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How to Remove a Tree Stump Without a Grinder

Tree stump grinders are specialized equipment designed to pulverize tree stumps into sawdust. While these machines can make quick work of pesky stumps, they are expensive to rent and difficult to transport. 

If you want to learn how to remove a tree stump without a grinder, there are a few ways to accomplish this: digging, burning, or with chemicals

This article will explain how each method works and what you will need to get started. If you are unsure about removing the stump yourself, consider hiring a stump grinding service.

Before You Get Started

Stump removal is hard work. While you can save hundreds of dollars removing a stump yourself versus hiring a team of professionals, you are also committing to several hours of work and certain risks. 

Larger stumps get exponentially more difficult to remove. Tree trunks six inches across can be a relatively easy job to dig up on your own. Trunks twelve inches across will take several hours of digging and cutting. A trunk two feet across will likely be too much work to dig up on your own, making burning or chemicals a preferred DIY alternative in most cases.

Renting a stump grinder for the day will cost a few hundred dollars and can still be hard work to transport and use, along with requiring some specialized knowledge. Whether you use a grinder, manual digging, fire, or chemicals, be sure to take safety precautions for yourself and any other people or structures in the vicinity.

Safety Tips

Basic safety equipment like steel-toed boots and safety goggles are highly advised when using power tools or swinging hand tools. You should also be careful with stump removal chemicals and fire-starting fuel, avoiding contact with bare skin and eyes, and also not breathing in harmful fumes

Use signs or caution tape to keep people away from the work area and secure pets where they won't interfere. Keep a phone close in case of an emergency, and let someone know when you begin the job

Lastly, if the job becomes too difficult or you feel unsafe at any point, take a break and consider professional stump removal. An injury or other hazardous accident is not worth saving a few hundred dollars.

What You'll Need

Depending on which method you use, you will require a few tools and supplies, along with basic safety equipment. 

DIY Remedies for Tree Stump Removal

There is a relatively safe method for tree stump removal that you may be able to begin without a trip to the store. It requires you to drill holes into the stump and fill them with salt to entirely kill what is left of the tree and promote decay. 

Here is what you will need that you may have around your house. 

Epsom Salt

Stumps can survive without the rest of the tree and even attempt to regrow if the root system has enough nutrients and energy stored. Applying salt to the core of the remaining stump will deprive it of water and kill it for good

The best way is to drill deep holes into the stump with your widest drill bit. Then fill them with salt to kill the tree for good. You will need a drill, axe, chisel, or another tool to get salt into the core of the stump. Multiple holes will accelerate the process, and they should be several inches deep.

Rock Salt

Rock salt can also be used to dry out and kill the stump. Simply create vertical holes and saturate the stump with a generous amount of salt. 

Plastic Bag or Tarp

Once you have filled the stump with Epsom or rock salt, cover it with a tarp to prevent rain from washing the salt away. 

Boiling Water

If you do not have a sufficient quantity of salt on hand, boiling water can be used insteadThis method is less effective and will likely require several applications

Similar to the salt, drill or otherwise create a center hole in the stump and fill it with hot water to kill the core and tap root. Reapply over multiple days

Methods To Remove a Tree Stump Without a Grinder

If you can make a trip to a hardware store, you can pick up some more effective supplies for relatively cheap. Here are three common methods for removing a tree stump without a grinder

Kill Tree Stump With Fire

A tree stump can be removed with fire and save you a lot of effort. However, the burning process has some inherent risks. Be cautious of nearby structures, burnable debris, and pets or people in the area. You should also check the regulations in your area to see if this method of stump removal is permitted.

To effectively remove a stump with fire, the goal is to saturate it with kerosene so it will burn out quickly. Depending on the size of the stump, this can still take hours to achieve, so it is best to start early in the day. You should also have a hose or fire extinguisher nearby in case the fire begins to spread

Clear the area around the stump of debris like fallen leaves or dry grass that may catch fire. Then drill holes or create cuts in the stump using an axe. Pour kerosene into the holes and let it soak in. Light the stump from a safe distance and observe it as it burns. This can be a low-effort method for removing stumps.

Old, dry stumps will burn better than recently felled trees that are still green. Be sure to keep an eye on the fire to prevent pets or people from approaching it or in case it begins to spread or send off dangerous embers

Dig Out Tree Stump From the Ground

Manual removal can be the fastest method, but also the most physically demanding. Large stumps may simply be too difficult to remove manually, at least without help. This can be a quick and clean method for small- or medium-sized stumps. 

Start by using a mattock or pickaxe to soften the ground surrounding the stump. Next, use a shovel to remove the loose dirt. Repeat until you can access the entire root system, including the tap root directly below the stump. 

Once you have access to roots, all that is left is to sever the visible roots with an axe, chainsaw, or hacksaw. With the stump loosened, you should be able to pull the entire stump from the hole and fill it in with dirt. For medium and large-sized stumps, a winch or vehicle with a hitch can be used to pull the loose stump out

Use Chemical Tree Stump Killers

Like in the salt-based methods above, there are specific chemicals you can pour into a tree stump to kill it and accelerate deterioration. Simply drill or cut holes into the stump and apply the chemicals (you may also need to fill the holes with water, as directed). Be careful not to get the chemicals on bare skin or in your eyes. The fumes from chemical removal may also be hazardous. 

You can cover the treated stump with organic mulch and a tarp to trap the moisture and chemicals to keep the stump moist and speed up the process. You will likely need to reapply the chemicals in the coming weeks. After a few weeks or months, the stump should become soft and spongey as it begins to degrade. You can remove the soft material and apply chemicals again to the leftover stump or let the process runs its course on its own. 

The chemical method will be much faster than the natural decomposition process but can still take months, depending on the size of the tree. High-nitrogen fertilizer can also be used.

Avoid These Mistakes When Killing Tree Stumps

There are many ways that DIY tree stump removal can go wrong, causing injury, damage to property, or just a waste of time and money. If you are not confident or comfortable with any of the above methods, do not attempt them on your own. Mistakes can end up costing you much more time and money than hiring a professional.

Be sure to use safety equipment appropriate for each method. Namely:

  • Fire-resistant gloves and a hose or fire extinguisher if using a fire
  • Steel-toed boots and eye protection with hand and power tools
  • Waterproof gloves and eye protection when handling chemicals

Also, be mindful of people, pets, and structures in the area that could be damaged by fire, tools, or chemicals. Have a phone ready in the event of an emergency, and let someone know when you will be working so they can check in on you. 

Accidentally starting a fire on your property or injuring yourself, someone else, or a pet will be much more costly than letting a professional handle a job you aren't comfortable doing yourself. Be smart and be careful!


Below are some common questions and answers about how to remove a stump without a grinder.

Can you get rid of a tree stump without grinding it?

Yes! There are several ways to remove a tree stump without grinding it. They include burning out the stump, digging it out, or using salts or chemicals to kill and rot the stump.

What is the fastest way to remove a tree stump?

For smaller trees, manually digging out the stump is the fastest and cleanest method. Don't underestimate the amount of effort that it will take, though, as you may need to dig all the way around the stump and several feet deep to remove it. 

How does Epsom salt remove a tree stump?

Stumps of some trees can survive and attempt to regrow from the energy and nutrients stored in the roots. Applying Epsom salt to the core of the stump will dry it out so it is unable to regrow.

Will vinegar rot a tree stump?

Vinegar is believed to deprive tree leaves and roots of water, oxygen, and nutrients, though it may take significant quantities to have a noticeable effect on a tree stump. Tree stump removal products will be faster and more effective for killing and rotting a tree stump. Vinegar may help with the natural process.

What happens to roots after stump grinding?

Some tree roots will be shredded up along with the rest of the stump, though the farther-reaching parts of the network will remain intact in the ground. However, without a central tree or stump, most tree roots will not continue to live or grow in a way that they will become a nuisance.

We Can Help You Remove Your Tree Stump

If at any point you don't feel safe or confident using any of these methods, give us a call at United Tree Care. We have tree stump grinders that can quickly and safely shred the actual stump down into sawdust. Our effective stump removal will prevent the tree from growing back, and we will handle the entire process for you. 

If you have multiple stumps you need to be removed, or simply don't have the time or interest to remove a difficult stump on your own, professional stump removal is the best option. We can provide you with detailed stump removal costs. We also offer lawn care and emergency tree removal services

Even if you want help with how to remove a tree stump without a grinder, give us a call. We can help you with professional stump removal today!


(571) 762-9351
United Tree Care LLC