How to Clean an Artificial Christmas Tree

Spraying dust off an artificial Christmas tree in bathtub

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 45 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Your artificial Christmas tree is ready and waiting in its storage box or bag for the holidays. Within minutes the tree can be assembled and ready for decorations. But after a few uses, just like other favorite decorations, an artificial tree can come out of the box looking dusty and smelling stale—in which case, it's time to clean the artificial Christmas tree.

Cleaning the tree is simple, but it is time-consuming. Plan your decorating schedule to allow time to clean the tree before you add all the trimming. With just a few household tools and supplies, your unlit or prelit artificial Christmas tree will be fresh and clean.

How Often to Clean an Artificial Christmas Tree

Ideally, a prelit or unlit Christmas tree should be cleaned at the end of the holiday season and again when it is reassembled. However, a good cleaning before decorating will make your season brighter.

Tip

The same techniques used for cleaning an artificial Christmas tree can be used for artificial garlands and wreaths. And don't forget to use the same method for cleaning those artificial trees and plants that you use for decorating the rest of the year!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Large plastic tub, bathtub, or sink
  • Garden hose with sprinkler nozzle
  • Shop-vac
  • Handheld hairdryer
  • Vacuum with hose attachment
  • Old sheet or tarp
  • Large plastic garbage bag
  • Spray bottle

Materials

  • Dishwashing liquid or a gentle cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Electrostatic duster
  • Salt

Instructions

How to Clean a Prelit Artificial Christmas Tree

All artificial Christmas trees can be "dry cleaned." However, since many come with attached lights, dry cleaning is also the only safe cleaning method for prelit trees.

Warning

Always unplug and disconnect all components of a prelit artificial Christmas tree before attempting any method of cleaning. Make sure that all decorations—lights, garland, tinsel, ornaments—are removed from the tree. Disassemble as much of the tree as possible.

  1. Remove Dust With a Vacuum

    Whether you use a handheld vacuum, a shop vac, or a canister vacuum with a hose attachment, use a light touch. You don't want to suction away the needles or damage the lights. Hold the vacuum a few inches away from the branches or cover the end of the nozzle with a piece of mesh to capture the dust and debris.

  2. Use a Duster

    The dust can be removed with a soft-bristled hand brush, feather duster, or microfiber cloth. Start at the top and wipe down each branch of the tree and the base stand. Use a gentle touch to prevent damage to the lights.

  3. Shake Away the Dust

    Disassemble the tree and take each section outside for a gentle shake to loosen dust. Work slowly and take care to keep the lights damage-free.

    You can also shake away the dust using a large plastic garbage bag and table salt. This works best for trees without unattached lights. Pour two cups of salt into a garbage bag. Add one section of an artificial tree. Give the bag a good shake. The salt will attract the dust clinging to the branches and leave the tree looking brighter.

How to Wet Clean an Artificial Christmas Tree Without Attached Lights

There are two methods for cleaning an artificial Christmas Tree without attached lights—wet cleaning with water or dry dusting and cleaning. Follow the guidelines for prelit trees for dry cleaning.

Wet Cleaning With Spray Bottle

  1. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Pour two cups of warm water into a spray bottle and add one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Shake to combine.

  2. Protect Surfaces and Test for Colorfastness

    To protect floors, spread an old sheet or plastic tarp on the floor or work outside. Spray a small amount of soapy water on an inconspicuous section of the tree. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then wipe the area with a clean white cloth. If any color transfers, do not wet clean the tree—dry clean instead.

  3. Spray and Wipe Branches

    Starting at the top of each section, lightly spray the branches. Wipe each branch with a microfiber cloth to remove the soil. Keep spraying and wiping until every branch and center support section is clean.

    Don't forget to clean the stand, as well.

  4. Air-Dry

    Allow each section to air-dry completely before assembling the tree.

Give the Tree a Shower

Always test the tree for colorfastness before cleaning it with a stream of water.

  1. Clean the Tree in an Indoor Shower

    1. Cover the drain of the shower or tub with a piece of fine mesh to catch any needles that may fall off and clog the drain.
    2. Disassemble large trees and place sections in the shower.
    3. Turn the water to lukewarm and use a gentle shower of water to remove soil from the tree. Do not use a forceful stream of water.
    4. Shake each piece of the tree to remove excess water before placing the components on an old sheet to air-dry.
  2. Clean the Tree Outside

    1. Set a spray nozzle at the most gentle sprinkle possible.
    2. Use a garden hose and a spray nozzle to clean the tree. It may be easier to leave the tree assembled in an upright position.
    3. Allow the tree to air-dry completely before bringing it inside.

    Tip

    To clean and brighten a white artificial Christmas tree that has yellowed, mix three parts distilled white vinegar (or hydrogen peroxide, if you're concerned about the metal branches of the tree rusting) and one part water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the tree and leave it outdoor in direct sunlight for two or three hours. The ultraviolet rays of the sun and the mild bleaching action of the vinegar or hydrogen peroxide will help to whiten the tree. Use the gentle spray nozzle of a hose to rinse the tree and allow it to air-dry.