How to Clean Up and Dispose of a Christmas Tree


You can’t beat a real Christmas tree for the holidays, but when it’s time to clean up they can leave a real mess behind. Follow these simple steps to make tree removal as neat as possible, and with any luck you won’t be picking pine needles out of the carpet for the next six months!

You Will Need:

  • Large plastic tree bag, or
  • Bed sheet
  • Gallon sized plastic bag
  • Broom
  • Dust pan
  • Vacuum cleaner

Steps to Dispose of the Tree:

  1. Remove all decorations, including lights, ornaments, garland, beads and tinsel.
  2. Cover the tree in the plastic tree bag if you have one. If not, fully wrap the tree in the bed sheet.
  3. If there is water in the tree stand, loosen the tree trunk, so you can pull it from the stand.
  4. Once the trunk is loosened, lift it out and set it inside of a plastic bag. The base of the tree will have developed a thick coat of sap. Be cautious not to set the sticky end of the trunk on any carpet or flooring. The sap is extremely sticky and will be difficult to remove.
  5. If possible, haul the stand out with the tree and detach it once outside.
  6. Clear a path to the nearest door, making sure that furniture and fragile items are moved far enough to allow for the width of the tree.
  7. Move the wrapped tree, taking care to keep the edge of the sheet facing up to prevent spills, through the door to the outside.
  8. Once outside, remove the stand if it’s still attached.
  9. Next, remove the sheet. If you have a tree bag, remove the tree from the bag before recycling it.
  10. Back inside, remove the tree stand and sweep up as many of the fallen needles as you can.
  11. Next, use the vacuum cleaner hose attachment to pick up any remaining dirt or pine needles. The attachment keeps the pine needles out of the base of the machine and allows a more precise pickup than a regular vacuum.
  12. Check the brush bar on your vacuum after cleaning to remove any stuck needles and cut loose any tinsel that may have become tangled around the bar.
  13. Finally, finish the clean up outside. Rinse and wipe the tree stand clean.  Toss the plastic bag in the garbage or launder the sheet. Move the tree to the curb and sweep the porch or patio of pine needles.
  14. Some trees drip more sap than others. If there is sap on any hard surface areas, simply wash it away with warm water and a mild detergent.
  15. If there is sap on the carpet or upholstery, it can be removed by rubbing the area with a soft cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Alternatively you can check out our guide How to Remove Christmas Tree Sap from Carpet. For sensitive fabrics, there are removal methods available in the guide How to Remove Sap from Leather.
  16. If sap has dripped on the tree skirt, and it is washable, the method in our guide How to Remove Sap from Clothing can be used to remove it.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Next year, place the plastic tree bag around the base of the tree and cover it with your tree skirt. When it’s time to dispose of the tree, simply slide the bag over the bare tree for a fast, easy disposal. (This method will require the removal of the base inside prior to pulling the bag up over the tree. Take care to keep the sap off of the carpet or surrounding floor areas.)
  • Many cities and localities offer tree recycling services. Check your local newspaper or city website for pickup or drop off locations.
  • Remove all decorations and tinsel before tossing your tree. Programs for recycling trees cannot mulch or reuse the trees unless they are bare.
  • If curbside pickup services are not available to you, cut the tree up and place it in your garbage can.  Some localities will accept lawn debris in clear plastic bags. If yours is one of them, package your tree accordingly.
  • Artificial trees can’t be recycled. If you are unable or do not plan to reuse the tree the following year, throw it away in the garbage.


  1. Tree removal says:

    Cleaning up Christmas trees is really a nightmare. I’m glad I found this post and I can try these tips on my next Christmas tree.

  2. Jane says:

    A shop vac is the very best!

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