How to Properly Dispose of a Christmas Tree (Plus, How to Clean & Remove Tree Sap)

Christmas tree in white living room
credit: Amber Thrane

There is nothing quite as nice as a Christmas tree taking center stage in your home during the holiday season. Live Christmas trees can make your home smell amazing and feel so cozy ... but they can also cause a bit of a mess, and should be disposed of in the proper manner once the holiday is over.

Start by removing all ornaments, the tree topper, and lights from your tree. Even if you don't plan on reusing some of the ornaments or lights again, it's super important to remove all of them. If there are items left on the tree, it will be treated as regular garbage and won't be able to be recycled. Remember to remove the stand as well. Place any items that you don't want to keep from your tree in your regular garbage bin.

Warning: Even if you have taken the decorations off of your live Christmas tree, but are still keeping it up for a bit, be sure to water it regularly. A dry Christmas tree is a major fire hazard even if there are no lights on it.

Options for Disposing of a Live Christmas Tree

Check with your city's sanitation department about pick up.

Most cities have certain days that they pick up live trees from your neighborhood in the weeks following Christmas. Some cities have programs where they recycle live trees and mulch them, then offer free mulch pickup to residents. It is required that you remove all decorations and flocking for them to be recycled. Do not put the live tree in a plastic bag if you are going to recycle it.

Drop your live tree off at a recycling center.

There are typically several places in your city that you can drop off your live tree for recycling. Check your city's local government website for those options. Some big box stores like Home Depot accept live trees for recycling — be sure to call your local store first to confirm. These drop off locations will typically take up to two trees free of charge.

Place your tree in your yard waste bin.

If your city supplies yard waste bins, you can cut and dismantle your tree yourself and place the pieces in your yard waste bin to be picked up during your regular garbage pick up.

How to Clean Up After Having a Live Christmas Tree

As beautiful as they are, a live Christmas tree can leave behind a real mess in your home. Once you have properly disposed of your tree, follow these steps to clean the area where your tree was.

Step 1: Vacuum up any pine needles left behind.

Pine needles are a real mess once they are dry. To keep them from spreading to the rest of your home, make sure to vacuum them up quickly.

Step 2: Clean up any tree sap that was left behind.

The smell of a live Christmas tree is amazing, but the sticky sap that the trees can leave behind is not a pleasant thing to have in your home. If there is any tree sap left behind, use a mixture of 2 tablespoons of Castile soap and a cup of warm water to remove the sap. If the sap is proving hard to remove, place a damp cloth on the sap for five to 10 minutes, then use a plastic scraper to remove the sap.

Step 3: Use a damp cloth to wipe down walls and floors.

Dampen a cloth with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of Castile soap and 1 cup of warm water. Make sure to wring the cloth out really well and wipe down the walls and floor around the area where your Christmas tree was. This will help remove any sap or residue that may have been left behind.


Jessica Kielman

Jessica Kielman

Jessica owns two blogs, Mom 4 Real and Pour Me a Cocktail. She has been sharing easy cleaning tips, recipes and ideas with her readers for over 7 years. She has been featured on the Rachel Ray Show, TODAY Parenting, MSN, Country Woman Magazine and more.