Controlling Poison Ivy

Tips to help you control this dangerous weed

How to get rid of poison ivy safelyOnce you have removed the vine as best as you can, you can apply an herbicide to any stump or remaining leaves that you can't get too. The herbicide is only effective while the plant is actively growing, so it's important to apply it to the leaves and to a fresh cut. It will take some time and possibly multiple applications, but any poison ivy herbicide should kill it eventually. Apply the herbicide wearing a clean glove or using a gloved hand that has not touched the poison ivy. Or better yet, have your helper, who has not been touching poison ivy, do the spraying. You don't want to contaminate the bottle and then re-infect yourself at a later date.

If poison ivy is growing in your lawn, your best bet is to mow it regularly. You may have to mow the grass lower than you would normally like to, but that may be the only way to get the vine completely. Repeated mowing should starve the plant of its energy. Never walk barefoot in a lawn that has had poison ivy and be careful if you bag your grass clippings. Over seed your lawn with a good quality grass seed in the spring and fall to discourage any new growth from starting. If you have a healthy lawn of grass, there is less of a chance of weeds like poison ivy to take control.

Poison Ivy KillerIf you don't want to tackle removing the vine during the growing season, winter is an excellent time as well. There will be no leaves on the vine, so it can be easier to remove the vines then. Pull up as many of the vines as possible and cut off any that you can't remove at the base. You can leave the vines attached to the tree if you like. If the vines are huge like mine are, it will be hard to remove the vine anyway. Watch for new growth in the spring and pull any new vines, or use an herbicide at the first sign of growth.

Once you are done pulling the vines, it's time to clean up. There are products on the market especially designed to remove the oil of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac and can be used to wash your tools as well as your clothing. Once you have all the vines inside the plastic bag, remove your garden gloves if you have a latex glove underneath. Put the plastic bag of poison ivy inside another clean bag and tie it up. I wouldn't want someone else to get contaminated from the outside of the bag. While still wearing this pair of latex gloves, clean off any of the garden tools you had to use to remove the vines. Rubbing alcohol is excellent for removing the oils. Then you can wash the tools in soapy cold water, scrubbing the handles and blades. Have your helper pour the alcohol from the bottle to help avoid contaminating that container.

Poison Ivy SoapIf you think you got any of the poison ivy oil on yourself, you must remove it within 30 minutes to reduce spreading and to reduce the chances of rash. Some people may think they are immune to poison ivy, but research has shown that repeated exposures can cause new sensitivity and people who have always broken out can suddenly become immune. Unfortunately, since the vine is getting nastier with the increase of carbon dioxide in our air, the oils are becoming more potent and dangerous every year.

At this point, you should still have on two pairs of latex or nitrile gloves. Remove the top pair that you had on when you cleaned the garden tools. Now carefully remove all your clothes and either throw them away or put them in the washing machine to be washed. Do not mix contaminated clothes with your regular laundry. Wash in cold water with detergent, using vinegar in the final rinse in place of fabric softener. I also like to add Borax and Washing Soda to my laundry since we have hard water. Borax and Washing Soda will also help your detergent work better. Wash again as normal and dry as usual. Have your helper open any doors for you, if necessary.

TecnuRemove the last pair of gloves that you are wearing and wipe any exposed areas of your skin that may have been exposed to poison ivy with a cloth saturated with rubbing alcohol or one of the poison ivy oil removers you can buy from the drugstore. Do this before you have wet your body with cold water as the alcohol and cleansers will be more effective at removing the oil from dry surfaces. Never use hot or warm water as this will just spread the oil. I usually go over the area more than once just to make sure. Rubbing alcohol is cheap, so it's no big deal to clean yourself again. Throw away the cloth you used to clean yourself or put it with the clothes you are laundering.

Once you are sure you have removed all the oil from your body, you can now safely take a cool shower and wash your body as normal. Avoid hot showers in case there is still a trace of oil on your body.

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