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How to Kill a Tree Stumps in 5 Easy Ways?

Don’t Let the Stump, Stump You!!

Most of the methods of removing or killing a tree do the job well, but they only concentrate on the tree! Very often, after the tree is gone, the stump remains behind.

Initially, people are happy just to see the tree go, but soon the stump becomes an eyesore, and in many cases, it starts sprouting new leaves and shoots. If left unattended, it may turn into a big problem.

When we decided to kill a tree in our garden, it was mainly because it was spreading underground at a fast speed and killing off all the other plants! The grass in our lawn was withering away.

The decision to kill the tree was the last resort that we could think of. Once the tree was gone, and only the stump was left behind, I was sure that my plants and lawn were going to come back to their glory!!

Soon I noticed a few new shoots and leaves sprouting out of the stump! I kept cutting them off but soon realized that the tree was thriving.

Now, I had to think about killing the stump! It turned out to be a bigger problem because I had to make sure that all the roots were removed or eradicated.

Read on to find information about killing the stump in the best way possible.

How to Kill a Tree Stumps
via Pixabay

What Do You Need?

Just like for killing a tree, there are a number of methods for killing a stump. It depends on a number of things:

  • How big is the stump
  • Soil condition
  • How big is the root network
  • How environmentally conscious are you as an individual
  • How much time and money can you spend
  • Do you want to use the stump as a decorative piece or furniture
  • Is it only one stump or many

Once you are sure about these things, you can decide the method of killing the stump. There are a number of things that you may need while killing a stump.

  • Herbicide and chemicals: herbicides containing triclopyr and glyphosate are reliable and best for stubborn stumps
  • Plastic Sheets: tarp or plastic in black or dark colors are ideal. They can block sunlight more effectively. Get only heavy-duty garbage bags if you are planning to use them.
  • Drill: drill with different drill bits can be used on all kinds of stumps. Use a good quality, sharp drill for large stumps.
  • Paint Brush: this is for applying the herbicide. You can use any old paintbrush. Dispose it off after using it if possible.
  • Ax: any work with trees and stumps require a good ax for making small cuts or for cutting off new sprouts.
  • Hatchet: many people prefer this to an ax for making small cuts on the stump.
  • Chainsaw: if you plan to first make cuts on top to expose live tissues or to drill holes, then you will need a chainsaw. This is a powerful tool, and you must use it with a lot of caution.
  • Stump Grinder: this is used in the grinding method. By using this, you can grind the stump into dust or small pieces.
  • Shovel: for digging out roots for better application of herbicides.
  • Safety glasses: with all the sawdust and shrapnel flying around, safety glasses are a must. You don’t want anything to get into your eyes.
  • Heavy gloves: for any kind of outdoor work with tools and heavy equipment, sturdy gloves are necessary to protect your hands.
  • Diesel/ kerosene: for burning the stump, you need some fuel. Look for unadulterated fuel otherwise there could be an accident
  • Charcoal: it can help you in starting a fire while burning the stump. It simmers for a long time
  • Salt: Epsom or table salt are the best when using for killing a stump.
  • Bleach: some people prefer pouring bleach instead of any other chemicals.

Apart from these things, you may need a few other things which you can note when we tell you about the different methods of killing stumps. Take time to understand your needs first before you choose any method.

It is not a bad idea to take advice from someone who has done it or ask an expert for tips. We will give you as much information about different methods as possible and hope that it will be useful to you.

Tree Stumps - How to Kill a Tree Stumps

How to Kill a Tree Stumps

Do you want the stump to go completely? There could be many reasons why you want to get rid of the stump!

  • It looks like an eyesore.
  • It is dangerous and an obstacle.
  • It is still thriving and spreading its roots
  • It is continuously sprouting new leaves and shoots
  • You want to plant something else in that place
  • You want a plain ground for some purpose.
  • Natural calamities like hurricanes can uproot a large number of trees and leave the stumps behind.

Like there can be many reasons why you want to kill the stump, there are several methods to kill the stump. Take your time and research properly before you decide to choose one method.

1. Herbicide and Chemicals

This is an effective method and used quite extensively. You can use a potent herbicide if the nearby area is free of residences, and no water lines are passing by. 

Strong chemicals can easily seep into the ground and soil, which can poison the other plants and even contaminate groundwater. There are two ways you can use herbicides.

  • Drill holes in the stump and any visible roots. Fill them with herbicide and leave them. Refill every few days, and slowly you will notice the stump dying.
  • Make some cuts on the stump surface and the visible roots. Apply herbicides with a brush liberally. Make sure that the cuts are fresh when you apply the herbicide.

Some herbicides are specifically designed to target a particular type of tree. Use these if you can to get better and more effective results.

2. Burn the Stump

Burning the stump is also a good option to kill it. Just follow these steps.

Burn the Stump - How to Kill a Tree Stumps
  • Drill some holes on the surface. Make them as deep as you can. You can go to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
  • Fill these holes with diesel or kerosene. Saturate the stump thoroughly.
  • Now start the fire with some sticks on top as kindle.
  • You can also use charcoal to start the fire.
  • Once the fire starts, make sure that it spreads to the roots and burns the stump entirely.
  • If the stump is enormous, it may take a few hours.Once the fire burns the stump to the ground, collect the ashes completely.
  • Once the fire burns the stump to the ground, collect the ashes completely.

It is essential to keep a few things in mind while choosing this method.

  • Safety. Fire can become a hazard if you are not careful.
  • Fire can spread to nearby areas, so keep it under control.
  • Follow the regulations and take the required permissions.
  • Don’t leave the fire unattended.
  • There could be some wood simmering even if you can’t see any fire.
  • Keep fire extinguisher ready for any mishaps.

3. Using Salt

Using Epsom or rock salt is an easy and cheap way to kill a stump. It takes a long time, and if you are in a hurry, then this may not be a good option for you.

Drill holes in the stump - How to Kill a Tree Stumps
  • Drill holes in the surface. Make them deep to ensure it works effectively.
  • Make sure you take care of the roots which are visible and make holes in them as well.
  • Now fill the holes with salt. At least 3/4th of the hole should be filled with salt.
  • Take a candle and light it up. Now, drop the wax on the holes. This will seal the salt inside.
  • Now, take a tarp, thick dark plastic sheet, or any other non-porous material.
  • Cover the stump entirely so that no sunlight or rain may reach the stump.
  • Without any nourishment, the stump will slowly break apart and die.

This method is suitable for people who don’t want to use any toxic materials or don’t want to spend too much money.

4. Cutting the Stump

Chopping the stump and removing it is also a good way to kill it. You will need a grinder and safety gear to do this effectively.

Stump grinder - How to Kill a Tree Stumps
  • Wearing goggles and masks is not only prudent but also necessary because there will be a lot of small pieces flying around.
  • You need a reliable stump grinder for large trunks. Ensure a proper power supply.
  • It is a heavy machine, and if you are not comfortable in handling it then, ask a professional.
  • Cut the stump as close to the ground as possible with chainsaw or ax.
  • Remove any branches or roots which are sticking up. Prepare a smooth surface on top.
  • Wear your protective gear and place the grinder on top of the surface.
  • Follow the instructions and slowly move the grinder around.
  • You will notice that the wood is getting ground into small bits and dust.
  • Continue till all the stump and roots are ground completely.
  • You may have to use an ax to remove any leftover parts.

Keep these things in mind while using this method.

  • Wear safety boots as it is a heavy machine, and a small slip can cause an accident.
  • Keep children and pets away while you undertake this operation.
  • Sawdust and wood chips can harm your eyes and lungs. Masks and goggles are necessary.

5. Blocking the Sun

This is a very easy method and will not cost you anything much. What you need is a lot of patience. By blocking sunlight and water, you are slowly killing the stump. Use a dark tarp or a trash bag to cover the surface.

Check it from time to time. You will notice that the stump starts to rot and decompose. It may take a few months for this to happen.

Once there are signs of breakage and rot, you can add herbicides to fasten the process. Salt is another option. You can use a drill to make holes before adding salt or herbicide.

Also, be on the lookout for any sprouts. Cut them off immediately and apply herbicide to prevent any more growth. Soon you will notice that the stump is dead, and it will be easy to remove it.

Which one is the Best for You?

It does not matter which method you choose, because the keys to success are consistency, patience, and careful follow-through. Sometimes it is better to combine two or more methods to get better and faster results.

Before burning a stump, you can saturate it with the salt mixture to completely dehydrate it. This will help you when you burn it. Patience is essential to do a thorough job.

If money is not a criterion; buying or renting a stump grinder is probably the best option. It will give you excellent results and that too in a short time.

If it is only one or two stumps, then hiring is a better option. For a large number of stumps, it is a good idea to invest in a good stump grinder. When using herbicides, be careful and use good branded ones and, if possible, find specific tree killers.

Some Tips to Keep in Mind While Killing A Stump

While you decide to kill the stump with any of these methods, it is also essential to keep in mind some things. Some of these are safety issues, while some are tips for effective results.

Please read them carefully and follow them to get better and safer results.

  • If the stump had any disease, please ensure that you disinfect all equipment thoroughly after use.
  • Before using any chemicals, put on safety glasses, overalls, gloves, and safety shoes.
  • When you cut the stump, try to make a horizontal cut. Expose live tissues before you apply herbicide.
  • Read all instructions carefully before starting, especially when handling toxic chemicals.
  • Following any chemical, application wash your hands thoroughly and dispose-off the clothes which you can. Rest wash and clean as soon as possible.
  • A stump grinder is a powerful machine. Use it with caution.
  • While removing the stump, try to get all roots out.

Sometimes it is not removing the tree, which is a problem but a stubborn stump! If possible, get everything out in one go.

The tree and stump, if removed together, can solve a lot of problems later on. However, many times, a stump remains for a long time before people pay attention to it. This ends up exacerbating the problem!

Removing A Dead Stump

Once you have killed a stump, the next problem is removing it. If it is a large stump, it is quite challenging to remove it easily.

  • One way to remove a dead stump is to dig all around and pull it out manually.
  • You can use a tractor if the stump is too large to pull it out. You will have to loosen the soil before pulling it out.
  • A stump grinder can turn the stump to dust. However, many roots and pieces of the stump can remain, and you will have to remove them separately.
  • You can let it rot and decompose after cutting off significant portions. You can use fertilizer to decompose faster.
  • Whichever method you use, try to get as many roots as possible. Some roots are sturdy and, if left behind, can become a nuisance.
  • Burning is also a good option, but you need a lot of patience. You will not have to remove the stump, and once it is completely burnt, you can take out the ashes.


Whatever the reason for your decision to kill the stump, you must go ahead and do it in the best manner possible. I wasted a lot of time and tried different methods before getting success.

I also spent money and energy. The reason why we have shared this information is for you to be able to do it more easily. If you find the information useful, please feel free to share it with friends and neighbors facing the same issues.

If you have anything to add to the information we will be happy to incorporate it. If you have any questions feel free to ask us.

We will be very happy to provide answers and help you. Removing a stump is not very difficult if you know how to! Take care of safety concerns and have the best equipment and tools to do this in an easy way!