how to clean an artificial christmas tree

The main benefit of an artificial Christmas tree is it lasts you for years on end. How long depends on how well you maintain it, and this means keeping it spotless. As a rule of thumb, clean your tree before decorating or storing it. It will take some effort but believe us when we say it’s worth it.

Proper cleaning keeps your tree’s foliage looking bright. This is especially important for colorful ones. We prepared a step-by-step guide on how to clean an artificial Christmas tree. To make things easier, decorating and DIY pro Jennifer Perkins walks you through the process with her video.


Now that you’ve seen the video, read on for a detailed explanation on how to clean your Christmas centerpiece.

Set Up Your Cleaning Area

mat for protection for how to clean an artifcial Christmas tree
Roll out a few mats to protect your floor.

The first thing you need to do is prep your cleaning area. Lay out an old blanket, mat, trash bags, or sheets of newspaper on the floor to catch any dust and debris.

bag it up tree storage bag for how to clean an artificial tree
The Bag It Up Tree Storage Bag

Your tree is dirtiest when it comes out of storage, especially if you didn’t use a bag made for that purpose. If you did, then breathe a sigh of relief because cleaning up will be so much easier. Christmas tree bags offer more protection from dirt. They are better options to makeshift storage solutions like clear wrap or a cardboard box.

Cardboard doesn’t stand a chance against liquids or extreme temperatures. Some use a tarp to cover their tree and secure it with rope. While we agree that this is a stroke of DIY genius, there’s always the risk of water and dirt seeping through any gaps. A tree storage bag is made from hardwearing material. It’s stitching is done by machine, ensuring there are no gaps in the fabric. Some come equipped with snap closure belts for securing your tree. Others feature durable handles and wheels for easy transport.

Assemble Your Tree

take a stand tree storage stores your artificial Christmas tree upright
The Take a Stand tree storage bag

The Take a Stand Tree Storage Bag lets you stow a fully assembled Christmas tree. If you don’t have one, then chances are you disassembled your tree before storing it the year before. Simply set it up on your cleaning area.

Here is a consideration if you are cleaning your assembled tree in preparation for storage. Make sure to unplug the lights before cleaning. Take them down along with all the ornaments and decorations then disassemble it. Clean each section before popping it into the storage bag.

Wear the Right Gear

the right gear for how to clean an artificial Christmas tree
Protect your eyes, airways, and skin while cleaning.

Dress for success! Put on a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and a pair of gloves. It might seem like overkill, but these will protect you from getting scratches on your arms, hands, and legs.

Wear a face mask or safety goggles. The whole point of cleaning your tree is to remove debris. As you clean, these can get into your eyes and airways. If you’re allergic to dust then this is an extremely important step. The longer you store your tree, the more it will accumulate dust and possibly mold.

Use the Right Tools

how to clean an artificial Christmas tree with a scrub brush
Be gentle when you use a scrub brush.

1. The Scrub Brush or Microfiber Cloth Method

Another way is to use a scrub brush with soft bristles or a microfiber cloth. Why microfiber? It’s more absorbent and effective at removing bacteria. A vacuum cleaner might be the faster option, but a brush or cloth is gentler on your tree.

Whichever method you use, remember to clean the top of each section first and work your way down. Do this so you can clean the dust and dirt that fall down the tree as you go.

2. The Vacuum Method

Many swear by cleaning an artificial Christmas tree with a vacuum. By this, we mean using it with a brush attachment. Better yet, a small handheld one so that the strong suction won’t damage your tree. Run it from the outside of a branch going in and vice-versa, using the lowest possible setting. When the branch is free of dust, move on to the next one.

Use the Proper Cleaning Agents

cleaning agents for how to clean an artificial Christmas tree
Steer clear of harsh cleansers and use a mild dish soap.

What you use to clean your artificial tree depends on whether it is pre-lit or unlit. You need to consider the electrical components of your Christmas lights. Water and chemicals from cleaning agents can damage these. Resist the urge to scrub too hard or put your vacuum cleaner on the highest power setting, too.

1. Pre-lit Christmas Tree

how to clean a prelit Christmas tree
A pre-lit Balsam Spruce tree from Treetopia

Before going any further, it’s important to note that cleaning agents shouldn’t be used on a pre-lit tree. Even if your lights are unplugged, water can cause damage if it seeps into their components. If you plug Christmas tree lights in without drying them completely, there’s a chance they won’t work at all. For a pre-lit tree, we recommend using a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment, dry cloth, or brush.

2. Unlit Christmas Tree

how to clean an artificial Christmas tree colorful and unlit
An unlit Pretty in Pink tree from Treetopia

For an unlit tree, prepare a mixture of warm water and dish soap, and put it in a spray bottle or in a bowl. Then, proceed with care. A spray bottle lets you gently wet the branches with a fine mist. If you are using a cloth or brush dipped in the mixture, make sure it’s damp and not dripping. This will give your tree a renewed sheen and leave it smelling fresh. Steer clear of harsh cleansers to avoid discoloring the foliage.

Air Dry Your Tree

artificial Christmas tree in direct sunlight
Avoid drying your tree in direct sunlight. Photo by Jennifer Perkins.

If you used a damp cloth to clean the tree, air it out before decorating or putting it in storage. Moisture leads to the growth of mold, so make sure your tree is completely dry. Don’t expose it to direct sunlight either or you run the risk of discolored branches. This is an important consideration for colorful Christmas trees.

Mold can cause allergies and have you and your guests sneezing during your entire celebration. Don’t fret if you spot mold on your tree branches. There are ways to remove a lot of it, as well as prevent it from coming back.

Remember that mold is everywhere. If you spot some on your tree when you bring it out of storage, take it outside for cleaning. Use an air compressor to get rid of mold spores then spray your tree with anti-fungal spray and let it dry for a day in your garage or a covered area. If you’re drying out your tree indoors after cleaning it, an air purifier will keep mold spores at bay.

Want another reason to choose an artificial tree over a live one? Live trees are more exposed to mold as they grow outdoors.

More Christmas Tree Care Tips

There are a few more things to consider to keep your artificial tree in prime condition. Maintaining the color of its foliage is one. Proper storage is another. You also need to consider how to fluff or shape your tree. It’s not just for decorative purposes. You need to do it with care otherwise you’ll end up with misshapen branches and needles.

For pointers, check out these other posts:

Cleaning your Christmas tree is important, but it shouldn’t be too challenging. Make it easy and effective with this comprehensive guide on how to clean an artificial Christmas tree from Treetopia.

We hope this helps you give love to the star of your Christmas celebrations. If it does, share this post with friends and family who are prepping for the holidays. Enjoy!

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