How to Store a Christmas Tree Once the Holidays Are Over

Keep your artificial Christmas tree in tip-top shape for years to come with these tips for proper storage.

colorful Christmas tree in living room
Photo: Ball and Albanese

Investing in an artificial tree comes with its fair share of benefits. Sure, it’ll cost more upfront than a real tree but it certainly saves you money in the long run. Faux trees are low maintenance; there’s no need to continually sweep up fallen needles or keep them watered. Plus, they're far less likely to be a hazard than real evergreens. Even the essence of a real tree can be replicated with a strong fir-scented Christmas candle (kept far away from the branches, of course).

If you’ve made the switch to an artificial tree, it’s important to know how to store a Christmas tree once the big day is over. Follow these easy steps to ensure your tree stays in good shape year after year

Step 1: Take the Trimmings Off the Tree

While not as fun as decorating a Christmas tree, consider putting away decorations like unpacking after a trip: it’s something that has to get done. Plan a spot to store your holiday decor, such as ornaments, lights, garland, and the topper, so you’ll know where they go once they’re off the tree. If you used tinsel or ribbon, be sure to get all of the pieces off of the branches.

Step 2: Brush the Branches

The best time to clean a Christmas tree is before storing it for the off-season. This way, debris doesn’t have time to adhere over the course of the year. According to Jennifer Derry, chief merchandising officer at Balsam Hill, there are two approaches depending on if your tree is pre-lit or not. “For pre-lit trees, wipe branches with a clean, dry cloth. Start from the top and gently work your way around the light bulbs,” she explains. "If your tree is unlit, you can give it a quick sweep with a vacuum using the upholstery bristle brush or crevice attachment. Make sure to test a section at the base of the tree first to check if it can safely clean the branches without damage.”

To keep the snow-covered look of a flocked tree from showing dust, use a dry microfiber cloth or a damp one if absolutely necessary. Avoid using a heavy hand and never use a vacuum as the flocking may rub off.

Step 3: Choose Your Storage Method

“To retain the beauty of your artificial Christmas tree and prevent any damage during storage, make sure that all of the tree sections are stored properly, and kept out of the way in a cool, dry place,” says Derry. The technique you use to store your tree will depend on a few factors, such as the type of tree, the size of the tree, and the space you’re working with. 

Many artificial trees are made of multiple pieces that interlock with one another via a middle rod and are able to be easily disassembled and stored compactly. Per Derry, always dismantle the tree according to instructions. If you have extra space, say in the basement, you might be able to store the whole tree upright and intact.

Upright Storage

For those with the space to store a whole tree year-round, an upright storage bag is an obvious choice. A good quality upright bag will run you a bit more than a horizontal one but it certainly makes putting the tree up each year a much simpler task.

After removing the decorations and cleaning the branches, slide the bag over the length of the tree, starting at the top, and zip it up to keep it protected. You can then transport the bag to its storage spot and keep it vertical in the original stand. This is an especially good option for flocked trees to perfectly preserve the delicate powder. Just be sure to keep it away from curious kids or pets during the year.

Tree Bags

This is a more popular option for Christmas tree storage since it won’t take up as much room as it condenses the size of the tree. Most bags are available in rectangular shapes and have handles or even wheels for effortless transportation. The material doesn’t matter so much but it’s best to look for one that’s waterproof or, at the very least, moisture-resistant. 

The goal is to keep the tree from being exposed to the elements, which is why storing it in the original cardboard box is not ideal. It leaves too much opportunity for water, heat, and pests to get inside. A good zippered bag will extend your tree’s life and can be conveniently stored in a closet or basement, so long as the room is cool and dry.

Derry suggests a smart way to store the pieces: “Position the sections in the bag(s) as if they were a pair of shoes in a box, with the pole in the center.” If you need two bags to accommodate all of the pieces of a large tree, “place the odd-numbered sections in one bag, and the even-numbered ones in the other.” For smaller, tabletop Christmas trees, look for storage bags in the exact height as the tree so it stays snug.

Plastic Wrap

Flocked trees, in particular, can benefit from being contained in plastic wrap. Even if you skip this step, Derry advises to “compress all branches carefully and ensure that there are no unnecessary strains on the branches and lights” before storing them in a bag. A compromise would be to “tie a ribbon or cord around the section to secure the branches” which she explains makes the tree or its parts easier to handle.

When asked for one last pro tip, Derry adds that you can store the tree with a container of baking soda or unused coffee grounds to keep musty smells away until next Christmas.

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