Removing tree stumps from your property using chemicals is an easy, but time consuming process. There is no secret ingredient that makes tree stumps disappear quickly. The active ingredients in chemicals tree stump removal products are designed to help speed up the natural process of decay and prevent new shoots from sprouting.
Most chemical stump removers are loaded with potassium nitrate, also called saltpeter; a common fertilizer high in nitrogen. Placing potassium nitrate directly into the stump in addition to covering the stump with mulch to maintain high moisture levels expedites the decomposition process. Bacteria and fungi thrive on the excess nitrogen and soften the wood that remains in the stump, making it easier to remove manually.
Triclopyr is the active ingredient in many stump killing and stump removal herbicides designed to remove unwanted woody plants and vines. Many plants that have extensive root systems can not be fully removed from the ground and will begin to regrow shortly after being cut down. Triclopyr mimics the the effects of plant hormones, tricking the stump into thinking that it has already sprouted, killing the root system and stump in the process.
Sulfuric or nitric acids are used in some tree stump removal products. Acids are highly toxic chemicals and should be used with care. Acids do not work immediately after cutting a tree; they require initial softening and decomposition of the wood to occur before they produce noticeable results. Acids are a useful pre-treatment to further soften the stump and make it more porous---a factor that increases the effectiveness of alternative stump removal methods such as burning or grinding the stump out.