'Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?' Don't panic, we have the answer

If your Christmas tree suddenly smells bad, don't worry: you can almost certainly salvage it. Here's how

Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

No one trying to get into a festive mood wants to catch themselves thinking, 'Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?' Just imagine: you've lugged back the beautiful but oh-so-heavy tree, you've spent time installing it and decorating it, and then... instead of enjoying that fresh pine smell, you are catching whiffs of a horrible stink. What's going on? Don't panic: it's probably one of the following reasons, and you usually can do something to remedy the situation.

1. You haven't refreshed the cut on your tree trunk

Your Christmas tree is still alive for a while after it's been cut down, and it will try to heal the cut in its trunk by sealing it off with resin. If you then put it in water just like that, it won't absorb any, so you'll just have stagnant standing water in your bucket that will begin to stink pretty quickly.

When you first bring your tree in, always refresh the cut at the trunk with a sharp knife to encourage the uptake of water. Better for the tree, too.

2. You brought your tree in too early

A Christmas tree begins the dying process almost as soon as it's brought indoors – a sad fact, but it is a fact. And a tree that's dying is going to stop taking in water (cue the bad smell coming from the water). For best results, always keep your tree in a cold garage or even in the garden for as long as possible before bringing it in. You then have about two weeks to enjoy your tree. 

3. Your tree wasn't fresh when you bought it

Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree vendors sell trees that are freshly cut; some will sell trees that have spent a couple of weeks in a warehouse before going on sale. When choosing a Christmas tree, run your hand gently but firmly through a branch: do any needles come off? If yes, keep looking. 

If you have ended up with a tree that's not altogether fresh, there are still things you can do to perk it up a bit. One trick is to refresh the water in the stand and put an aspirin in there. Or, try a concoction of aspirin, sugar, and a bit of lemon juice. This will give you a few extra days of a non-smelly, good-looking tree.