Christmas Tree Mold, 10 Tips for Tackling

David J. Allen

I spent the better part of 2 ½ years learning about mold and indoor air quality because my child's life depended on it. Now I help others avoid ever having to experience the same thing. The mold industry suffers from conflicting opinions and I do my best to distill loads of data into something practical and useful. I love hearing from and helping readers. • "A house desecrated by mildew, mold, or fungus would be a defiled place to live in, so drastic measures had to be taken." — Leviticus 14:45

While Christmas is among the happiest times of year for most families, the festivities can come to a halt due to mold allergies associated with evergreen trees.

Especially for children, bad reactions to mold can range from annoying to debilitating.

That is why it’s so important to find out ahead of time what you can do to minimize the effects of mold on yourself and your loved ones during the holidays.

Why Mold Grows on Christmas Trees

Mold grows on live Christmas trees in homes due to a number of factors that make then an ideal breeding ground.

  • Mold loves organic matter, which your living Christmas tree is made of.
  • Mold needs water in order to grow, which your Christmas tree still has in its leaves and branches.
  • Mold loves warmth, damp, and humidity, which your home’s heater or fireplace provides.
  • Mold loves stagnant or less flowing air, which most homes provide.
  • Mold hates the sun, and most Christmas trees are placed out of its reach to magnify the effect of Christmas lights.

Minimizing the Mold’s Hold

While you might not be able to completely get rid of mold without throwing out the Christmas tree, there are some simple actions you can take to help reduce mold’s effect on your sinuses and breathing.

1. Start with a clean, dry tree

You can clean a Christmas tree before bringing it inside the home, but that’s not always practically, necessary, or effective.

Mold is microscopic and a simple spray of the hose is not going to remove it. Even worse, water is what mold needs to grow so there’s no use bringing a wet tree into your home—or letting it wilt in the sun outside while drying.

(That’s why Christmas trees are sold under tents or in stores: They wilt without water.)

There’s also the option of dry dusting a Christmas tree, which is again not always the smartest move since it stirs up dust, dirt, and mold spores, which are the cause of many allergies anyway.

So whether you clean your tree with water or not, just be sure that you are bringing a dry Christmas tree into your house.

Your best bet is simply to buy a clean Christmas tree and be sure it is dry before bringing it inside.

2. Water tree cautiously

Live Christmas trees need to be watered daily and most professionals recommend anywhere from 4-5 quarts (1-1.25 gallons) of water per day! That’s a lot of water.

Take care when watering your Christmas tree to help prevent it from molding.

Clean up spilt water immediately, and be sure the water only goes into the Christmas tree stand and not elsewhere.

Avoid spritzing the branches or wetting any other part of the tree. Simply pour water into stand.

If your Christmas tree is surrounded by a bed of decorative fabric, be extra sure that fabric doesn’t receive any water. It’ll mold faster than anything more solid would mold, and that can happen in as little as 24-48 hours.

3. Use an air purifier

Use an air purifier/cleaner. These devices can be outfitted with a charcoal filter that removes toxic components of the air, making it easier to breathe and providing enhanced peace of mind.

4. Wear a dust mask during set ups

Wear an N95 mask while moving the tree around, setting it up, and taking old ornaments out of storage. Have family members also wear masks when decorating the tree.

5. Have your home cleaned

Have your home professionally cleaned. A professional can remove mold spores from your HVAC systems, improving air quality throughout every room and preventing the spores from traveling to other parts of the house.

6. Remove allergens from your home

Remove allergens from the environment. You can wash all the linens, vacuum, clean the rugs, and even hire someone to shampoo the carpet a few days before people arrive at your home. This will help to minimize additional allergens and make Christmas tree mold reactions less drastic. 

7. Use a HEPA air filer

Utilize HEPA air filters. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air filters are mechanical filters that trap around 99% of toxins that flourish in indoor air, allowing you to breathe better and experience a better quality of life.

8. Consider keeping the your tree for less time (1-4 weeks)

Consider shortening the length of time the tree is in your home.

Instead of getting the tree months early or leaving it around until after New Year’s, consider only having the tree for one to four weeks, giving kids the enjoyment of unwrapping their gifts and seeing the ornaments sparkle, but also cutting down on the family’s allergies.

9. Buy a synthetic Christmas tree?

Consider buying an artificial Christmas tree. While it might not be the most romantic or whimsical feeling, purchasing an artificial tree can limit the entry of mold into your home.

As long as the artificial tree is kept in a dry place that isn’t prone to developing mold, it should work as an allergy-free alternative.

Before setting it up, you could take it outside and clean it, blowing off any dust or mold before bringing it back inside.

Remember that the holidays are meant to be a time for closeness and connection.

If your Christmas tree is preventing your enjoyment of the holidays because it is causing sneezing, coughing, headaches, and congestion, it could be very important that you take the right steps to prevent and remove mold.

Whether you limit the time the tree is in your house, do a deep cleaning, or switch to using an artificial tree, you can make an impact on your health and get through the holidays feeling your best.

10. If you or family are mold-sensitive, avoid live Christmas trees altogether

Some people who are particularly sensitive to mold will do best over the holiday season by foregoing the live Christmas tree altogether.

No one likes to hold back over the holidays, but artificial Christmas trees can look great and are actually better for the environment (only if stored and used from year-to-year.)

Visit, touch, and see as many live Christmas trees as you’d like over the season—just be sure they’re not in your living room, where they’re prone to mold growth.

What is Christmas Tree Mold?

Many trees are home to microscopic mold spores that can present breathing challenges for people with asthma or allergies, as well as the youth and the elderly.

Symptoms of a poor reaction to mold can include sneezing, coughing, congestion, sore throat, and headaches.

Research has shown that the mold count in homes with Christmas trees can be up to 5X higher than normal levels.

Many hospitals see an increased rate of asthma-related admissions over Christmas as well.

So if you or a family member isn’t feeling well over Christmas, it may be due to your Christmas tree.

Living Christmas Trees Mold More than Fake Ones

Christmas tree mold is a problem mostly associated with live Christmas trees rather than synthetic ones, but there’s of course a slight possibility that the synthetic tree you pulled out of storage was also riddled with mold growth.

Because aspects of a live Christmas tree contribute to ongoing mold growth, living Christmas trees are more likely to develop mold while still decorated and looking pretty in your home.

For example, a living Christmas tree has some degree of moisture still in its leaves and branches, and that moisture is key to mold’s growth.

Living Christmas trees are also an organic matter that mold can grow onto, unlike plastic Christmas trees where mold can only grow on dirt, dust, or other film or substance left behind on that plastic. (In which case, even a fingerprint’s worth of muck is enough to give mold what it needs to grow.)

If you find that a fake Christmas tree you stored throughout the year has mold, you’ll want to also check the conditions of other items in that storage area, as well as look for leaks that caused the mold.