I tried as many viral Christmas tree decorating hacks as I could find – which ones are worth it?

This year, TikTok has taken over Christmas decorating as people share their festive decorating hacks. But, do they all live up to the hype?

a colorful christmas tree in a modern home
(Image credit: James Merrell)

I really thought I knew how to decorate a Christmas tree, but year after year I'm humbled by the creativity on social media, as people share their own tips, tricks and hacks to make a Christmas tree not only look better, but easier to decorate, too. 

This year is no exception, and new hacks are racking up millions of views on social media sites like TikTok as we speak. All of them look simple, yet effective –that's their appeal. But what might look good on the small, small screen might not quite translate when we try them in real life. In my experience, there's nothing more deflating than finding out that an exciting TikTok hack doesn't really work out. 

With that in mind, I've done the legwork while starting this year's Christmas decorating in my own home and tested out 5 of the biggest viral Christmas tree decorating hacks I could find. Take a look at these (largely) genius hacks below, and find out how I got on trying to recreate them at home. 

hugh metcalf
Hugh Metcalf

Hugh is an experienced interiors journalist who has, among many roles, worked as a style editor, dressing dozens of Christmas trees for magazines covers in his time. Here, he turns his expert eye to the latest, most-hyped Christmas tree decorating hacks to see if they're actually worth the effort. 

5 Christmas tree hacks, and whether they're worth your time

1. The pipe-cleaner cluster hack 

Any mention of pipe cleaners when it comes to Christmas decorating and I immediately become suspicious, but this first hack fortunately just uses these furry bendable craft supplies as a means to an end, not as part of your decor. 

As this video by @sigmadeit goes to show, the idea of this hack is to create 'cluster baubles' by threading individual baubles onto the pipe cleaner, folding the pipe cleaner over after each one to hold it in place, before moving onto the next. In this video, 10 tiny baubles are used, which makes a good size cluster. 

@sigmadeit (opens in new tab)

♬ It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Perry Como & The Fontane Sisters (opens in new tab)

The verdict: This tutorial works just about fine. The cluster baubles were cute super easy, and a nice idea to use in a Christmas tree to mix it up from just standard hanging baubles, while still keeping it relatively minimalist. 

The downside? There's only so close you can get these baubles clusters to sit together, so I felt that with my version of them using small white baubles, you could see a little too much of the silver caps in between, which made them feel a little messy. 

Pipe cleaners, Amazon (opens in new tab)
What to buy

Pipe cleaners, Amazon (opens in new tab)

Choose pipe cleaners that will best disappear into your tree. These green ones are perfect for a standard tree, but white ones might suit a flocked tree better.

2. The 'two out, one up' trick 

This TikTok that garnered nearly a million views last year is advice for how to fluff a Christmas Tree from @lifeinmy30s. The technique, which the user learned from working in retail, is called the 'two out, one up'. That is, when spreading branches of an artificial tree, you should always spread two to the side, and one of the fronds up. This should, in theory, help your tree look fuller, with fewer gaps visible. 

@lifeinmy30s (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Lifeinmy30s (opens in new tab)

The verdict: This felt like a good technique for spreading my tree's branches methodically, ensuring a super consistent look across the entire tree. Having this hack to follow actually makes this part of setting up the tree feel much more enjoyable, and the end result? A tree that felt full and ready to decorate. 

3. The tinsel bauble hack

Full disclosure - tinsel is not my bag. However, I took on the challenge of this decorating hack by @itstea____ in the spirit of Christmas. This 30 second trick sees the TikToker tie the tinsel around the end of the branch, molding the tinsel wire into a loop, before snipping it. 

The hack creates little starbursts of tinsel, and also means one piece can go a long way, making anywhere between 10 and 20 decorations depending on its length. 

@itstea____ (opens in new tab)

♬ It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas - Michael Bublé (opens in new tab)

The verdict: I was actually surprised by how these turned out. They helped bring a nice rhythm to the tree, and are perfect for space-filling after positioning your baubles as you can be so precise with them. Was it enough to convince me that tinsel can be chic? Not really. I don't see tinsel becoming a huge Christmas tree trend, but if I was going to use tinsel on my tree, this would be how. 

4. The Zig Zag lighting hack 

The best Christmas lighting idea I've seen this year is probably the trunk lighting hack which my colleague here at Livingetc tried and loved for what it made her tree look like. I, instead, tried the 'zig zag' lighting hack that hundreds of TikTokers swear by for their tree. 

Instead of wrapping your lights around the tree, the zig zag technique sees you place your lights on the tree vertically, snaking up and down across the front of your tree. The idea is that it helps your lights go further as they can be installed just on the front, leaving the unseen back bear, while also making the lights easy to take off when it comes time to pack the tree away. 

@mrsclarehoops (opens in new tab)

♬ Elf - Main Theme - Geek Music (opens in new tab)

The verdict: This method was much less awkward than wrapping the lights around horizontally, and easy to adjust to fill any gaps. However, even when pushed in, I couldn't help but think the wires were more noticeable in gaps in the tree branches. If you're working with a tree that's anything less than dense and full, this method is probably not for you. 

Easy install Christmas lights, Amazon (opens in new tab)
Why not try?

Easy install Christmas lights, Amazon (opens in new tab)

This clever lighting set-up is similar to this Christmas hack, with a central ring at the top with columns of vertical lights. A new take on the zig zag lighting trend. 

5. The balloon bauble hack 

This clever TikTok hack uses balloons to change the hue of baubles to help them match your Christmas color scheme. Simply remove the cap of the bauble, cut the top off of the balloon, stretch it over the bauble and replace the cap. Et voila, you've given old baubles a brand-new look, without having to buy new decorations for your tree. 

@ultimatebykomi (opens in new tab)

♬ how would they know bad girls club - Chris Gleason (opens in new tab)

The verdict: The good thing about this trick is that standard balloons work with average size baubles, which means a quick and easy way to give old baubles a fresh lease of life. However, my balloons were basic latex ones, and gave the baubles quite a flat feel. You could use pearlized balloons for a slightly more glitzy, festive feel. 

Does this feel like the easiest way to change your baubles colors? No. Nice color balloons are actually few and far between, and the most lust-worthy shades can actually be quite expensive to buy. If you have leftovers, definitely give this trick a try - otherwise, a few paint testers might be a more sensible option. 

Hugh Metcalf
Deputy Editor

Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2022.