While fake trees are great, there's no substitute for the fresh woodsy scent, soft needles and slightly imperfect shape of a real Christmas tree. Decorating with a real Christmas tree every year does present a set of cleaning challenges that you don't get from an artificial tree, though. In addition to having to clean tree needles from your floor practically every day, there's also a good chance you're going to need to clean sticky Christmas tree sap off the tree stand at some point.
But you shouldn't be dreading the cleanup while you pick the perfect spruce, haul it home from the tree farm, set up the tree in a tree stand and start decorating. Enjoy the tree, and the holiday season, knowing you have some simple tree sap cleaning tips to use when the time comes.
Video of the Day
Cleaning sap from a tree stand
As a real tree sits in your nice warm home, sticky tree sap might get everywhere, including all over the tree stand at the base of the tree. There's nothing you can do to prevent it, only clean up after it.
Tree stands are typically made of plastic and/or metal. Both materials are generally safe to clean with rubbing alcohol, which is an effective solvent for dissolving even dried sap.
Soak cotton balls with rubbing alcohol and let them sit on sappy spots. Or, put the tree stand in a sink or on a pile of newspapers and use a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol to spritz the entire surface. Let rubbing alcohol sit for a few minutes and scrub these spots with a damp cloth.
If you have a handheld steamer, it might also soften sap enough that you can wipe it away with a cloth. Steam shouldn't damage a standard metal or plastic tree stand.
What is sap, anyway?
Sap is often compared to blood, in terms of the way it functions in trees. It's a thick liquid that flows through two different types of tubes within a tree, carrying nutrients to where they're needed. All types of trees have sap. It can escape through very tiny holes in a tree's trunk and branches, and also seeps out of a tree whenever it's cut. The warmth of your home makes the perfect environment for sap to ooze.
Cleaning sap from floors
A sticky tree stand isn't ideal, but at least it goes back into storage in January. Getting sap on your floors is a problem you'll have to live with every day if you don't clean it up right away.
Cleaning sap from tile floors is relatively easy once the sap is hardened. (Speed up the process with ice cubes.) Simply scrape the drops away with a plastic scraper. On wood floors, cover sap spots with a little oil soap and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing spots with a sponge or cloth. Adhesive removers such as Goo Gone might also work without causing damage, as long as your wood floors are finished.
Artificial trees need cleaning, too!
Caring for a fake tree is definitely easier than caring for a real one, but there might still be some cleaning involved. Give the tree a good cleaning at the beginning of the holiday season and again before you disassemble it and put it away.
You may be able to clean an unlit fake tree in several ways: with a damp cloth, using your vacuum cleaner with the crevice tool or upholstery bristle brush attachment, or with a handheld vacuum. Check manufacturer instructions for specifics.
For a pre-lit tree, use nothing but a dry microfiber cloth or feather duster. With either type of fake tree, dust the branches with a feather duster once a week during the Christmas season.
Cleaning sap from upholstery and fabric
Use a butter knife or spoon to scrape away as much of the sap as you can from clothing or other fabric. Dab a small hidden section of the fabric with rubbing alcohol to see if it causes discoloration; if not, blot the fabric with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. Follow with laundry stain remover.
When you're all done cleaning sap from your tree stand and other surfaces, wash it from your hands using cooking oil plus a little salt to act as an exfoliator. Then you can go back to enjoying your live tree—until it's time to take it down, at which point you might have to do another round of sap cleanup. But you'll already know just what to do!