Yes, you need to clean your artificial Christmas tree

Photo: Alexei Lazukov (Shutterstock)

Photo: Alexei Lazukov (Shutterstock)

What artificial Christmas trees lack in fresh evergreen scent, they make up for in ease of maintenance. Unlike the live versions, false fir trees do not shed, nor do they need to be watered, and then disposed of at the end of the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean they are completely free of mantenimient.

Since artificial Christmas trees spend a few weeks living with us in our house, and the rest of the year sitting in storage, they collect some dirt and dust, and would benefit from an annual cleaning. This is what you should do.

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How to clean an artificial Christmas tree

To prolong the life of your artificial tree, experts recommend cleaning it before putting it away, and then again when it comes out of storage at the start of the holiday season, before decorating.

Even if you don’t care for the tree itself, those prickly fake branches are dust magnets, so if someone in your home is allergic to dust mites, it’s a good idea to at least clean the tree before putting it up.

Here, we’ll cover a few different cleaning methods, and you can choose the one that works best for you, based on whether or not your tree is pre-lit, and how dirty it managed to get.

Pre-lit fake Christmas trees are delicate and can’t get wet, so this is really the only safe way to clean them. It’s also the least messy, so if your tree isn’t pre-lit and not as dirty, or you don’t have the time to invest in a more thorough cleaning, this is the way to go.

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Ideally, you’ll want to do this outside, or in a garage or basement, so that dust and dirt from the tree doesn’t spread around the inside of your house. If that’s not possible, lay down an old sheet or tarp to keep the mess at least contained. If your tree is pre-lit, make sure it’s unplugged. Wear a face mask so you don’t inhale the dust, and some goggles wouldn’t hurt either.

Then, starting at the top of the tree, use a soft-bristled brush or dry microfiber cloth to brush or wipe dirt and dust from each branch, working from the inside of the tree out. It is also possible to use a handheld vacuum or a vacuum with a brush attachment, just be careful if your tree is pre-lit.

Artificial Christmas trees that are not pre-lit and can be divided into smaller sections can be freshened with a little salt. Again, it’s best to do it outside, or at least on a sheet or tarp.

Place the separated sections in a large, heavy-duty garbage bag with two cups of kosher salt, tie the bag up, and then shake it well for a few minutes. While you’re shaking, the salt will act as a mild abrasive cleaner, removing a fair amount of dust and other debris from the branches.

Then remove one section of the tree at a time and shake it off, ideally outside (or at least onto the sheet or tarp). When you’re done with all the sections, assemble the tree, then go over it with a vacuum, using the method described above.

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Again, this is only an option for trees that aren’t pre-lit, but if yours is still a bit dirty, or someone in your household has allergies, this is the next step.

First, mix a solution of warm water and a few drops of liquid dish soap in a clean, empty spray bottle. Then, working from the top down and from the inside out, lightly spray each branch with the solution and wipe it clean with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Start by dividing your non-prelit artificial Christmas tree into sections. Take each section, spray it with the soap and water mixture described above, then, using warm water, gently rinse it in the shower from top to bottom (handheld showerheads are easiest).

If the tree doesn’t fall apart, you can take it outside and use a garden hose instead. Either way, let the tree drip dry, either in the shower or bathtub, or outdoors. Let it air dry completely before you start decorating it, especially if you are putting up lights.

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