"Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?" Here's how to get rid of the odor

No need to stress, holiday enthusiasts. We'll help you save your spruce and keep the fresh pine aroma coming

A Christmas tree with presents in a small living room with a gold mirror and a white couch.
(Image credit: Getty Images/Evgeniia Siiankovskaia)

No one in a festive mood wants to ask, "Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?" But sometimes, a stinky spruce just happens.

Imagine this: you've lugged back the beautiful but oh-so-heavy tree to your place, 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 stench. What gives? 

There's no need to fret. Plenty of people are guilty of Christmas tree mistakes, which is why the pros are here to help us get back on the proper path with our live Christmas decor

Why does my Christmas tree smell bad?

Before you attempt to fit a Christmas tree in a small space and begin the decorating process, upkeep should be the first priority so that your live greenery stays in tip-top shape. Here are a few reasons why that woodsy smell you love could possibly turn:

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

If you want your Christmas tree to last longer — and not stink in the process — the proper upkeep begins the moment you bring it home. When you first bring your tree in, always refresh the cut at the trunk with a sharp knife to encourage the uptake of water. (These sturdy knives from Amazon will help.) 

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

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 a fact nonetheless. And a tree that's dying is going to stop taking in water. (Cue the bad smell.) 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. For where to go from there, see what the pros have to say about how long a real Christmas tree lasts

If your greenery needs some extra TLC, Miracle Gro for Christmas Trees will help keep them hydrated and stop the pine needles from falling. 

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

Unfortunately, some Christmas tree vendors will sell selections that have spent a couple of weeks in a warehouse before going on sale — a tidbit first-time Christmas tree buyers and even the seasoned pros should note. Examine your Douglas Fir before making a decision.

Gently test branches before buying — not many needles should come off," Clay Cary, consumer trends analyst previously told Real Homes. "Look also for firm needles and sticky sap at the bottom as signs of freshness. After getting it home, trim a bit off the bottom of the trunk so it can take in water well once in the stand."

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.

Clay Cary
Clay Cary

Clay Cary is a discount trends analyst/consumer trends analyst and financial trends analyst, as well as the lead analyst at Coupon Follow. He is obsessed with data, and his job is to research and forecast emerging financial and shopping trends. He has also been featured on Go Banking Rates, Nerd Wallet, and Nasdaq.


How long does a real Christmas tree last?

A real Christmas tree typically lasts about four weeks, provided it's well taken care of. Our tips for how to keep a Christmas tree alive — getting the proper stand, using a tree-preserving solution, etc. — will ensure that your greenery makes it throughout the Christmas season. 

How do you know if Christmas tree is dying?

A Christmas tree is dying usually when the leaves start to droop and rust, the pine needles fall off, the bark is wrinkled, and it emits a foul order.

What happens once the season wraps up? We spoke to organization experts about how to store Christmas decorations in a small space so that you're good to go for next year's festivities.

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

With contributions from