The Ultimate Tree Stump Killer Guide

Last summer, I cleared out my yard so that the kids and dogs could have a nice place to play. However, there were two pesky tree stumps that posed a danger and ruined the view of the yard. 

I learned quickly that removing stumps can prove difficult if you don't know what you're doing. 

In this article, I've outlined a detailed tree stump killer guide that will help you get rid of this same problem once and for all! 

Tree Stump Removal

There are multiple ways in which you can remove a tree stump. The problem with these is that most trees have extremely strong roots that dig deep into the soil, and cutting out the part above the ground is just not an option. Tree roots will still survive and might grow back. 

The Ultimate Tree Stump Killer Guide

Removal can come in multiple ways. Some of these ways are slow and can take a few months, while others need more brute force and get the job done quicker. 

You always have the option to get professional help for these sorts of problems. For example, if you pay a company to remove the stump, they can bring a stump grinder to the scene and remove it completely. However, this process can be quite expensive. 

In the next few sections, I’ll go over all the ways in which you can remove a tree stump completely from your backyard! 

Physical Methods

Physical methods are used directly on the tree stump. If time is of the essence and you need to remove the stump within a few days, these are the best options to go for. 


Fire destroys wood, so setting the stump alight can quickly kill the tree within a few hours. You might have to use some lighting fluid like kerosene to set it on fire, but the results will be definitely effective. 

Once the fire has died down and the top part of the tree has burned, you can clear out the ashes easily. 

Another more effective way to go about this is to drill holes in the trunk and roots. You’ll have to dig a little around the stump to get full access to the roots. 

This method might look slower than setting the whole stump on fire, but it’ll burn the roots from the inside, killing the tree and making it easier to remove. 

You can also use a chainsaw to cause gashes in the sides and the trunk of the tree and pour kerosene in them before you set it on fire. 

However, there are multiple things you have to keep in mind if you plan on using this method. 


Firstly, make sure that you check with the local authorities before you go around setting things on fire. 

Another thing you need to keep in mind is to only use a small amount of kerosene or kindling to light the fire. Do not use gasoline or diesel to burn the stump, as this might cause toxicity in the surrounding plants and the fire may burn way too fast and hot to control. 

A lot of communities have strict rules against open flames, even if it’s on your personal property. You might have to pay fines or run into legal trouble if you don’t follow these rules. 

Another thing you need to consider is where you live. If you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, avoid this method. You could end up causing a major fire accident in your attempt to just get rid of a single tree.

Check with your neighbors, your community authorities, and the fire department in your area before you decide to use this tree stump killer. 


As mentioned earlier, you can get professional services to remove a tree stump from your yard. If you have the license to operate heavy machinery, you can rent out a stump grinder machine for yourself. This will be cheaper than hiring a person, as well. 

If you rent out the machine, use the blade on the machine to chip away at the wood from the sides. Make sure that you get all the roots as you go down the stump, as this is the most effective method to get the job done efficiently. 

Once the roots have been severed, you can grind the stump away until the ground is flat. Use some dirt around the area to spread over the stump, making the ground more even. 

This process can take a few hours. If you're not sure about being able to use the grinder, it’s better to go for a specialist. It’ll cost you more money, but it will get the job done more effectively. 


Uprooting the entire tree stump along with the roots is the most complete and effective way to remove it. This will ensure that there are no remains left and the tree can be killed properly. 

However, digging out a tree stump, especially if it's a large tree, can be a physically taxing process that can take a long time. If you're planning on doing this by yourself without professional help, try asking a few friends to help you out. 

Keep in mind that you should wear equipment like safety goggles while carrying out this method, as stubborn stumps might have multiple large roots that will need a lot of work.


  1. The first thing to do is to start digging around the stump. This will let you see the roots of the tree and the direction in which they grow. 
  2. Chop off the larger roots. You can use tools like saws for this purpose. If you have access to power tools like chainsaws, it will make the process much easier and quicker. 
  3. Continue digging and cutting away the roots as you see. The larger roots will be difficult to cut off, but as you keep digging, you’ll eventually begin to see smaller roots that will be much easier to chop off. After a while, you’ll have cut off all the roots growing out from the trunk. 

Each root makes the tree more firm in the ground, which means that cutting out all of them would make the stump easy to pull out. 

  1. Remove the stump from the ground. 
  2. Make the ground even by covering it with soil. 

One thing you need to consider while using this method is that it might not work well if you have a garden that needs to maintain its aesthetic appeal. Removing the entire tree stump will cause a pretty large hole in the ground, and it will be some time before the look of your lawn returns to normal. 

Physical Tree Stump Killer: Bottom Line

These three ways: burning, grinding, and uprooting are purely physical procedures that get rid of a pesky stump in a day. However, if you don’t want to put in the physical labor and time is not an issue, there are other ways to go about removing tree stumps. 

Chemical Methods

Some materials, when used in excess, are quite harmful to trees and can cause their death. This will make it easier for you to remove them. 

However, you should know that these methods can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to be completely effective. This is because they involve the natural decomposition process of the tree rather than forceful removal. 

Epsom Salt

Using Epsom salt on tree trunks greatly speeds up the rotting process. While Epsom salt is used for farming as it has nutrients like sulphur and magnesium that are beneficial to plants, these nutrients in large amounts are quite harmful. 

The average rotting period of a tree root left to natural sources can be anywhere from 3 to 7 years. Putting Epsom salt in the mix can speed this up to less than a year. 


To go about this process, you’ll need a power drill to drill holes into the roots and stump so that the salt can get inside and do its job. 

  1. Drill holes a few inches deep in the stump and exposed roots of the tree. If you want to speed up the process, you can dig around the stump and drill a few holes in the larger roots, as well. 
  2. Fill up the holes with epsom salt. Cover the stump of the tree with the salt, as well. After this process is done, sprinkle some water on it and leave it to rest. 
  3. If you live in a windy area or somewhere where it rains a lot, cover the stump with a tarp so that the salt doesn’t blow or wash away. 

Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a quick process. The way Epsom salt works is that it removes moisture from the tree and the roots, which in turn speeds up the rotting process. 

This means that you’ll have to repeat this process every few weeks for the best possible results. The stump will die out in a few months because of the salt, but the complete process of decomposition might take up to a year. 

If you're doing this in a garden, be very careful with the salt and cover the stump up properly. Since we're using a large amount of Epsom salt, this can pose a danger to the plants around the stump. Keep all chemicals away from your grass, flowers, or vegetable plants to ensure that there is no undue damage in the process. 

Rock Salt

Another excellent and similar tree stump killer to epsom salt is rock salt. The difference is in the way that rock salt works to kill the tree. 

While Epsom salt pulls away moisture from the roots and the stump, rock salt increases the salt content of the soil. This causes the tree to decay. The salt also causes fungi to grow on and around the tree, speeding up the process even more. 


The steps for this type of treatment are quite similar to the last process. 

  1. Use your power drill to drill holes in the stump and above ground roots of the tree. 
  2. Fill up these roots with rock salt. In this case, you want the tree to soak up the salt. After the holes in the stump are filled with salt, pour soil and mulch all over it. 
  3. Next, you’ll need to water the stump. Pour water all over the soil so that it dissolves the salt. 

This process will need more upkeep than the previous one, as you’ll have to keep watering the soil on top of the stump. If you live in an area with a lot of rain, you can skip this process. 

It  will take upto a year for the complete death and decomposition of the plant. 

Similar to the previous procedure, ensure that the rock salt doesn’t come in contact with the surrounding plants, as this can cause wilting in flowers and your vegetable gardens to dry out. It can also cause dry patches in grass. 

Simple Home Methods

If none of these tree stump killer methods sound good to you, there are others that you can carry out at home with ease that will kill and decompose the tree stump. These don’t require any chemicals and you can use household ingredients to get rid of your problem. 

The Ultimate Tree Stump Killer Guide

Boiling Water

For this homemade tree stump killer, all you need to do is dig around the tree stump a little. You don’t need to expose the entire stump, but digging around it will mean that you can affect a larger area of the stump with water than if you just do it at the ground level. 

You can also use a large drill bit to drill holes into the stump and the roots of the tree. This will help the water reach further in and cause more damage. 

Once the holes are made, pour boiling hot water down them. This will damage the plant roots and kill the stump. 

If you want to be more sure, you can repeat the process in a few weeks with different holes. Make sure that the water is boiling hot. You should wear protective gear like gloves, long sleeves and pants, and safety glasses so that you don’t end up with a nasty burn yourself. 

This method is quicker than the salt methods. Once it’s dead, the rate of decomposition should increase and get rid of the tree in about a year. 

Garbage Bag

This tree stump killer method is brilliant in its simplicity. We all know that trees need sunlight to survive. If you block the access of sunlight, the stump will die much faster. 


  1. The first thing you’ll need to do is cut the stump. You can skip this step if the stump isn’t too big, but it’s advised to do it for the best results. You can use a chainsaw for this process. 
  2. Once this is done, all you need to do is cover it up with a black garbage bag. Just to be safe, use two large garbage bags so that no tearing occurs. 
  3. Cover the bags with rocks so that they don’t blow away or expose any part of the stump to sunlight. 

That's it, you're done!

Because of the absence of light, the tree stump will die out within three months and the decaying process will begin. This method is one of the easiest ways to get rid of any type of tree stump if you don’t want to resort to manual labour or chemical stump killers and similar compounds to get the job done. 

Final Thoughts

Having a tree stump in the middle of your yard can be a nuisance for many reasons. It might get in the way of your weekend barbecues, or it might be a danger to your children or dogs. Getting professional stump removal solutions can be quite expensive, and there are multiple ways in which you can do this by yourself. 

In this article, I outlined how you can use a physical stump removal method like burning, grinding, or uprooting, a chemical method like epsom salt or rock salt, or a simple home method like pouring hot water or using a garbage bag as a tree stump killer. 

If you're interested in similar topics about home upkeep, please feel free to check out our other articles, as well!

Last Updated on June 30, 2021 by Tom Bradly

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Tom Bradly

My entrepreneurial journey started in 2006, when I dropped out of university. I wanted to work with my hands, to build things. Now I mix my background with computers with my first-hand experience with woodworking to provide insights into the tools I like best. I love everything about woodworking and have been building stuff for over 20 years of my life. I hope to pass some knowledge and expertise. See more at

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