how to clean an artificial Christmas tree

Holidays mean get-togethers, plenty of great food, and decking the halls with festive decorations and trimmings. Depending on your vibe, you can go with traditional holiday decor, or attempt at something a bit more contemporary for your trimmings. You also have options for trees. You can either buy real or artificial.

If you’re thinking about buying an artificial tree or using the one from years past, this post is for you. We’ll tell you why an artificial tree may be the right choice for your holiday decorating and give you tips on how to clean an artificial Christmas tree to keep it looking beautiful year after year.

First, let’s address the “real vs. artificial” debate. People who insist on putting up only fresh-cut trees for the holidays often love the tradition of special family trips to Santa’s Village to find and cut down a tree, then trimming their tree while watching holiday movies and taking in the nostalgic Christmas tree aroma that seems to linger even after the tree has been taken down. For these families, a real tree is the only way to go.

But there are some pretty good reasons to consider an artificial tree. Some of them are listed below:

  • An artificial tree can look very much like a real tree.
  • Real trees shed and require vacuuming and sweeping during the holidays.
  • Artificial trees don’t require water.
  • A real tree has to be purchased annually, while artificial trees can be used year, after year.
  • Artificial trees are now available with a pre-lit option, saving you from a holiday hassle.
  • Real trees have to be disposed of properly or recycled.
  • Artificial trees are easy to assemble, disassemble, and store.
  • A real tree can drip sap onto carpets and upholstery, causing stains that are difficult to remove.

If you have decided that a real tree is not for you, how do you clean an artificial Christmas tree? Whether you’re putting up your first artificial tree or pulling one out of the attic, learning how to freshen up an artificial Christmas tree is easy. Read on and learn how to keep your artificial tree looking beautiful and bright for years to come.

How to Freshen Up an Artificial Christmas Tree

Before you pull your artificial tree out, designate a cleaning area. Lay down an old blanket or sheet to catch Christmas tree dust and other debris. By unboxing your tree over a protected area, you contain the dirt and dust. Artificial trees stored in their original cardboard box containers will typically move around, dislodging needles and trim. They are also susceptible to damage from moisture, dirt, and dust. You may want to consider investing in a waterproof container or bag to protect your artificial Christmas tree and keep it from getting so dirty in storage.

Make sure you wear protective gear. You’ll be working with airborne dust and cleaners, so it’s important to protect yourself while cleaning. A pair of goggles, gloves, and a face mask will keep you safe; a long-sleeved shirt and long pants will keep your arms and legs from being scratched.

Just Add Salt

If you have an artificial tree that breaks down into smaller sections, put the sections in a heavy-duty trash bag with two cups of Kosher salt for a quick, initial cleaning. Just close up the bag and shake it vigorously. The Kosher salt acts as a mild abrasive cleaner and will scrub away quite a bit of grime and dust. When you’re done, remove each section and shake it out over your sheet or blanket. Once you’ve shaken off all the salt and debris, assemble your artificial tree on top of your protective covering.

Use a Vacuum

Cleaning an artificial tree with a vacuum is quick and easy, but you have to take care not to damage the branches or needles. A handheld vacuum is ideal because it usually has less suction than a regular vacuum cleaner. This method is ideal when your artificial tree is especially dusty and is best done by cleaning each section individually. Just run your vacuum over each branch and vacuum from the inside out using the lowest setting.

If you use a regular vacuum cleaner, use the brush attachment and brush the exposed branches. To clean the branches closer to the trunk, the angled wand attachment for your vacuum will be your best bet. Once you’ve vacuumed your tree, assemble it, and see how it looks.

Give It a Soft Scrub

While the salt and shake method and vacuuming will remove a lot of dust and debris from the artificial tree, you’ll inevitably find dingy and stained areas once you’ve put it together. While artificial Christmas trees are built to last, they require a bit of TLC when you’re cleaning them.

To remove dust and dirt, use a microfiber cloth to gently scrub the limbs, needles, and other parts of your Christmas tree. The microfiber fabric is great at picking up loose dirt, dust, and even bacteria. Start at the top and work your way down to allow the debris to collect below. Take your time and clean gently for the best results.

Can You Wash an Artificial Christmas Tree?

If you have a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, “washing” isn’t an option because it will damage the electrical connections. If your tree isn’t pre-lit, check the manufacturer’s recommendations; if it’s okay, the answer is yes!

Soap and Water to the Rescue

For an artificial tree without lights, mix warm water and dish soap in a spray bottle. Gently wet the branches with a fine mist and be careful to not overdo it. You want your tree damp, not dripping. Wipe away the soap and water (and the dirt) with a microfiber cloth. This method will get rid of most of the dirt and dust and leave your tree with a fresh smell.

Hit the Showers

Many artificial trees are made from synthetic materials that can stand up to getting wet. If your artificial Christmas tree is just too dirty for these cleaning tips, you can always give it a shower! If your tree fits in your shower, you can put it directly beneath the shower head or use a handheld sprayer and rinse it from top to bottom with warm water. Don’t spray too hard, but definitely get into the interior branches and trunk.

You can let your tree drip dry in the shower or take it outside. If your tree is too big to fit in the shower and it’s a sunny day, rinse it off outside with a garden hose and sprayer. Make sure the water flow is at a low setting and start rinsing from top to bottom.

Whitening and Brightening

That sunny weather can also help you turn your dingy tree white again. If your artificial Christmas tree is (or used to be!) white, you can restore its glory with the natural bleaching action of sunlight and vinegar. Mix three parts distilled white vinegar with one part water in a spray bottle. Spritz it on all the stained branches of your tree. Leave the tree outdoors in direct sunlight for a few hours and you should see a difference. Rinse thoroughly and let the tree dry before storing or decorating it.

If your tree still looks yellow and dingy after cleaning it, try flocking it with a can of artificial snow before decorating it for the holiday season. Let the tree dry completely and then spray away. While you’re at it, add some “snow” to your windows, wreaths, and other decorations. You can also use multi-colored blinking lights to mask yellow tints and discoloration.

How to Clean an Artificial Christmas Tree With Lights

Pre-lit artificial Christmas trees are convenient and beautiful, but they must stay dry. Liquids and even condensation can short-circuit the built-in lights, so using cleaning solutions or even water is a big no-no. Even if you clean your pre-lit tree while it’s unplugged, you can never be sure that everything is completely dry before you plug it back in. Be safe, not sorry.

To clean a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, use a soft-bristled brush. Start at the top of the tree and gently brush dirt and dust from the branches working from the inside out. You can also use a handheld vacuum, a vacuum with a brush attachment, or a dry microfiber cloth. Be careful to not damage any of the light bulbs or wires. While pre-lit Christmas tree bulbs are easy to replace, you could cause a short that could damage the entire string of lights, so be cautious!

From helping your artificial Christmas tree look its holiday best to cleaning up your kitchen after the Holidays, The Maids is on a mission. We want to make your life easier and your home a healthier, cleaner place to live. Whether it’s through our extensive library of cleaning posts or with one of our popular house cleaning services, we’re here when you need us. Find out more about cleaning for health and get your free estimate online.


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