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Yes, You Need to Clean Your Artificial Christmas Tree

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Photo: Aleksei Lazukov (Shutterstock)

What artificial Christmas trees lack in fresh evergreen scent, they make up for with ease of maintenance. Unlike the live versions, faux firs don’t shed, or need to be watered, then disposed of at the end of the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean that they’re completely maintenance-free.

Given that artificial Christmas trees spend a few weeks living with us in our home, and rest of the year tucked away in storage, they do accumulate some dirt and dust, and would benefit from an annual cleaning. Here’s what to do.

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 beginning of the holiday season, before you decorate it.

Even if you don’t care about the tree itself, those prickly fake branches are dust magnets, so if anyone in your household has dust mite allergies, it’s a good idea to clean the tree at least before putting it up.

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

Basic dry cleaning

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-involved, so if your tree in’t pre-lit and not that dirty—or you don’t have the time to invest in a more thorough cleaning—this the way to go.

Ideally, you’ll want to do this outside, or in a garage or basement, so the dust and dirt from the tree doesn’t spread around the inside of your home. If that’s not possible, put down an old sheet or tarp to keep the mess at least somewhat contained. If your tree is pre-lit, make sure that it’s unplugged. Throw on 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 the dirt and dust off each branch, working from the inside of the tree out. It’s also possible to use a handheld vacuum, or a vacuum with a brush attachment—just be gentle if your tree is pre-lit.

Salt and shake

Artificial Christmas trees that aren’t pre-lit—and can be broken down into smaller sections—can be freshened using a bit of salt. Again, this is best done outside, or at least over a sheet or tarp.

Place the separated sections into a large, heavy-duty trash bag with two cups of Kosher salt, tie the bag, and then give it a good shake for a few minutes. As you’re shaking, the salt will act as a mild abrasive cleaner, ridding the branches of a decent amount of dust and other grime.

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

Spray and wipe

Again, this is only an option for trees that aren’t pre-lit, but if yours is still a little grimy—or you have someone in your household with 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 inside-out, lightly spritz each branch with the solution, and wipe it off with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Give it a shower

Start by breaking down your not-pre-lit 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 off in the shower from top to bottom (handheld shower heads are easiest).

If the tree doesn’t come apart, you can take it outside and use a garden hose instead. Either way, leave the tree to drip-dry either in the shower or bathtub, or outside. Allow it to air dry completely before you start decorating it—especially if you’re putting on lights.

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