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Killing Tree Stumps with Motor Oil: A Quick and Easy Guide

Killing Tree Stumps with Motor Oil

Motor oils, although capable of dispatching tree stumps, aren’t exactly environmental superheroes. They tend to have a negative impact on the environment and our well-being. 

Now, we don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but before we go gung-ho about using motor oil on tree stumps, let’s take a moment to ponder the bigger picture and explore some safer alternatives, shall we?

But hey, let’s be fair and acknowledge a few arguments that have been made in favor of motor oil’s stump-killing prowess.

Will motor oil kill tree stumps?

Will motor oil kill tree stumps
Image by Wikipedia

Motor oil does kill tree stumps.

Motor oil is a handy dandy solution when it comes to bidding farewell to those pesky tree stumps. Sure, it may not be as fast as a rocket, but give it some time, and it works like a charm. 

Plus, some people think it’s way safer than those aggressive chemicals that can turn your garden into a war zone, endangering your beloved plants and furry pals.

Some gardeners think motor oil is the superhero that saves you from the Herculean task of digging up tree roots. 

Who needs that kind of workout, right? Let the oil do the heavy lifting while you sit back and relax.

Now, we must admit, the oil works its magic better on the big guys – but don’t worry, it’s not size-ist! Even the smaller stumps can feel its power if there’s a whole army of them in your yard. 

Just make sure you calculate the gallons wisely. After all, we’re not aiming to create an oil well in our backyard. 

Let’s save time and money, shall we?

The Advantages of Using Motor Oil to Kill Tree Stumps

The Advantages of Using Motor Oil to Kill Tree Stumps
Image by Mercury Auto Transport

Motor oil for tree stump removal? Believe it or not, there are some folks out there who swear by this unconventional method. 

But hold on to your chainsaws, because it turns out they might just be on to something. Yep, you heard it right. 

Motor oil has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to bidding farewell to stubborn tree stumps. So, before you dismiss this idea like a bad pun, let’s take a closer look at the surprising benefits it offers. 

After all, nature has its own sense of humor, and who are we to argue with that?

Using motor oil to kill tree stumps slows down decay.

Motor oil, surprisingly enough, can act as a barrier that puts the brakes on the decay process of a tree stump. It’s like giving the stump a little “time-out” from decomposing. 

It’s perfect if you’re going for that long-lasting stump look, whether for the sake of beauty or functionality. Just keep in mind that this means it will take longer for the stump to break down naturally, so it’s a bit of a trade-off!

Motor oil acts as an insect repellent for tree stumps.

Believe it or not, some folks claim that motor oil doubles as an insect repellent, keeping termites and other pesky wood-loving bugs away from your stump. 

However, there are more planet-friendly ways to deal with those critters, like using natural repellents or physical barriers. So, if you’re feeling environmentally conscious and want to save the bugs from a greasy surprise, there are better options out there.

The Risks of Using Motor Oil to Kil Tree Stumps

The Risks of Using Motor Oil to Kil Tree Stumps
Image by Poison Control

Diesel oil isn’t exactly Mother Nature’s best friend when it comes to tree stumps. Not only is it a real party pooper for the environment, but it also puts a damper on the natural decomposition process. 

Here’s why diesel oil gets a big thumbs-down for stump treatment:

Motor oil is made of petroleum and contains toxic chemicals

Let’s talk about the environmental impact first. You see, diesel oil is made from petroleum and packed with all sorts of toxic chemicals. 

When it seeps into the soil and nearby water sources, it can really wreak havoc on plants, animals, and the little guys like microorganisms. Not exactly the kind of party you want to throw in your backyard.

Motor oil slows down decomposition

Adding diesel oil to a stump creates a barricade against progress, like an overprotective bouncer at a club. It blocks air and moisture from reaching the wood, slowing down the natural decomposition process. 

And trust me, those fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers are not impressed by this at all! But at least you get to keep your stump around a bit longer.

Motor oil carries potential health risks

Now, let’s not forget about the potential health risks. Diesel oil contains some seriously nasty substances like benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

They’re the party crashers you definitely want to avoid since they’ve been known to cause cancer. Not a fun guest list for humans, pets, or wildlife.

Motor oil is regulated and illegal in many places

In many places, using diesel oil or other petroleum-based products to speed up stump decay is a big no-no. It’s like trying to sneak a fake ID into a nightclub. 

Authorities have put regulations in place to protect the environment and our well-being. They want us to find safer alternatives.

How does motor oil compare with commercial herbicides?

How does motor oil compare with commercial herbicides
Image by ISEL, Inc.

When it comes to getting rid of tree stumps, comparing motor oil to chemical herbicides is like comparing a bicycle to a rocket ship. They both have their pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look:

AspectMotor OilChemical Herbicides
Environmental ImpactMotor oil is harmful to the environment and can leach into the soil and water sources, causing pollution and damage to ecosystems.Chemical herbicides can have negative environmental effects if not used properly. They can contaminate soil, water, and harm non-target plants and organisms.
EffectivenessMotor oil may slow down the decay process of the stump but does not actively kill the stump.Chemical herbicides are specifically formulated to kill plants, including tree stumps. When used as directed, they can effectively kill stumps and prevent regrowth.
Time requiredMotor oil does not provide a quick solution for stump elimination. It can take months or even years for a stump to decompose naturally, and motor oil may only slow down the process.Chemical herbicides typically act more quickly, with stump decay and death occurring within weeks or months, depending on the product and conditions.
ApplicationApplying motor oil to a stump involves pouring it over the surface or drilling holes in the stump to fill with oil.Chemical herbicides usually require careful application, following specific instructions provided by the manufacturer. This can involve drilling holes, applying directly to the stump, or using a sprayer.
Health risksMotor oil contains toxic chemicals that can pose health risks to humans, pets, and wildlife. Be careful when using it because it releases noxious fumes and can pose a risk upon skin contact. Chemical herbicides can be toxic if not mishandled, causing skin and eye irritation, and its inhalation or ingestion can be harmful. It’s important to follow safety precautions and use protective equipment.
RegulationThe use of motor oil on tree stumps may be subject to local laws and regulations, and it’s generally discouraged due to environmental concerns.Chemical herbicides are regulated substances, and their use may require adherence to specific guidelines, permits, or licensing. Always check local regulations and follow label instructions.

How long does it take for motor oil to kill tree stumps?

How long does it take for motor oil to kill tree stumps
Image by Priority Tree Services

It takes at least 6 months for motor oil to kill a tree stump. Of course, the duration may vary depending on factors like the tree’s size and such. 

Using motor oil to address certain issues can be quite a slow affair, so a good dose of patience is necessary. But hey, if you’re itching to expedite things a bit, you could consider the gasoline route. 

And if you’re really keen on picking up the pace, you can always bid those stubborn tree stumps adieu by giving them a fiery farewell. 

But remember, you’re still using materials that may harm the environment!

How much motor oil is needed to kill a tree stump?

How much motor oil is needed to kill a tree stump
Image by Bob Vila

You may need approximately a quarter of a gallon or more motor oil to kill a tree stump. The aim of this technique is to completely cover the surface, which ultimately depends on the size of the stump. 

So, you’ll have to break out the measuring cups or just eyeball it if you’re feeling adventurous. Folks who’ve tried this approach suggest ensuring that the motor oil gets a good soak. 

You can either do a single generous coating or go for multiple rounds to guarantee that the motor oil gets fully absorbed. It’s like giving your stump a luxurious oil massage, except that it’s going to kill them by suffocation.

How to Use Motor Oil to Kill Tree Stumps

How to Use Motor Oil to Kill Tree Stumps
Image by where eagles fear to perch
DifficultyMedium ●●●○○
SpeedMedium to slow
Things You Need• Personal protective equipment

• Power drill

• Motor oil

• Oil drip system, optional

Now, if you’re still hell-bent on using this technique, we’ve got the guidelines for you. Just remember to always weigh the potential risks!

How to Use Motor Oil to Kill Tree Stumps
1. Drill holes in the tree stump.
The first step in bidding farewell to those stubborn stumps is to get drilling. 
Whip out your trusty power drill and find a bit that matches the size of your syringe or oil drip system. Now, make sure to space those holes about four inches apart and aim for the center of the stump, giving it a three-inch buffer from the perimeter. 
Remember to go at least two inches deep into the bark, but no more than four if you’re using the expensive oil drip system, unless you want an impromptu oil pool party.
2. Fill the holes with the motor oil.
Now that we’ve got those holes, it’s time to give the stump an oily surprise. 
Grab your syringe or oil drip system and fill up those holes like a stump-filling pro. You want that oil to seep into every nook and cranny of the stump. 
3. Wait and watch to see the stump decay and die.
Now comes the waiting game so sit back, relax, and let nature do its thing. 
Give the stump a few months to marinate in that oil. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for any brave sprouts that dare to show up. 
If they do, don’t panic! Simply repeat the process and show those sprouts who’s boss.

Helpful Tips on Killing Tree Stumps With Motor Oil

Helpful Tips on Killing Tree Stumps With Motor Oil
Image by Nicholas Jones Consultants

While it’s not the greenest solution out there, if you’re still determined to use motor oil for stump removal, here are some tips to cautiously consider:

Follow Safety Precautions

Don your protective gear like gloves, goggles, and clothes to avoid becoming a fashion victim of motor oil stains and fumes. Remember, safety never goes out of style!

Assess the Stump Condition

Make sure the stump isn’t fresh off the chainsaw runway. It needs to dry out a bit before motor oil can work its magic. 

Fresh stumps can be real divas when it comes to oil absorption.

Drill a Lot of Holes

Bust out your trusty drill and create a series of holes in the stump. Think of it as giving the stump a stylish piercing to let the oil seep in and disrupt its natural decay process.

Assess Oil Quantity

The amount of motor oil needed depends on the stump’s size. Pour oil into those drilled holes until they’re brimming, giving the wood a good soak. We’re talking spa-level pampering here.

Make Additional Applications

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go ahead and pour oil directly on the stump’s surface for some added flair. But keep in mind, this might slow down decomposition and make Mother Nature raise an eyebrow.

Practice Patience and Regular Monitoring

Removing a stump with motor oil is like waiting for a snail to finish a marathon—it’s a slow process. Exercise your patience muscles and keep a close eye on the stump for any changes. 

It might take longer than waiting for your favorite show to return for another season.


Can used motor oil kill tree stumps?

Used motor oil can kill tree stumps. But while it can slow down the decay process and create a barrier to air and moisture, it does not actively kill the stump. 

Moreover, used motor oil contains impurities that pose potential environmental and health risks.

Can motor oil kill the roots of a tree stump?

No, motor oil is unlikely to kill the roots of a tree stump. It may temporarily inhibit growth, but it won’t provide a long-term solution for stump removal.

Can I burn the tree stump after applying motor oil?

You can burn the tree stump after applying motor oil, but this can be subject to local and environmental laws, regulations, and policies of your specific area. It’s best to consult with your local government offices.

Certain trees emit toxic smoke when burned, posing a threat to surrounding living beings. It’s important to be mindful of the tree species you are working with. 

Allowing a fire to continue burning can harm nearby organisms, as the smoke can obstruct the leaves of neighboring plants, hindering their ability to expel waste oxygen necessary for survival. 

Pouring motor oil directly onto the ground will kill any vegetation it encounters, including grass, plants, weeds, and flowers.

Can motor oil be used for small stump removal jobs?

Motor oil used for small stump removal jobs is not recommended, regardless of the stump’s size. Other methods, such as grinding or digging, are more effective and environmentally friendly.

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