How to Burn a Tree Stump With Saltpeter

Updated April 17, 2017

Removing a tree stump isn't simple, but using saltpetre to burn the stump out is an effective, though time consuming, method that will make your front yard or lot look neat and tidy. Saltpetre is the active ingredient in many chemical stump removers, but straight up saltpetre, or potassium nitrate, can do the same trick. Burning a tree stump will take several months, as the fluids used must be absorbed by the tree, but the end result will be a clean removal of a tree stump.

Drill several 1-inch deep holes in the top and side of the stump. The number depends on the size of the stump, but start by drilling them 3 or 4 inches apart. Drill the side holes so that they angle downward and won't let fluids spill out.

Fill each hole with about 142gr of saltpetre and top off each hole with water. Let the stump absorb the chemical for 4 to 6 weeks. You will notice the stump soften with time.

Come back after 4 to 6 weeks and fill each hole with kerosene. Wait another 4 to 6 weeks for the stump to absorb the fluid.

Set several burning charcoal briquettes on the stump and wait for them to burn all the way through the roots. This may take several days, and some attention should be paid to the charcoal. If it looks like the fire is slowing, add more charcoal.

Things You'll Need

  • Drill
  • Saltpetre
  • Kerosene
  • Charcoal briquettes
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About the Author

Mac Pogue is a Portland student who has been writing since 2008. He is the chief editor for the Lewis and Clark College radio station publication and has presented his work at the NorthWest Communication Association. In addition, Pogue's work has been highlighted in a Denver alternative weekly.