If you need to remove a tree stump and aren’t in a big hurry to do so, chemical stump removal may be a viable option. This is largely a hands-off approach, so it appeals to those who don’t want to deal with the effort and equipment that are required to remove a stump manually. Because it is a more economical way to go, chemical stump removal is also suitable for people who need to remove several tree stumps.
As with any stump removal method, there are advantages and disadvantages to using chemicals. Determining whether this method is right for you will depend on a few things. In the interest of making an informed decision, you should do some research about the various types of chemicals and the most popular products.
About Stump Removal Chemicals
The vast majority of stump removal chemicals that are on the market today use potassium nitrate as the active ingredient. This chemical contains high concentrations of nitrogen, which is prized for its ability to speed up the decomposition process. Some products use other chemicals, but potassium nitrate is widely regarded as being the most effective option.
Types of Tree Stump Killers
Most chemical stump removal products are powders, but they are often marketed as containing fine granules. The main reason that granules are preferred is because they are easier to apply than liquids. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it makes sense when you understand how tree stump killers are used. Furthermore, liquids evaporate over time and therefore aren’t always as efficient or effective.
When shopping for chemical stump removal products, you’ll find that nearly all of the top products are powders. Zeroing in on the right powder may seem tricky, but the best thing to do is to check reviews for various brands. They all work in the same basic way, and you generally follow the same steps to use all of them.
How to Use Tree Stump Killers & Chemical Stump Removers
It’s easier to find an effective chemical stump removal product when you understand how to apply these kinds of products. The basic steps that are generally used are as follows:
- Round up the right tools. In addition to tree stump killer, you’ll need a chainsaw, a drill, a 3/8-inch or larger drill bit, kerosene, a lighter and water.
- Cut the stump as low to the ground as possible. The fastest and safest way to do this is with a chainsaw. The less stump there is to rot, the easier it will be to remove.
- Use a drill to drill holes down into the stump every two to three inches. Try to drill them down at least eight to 10 inches deep. Use a drill bit that’s at least 3/8 of an inch in diameter.
- Drill additional holes from the sides; they should be parallel to the ground, and they should intersect with the holes that were drilled from the top of the stump.
- If you’re using powder chemical stump removal, pour it liberally into each of the holes in the top of the stump. You’ll find that it’s even easier to use granules, so try to buy a product that isn’t just a fine powder. The granules will pour more easily down the holes while powder is likely to become clogged near the top. The goal is to get the chemicals as deeply into the stump as possible.
- Pour water down the holes in the stump. Read the directions for the product that you’re using to find out how much water to use. Don’t over-dilute the tree stump killer. If you do, it may not work properly, or it may not work as quickly.
- Cover the stump to keep children and animals from playing with it. Keep in mind that the chemicals will remain active over the next several weeks, so exposure to the stump can be dangerous. You might even want to put a pile of scrap wood over it or cover it with rocks.
- Periodically check on the condition of the stump. Over time, it should start becoming spongy and should attain a mulch-like consistency. When it becomes very easy to break, you’ll know the chemicals have done their job.
- It’s not usually possible to completely remove the stump manually at this point. In most cases, you need to douse what’s left of the stump in kerosene and let it soak for several weeks. While it’s soaking, keep it covered.
- When the kerosene has been completely absorbed, set the stump on fire. Monitor the fire at all times; never leave it unattended. Ideally, the fire should go out when the stump is completely burned away. All that will be left is a hole and some roots radiating out from where the stump once stood. Just pull them away, fill in the hole and plant seeds or lay sod.
Popular Chemical Stump Removal Brands & Products
If you’ve never purchased chemical stump removal products before, you probably don’t know a lot about popular brands. Based on online reviews, a few of the top products include:
- Bromide Stump-Out – With excellent ratings on popular sites like Amazon, this product seems to be the go-to solution for people who want to remove stumps chemically.
- Spectracide – Fine granules make this product easy to use. As long as it’s used as directed, it seems to work like a charm.
- Tordon RTU – If you’d rather not use a remover that’s in granule form, or if you’d rather avoid potassium nitrate, this is a viable alternative. This liquid tree stump killer uses picloram to get the job done.
Additional Points to Keep in Mind
As nice as it would be to use an eco-friendly chemical stump removal product, none of them fall into that category. The most environmentally friendly way to remove a stump is by using a stump grinder or pulling it out of the ground. Another option is to burn or rot the stump.
Your results may vary from stump to stump. It all depends on the type of tree stump that’s involved and its condition. Older stumps that are already somewhat rotted will decompose a lot more quickly than stumps from strong, young trees.
Above everything else, remember to be patient. Give the product time to work.