Proper Care and Maintenance of Aluminum Trees
Well, it’s that time again. It’s the time when all the wonder and sparkle of the holiday season gets tucked back into boxes and stored away. And when you decorate with vintage items, packing is a very important thing to do right. Ceramics need to be bundled up with tissue paper and bubble wrap and then tucked into a solid plastic tub. Yes, plastic, not cardboard. Cardboard boxes, while they may be free if you reuse that box from your new toaster, they do not hold up well over time and can easily collapse. I highly recommend purchasing large plastic tubs with lids. But what I really want to offer to you today is the proper care and maintenance of aluminum trees.
The last thing you want is for your tree to look like this:
To prevent your tree from looking like this poor fellow, with its sad and tattered branches, just follow my three easy steps!
Take one of the sleeves your branches came in and a branch. Hold the branch gently somewhere in the middle with the portion that goes into the trunk down. This part goes into the tube first! Then gently guide the branch in – but not all the way!
When you have about four inches or so left after guiding the branch in, gently tap the end of the sleeve on a hard surface, this will guide the rest of the branch into the sleeve without your hand forcing and crushing the aluminum. Have patience, it could take awhile.
If you still have a bit of aluminum sticking out of the paper sleeve, gently take your pointer finger and find the end of the aluminum pole then gingerly push the branch in until it is all the way in the sleeve. When it comes time for the holidays once again, be sure you pull the branch out by the end that goes into the trunk! This way your are continuously putting the “needles” in the same direction each time you handle the branches.
And there you have it!
Once you have done this for all of your branches place all of the branches back inside the box. It is better to fold all of the flaps over and put rubber bands around the box rather than folding the flaps into each other. If you fold the flaps into each other your risk crushing the branches. Then place your box somewhere with nothing else on top of it! You’re dealing with 40-50 year old cardboard! It is rather fragile.
Now, what to do if you’re missing some of the sleeves? Make them! Butcher paper measured the length of your branch and about an inch in diameter with some tape will do just fine. Additionally, you will sometimes find that the aluminum that makes up the needles has sprung loose. If this happens fear not! Gently pull the aluminum down using your thumb and index finger and then wrap scotch tape around tapering downward onto the branch pole.
December 2020 Update: Recently I stumbled upon someone who is making replacement sleeves on Etsy, which you can purchase here. Secondly, I revisited The Evergleam Book, which is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend. In it they address something I am regularly asked, which is how to clean or polish an aluminum tree. In the book author Theron Georges suggests using a purpose-made polishing glove that has cleaning fluid already in the fabric. It’s a very time consuming process because it requires you to run each needle between your fingers, and you must be very gentle in doing so as not to tear off branches. I have not yet tackled such a method of cleaning, realizing how time consuming any process would be. However it is something I may try in the future if I have a smaller tree I see in need of cleaning. If I do this, I’ll be sure to share the process on the blog.
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24 comments on “Proper Care and Maintenance of Aluminum Trees”
Thank you for the advice on caring for an aluminum Christmas tree. I’m bidding on one on eBay as I write this comment. (Hopefully I get it)
So excited to finally have a chance to own an aluminum tree in my mid century inspired apt. I love your pink tree and your color scheme. Now, my only dilemma is to figure out a color scheme for my silver baby. ..
Wish me luck,
Janey, I am missing some of the paper sleeves for the branches. Do you have any suggestions for replacement sleeves? I’ve surfed the internet but no luck!
Still looking in St. Louis,
We have used paper bags, just cut them open, and the rolled them and tapped them together.
Thanks for the tip!
Hi. Thank you for the tips. Quick question for clarification. Is the purpose of the sleeve to prevent crushing/bending the branches, or is it to prevent tarnishing (if a possibility)?
The sleeves are mostly to prevent crushing and tangling of the “needles” but also act as a way to keep dust out of them as well. Since they are aluminum they don’t really tarnish like silver, but dust and dirt can diminish their shine.
Do you have any methods for shining the branches? Mine are dull and I want to shine them up. I’ve used a wet paper towel to gently get some of the dust buildup off.
I’m sorry to say, I have never tried to clean a tree to try and brighten it up, mainly because it seemed like such a monumental task, requiring cleaning each individual needle by hand. And I’ve never had a tree I was willing to sacrifice in an attempt to try a dipping method of any kind.
Did you have any luck cleaning your dingy tree branches. I was given an original aluminum tree. I noticed some of the top branches look a little dark. I havent tried cleaning yet. It looks like tarnish to me. They say aluminum doesnt tarnish but thats what it looks like.
While aluminum doesn’t tarnish in the way that silver tarnishes and turns black, like with anything, it can build up dust that can stick to it, which is what dulls most aluminum trees. Other things that dull aluminum, such as kitchenware, is scratching.
I have not personally attempted to clean any of my trees, since I think it would be so time consuming. If I were to attempt to do so (and I may in the future with some of my smaller trees) I would take a rag, dip it in a solution of dish soap and water, and then wipe down each “needle” individually. But you have to be gentle, or else you can tear the needles off. You may also risk altering the shape of the needle. Some are curved, others are straight, and in pulling on a needle you may curl it like you would curling ribbon. Dunking the entire branch in water or taking it into the shower with you may result in the glue coming loose from the metal rod of the branch.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! If I do clean an aluminum tree I’ll be sure to write about it in the future.
Help !!!!! Do you know anyone that knows how to repair & reattach the silver pieces that fall off from the branches. I have bags full of pieces
For me personally, I have come to accept losing a random “needle” here and there as a part of owning an aluminum tree. The needle effect is created by using one piece of aluminum that has been cut like fringe and then applied around the branch rod. I typically only lose one to three needles a year, which never really impacts an overall look of a tree.
A person who may know something though is Theron Georges. I don’t recall anything about individual needle repair in his book, The Evergleam Book, and unfortunately it is away with my Christmas decor. Here is a link to his website: https://evergleambook.com/
Thank you 🙏
I wanted to thank you for your clear instruction on how to get the aluminum branches into their sleeves. I have two trees that were handed down to me by family members that knew I would take good care of them. Recently I have been trying to locate one for my brother. It breaks my heart when see trees for sale, only to see the owner has put the branch in backwards. I appreciate you so clearly describing the correct way. Thank you.
Found an aluminum tree at yard sale this summer. I put 20 hours into straightening 62 branches. I soaked them in dish detergent and then rinsed really good. Hint I cut my finger that morning slicing veggies and had a cloth bandaid on my thumb. Noticed how good it worked on polishing aluminum. So I had a cloth bandaid on each thumb while polishing and straightening out branches. My tree is beautiful , just like the one I remember my grandmom having😊
Hi Lydia! I just found an aluminum tree and all the branches are crinkled as well! Could you go more in depth on how you straightened them?
Do you know where I can get a replacement pole?
Sadly, I do not. Sometimes poles crop up on ebay, so it’s worth checking. I know some people have had success making their own, but it can be difficult, especially to get the angle correct.
Hello. The aluminum wrap has come off of the top pole of my aluminum Christmas tree. Any suggestions on how to reattach it would be appreciated.
Hi Nancy. Sometimes simple Scotch tape is the answer. If it is beyond repair, I recommend removing all of it and spray painting the pole silver.
Questions about storing the branches. My tree branches have an L shaped bend at the base. That then slides into their respective slot on the “trunk”. So I can’t slide them into a sleeve, as they aren’t straight. Any thoughts on that? And have you cleaned yours yet? Mines starting to look tarnished. I’m thinking of trying the polishing method you mentioned.
Interesting! I have not run across a tree like that with such branches. If the L shape isn’t too deep, it should still slide in with relative ease.
And no, I have not attempted cleaning any of mine yet. Perhaps sometime before next Christmas. I only recently acquired a tree that would benefit from cleaning.
Does this also work for Pom branches – so I insert the entire Pom portion into the sleeve?
Yes. If you were to insert it the other way, you would distort the pom pom shape, and leaving it outside of the sleeve would crush the pom pom.