.

Materials Needed:

  • Chainsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Garden hose (connected to water supply)
  • Spade
  • Mattock
  • Drill with a spade bit
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal chimney starter
  • Firewood/kindling (optional)
  • Black stove pipe (optional)
  • Metal bucket or drum with the bottom cut out (optional)

Plan to supervise the fire throughout its duration, which could be a day or longer, depending on factors like stump size, wood type, moisture content, weather conditions, and other variables.


  1. Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as low as safely possible.
  2. Clear the area within at least a 20-foot radius of the stump from flammable materials and trip hazards.
  3. Use a spade to dig around the stump, loosening dirt and severing roots with a mattock to isolate the stump.
  4. Employ a drill with a spade bit to make holes in the top of the stump or create a crosshatch pattern with a chainsaw to encourage fire penetration.
  5. Connect a garden hose, ensuring it reaches beyond the stump, and turn on the water supply for quick flame extinguishing.
  6. Start coals in the chimney starter. Place a pipe around the trunk (for a smaller stump) or a steel drum with the bottom cut out (for a larger stump).
  7. When the coals turn grey, carefully pour them over the stump, keeping them contained within the pipe or steel drum.
  8. Monitor the fire, adding more coals as needed or letting them burn out. After the stump cools, use the mattock to chip away at the burnt parts.
  9. Repeat the process (starting a new fire or adding coals) until you’ve burned away as much of the stump as possible.
  10. Use the spade and mattock to remove the remaining stump and roots.

3. Grind It

Grinding is the fastest and most effective method for physically eliminating a tree stump. The duration of the grinding process depends on the stump’s size, ranging from as quick as 15 minutes to a few hours.

You have two options: hire a professional for the job or rent a stump grinder from a home centre for less than $200 per day. If you choose the DIY route, ensure you wear protective gear, including safety goggles, hearing protection, long sleeves, and steel-toed work boots. Follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions carefully.

Stump grinding poses risks to the operator and bystanders. The machine grinds to a depth of 9 to 18 inches, depending on the model, and generates flying debris. Hazards include rocks, wood chips, and the potential to hit utility lines accidentally. To mitigate risks, contact 1100, the national call-before-you-dig phone line in Australia, at least two weeks before your planned work day to have utility lines flagged.

Materials Needed:

  • Chainsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear protection
  • Work gloves
  • Spade
  • Stump grinder
  • Leaf rake


  1. Use a chainsaw to cut the stump as low as safely possible to expedite the grinding process.
  2. Clear rocks and debris from the stump’s surrounding area.
  3. Ensure no people or pets are within about 75 feet of the stump. Cover nearby windows, and if possible, move cars to a safe distance.
  4. Position the stump grinder near the stump, start the machine, and grind from side to side, working your way down from the top of the stump.
  5. Grind 4 to 6 inches below ground level, ensuring the surrounding roots are also ground.
  6. Level the area and rake up the wood chips. These chips can be repurposed as mulch, compost, or used to line a garden path.

How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump with Commercial Stump Killers?

There’s a variety of chemicals available to effectively kill tree stumps, some designed explicitly for the task and others serving multiple purposes. However, due to potential harm to nearby plants, animals, or people, it’s crucial to stick to proven and safe chemical solutions. Here are some common chemical approaches to removing or killing a tree stump.

A category of commercial stump killers utilises potassium nitrate to accelerate the decay of a stump, with products like Spectracide Stump Remover being a prime example. These aid in breaking down the stump, making it porous. After several weeks or months, depending on the stump’s size, you can easily break it apart with an axe or shovel for removal. These products work best on dry stumps, are environmentally safe, and act relatively quickly.

If you’re dealing with a stump from a freshly cut tree, consider using a product like Ferti-Lome Stump Killer. This, along with several other stump killers, contains triclopyr, a systemic herbicide that kills roots and prevents the growth of suckers. Apply these chemicals to the top of the stump immediately after making the fresh cut to ensure quick absorption into the remaining trunk and roots.

Avoid These 3 Tree Stump Killing Methods

When searching online for ways to remove tree stumps, you may come across some methods that are not recommended due to their adverse effects on your yard and the environment. Here are a few options to avoid:

  1. Bleach Using bleach might kill plants, but it is not intended as an herbicide and should not be utilised as one. The risks of using bleach outweigh any potential benefits. Applying bleach in the amounts necessary to kill a tree stump could expose surrounding grass, shrubs, and plants to harmful levels of chlorine, significantly raising soil pH. Save your bleach for more suitable purposes.
  2. Motor Oil While motor oil is suggested online as an effective tree stump killer, there is little reason to use it. It doesn’t save you much money, as a quart of motor oil costs only slightly less than a tested and proven product like Spectracide Stump Killer. Moreover, motor oil is harmful to the environment and can contaminate the ground around the stump. Opt for less damaging methods.
  3. Diesel Diesel is commonly chosen for burning away a stump due to its stability compared to gasoline. However, as mentioned earlier, flammable liquids won’t provide the sustained burn necessary to eliminate a tree stump. Additionally, they are generally more environmentally harmful than natural alternatives. Choose methods that are less harmful to both your yard and the environment.

Final Thoughts

Regrettably, there’s no magic solution for swiftly, inexpensively, and effortlessly getting rid of a tree stump without potential harm to nearby plants. Each method comes with its downsides: Physical approaches like digging, grinding, or burning can be quick but demand a lot of effort. DIY home remedies and chemical methods might be gradual, may need repeated applications, and may still involve some digging for complete stump removal.

The wisest strategy is to assess your specific situation and constraints, opting for the safest and most feasible method that aligns with your goal, whether it’s entirely removing the stump or expediting its decomposition.

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