Christmas tree flocking is artificial snow that's applied to a real or artificial Christmas trees. It can be made at home or purchased from a craft store, and can be applied at home, though some artificial trees come with it already applied, and nurseries may also provide professional flocking services. Despite safety concerns, Christmas tree flocking is generally fine for use around children and pets, and may actually make a tree less of a fire hazard.
Many nurseries use Christmas tree flocking made from cellulose or cotton fibers, water, spray adhesive and, in many cases, a fire retardant. It comes in a variety of colors, and often has a sparkly material, like mica or glitter, mixed in to give it a more snow-like appearance. People can also make a homemade version by mixing corn starch, soap flakes, and water, or shaving cream and glue.
When applying flocking at home, it's best for a homeowner to first put the tree in a sheltered place, like a garage, and put down a tarp or drop cloth. This ensures that the artificial snow will be able to dry properly, and makes clean up easier. It's also important to wear safety gear, including a mask, gloves, and goggles, since the mixture tends to fly around.
After setting up a work area, the person applying the flocking should wet a small section at the top of the tree with a spray bottle, and then dust the mixture on manually or with a sieve. She should continue to do the same thing on the rest of the tree, working from the top down to get a natural snowfall look. This process generally takes a few hours. The tree should then be allowed to dry completely, which usually takes three to five days, depending on the temperature, after which it can be brought into the house and decorated.
There are also pre-decorated trees available from nurseries, and many Christmas tree sellers have a custom flocking service for their customers. Some artificial trees also come with artificial snow already applied, either to smaller portions of the branches or to the entire tree — many are pre-lit as well. When purchasing this type of tree, it is important for shoppers to note that Christmas tree flocking on artificial trees can yellow over time. Storing the tree in a cool, dry place with low humidity can help to slow or prevent discoloration.
When making and applying Christmas tree flocking at home, people should never use flammable materials and always keep the mixture away from children and pets. Though most mixtures aren't poisonous, they can cause intestinal obstructions if eaten, and can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled. People using commercial mixes should always follow the safety instructions and only use low-heat Christmas lights, since high-heat ones might melt the flocking and possibly cause a fire.
Using artificial snow may also increase the safety of a Christmas tree in general, depending on the material it's made out of. Latex-based mixtures may help seal moisture into the tree, preventing it from drying out as quickly and making it less of a fire hazard. As a general rule, Christmas trees should be kept well watered and away from heat sources to lower the risk of fire, whether they have flocking or not.