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HOLIDAY PLANNING

Should You Buy a Real or an Artificial Christmas Tree?

Consumer Reports can help you determine whether you should go natural or fake

Last updated: November 09, 2015 01:45 PM

For many people, there's no question about whether to choose a real or an artificial Christmas tree. But if you’re not sure which type to choose, let our advice help you out.

If you want to minimize mess, go with an artificial tree

No one likes cleaning up the piles of needles from a natural tree. “No matter what you do, there’s going to be needles falling off a real tree,” said Chal Landgren, a professor in the department of horticulture at Oregon State University. If you want to avoid the mess, go with an artificial Christmas tree.

Check our Holiday Gift Ideas page for recommendations on presents for everyone on your gift list and tips on ways to save. Learn how to host a holiday party without busting the budget and discover the 8 kitchen tools that make holiday cooking a breeze.

To decrease fire hazard, opt for a fake tree

The National Fire Protection Association reported that the risk of a fire is three times greater with natural trees than artificial ones, although the total number of Christmas-tree-related fires is small. But if you are worried about home fires, take note that electrical failures and burning candles are more-common culprits.

If you want to buy American, choose a real tree

In 2012, U.S. farmers harvested 17.3 million Christmas trees, which resulted in $305 million in sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It’s a livelihood for many rural parts of the country and it’s an American product,” Landgren said. In contrast, 97 percent of artificial trees in 2012 were imported from China, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division. 

When it comes to allergies, it's a draw

Natural fir or pine Christmas trees are extremely unlikely to be the cause of an allergic reaction, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science. If you routinely sneeze in the presence of Christmas trees, it's less likely to be due to the tree and more likely due to mold spores on trees, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Similarly, a fake Christmas tree improperly stored in the attic or basement can collect dust or mold. Real or fake, allergy experts suggest hosing down the tree outside and letting it dry in a garage or enclosed porch before bringing it indoors.

Bottom line

There are pluses and minuses to natural and artificial Christmas trees. It really comes down to your holiday traditions and what works best for your family. And no one said you couldn’t purchase more than one!

—Kaitlyn Wells

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