How to Kill a Tree Stump? – 7 Effective Ways

Where one might see an opportunity, others see a problem. That tree in the middle of your backyard might be dying, and you are already thinking about how to kill the tree stump and its roots. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a dying tree. Your idea of the “perfect” backyard might have changed, and that tree needs to go. Whatever the case is if you want to find out how to kill a tree stump, and its roots, there are a few ways to deal with this.

Each of the below mentioned has its pros and cons. Some take a long time, others are expensive. Depending on your experience and tools you have at hand, read through these tree stump killing methods and one will definitely work for you.

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Use a Commercial Tree Stump Killer

One of the simplest and fastest solutions to kill a tree stump is to apply a commercial tree stump killer. What it does is it fastens the rotting process. So even if it doesn’t kill the tree stump it will rot it to the point where you can remove it with a shovel.

If you have a bigger, more stubborn tree stump go for Gordon’s Ready-to-Use Qt solution, otherwise you can stick with Fertilome. Both options are non-toxic but they will destroy any grass or other plants that you have around the stump.

The process is fairly simple and doesn’t take much time:

  1. Drill holes around the base and the top of the tree stump. This is much more effective than just pouring the stump killer on top of the stump. Most people that miss this step just end up with the solution running all around the stump, killing the grass around it and doing little real damage.
  2. Pour half of the tree stump killer down the holes with the tree stump killer. Once you’re done, seal the holes. This will ensure that the liquid does not get out as well. Make sure that the seals are easily removed. Use a funnel for the harder to reach holes.
  3. After a week, you should start seeing noticeable results. Parts of the tree stump will start turning black. Now is the time to unseal the holes and re-fill them once again with the remaining half of the stump killer.
  4. Within a month, the tree stump should be completely dead and rotten to the point where it will be very easy to remove.

Copper Nails and Copper Sulfate (works on small trees only)

Copper interferes with the growth mechanisms of the tree, namely cell division. Using it proves for quite an effective method when it comes to killing stumps.

You might come across information that copper doesn’t do the job, but this is a common misconception that comes from people trying to kill healthy, grown trees. A tree stump is much easier to kill with copper as the growth areas (roots and sprouts) are much closer together. This means the metal can reach the critical areas much easier.  

There are two main ways of using copper for this and although they use different products the result is the same.

The Copper Nails Method

First, you will need some copper nails. Make sure that you get nails that are copper throughout (not just copper coated) as only the full-copper ones are effective.

Otherwise the coating just wears off and the tree stump is left unharmed. Either get them at your local home depot or order something like these or these that have a free drill bit included. Make sure the nails also have removal spikes (more on that later) and apply the steps below:

  1. Start by hammering nails to the base of the stump you want to kill. Just go as low as you can and place the nails at a slightly downward angle. Placing the nails downward won’t just place the copper at an optimal distance from the root to the sprouts, but it’s also a bit easier. Continue placing nails 1 1/2 inch apart. If you cannot manage, 2 inch is fine as well, although it will be slightly less effective.
  2. Right after you place the nails, cut off any sprouts or even visible, easy to remove roots. This will force the tree to pull resources for new growth and will pull the copper faster.
  3. Leave the nails in the tree for as long as possible. For smaller trees – up to 3 inch in diameter you should start seeing results within a month. For bigger trunks it might take a couple of months. You will however, see clear signs that the tree stump is dying in mere weeks.
  4. Once the stump has died you can remove it. Before working on the stump itself make sure that you remove all nails – this is where the removal spikes come in handy. Working on tearing out the tree stump while nails are still embedded, no matter what method you use, is dangerous.

Use Copper Sulfate

This is nother pretty simple method of using copper, however, instead of nails, it’s copper sulfate. This “poison” is usually used to kill tree roots in pipes and sewer lines, but it’s just as effective in killing tree stumps. You can do this by pouring it around the base, but it could get into the water supply.

Here is a step by step guide:

  1. Peel an inch or two of the bark near the base of the stump. If you are trying to get rid of the stump of an old tree with thick bark, cut small openings at approximately 3 inches
  2. Drill holes at a downward angle exactly where the bark is removed.
  3. Use a funnel to pour the copper sulfate in the holes. If you do not have a funnel you can use a sheet of paper wrapped in a cone that you can later throw away.
  4. Seal the holes– if you’ve made openings, use the same bark that you removed. If you peeled the bark, seal the holes with regular unscented candle wax.

Burn it Down

A tree without the sap doesn’t burn easily. That said, you will have to prepare the stump before you set it on fire. There are two problems which you have to deal with.

Small Surface – Dissipating Heat

Unless you dig under the stump, and set the fire burning under the stump, it will just not burn. Even if you put fire around it, the surface is so small, and heat will dissipate quickly, rendering the stump almost “invulnerable” to the flame. To prevent this, you should drill holes in the stump. Once you drill the holes, both from the top and from the sides, you should then put gasoline in them.

However, be very careful! It will take a lot of time, and you might have to attend the fire, making sure it doesn’t go off.

Why will it go off?

That leads us to the second problem.

Lack of Oxygen

If you want strong flame, you need a lot of oxygen. That’s basically what a car turbo charger does. Once you have the holes in place, and you set the fire, you have to attend it until ember appears. This is when things speed up a bit.

A simple leaf blower can do the trick. You can also use a reversed vacuum cleaner, which, to be honest, works even better, because you can target the embers directly.

As you can see, the process is not only long, but it can get pretty loud as well. If you’re doing it right, you will also get a cool effect of fire blazing out of the side holes. It’s a sight worth sharing on Instagram, and it will get a lot of likes!

Let’s say that if you don’t “turbo-charge” the flame, it can take up to 3 days. Inform your neighbors, there will be smoke, and you don’t want the firefighters in your backyard.

Shield it From the Sun

Granted, the tree stump can regrow if the roots are in good shape, but not if it’s shielded from the sun. Simply putting a black plastic bag over the stump will bring it quickly to its demise. There are two things happening when you shield the stump from the sun:

  • The black bag will increase the temperature of the stump, ergo sucking out any residual moisture in there.
  • The tree stump cannot get the necessary sunlight to regrow and recover.

Water and sunlight are two of the essential conditions that must be present for any plant to grow, recover or sprout. With this simple “sun-shield”, the tree stump will die down much quicker than if you were to let it die or rot naturally.

Combining this with a tree stump killer like the aforementioned item will speed things up significantly!

Cut the Roots, Chop the Stump

Inflicting as much damage as possible is the key objective. Whether the damage is physical or caused by chemicals, it doesn’t matter. As long as the roots get damaged, the tree stump will die.

However, if the roots are deep, or not visible, this method will clearly not work. If this is the case, you will have to use chemicals to damage the roots and inner core of the stump.

You can, however, inflict damage to the stump. Simply removing the bark will make it harder for the tree stump to regrow. This is known as “girdling”.

In addition, there are some trees that don’t regrow once cut, but that’s a special topic.

Using Epsom Salt

You’ve probably heard the words tree stump and Epsom salt in the same sentence. Whether online or by a friend, or a relative, that statement is very close to the truth. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s by no accident that I’m talking about it first.

What is Epsom Salt?

It’s not rocket science, but it’s still, science, chemistry to be precise.

Epsom salt is actually Magnesium Sulfate. Besides being used as a solution for stumps and roots removal, Epsom salt is used in alternative medicine. It’s commonly accepted that it helps with detox, relieves from pain, and, believe it or not, supposedly it can treat fungal infection.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of alternative medicine. While I see myself using it to soak my feet and make them softer, but I’d never use Epsom salt to treat a fungal infection. You need proper medicine for that. But I would use it to kill a tree stump.

How does Epsom Salt Kill a Tree Stump and its roots?

When you cut a tree, the stump is still alive, and it can regrow in a very poor fashion, thanks to its roots. Even if you cut the roots on the outside, there’s a high chance there’s a middle, deep root right beneath the stump.

Epsom salt simply absorbs the moisture from the stump, therefore making it brittle. The salt will not make it disappear, but it will make it brittle enough, for you to knock it to small pieces, and remove it.

This takes weeks and even months, depending on the size and shape of the stump. In most cases, a medium-sized trump will take at least 3 months to a year.

A word of advice, please, cover the stump to protect it from rain. The idea is to dehydrate the stump.

Call a Contractor (Arborist)

Calling a contractor sounds like the most reasonable thing to do. And to be honest with you, if money is not an object, it’s recommended you do so. You will get the service of a licensed contractor which which knows exactly what to do. They can:

  • apply chemicals (poison the tree stump),
  • inflict physical damage the right way
  • grind it with a stump grinder

From the moment they arrive at your home, the stump, along with all of its roots will be killed in a few hours only, or if you’ve decided to grind it and remove it altogether, it can be done the same day.

If you are asking about the price, well, it can cost anywhere between $50 and all the way up to $300+. Compared to the other methods, this is by far the most expensive method.

Again, this seems like a reasonable way only if you got the “moolah”, or you don’t have the time.

Removing a tree stump does not necessarily need to be a hassle. It can be a challenge, which will teach you a lot of things in the process.

Removing a Tree Stump Summary

Hopefully, the options for killing/removing a tree stump that I pointed out will be put to use. Whether you are looking for a DIY approach to get rid of the stump and its roots, or you want the “easy way out”, you have them. To spare you from the hassle, here’s a brief summary.

  • commercial stump killer
  • copper nails or copper sulphate
  • burn it down
  • shield it from the sun
  • epsom salt
  • hire a contractor

Regardless of which method you choose, make sure you’re safe. Even if you’re hiring a contractor, double-check you won’t get ripped off. As for the others, well, you will have to exert a lot of force or handle a machine that will do it for you.


🧂Can I kill a tree stump with Epsom salt?

Yes, you can kill a tree stump and its roots with Epsom salt. However, the process takes longer than other methods. In addition, if you opt for Epsom salt, make sure you get more than enough of it. The stump needs to be fully covered, along with the drilled holes in it. On top of this, you will have to do this a few times.

🔥How to burn a tree stump with its roots?

There are two ways in general. One is to use a barrel to direct the heat to the stump, and the other is to drill enough holes in the stump. If you go with drilling, you should fill them with gasoline and start a fire. Make sure the fire is burning long enough.

🚜What is the most efficient way of removing a tree stump?

The most efficient way is using a tree stump grinder, or by proxy, hiring a contractor to do it for you. The 2nd best option is pulling it out with some sort of tractor. Be very careful with these approaches as they can be hazardous.

Martha M.

Martha M.

I'm passionate about small DIY projects and my modest garden. I'm always up for a challenge! Soon after getting out of university, I realized I won't find many if I don't set the ground myself. Soon after, was created.

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