As a skeptic, I am generally wary of any claims that say something that is generally hard is made easy by a product. I was wondering if anyone could offer some advice if they have experience with various stump removing chemicals on the market (not looking for product specific advice). Assuming that one follows the directions on the product, what is its efficacy?

  • Bon fire on the stump. Charcoal improves the soil. Main stump removing chemical element involved: oxygen
    – user19848
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 7:13

7 Answers 7


Take a look at this question, Nothing will grow where tree was, here on SE.

Quote: Pouring chemicals (poison) on the stump is going to speed up the breakdown (decompose) process, but it's still going to take at least a year or two.

If the stump isn't that big, it's much better to get it pulled or to simply dig it out (that normally results in a good weekend workout).

If the stump is of a reasonable size, have you considered stumping grinding as an option?

If you go the stump grinding route, make sure you specify a minimum "grind" depth. Bear in mind, the deeper you want the stump grinded the more it may cost you.

  • A "bad" stump grinding service will grind to just below the surface, then cover it over with some soil.

  • A "good" stump grinding service with grind to a depth of 12 to 18inches (300 to 450mm).

    • It is my understanding 18 to 24inches (450 to 600mm) is about the maximum depth that most stump grinders will grind to, without considerable extra work... Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on this piece of information.
  • If you want to grind it yourself, you should be able to hire a stump grinder from a local tool hire shop.

    • The machine is easy enough to use (just takes a little bit of getting use to), results in a few hours of fairly hard-work for yourself (even though the machine is doing the real work).
  • If you go the DIY route and you have a tractor (or can borrow one), a CAT I 3PH / PTO grinder will save you a ton of work.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 16:33
  • Ignoring side effects, if the breakdown takes a year or two, I would consider it highly effective compared to how long stumps take to break down naturally. (Decades?) Especially if they aren't in a place where they get a lot of moisture.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 16:36
  • @bstpierre, "but it's still going to take at least a year or two", I think I should probably add a disclaimer to that statement ie One or two years is the absolutely minimum it will take for a stump to breakdown after being treated with a "stump chemical remover" prodcut...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 16:58
  • Most stump removal chemicals are not "poison", but potassium nitrate. A strong fertilizer (60-0-40 NPK). That'll promote fungal growth in the stump, but if you use too much, it'll also burn any plant you put in the spot where the stump was. Dilution of the fertilizer by extensive watering, or dispersal and dilution of soil in the hot-spot should get plants growing where the tree once was. Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 14:11

As Mike Perry pointed out, this question on this site is a good first hand account of what happens when you use stump removal chemicals.

All that most chemicals provide is a very high amount of nitrogen. They're just glorified, over priced fertilizers and I'll bet that most products have potassium nitrate as their main ingredient. Typically several deep holes are drilled into the stump and the chemical is poured down them. Given that tree stumps will definitely rot in a high nitrogen + moisture environment, there is no question of whether these products will work or not. They will, although the process might take from anywhere from one to four years.

However, the question that needs to be asked is what is their effect on the surrounding soil. Depending on the type, trees have roots that go very deep into the ground or cover a large area at a relatively shallow depth (see this answer for some info). Since these chemicals get transported to the very tips of the roots, you'll find that over time, a large portion of your garden is unfit for growing anything due to the extremely high levels of nitrogen in the soil (will "burn" everything). The levels are high enough (and the effect extends deep enough) that normal gardening techniques like adding carbon/manure, etc to alter the ratios will not work. That ground is dead for a few years.


I know that the questions asks about the efficacy of stump removal chemicals, however, I assume the intention is to gain information on removing a stump.

A friend of mine just hired a 40lb jack hammer from Home Depot for $55 for 4 hours and said that it was the perfect tool to quickly and efficiently dig up his stump. Personally I thought this was an ingenuous idea and wanted to share it.

  • Whacking the thing is worthwhile. It removes bark and any partially decomposed wood so that rain can have a go at the fresh, hard core wood. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 13:33

I know of three ways to chemically reduce a stump:

  1. Sodium hydroxide -- Drano/lye. You are doing the same process as making paper, but more slowly. The very high pH tends to make clay into rock, and will take a long time to wash free.

  2. Fertilizer. Wood is composed mostly of cellulose and lignan. Neither has significant nitrogen. Adding nitrogen is essentially fertilizing the fungi that will be attacking the material anyway. This doesn't help much on rot resistant roots.

  3. Fungi spawn. Now you are adding fungi to help with the rot. This can work, if the spawn is matched to the wood and the climate.

As an additional measure, drilling holes and adding soap may help water move in and out of the wood. This may help with stumps that are naturally oily, such as cedar, redwood, and larch.

None of the chemical or fungi methods are swift. Time is measured in years.

Stacking fresh manure on the stump will work as well as any of the chemical methods.

Any drilling of holes you can add to the stump will speed up decomposition substantially. They don't have to be huge. 1/2 inches, 6 inches deep, 3-5 inches apart will allow fungi sports to enter into the wood, and for manure nutrients to penetrate.

You can also burn out the stump. You need a steel barrel with one end removed. Add two tubes the closed end, about 18" long, one pointing in, one pointed out. This will work as a downdraft heater.

Other ways to deal with stumps:

Cut them off flush. Put a planter on top.

Add a slight mound of dirt. (This is what I do on my trails in my woods.

  • Had a big stump that's been bugging me for 10 years. It simply would not rot. Drilled some 1 foot (0.3 meter) deep 1/2" (12.5mm) holes in it. and filled them with potassium nitrate. This year I have a lovely crop of mushrooms. By itself, lignin can be very tough stuff. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 13:31

I have had lots of success burning stumps with the help of charcoal, peanut oil, a drill and fire.

  1. Drill holes 5/8" or bigger every two inches to a depth of 12" or greater
  2. Fill holes with peanut oil (available in 3 gal containers)
  3. Allow peanut oil to soak in overnight
  4. Top off holes with peanut oil
  5. Place charcoal on top of stump, start fire

Charcoal will burn out and turn to ash after a few hours but the oil inside the tree should smolder for a few days. If the stump remains, re-fill with oil and start the process over again.


Buy a 1-inch drill bit that's at least as long as half your stump is wide. Lowe's has them, and Irwin is a good brand. Drill two holes, the first one being straight down through the center. For the second hole, dig as deep as you can down the side, and then drill the hole sideways to meet the first hole at the bottom. This makes an L-shaped vent shaft. Pour some lighter fluid down the top hole and toss in a match. The fire will suck in air from the bottom hole and exhaust it out the top. You may have to light it a few times before it'll catch well. Once it's burning steadily, you can accelerate the flame ENORMOUSLY by using a leaf blower to force air into the bottom hole. Be very gentle at first so you don't blow out your fire. But once the inside of the stump is good and hot, the blower makes it unbelievably hot in there. The stump will first burn into a horseshoe shape. Next day, put a bag of cheap charcoal in the horseshoe and burn it again using the leaf blower to speed it up. I had 24-inch long leaf pine stump and used this procedure over a weekend. Step one to the horseshoe stage took a couple of hours. I used a couple of bags of charcoal to do the rest. Total time spent was around 6 hours. It burned the stump to a depth of about 18 inches -- and nobody with a stump grinder will go that deep for you.


All that substances provide is a large quantity of nitrogen. They're only glorified and I will wager that many goods have potassium nitrate as their principal component.

Typically several holes have been drilled to the stump and the compound is poured them. Given that shrub stumps will rot at a nitrogen moisture surroundings that is high, there is not any question of whether these goods may function or not.

They may, even though the procedure may take from anywhere from a couple of years.On the other hand, the issue that has to be asked is what exactly is their impact upon the surrounding land.

Based on the sort, trees have roots which go deep into the floor or pay a huge area. Since these substances become hauled to the tips of the origins, you might discover that more than a massive part of your backyard is well known for developing anything because of the very substantial levels of nitrogen from the soil (can"burn" that which ).

I am sharing this from my experience at tree service lexington ky. The amounts are large enough (along with the result goes deep ) that conventional gardening techniques such as including carbon/manure, etc to change the ratios won't get the job done.

  • Greg,welcome to Gardening SE! Don't forget to take the tour and browse our help center and in your special case this page and this page. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 17:31

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