Guide to Holiday Decoration Clean Up

January 06, 2017

Recycle Your Christmas TreeThe presents are unwrapped. The songs have been sung. The food is eaten, and the visitors have gone home. As much as we love the holidays, they eventually have to end. When that time comes, it’s time to start thinking about cleanup.

Using a live tree and live greenery to decorate for the holidays is nice, but once the holidays end, they can be difficult to clean up. If you haven’t prepared properly, the needles can get everywhere and sap can seep into your floors, carpets, and upholstery. To help you minimize the damage to your home, we’ve gathered a few suggestions on the best ways to dispose of your live holiday decor.

This is the third and final post in a series of blog posts teaching you how to care for and dispose of your live decorations during the holiday season. Previously, we’ve shared tips on how to prepare your home and display live decorations, as well as instructions on how to take care of your greenery.

Remove the Lights and Decorations

That tree isn’t going anywhere until you pull down the lights and ornaments. The same is true for the garlands and wreaths, if you’ve strung lights on them. When you’re removing ornaments from the tree, start from the bottom and work your way up. That way, when you’re reaching for ornaments that have been hung up high, you won’t accidentally knock down and break those that are hung lower. When storing fragile ornaments, wrap them in tissue. You can place them in old egg cartons to keep them all separate so they don’t knock together in storage and break.

When you remove the lights, start from where you finished hanging them and work backwards. Take your time, looping them around your forearm, one string at a time. Wrap a twist tie or zip tie around the middle to keep them from unraveling and getting tangled. When removing lights from garlands, don’t rush. Slowly unwind the lights from the garland and banisters and store them the same as the lights from the tree.

Take the Tree Outside

This is probably the most intimidating part of cleanup, but it doesn’t have to be. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least two people on hand to complete the job. Remove the tree skirt and lay a sheet down around the base of the tree, covering as much of the floor underneath as possible. Shake out as many of the dried needles as you can. Use a turkey baster to remove and dispose of any excess water in the tree stand. At this point, there are two popular methods to disposing the tree. Choose whichever one works best for you.

Wrap It Up and Cart It Out — If you took our advice and placed a tree bag under the tree when you first set things up, this should be easy. Simply pull the bag up around the tree. If not, then take a large bed sheet and wrap it around the tree. Clear a path from the tree to the closest exit, moving furniture if necessary. Then, with the help of another person, carry the tree outside, taking care not to knock over lamps, pictures, or other obstacles. Once you have gotten the tree outside, remove the bag or sheet, as well as the tree stand if it’s still attached.

Remove the Boughs — Some people prefer to remove the boughs inside to make it easier to get the tree through the house without bumping into things. Using pruning shears, cut the boughs off the tree and place into a large bucket. As the bucket fills up, take it outside to dispose of the clippings. Once the limbs are removed, the remaining trunk should be easy to cart outside without bumping into things.

Dispose of the Tree, Wreaths, and Garlands

Recycle Symbol Ornament on Christmas TreeMany cities have curbside pickup for Christmas trees, so disposal might just be a matter of carting it to the street. Call your city’s recycling coordinator or waste disposal office to find out if they offer this service. Trees and wreaths that have been painted or flocked (sprayed with decorations like glitter or fake snow) can’t be composted. These should be thrown in the garbage instead.

If your city does not offer pickup, or if you waited too long to take down your decorations, then you will need to dispose of it yourself. Contact your city to get a list of composting facilities where you can take your tree. You could also leave it in your garden until spring and put it through a wood chipper to turn it into mulch. You can cut off the boughs and use them as spacers when you mulch your garden to allow easier flow for air and water.


Sweep (Don’t Vacuum) the Needles

hand holding pine needlesWhile your first impulse might be to just vacuum up all the needles that your tree drops—and it will drop needles, no matter how careful you are—this is actually a bad idea. Needles and vacuums are not friends. They tend to get stuck in all the worst parts of your vacuum, clump up together, and clog the airflow. The clogs don’t always show up immediately, either. Sometimes they only partially block the flow, but gather dust as you continue to vacuum over time. Eventually, they can completely stop up your vacuum.

Once you have swept, you can wrap a piece of duct tape around your hand (sticky side facing out) and pat the area to pick up stray needles with the tape. If the tape gets full, simply dispose of it and start with a new piece.

Clean Up Spills and Sap

Chances are that even after you have cleared the needles, there will still be a mess left behind. For smaller sap stains, you can moisten a washcloth with rubbing alcohol and dab at the sap to remove it. Make sure to use a white washcloth so the colors won’t bleed and stain your carpet. For heavier stains, you may need to hire a professional carpet cleaner to give your carpet a thorough cleaning.