How to Kill a Tree Stump

After felling a tree there is always the problem of what to do with the stump, especially when dealing with more mature specimens. With labyrinthine root systems holding them in place, it’s not possible to simply pull the stump out in most cases so you need to find a more effective removal method. In today’s article, we’re going to discuss how to kill a tree stump and examine a number of different approaches in the process. By the time you’ve finished reading, you will have a much better idea of what to do and, just as important, what not to do.


How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump: Evaluating Your Options

Whether you are faced with the task of removing a single tree stump or you have several to deal with, the following methods have all proved to be effective. When deciding which one to use, consider what your priorities are, whether you have easy access to the necessary equipment and which ones fit your needs best. Before you start evaluating each method, it is worth noting that the first 3 are ways to accelerate the natural process of decay in tree stumps while the last 3 are physical ways in which you can deal with leftover stumps. With this in mind, you may wish to focus on the last 3 if time is of the essence and the first 3 if you have plenty of time and patience but little equipment, or desire to engage in manual labour.


Light Deprivation

If you are looking for the easiest solution and you don’t mind waiting, covering the stump so it receives no sunlight is an excellent way to promote decomposition. It may take a little time but it’s still faster than just leaving the stump open to the elements and it does not require any special skills, equipment or physical effort. As long as the stump is completely covered, this method will eventually work very well. It doesn’t really matter what you use to cover the stump as long as it doesn’t let any light through. Most people use tarpaulin or black plastic sheeting but you can use whatever you have to hand at the time.


Epsom Salt

Magnesium sulphate, or Epsom Salt as it is more commonly referred to, is commonly added to bathwater to ease stress and promote relaxation, which it does by providing the body with a source of magnesium. It is the magnesium content that makes it useful to us too: it helps to promote decay in tree stumps as well as relaxation in humans. If you would like to try killing a tree stump with Epsom Salt, drill holes in the surface of the stump, fill them with the Epsom Salt then keep the stump moist. This will result in an acceleration of the decomposition process.


Boiling Water

This is another relatively easy method that relies more on passing time than physical effort, although not as much time as would be the case if you simply left the stump to its own devices. As with the above method, you’ll first need to drill holes into the stump. Having done so, pour a generous quantity of boiling water into the holes that you have made. By doing so, you will weaken the structure of the woody fibres, thereby softening them and making the stump easier to remove. If you decide to try this method, please remember to wear suitable PPE to minimise the possibility of scalding yourself.



If you are looking for a faster way to get rid of a tree stump, burning it is one possible option. As with the last two methods, this one starts with drilling holes into the stump, only this time, it’s paraffin you are going to be pouring into the holes rather than hot water or magnesium sulphate. Once all the holes are filled with paraffin, set light to the stump. If you decide to try this particular method, be prepared for it to take some time for the stump to burn away completely. You should also make sure that you are ready to deal with any stray sparks and flames, especially if you are attempting this method in windy conditions.



If you don’t have a JCB to hand there’s no need to panic as excavation simply means digging in this case! All you will need for this method is a decent spade and shovel, and plenty of energy to spare. The best way to dig out a stump is to start by excavating the area around the perimeter, until you expose the root system. Then, simply sever all of the exposed roots and you should be able to pull out the stump without too much difficulty. If you are not sure whether you have the strength or endurance for this method, consider inviting a friend or two to help out.



If you happen to possess a stump grinder, this is the fastest way to deal with leftover stumps after a feeling operation has been completed. As most people do not own such a machine, the easiest way to grind a stump down is to hire a local professional to do it for you. If you came here to find out how to kill a tree stump as quickly as possible, this is definitely the best method for you.


If you want to get rid of a stump quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of fuss, we recommend calling the experts. And of course, if you are looking for a team of professionals in North East Scotland who know exactly how to kill a tree stump, you are welcome to contact us. We have the knowledge, skills and equipment to deal with all types of stumps in record time. As a matter of fact, we offer a full range of arboricultural services in this part of the country so in addition to removing tree stumps, we can handle all your other tree care needs with ease.

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