How to Clean Tree Bark

Updated on March 7, 2018
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening Program & MD Master Naturalist Program.

Pollution, fungal spores, mildew, dirt, insect eggs—all sorts of deposits can lessen the appeal of beautifully barked trees and potentially harm them. Washing specimen trees like lacebark elm, Kousa dogwood and sycamore is a simple task any gardener can do any time of year, even in autumn and during the mild days of winter.

Clean, Healthy, Beautiful Bark

As cinnamon-bark crape myrtle ages, its rough bark peels away to reveal the smooth, rusty- red bark beneath.
As cinnamon-bark crape myrtle ages, its rough bark peels away to reveal the smooth, rusty- red bark beneath. | Source

The rusty-red, cinnamon-bark crape myrtle; the elegant, ghostly birch; the crinkly-skinned snake-bark maple—some trees have absolutely stunning bark.

If you have beautifully barked trees in your yard, washing them will not only enhance their beauty, but it will also facilitate their health, cleaning away fungal spores and insect eggs, and helping to ensure that your trees live a long, long time.

Tree washing takes little time (anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes, depending upon the size and dirtiness of the tree).

Do you have a specimen tree in your yard?

See results

It's easy to do, too, requiring no special skill and only six common household items:

  • a 2-gallon bucket
  • water
  • tablespoon
  • mild liquid soap
  • scrub brush
  • soft cloth

Specimen trees are notable for their size, rarity and/or exceptional beauty. Ordinarily, they're grown singly in a prominent location that showcases their uniqueness.

Washing Trees with Rough Bark

To dislodge deposits from the crevices of rough tree bark, you'll need cold water as well as a bucket full of hot, soapy water—and lots of elbow grease!

European Birch Bark
European Birch Bark | Source

Loosen Bark Deposits

Before you start washing the tree, spray water over the trunk or spray it down with a hose to loosen and soften any deposits of dirt, pollution, insect eggs, fungal spores, etc.

Mix the Wash Water

Next, mix up the washing solution.

Add one tablespoon of mild dish washing liquid or other soft soap to two gallons of hot (not boiling) water.

Although the soap solution is mild, it's strong enough to weaken the protective coating on insect eggs. Once that coating it breached, the eggs will either die due to frost or dry out in the sun and wind.

Scrub the Bark

Use a scrub brush to apply the hot soapy water to the bark, working from the top down.

Scrub hard to dislodge deposits, then repeat the process.

Rinse the Soap

After scrubbing twice, rinse the area with cold water, either by throwing bucketfuls onto the trunk or spraying it with a garden hose.

Dry and Buff

Once it's free of soap, allow the bark to dry. Then buff it with a soft cloth and watch it glisten in the sun.

Source

How to Clean Smooth Bark

Cold, soapy water and a light scrubbing is usually enough to remove most deposits on smooth-barked trees.

Soften Deposits

Begin the cleaning process by by spraying the tree trunk with cold water. This will loosen and soften deposits on the bark.

Mix the Washing Solution

Mix the washing solution by adding one tablespoon of mild liquid soap to two gallons of cold water.

As noted above, although the soap solution is mild, it's strong enough to weaken the protective coating on insect eggs.

Scrub the Bark Lightly

Apply the soap solution to the bark with a scrub brush. Scrub lightly, working from top to bottom.

Rinse and Buff

Rinse the trunk with cold water and allow to dry before buffing.

Trees with Beautiful Bark

Common Name
Scientific Name
Chinese or Lacebark Elm
Ulmus parvifolia
Chinese Paper Birch
Betula albo-sinensis
Chinese Zelkova
Zelkova sinica
Crape Myrtle
Lagerstroemia spp.
Flowering Cherries
Prunus spp.
Heritage Birch
Betula nigra 'Heritage'
Japanese Red Pine
Pinus densiflora
Kousa Dogwood
Cornus kousa
Lacebark Pine
Pinus bungeana
Paperbark Cherry
Prunus serrrula
Paperbark Maple
Acer griseum
River Birch
Betula nigra
Stewartia
Stewartia spp.
Striped Maple
Acer capillipes
Sycamores or Plane Trees
Platanus spp.
State Fair Zinnia
State Fair Zinnia | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Jill Spencer

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Yeah, it does sound sort of crazy, but washing the bark is a good idea for those expensive specimen trees in your yard. Thanks for dropping by! --Jill

      • KL Klein profile image

        Krissa Klein 

        4 years ago from California

        I never, ever would have thought of washing tree bark, but it makes sense! Great hub.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        6 years ago from United States

        Thanks, Maren! Nice to hear from you. (: --Jill

      • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

        Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

        6 years ago from Pennsylvania

        You always give us great information!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        6 years ago from United States

        Like anything else, trees can become dirty. Our cinnamon bark crapemyrtle tends to get mildew, which lessens its vivid color. Scrubbing it takes the ick right off. Glad the hub is useful to you--and always happy to hear from you. Take care, Jill (:

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        6 years ago

        Jill - Never thought about cleaning our tree bark. We do have a couple of specimen trees. One in particular could use it. Cool hub!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        6 years ago from United States

        GoodLady--I love the texture and colors of both bark and rocks. I've been trying to take decent photos of them but haven't quite figured out how to capture them so that they appear as beautiful as they seem to me. Glad to hear from you! --Jill

      • GoodLady profile image

        Penelope Hart 

        6 years ago from Rome, Italy

        What a beautiful idea, though I won't be washing mine I don't think. I have a fig tree that looks pretty clean and a small olive tree...and all the oaks in the driveway are really wild - but I do love bark and I do love looking at the bark of trees. In fact when I drive home I spend most of my time loving the bark...we have a lot of cork trees here!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        6 years ago from United States

        Weird, huh? But ... a very doable part of yard maintenance if you have one or two specimen trees. Have a good one! Jill

      • OldRoses profile image

        Caren White 

        6 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        Fascinating! I've never heard of washing tree bark on a growing tree. I love your list of trees with interesting bark.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)