DIY Tree Stump Removal with Natural Household Items

Tree stump from above

Tree stumps are often seen as an eyesore in the landscaping world, and they can be hazardous if located in high-traffic areas. Luckily, there are several ways you can remove tree stumps without breaking your budget. From creating your own herbicide, to building a compost bin, to decorative repurposing, here are eight ways you can handle stumps with natural household items.

Homebrew Root Stopper

You can make a homemade herbicide out of vinegar to deal with stumps. The undiluted white vinegar mixture will kill the roots, making stump removal easy. Make sure to spray the vinegar when it's dry and warm outside. Any moisture will make the vinegar less effective. Target areas close to the stump, and cover any leafy growth that has sprung up. This will cut off the main food supply for the roots, effectively killing them.

Compost Stumps

Turning the stump into a compost pile is another great approach. Stumps are already decaying, so adding compost on top will speed up the process. If the stump is large, simply build a compost bin around it, fully encasing it. If the stump is low to the ground, start a smaller compost pile directly on top of it.

The time it takes for the compost to completely biodegrade the stump will vary depending on a number of different factors, including size and climate. Once the stump is gone, you can use the compost around the garden or yard, making this one of the most eco-friendly ways of removing a stump.

A woman turns dirt in a compost bin

Salting Options

Salt is a great way to remove stumps and kill roots. You can use either rock or Epsom salt. Both absorb moisture and create a situation similar to a drought, dessicating the stump. Apply the salt directly, or mix it with water and spray the solution on the stump and any exposed roots. Just be cautious when using salt in your yard, as it will kill everything in its path.

Cut Off Sunlight

Blocking the stump's access to sunlight will hasten its demise. First, trim the stump as flush with the ground as possible, then cover it with something that will block out light. A heavy-duty garbage bag or a large bucket will usually do the trick. Use weights to keep everything in place. It typically takes around eight weeks to see any results.

Drill it Out

Drilling out the stump is another way to speed up decomposition. Using a spade bit, drill a series of holes in the stump at a depth of around one inch. Then cover the stump with a fertilizer rich in nitrogen. After 12 months, remove the soil and pour sugar in the holes. The sugar will increase the level of carbon in the wood, which will help induce decay.

Decorative Options

If you're not in a rush to hide or remove the stump, consider using it as a flower pot instead. Not only will this add a decorative element to your yard, it will also speed up the decomposition. Start by hollowing out the stump with a drill, creating several drainage holes that run all the way through the wood. Then fill the hole with some quality potting soil, and plant an annual of your choice.

Wildflowers growing in a tree stump

Spade Removal

If the stump is smaller than four inches in diameter, digging it out is probably your best option. With a spade, dig a trench around the stump and start rocking it to break up the root system. Once the stump starts to loosen up, you should be able to pry it up with the spade. You may have to cut the taproot if it gives you trouble.

Caustic Soda

Caustic soda is a proven way to get rid of a stump and root system. To start, cut the trunk as close to the ground as possible. Then create a mixture of caustic soda and water (using about twice as much water as soda). If you have trouble finding caustic soda, you might look for it under its other name: sodium hydroxide or household lye.

Stir the mixture to agitate the solution, then apply the compound to the exposed trunk. You can drill holes in the trunk for better penetration. Re-apply the solution every five weeks or so until you can fully remove the trunk.


Burning a stump should be a last-ditch effort, if undertaken at all. Although it's a traditional method of stump removal, the process produces charcoal, which is extremely slow to decompose. The fire also needs to burn for several days to fully remove the stump. It's a risky move if there are other trees or wooden structures nearby, and if the fire dies before it does the job, it will be next to impossible to remove the stump fully. Steer clear of this method unless you really have no other choice.