By the time you’re taking down your holiday decorations, you’ve probably already forgotten about how much of a pain it was to put them up. Tree branches squished and squashed in all the wrong ways, strings of lights looking like tumbleweeds, and hand-painted ornaments scratched and scuffed. Whether you believe in taking down decorations the day after Christmas or putting it off for as long as possible, you’ll need to do things a little different this year to make next year’s setup a breeze.
How to Store Artificial Christmas Trees
Step 1: Choose your storage method
You have three main choices for Christmas tree storage: bag, box, or upright.
Storing artificial Christmas trees in a box is the most popular option, and for good reason. The flat top of tree boxes allows you to safely store other decorations on top without worrying about it getting off-balance. Plus, your tree came with a free one right off the bat.
The cheapest and easiest one is to stick with the cardboard box your tree came in. These will hold up well for one or two years, possibly more if you’re careful with it. You can also do some work on your cardboard box to make it stronger and last longer. One method is to use pieces of a different cardboard box and glue them on the inside of the box. This will make it stronger and less likely to break at the seams. You should also try to tape the box together in the same spot every year. Removing and applying tape in different spots wears the material down.
However, cardboard absorbs moisture instead of repelling it (some have a plastic coating which helps with water resistance). Wet cardboard promotes mold and mildew growth, which is not good for your artificial tree. Insects (like cockroaches, silverfish, and crickets) like to nest and nibble on cardboard, which can make setting up your tree next year a nightmare.
The original box might also be too small, making it difficult to get your tree bag into the box. There’s bound to be a little bit of bend and bulge with the box, which is ok as long as you tape it well.
Hard plastic boxes are another good option. These do a good job of keeping out moisture and insects. Plus, you can easily stack other storage boxes on top without fear of crushing the branches. Another benefit is that you can store ornaments alongside your tree. Wrap them up in tissue paper or old t-shirts to keep them from getting scratched by the branches.
Finding a plastic box large enough for your tree may be difficult. If you have a tall or wide tree, opt for two or three smaller boxes to make storage easier. Label each box with which tree section is inside to make set-up faster.
When it comes to holiday tree storage bags, you have a variety of options. The three main types are duffel bag, cinch bag, and structured bag. Unlike plastic or cardboard boxes, Christmas tree bags are often found in festive colors and designs. This can help with separating holiday decorations from other season's decor and looks nicer if you are storing decorations in your home. Plus, choosing a tree bag means you are picking an item designed specifically for holding and protecting artificial trees.
Tree duffel bags are typically cheaper than cinch and structured bags. The handles are longer but the bag has no wheels. Duffel bags don’t typically include straps to secure the tree, so you’ll want to make sure these stay flat to avoid shifting. Without straps to pull the top of the bag together, you may have a hard time zipping these bags closed if your tree is too wide. With that in mind, it’s best to buy two or three duffel bags to store extra large trees. Distributing sections across multiple bags will also put less stress on the tree, meaning it will spring back into shape easier.
True to their name, Christmas tree cinch bags contain interior and exterior straps to keep the tree tightly in place. These are a great option if you have a wide tree, as you can secure the branches tightly on the inside and then buckle the straps on the outside to help zipper it up. You can also find cinch bags with wheels, making transportation easy.
Structured tree bags are similar to storage boxes but with more flexibility. Plastic panels are sandwiched between two layers of durable fabric, providing more stability than duffel and cinch bags. Structured bags are the most expensive option, but are the easiest to move around as most come with wheels and handles. It's easy to load your tree sections into these bags; the structured sides allow the top of the bag to stay flipped open.
If you don't want to take apart your tree, you can also store it standing up. The easiest (and cheapest) method is to throw a light sheet over your decorated tree and call it a day. Move it to a spare bedroom, large closet, or finished basement for storage. Invest in a tree stand with wheels so you can easily move it from one room to another. Storing your tree with a sheet covering it is the best option if you applied flock to your tree, and want to keep it in place for next year. However, storing your tree upright won't work unless the tree is small enough to be out of the way or you have an large, unused area for it.
Upright treekeeper bags are another easy tree storage method. This type of storage bag requires you to compress the tree branches, but you are able to keep all of the sections assembled. If you buy a bag larger than your tree, you won't have to compress the branches as much and you may be able to keep non-fragile ornaments and strings of lights on. However, these bags can be difficult to manage if you have an abnormally wide tree. Be sure to find a high-quality tree storage bag, as inexpensive ones aren't as breathable, meaning your tree may smell musty next Christmas.
Storing your artificial tree assembled is a great method if you have the space to do so. However, this method isn't recommended for large, full-bodied trees. You'll have the best luck storing thin pencil trees and those shorter than 5 feet in an upright position.
Step 2: Prepare your tree for storage
If using a tree bag or box, you’ll need to follow these steps before putting your tree away.
Check the lights
Save yourself some time next year by replacing broken and burned out light bulbs now. If your tree is pre-lit, plug it in one last time and do a full check. Carefully take off non-attached strings of lights. Plug them in and lay the string out on the ground to find and replace any bad bulbs.
Allow the lights to settle and cool for 20-30 minutes before storing. Wind loose strings around a reel and store separately from the tree. If you have extension cords and surge protectors used only during the holidays, place these in a small bag and store alongside your tree for easy access next year.
Take care of the branches
Before taking the tree apart, dust the branches. You can use a vacuum cleaner with a duster attachment or wipe with a damp cloth. Be sure to let the branches dry before storing.
If you applied a glue-based flock to your tree, you will need to store it upright without folding in the branches. Dust the tree, move it to a temperature controlled garage or basement, and cover with a sheet. If you lightly applied the flock, you may be able to fold in the branches but you will have to apply more flock next year as some is bound to break off.
Trees purchased pre-flocked can usually be stored like any other, but check the manufacturer's instructions before disassembling.
Detach and fold
Once all of the decorations are off, disassembling your tree should go quick. Take off the top of your tree first by twisting slightly back and forth. Stand on a stepping stool if your tree is taller than you.
If you have a pre-wired tree, unplug the connector between the top section and the one below it. Only disconnect plugs between sections, not those within each section. Continue working your way down the tree until only one section is left.
Avoid bent branches and needle loss by properly folding in the tree branches. Take special care for prelit trees as bad folding can result in wire shorts. Push the branches together as close as you can.
Make next year's set up easier by numbering each tree section. Write the number of each section on a piece of tape and wrap it around a branch or electrical cord. If storing your tree across multiple bags, label each bag with what sections are inside so you know which one to grab first.
Get it in the bag
Start with the biggest section. Place the bottom of the section at the end of the bag. If you have a wheeled bag or box, place the base of the section at the side where the wheels are. This will keep the box from getting top-heavy.
Place the next biggest section on the other side with the bottom facing the outside of the bag. The top side of each tree section should be facing each other inside the bag. Place the third section on top in the middle, with the top facing the side of the box without wheels.
If you choose to store your tree across multiple bags or boxes, distribute the largest sections across the bags. Use the smaller, lighter pieces to fill up the rest of the bag. Cinch the exterior straps tight to help you pull the zipper closed.
Step 3: Store it in the right place
The best place to store your artificial Christmas tree is somewhere cool and dry with low humidity. Heat can cause discoloration and even melting. Store in a finished, temperature-controlled basement or interior closet for the best protection.
If you don’t have space inside, it will be fine in the garage or attic as long as it is stored in a durable storage bag or box. If you have a heat wave coming up and your tree is stored in your attic, consider moving it to a spare room temporarily.
Flocked trees are more sensitive to temperature changes and humidity. If not stored properly, they’ll easily yellow before next Christmas. White-needle Christmas trees are also prone to discoloration from sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and moisture. Keep these covered with a sheet indoors or in a heavy-duty storage bag/box.
Lay the bag or box horizontal against a wall. This will keep the sections from collapsing into each other. If using a soft-sided (not structured) bag, avoid stacking heavy items on top as this can dent the branches and damage the tree.
- If you’re concerned about musty odors, store your tree with a small container of baking soda or (unused) coffee grounds.
- Give white trees extra protection from yellowing by wrapping it tightly with a white cloth before storing.
- Use any extra space in your tree bag or box to store garlands, tree skirts, ribbons, and other unbreakable decorations.
- Use more than 1 bag/box to make transportation easier.
- Purchase extra cinch straps to gather the tree as compactly as possible.
No matter how many decorations you have, holiday set-up and clean-up is stressful and time consuming. Go into this holiday season prepared by investing (or building) the right tools to keep your decorations organized and looking like new.