Will Bleach Kill A Tree?

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By Arthur Mbanefo

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Bleach has caused a fierce controversy ever since it was discovered to kill a plant. And now there has been a BIG question mark on whether will bleach kill a tree or not.


With the tremendous amount of chlorine in bleach, it has become a formidable biocide that could wipe out most living organisms on its path including plants. 

But I tried the splash-bleach test on a couple of trees, and it did hurt them but didn’t bring any to their knees. 

Hence, bleach is NOT a systemic tree killer; it won’t infiltrate the tree’s system and kill it down to its roots. 

However, there is a way to make it work. Read on to find out! 

Will Bleach Kill A Tree?

As I said, bleach is not an efficient tree or stump killer compared to popular herbicides like Roundup or Tordon. 

It doesn’t have what it takes to crumble a plant’s entire metabolism ferociously —even though it can kill the microorganisms in the soil and render most areas incapable of supporting life. 

This is because the tree won’t ingest it much enough to kill it. 

I’m talking about highly tolerant trees like poison ivy, lilac, Northern Red Oak, Bur oak, Kentucky Coffeetree, Hackberry, or black walnut

Each of these trees can survive the attack from bleach. They ALWAYS regrow new roots and shoot in less than no time. 

However, it can cripple some tree roots. This is where bleach is handy, as it could serve as a deterrent for trespassing roots. 

For instance, tree roots invading your sewer line or tainting your landscape design —all can be controlled without killing or cutting down the tree.

Unfortunately, you are most likely to repeat the application process before you can get a desirable result. On top of that, you will have to manually remove the handicapped roots since bleach won’t dissolve them.

And the downside is using it as a deterrent is its corrosive nature. Therefore, if the pipes underneath are of metal, they will react with it —unless it is made of stronger metals. 

On the other hand, some ornamental trees and shrubs like roses can be easily put to sleep with this solution.

When you accidentally splatter bleach off your tree, it can recover from the exposure. You just have to hose-spray the area with water immediately to protect the foliage. 

In general, this makes bleach a poor herbicide option because the victim can still recover 9 out of 10 times. 

How Long Will It Take Bleach To Kill A Tree?

If it is a 1:1 ratio of bleach and water, you will start noticing the effect after 10 to 20 minutes. The leaves turn brown, wilt, and start falling. 

It can easily take down weaker trees within 3 to 5 hours —not like fall, but wholly damaged.

And the best way to do this is the cutting part of the bark or drill holes in them. Then you can inject the solution by any means possible, spray, or use a paintbrush to apply. 

Mind you; it isn’t 100% guaranteed.

So How Can You Kill A Tree Permanently?

There are different ways to eliminate a tree, some of which are: 

  • Digging It Out
  • Cutting It Down
  • Frilling
  • Basal Bark Spray

The first two I won’t recommend. They require a workforce —especially the digging-it-out method. 

However, many homeowners buy the ideal if the tree is young or sapling in size ( like 5 inches in diameter). 

For this type of tree, digging its root out might not be a tough call. 

If you are considering cutting it down, it should be trees larger than saplings. But you will have to break out the chain saw or pruning saw and commit a lot of elbow grease. 

It is time and energy-consuming like the previous. 

On the other hand, Frilling and Basal Bark Spray are the most preferred since they involve systemic herbicides. 

And the best product so far is Tordon. You also have Roundup, Crossbow, and 2,4-D in line. 

This is the most effective solution since they infiltrate the plant’s leaves and bark and kill it down to its root. 

It is ideal for killing trees under 15 feet tall (4.5 meters). 

Most homeowners are encouraged to cut down the trees and treat the stump with herbicides —Tordon or 50% glyphosate concentrate.


Bottom line: if you want to get the full gist on killing trees, make sure you check out our article on ‘what kills trees quickly’.

In that article, we explored only two swift methods that will exterminate ANY tree. And by the time you are done reading, I’m pretty sure you will toss your bleach to the trash can. 

See you on the other side.