We love our trees, but we don’t love when damage or disease kills the tree and forces you to cut them down. When this happens, you typically have a stump left over, and this can be an unsightly problem. Additionally, it can cause a host of problems down the road by inviting pests into your yard. This is where a good stump killer comes in.
Comparing various stump killers can be a time-consuming process, and it can be very confusing if you don’t know what criteria to keep in mind. You most likely don’t have the time to sift through the dozens of options available on the current market, and this is where this stump killer review roundup comes in. Not only will we list several high-quality stump killers, but we’ll give you a few DIY options and list what you want to keep in mind for buying criteria when you shop.
The more broken down your stump is, the more effective the stump killer will be when you apply it because it’ll be able to get to the interior layers quicker.
1. Earthworks Health LLC Copper Sulfate Pentahydrate Crystals
This is a multipurpose stump killer that you can use for a broad range of projects around your home. For example, you can use it as a stump killer, but you can also use it to clear out your drains, clean your ponds, and kill tree roots. This bag will give you roughly five treatments using two pounds of the mix for each one, and this makes it moderately priced.
You get small crystals that are easy to apply, and the larger size makes them a breeze to measure out before you apply it. It makes distribution easier too, and you won’t have to wonder if you got too much in one spot and not enough in another.
The packaging on this stump killer is a problem because it interferes with the actual amount of crystals you get. For example, instead of the full 10 pounds of tree killer, you may end up getting closer to 9. This is a full 10% shortage that can really make it difficult to get a good bang for your buck, especially if you have more than one tree stump to treat.
- Easy to apply and distribute
- Able to use it for several different purposes
- Get a few treatments per bag
- Packaging may cause you to get less than the full 10 pounds
- Missing usage directions
- Difficult to dissolve
2. Bonide Vine & Stump Killer
Anyone who wants a budget stump killer should look no further than this option. It comes in an eight-ounce bottle as a concentrate that will control and kill vines, woody plants, and broadleaf weeds. There is an applicator brush in the bottle that makes it easy to ensure you get even coverage.
Another bonus of this application brush is that it prevents you from accidentally getting this chemical on any foliage or plants around the tree stump. It’ll specifically kill the nuisance growth in and around the tree stump. However, one big reason this chemical won’t harm desirable foliage is because it’s not a very strong solution. Instead, you’ll treat the tree stump several times to ensure you kill it. This is more time-consuming, but it does save your plants.
The solution also ensures that your stump won’t re-sprout after you cut it down. It goes deep into the plant’s roots to kill it from the inside out. In turn, this makes it much easier to remove the dead stump and root system after it works.
- Very budget-friendly option
- Gives you a precision application capability
- Goes deep into the stump to kill the root system
- Larger stumps require more product to kill
- Need multiple applications to work
- Can be time-consuming to use
3. VPG Fertilome Chemical Stump Killer
This product will work very well to remove heavily wooded foliage and stumps from your property. Along with working on tree stumps, it works very well on poison ivy. You get a precise application that ensures you only get the chemical on your intended plant.
It comes neatly packed in a 32-ounce bottle that has more than enough stump killer for several treatments. The liquid solution pours nicely, and you apply it as an undiluted chemical using a paintbrush. You want to apply this solution to an even layer all over the tree stump to ensure it’s effective at killing every layer of the stump down to the roots.
One issue with this chemical is that it’s extremely strong. Should you accidentally get it on anything around the tree stump, it’ll kill it. You don’t want to accidentally splash or drip onto anything around the stump when you apply it. It’s also more restricted than other options because it only works very well on two things.
- Very strong formula
- Easy to apply in even coats
- Comes in a sizeable container
- Not extremely versatile
- Will easily kill other foliage
- Strong smell
4. Tordon RTU Specialty Stump Removal Herbicide
This is another moderately priced stump killer that will work to get rid of several different plant species. It works well on 20 different plant species like roots, vines, or stumps, and this makes it an excellent multi-purpose herbicide.
It comes in a quart container, and you don’t need a lot of the chemical to do an effective job. The nice thing about this choice is that it has a bright blue dye. This dye makes it very easy to see the areas you treated and which ones you didn’t to ensure you get even coverage. The blue will linger long after you originally apply it, so be careful to not get in on your hands.
This isn’t the most potent stump killer on the list. It does do a very good job with getting rid of stumps in one go, but it only partially works on the other 20 plant species it mentions. It kills grass very easily as well, so you have to be very careful to not accidentally spill it when you apply it.
- Blue dye is highly visible
- Only need a little to be effective
- Can kill up to 20 plant species
- Can and will kill grass
- Dye tends to stain clothing or skin
- Takes more than one treatment for anything other than stumps
5. Voluntary Purchasing Group Stump Killer
This herbicide comes in a 16-ounce bottle, and the main active ingredient in the formula is triclopyr. This is a very selective herbicide, and this means that it only works well to kill poison ivy, vines, or woody plants. If you accidentally get it on your grass or flowers, it shouldn’t cause any lasting damage. This allows you to be slightly more liberal when you apply it.
You add the chemical to a paintbrush and apply an even coat over the surface of the stump. It’ll start working right after you apply it, and it’ll sink into the root system to kill the entire thing. You’re supposed to use it without diluting it, but you can dilute it if you want it to go further. You may have to treat it more than once if you dilute it though.
The one drawback of this stump killer is that it doesn’t work as well or as quickly on larger stumps. It can take several weeks to kill a big stump, and you may have to reapply it once or twice for it to get to the root system. It also has a very strong smell.
- Can use it straight or diluted
- Kills several different plant species
- Uses a brush for easy application
- Takes longer to work on bigger stumps
- Hazardous to your skin
- Has a very strong and lingering smell
6. Gordon’s Stump Killer
When you get this product, it’s ready to go straight out of the box. You get a powerful liquid compound that goes directly to the stump’s roots to kill them off. There is a convenient squirt bottle top that makes it quick and easy to apply it to the entirety of your tree stump.
The 32-ounce container is large enough to kill several stumps at a time, and the formula works to prevent regrowth by killing off plant life and any existing sprouts. It’s very concentrated, and you can dilute it to make it last longer if you have multiple areas to cover.
Since this is such a concentrated stump killer, it’ll make short work of any vegetation it accidentally falls on. This includes any grass, plants, or flowers around the stump itself. This is also a more expensive option for the amount of product you get per order.
- Ready to use as soon as you get it
- Has a squirt bottle for precision application
- Very potent
- Will kill grass
- Price is slightly higher
- Can cause skin irritation
7. Spectracide Stump Killer Granules
This budget-friendly product comes in an easy-to-pour bottle that will go straight to the root and accelerate the decomposition process. It is a chemical compound in granule form, and it breaks down the stump to make it porous when you apply it. You will need a herbicide for these granules to work.
Once you pre-drill the holes in your stump, you add this solution with the herbicide. Adding hot water will help the granules break down and dissolve so they work better. The 16-ounce bottle will work well on one small or medium tree stump, and it won’t harm any of the vegetation around the stump if you spill it.
The drawback to this product is that it won’t work by itself. You have to buy a brush-killer herbicide and use it with it. It also takes months to work, and you may have to apply it more than once. The solution is only powerful enough to kill off one stump per bottle.
- Affordable and budget-friendly
- Won’t burn grass or other vegetation
- No mixing required for it to work
- Needs a brush-killer herbicide
- Doesn’t work for months
- Have to drill holes and pour it in
8. Epsoak Epsom Salt Magnesium Sulfate
Although this product isn’t directly marketed as a stump killer, you can use it to remove stumps and for several other things. The magnesium sulfate is a nice thing to have around the house because it can boost the amount of sulfur and magnesium in the soil in your garden.
You use it just like you’d use a potassium nitrate compound to kill the stump. It’ll wick away the moisture and dry it out from the inside out. You do have to drill holes in the stump before packing them with a mix of the salt and water. It won’t hurt anything around it.
A drawback to using the stump killer is the sheer amount of time it takes to work. You can apply it and nothing will happen for several months. It can also be difficult to apply because you’re not sure how much stays in the stump and how much runs out.
- Very safe to use
- Extremely cheap
- Can go a long way
- Challenging to apply
- Takes months to work
- Not designed specifically to kill stumps
9. Calyptus 45% Pure Vinegar
White vinegar is a very good DIY stump killer that is very easy to make, and it packs a decent amount of punch for the money you spend. It’s non-toxic as well, and this makes it a safe option to use around your pets and family.
Spraying undiluted white vinegar directly on tree roots in large amounts will penetrate the bark and sink into the root system to kill it. You’ll need to spray it on a dry and sunny day, and you’ll repeat the process a few times until you see the leafy top growth die. When this happens, it means the vinegar cuts off the roots from the rest of the stump, and they can no longer deliver nutrients to it. Eventually, this will kill the rest of the stump.
- Non-toxic and safe
- Easy to use
- Get a lot for the price
- Takes months to work
- Have to reapply it several times
- Can leave a strong scent
10. Morton Safe-T-Salt Rock Salt
Rock salt is popular in places that get snow every year because this is what you put on sidewalks to keep them clear of snow, ice, and slush. Rock salt has sodium chloride as the main active ingredient, and this works to kill tree stumps and roots on contact.
This component wipes out the moisture in the tree stump, and this will eventually lead to the stump’s death. It sinks into the root system and stops nutrients from making their way throughout the stump, effectively cutting off the food supply.
You’ll have to drill holes all over the stump and pour rock salt in. Ideally, you’ll pour a two-inch layer around the base of the stump as well. Pour hot water over the salt to help it sink into the soil, and let it sit for six weeks after the initial application.
- Safe to use around pets and kids
- Easy application process
- Won’t burn grass or other foliage
- Takes six weeks to start to work
- Can burn your skin
- May wash away in wet climates
How to Pick Out the Best Stump Killer
Now that you know 10 different stump killers, you have to know how to compare them and decide which one is best for you. Something that works very well for your neighbor may not have the desired effect on the stump in your yard.
Location and Size
Consider the location and size of your tree stump. While every stump killer we reviewed works well on vines, woody branches, stumps, and other unwanted foliage, they only work so well on larger stumps. You’ll need patience and time if you have a large tree stump to contend with. If this is the case, find a product that comes specifically designed to rot out your tree stump.
You’ll need a more potent product, and you may have to buy bigger quantities if you have more than one stump to take out at once. If this is the case, consider buying multipacks to save money. Your stump’s location may also play a role because some products will destroy the surrounding foliage while others won’t.
Larger tree stumps take much longer to break down due to their size, even with the more potent chemical mixes. It can take several weeks.
How fast do you want to get rid of your bothersome tree stump? Do you have a few months to wait for the less potent products to work or do you need it gone as quickly as possible? Smaller stumps will show results at a much quicker rate than larger ones, usually within two weeks of the initial application. However, larger stumps can take between four and six weeks before you notice a difference.
Deciding on how much time you want to take to get rid of your stump will influence the strength of the stump killer you pick out. More potent ones will generally work faster on larger and smaller stumps, but they’re more dangerous to use than diluted options.
There are two main ways you will apply your solution to your tree stumps to kill them. The first method is more highly recommended than the second. You drill holes directly in the tree stump to expose the stump’s interior. Then, you pour your stump killer directly in these holes. This allows the solution to get deep into the stump right away and spread to the roots to kill it from the inside out.
The second method that will also work but it’ll be slower is to apply the solution to the stump as soon as you cut the tree down. It will still slowly make its way into the stump, but it might not be as effective as using the first method. You want to either pour the product directly on the stump or apply it with a brush. You can use a spray nozzle too, but this gives you less control.
The more you drill into the tree stump, the deeper you’re allowing the stump killer to sink when you first apply it. In turn, this can speed up the decay process.
The toxicity of your product refers to how potent it is. The higher the toxicity, the more damage the chemical can do to the tree stump. Unfortunately, this also means it can do much more damage to your surrounding foliage and your skin or eyes. If you have a bigger stump, you’ll need a chemical with a higher toxicity to break it down.
However, if you have smaller and thinner stumps, you can usually get away with chemicals with a lower toxicity. There are even organic compounds that’ll slowly kill the tree stump without harming any surrounding foliage or causing a problem for your skin. Generally speaking, the lower the toxicity level, the better off you’ll be.
The Different Ingredients in Stump Killers
Generally speaking, these products usually have one of four main ingredients. How effective each of them are will depend on how you use them and what you want to kill with it. We’ve picked out the main four compounds that make up the different stump killers below.
- Glyphosate – You’ll find this ingredient in dozens of weed killers, and it’s the main compound found in Roundup products. This is an extremely potent ingredient that will kill almost any plant life it comes into contact with. This means you want to apply it very carefully and use it with a high degree of caution.
- Magnesium Sulfate – This is what you find in Epsom salts. You get this ingredient by combining sulfur, magnesium, and oxygen. It’s more mild, and it’s a popular additive in the garden to help enrich the soil and encourage plants to grow. However, it can kill stumps if you put it on in highly concentrated amounts.
- Potassium Nitrate – Potassium Nitrate is one of the most well-known compounds found in a huge range of stump killers. You can get in a powder or granular form, and you may have it labeled saltpeter. Out of all of the compounds in these products, this one is considered to be the most effective.
- Triclopyr – Originally used to control broadleaf weeds, this is an organic compound that is usually effective at killing woody plants. It’s a selective herbicide and it helps to block any new growth. It can irritate your eyes but it has a low toxicity level.
All of the products we listed will eventually kill your tree stump, but it will take patience on your part until you see the results you want.
There are dozens of stump killers available, but some are more effective than others. You want to carefully compare your options and see how they stack up against your wants and needs. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when you shop. In turn, it can make your choice easier and faster.