How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy (And Avoid For Ever!)

How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy

Worried about getting poison ivy rash? If you have poison ivy growing in your yard, whether in a small area or all over your property, you need to get rid of them immediately. You wouldn’t want you or any member of your family to have contact with the plant while gardening.

Although poison ivy is not deadly, it can be very harmful when not treated right away and properly. Luckily there are ways to effectively remove this harmful plant around your yard. However, getting rid of them should be done with caution as you wouldn’t want to be in contact with them while removing the poison ivy plant. The tips mentioned here are medically reviewed so you can be sure that you are on the right track to eliminating them permanently and treating your rashes.

What is Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron Radicans)?

What is Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron Radicans)

Poison ivy can grow anywhere and is abundant throughout North America. This plant grows in marshy or wooded areas and it contains sticky and long-lasting oil that can cause a blistering rash that is very itchy. The oil produced by poison ivy is called urushiol. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac all contain urushiol that can cause infection and allergy when they come in contact with the skin. Although they are not really poisonous plants, getting infected can be very uncomfortable and can sometimes be fatal when not treated right away.

If you don’t know what poison ivy looks like, it has three leaves that are shiny and has smooth edges, though some can have slightly grooved edges. The plant can grow as vines or shrubs. When you come in contact with the plant, the rash can show within 24 to 72 hours, and peaks in a week that can last up to three weeks. The rash looks like patches of red blisters that are raised. It won’t normally spread all over the body unless the urushiol is still in your skin.

Preparing for Poison Ivy Removal

Preparing for Poison Ivy Removal

There are several ways to remove poison ivy from your yard but before you do, you need to be prepared to avoid being infected by the plant. You cannot just start pulling or cutting the vines or shrubs the moment you see one. It pays to know what you are dealing with before taking action.

Know What Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Look Like

While you are planning to remove poison ivy, you may want to search your area with poison oak and poison sumac too. The two plants are also harmful as they also have urushiol oil. As mentioned earlier, poison ivy is a three-leafed plant with smooth or sometimes toothed edges.

Poison oak looks almost similar to poison ivy but its leaves are larger and rounded with a hairy surface. Its leaves may be in groups of 3 or more. The leaves of poison sumac have smooth edges and they grow in clusters, usually in groups of 7 to 13 leaves. It is important that you know exactly what you are looking for so you won’t accidentally touch them.

Choose the Best Time to Remove Them

During winter, poison ivy is mostly leafless which makes the plant a bit easier to manage. However, keep in mind that there can still be irritants on its branches or stems. Windy days can make it harder to remove the plant without getting in contact with it. If your choice of removal method is by using a herbicide, there’s also a big chance that the wind can blow the herbicide to you or your other plants.

Prepare Your Tools and Protective Gear

To remove poison ivy, oak, and sumac, you need to eliminate them permanently and you can do this by removing them by their roots. A shovel or sharp trowel will do to remove them. You may also want to use pruners or shears if you want to start removing the branches or vines first before dealing with the roots. You will also need a disposable bag to put the poison ivy, oak, and sumac leaves and branches after you have removed them.

Since you want to avoid the risk of brushing your skin on any of these plants, you need to put on appropriate clothing. To prevent brushing your skin with poison ivy, oak, and sumac you need to wear long sleeves and long pants, heavy-duty rubber gloves, and work boots. You can also use duct tape to close the space between your boots and pants to ensure you are fully covered and no leaves can get into it.

Find the Right Herbicide

If you prefer using a herbicide to remove poison ivy in your yard, choose a product that contains glyphosate. Using a herbicide is much easier as all you need to do is spray it on the leaves and it will kill the plant from top to bottom. When using herbicide make sure you handle it with care and follow the instructions carefully to avoid the risk of getting it on your skin and other plants and flowers.

Different Ways to Remove Poison Ivy

Different Ways to Remove Poison Ivy

Now that you know what your enemy looks like, you have prepared your tools and gear, and have chosen the perfect day to remove the plant, you are now ready to eliminate this harmful plant. Here are different ways to do it.

By Pulling its Roots

One way to remove poison ivy, oak, and sumac is by pulling them off the ground. This is one of the most effective ways to deal with these plants, however, you will have direct contact with the plants. So, don’t forget to wear rubber gloves when pulling them. You may also need a shovel for plants that have larger roots as you may need to dig them out.


If you prefer a less labor-intensive method to remove the plant, you can use herbicides instead. They require less work but get the job done as well. If you want to remove poison ivy permanently, you may need to use a higher concentration. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions on how to safely use the herbicide. When using herbicides, all you need to do is spray them directly on the leaves.

Drench Them with Boiling Water

Another easy way to eliminate this harmful plant on your property is by pouring hot water on its roots. However, you may need to do this several times before you can completely exterminate its hidden roots.

Kill Them With Natural Spray

Using distilled white vinegar on its leaves can help kill them. Another natural way to remove poison ivy is by mixing a cup of salt with water and 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Mix the solution completely before spraying on the plant. These methods can effectively kill the plant. However, you need to be patient as it requires several treatments before you can permanently kill them. You also need to be careful not to accidentally spray the solution on other plants.

Once you are done removing the plants in your garden, be sure to bag them and dispose of them properly. You may be tempted to burn the remains of the plant but never do this as the smoke can release urushiol into the air which is dangerous when inhaled. It can cause irritation to your lungs and eyes. It is also not advisable to use the remains in your compost bin as the plant may grow back in your yard. It is also important to wash thoroughly with soapy water all the tools and clothing you used after removing the plant.

Poison Ivy Rash Treatment

Poison Ivy Rash Treatment

If you happen to get in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, you can expect to develop poison ivy rash. The rash can be very itchy and you may be tempted to scratch it, but avoid it as much as possible to prevent further infection. Fortunately, there are natural home remedies that offer relief from the rash. You can also ask for advice from a medical professional if your condition worsens.

Bathe with Lukewarm Water

You need to take a bath immediately with lukewarm water and plain soap after exposure to urushiol. This will remove the oil from your skin. You also need to wash everything that was exposed to the plant thoroughly but be sure to wear rubber gloves while you wash them.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

If you can’t take a bath immediately, you can use rubbing alcohol instead to remove the oil from your skin. It is important that you apply rubbing alcohol right after your exposure to urushiol.

Oatmeal Bath

As stated by the American Academy of Dermatology, lukewarm baths in oatmeal-based preparation can help ease the itch and reduce the chance of scratching. You can soak yourself with an oatmeal bath for 15 to 30 minutes. You can also add a cup of baking soda to running water.

Cold Compress

To reduce inflammation and itching, you can apply cool wet compresses. You can use a soft washcloth and run it in cool and cold water. Squeeze the water out and apply on skin and leave on for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Topical Creams and Lotions

There are over-the-counter topical creams and lotions that can help relieve the itch. One of the most effective is applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream for mild cases. You may need to apply the creams or lotions two times a day depending on your condition.

Oral Antihistamines

You may also try oral antihistamines to reduce itching. However, keep in mind that you should never apply an antihistamine to your skin as it can make your condition more severe.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, rashes on most parts of your body, swelling of face and has a rash around your genitals, mouth, or eyes, and fever, you need to rush to the hospital. Having any of these signs would require immediate medical attention.

Whatever treatment you prefer, whether applying creams or taking an oral medication, if you think that your condition is not getting better weeks of treatment, you may need to ask for medical advice. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if the infection continues to worsen due to scratching of blisters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy

How do you cure poison ivy fast?

Soon after your exposure to poison ivy, put some rubbing alcohol to remove the urushiol from the skin and prevent it from spreading. Applying a topical cream may help reduce itchiness.

What kills poison ivy permanently?

To kill it permanently, mix a cup of salt in 1 gallon of water and wait for it to dissolve completely. Then add 1 tablespoon of the soap dish. Shake well and spray directly on poison ivy. This will kill poison ivy effectively but would need further treatments to keep them away permanently.

How do you get rid of poison ivy overnight?

You can help relieve the rash on your skin by applying a topical cream like calamine or applying apple cider vinegar to the rash. Doing this will provide relief and reduce itchiness.

How long does it take for poison ivy to go away?

You can use home remedies or ask a doctor for advice regarding treatment. But it can take several weeks before the rash is completely gone especially for severe cases.

What are the symptoms of poison ivy rash?

Some of the most common symptoms are itching, redness, blisters, and swelling. In extreme cases, symptoms can be fever and difficulty breathing. Medical advice is recommended for severe irritation.


Poison ivy may not be deadly but it can cause serious irritation if the rash on the skin is not treated right away. Once exposed to urushiol, avoid scratching the skin to prevent it from getting worse. Wash the area with lukewarm water and soap minutes after exposure. Seek medical attention immediately if you have difficulty breathing and fever. While home remedies are effective, it is important to know when to see a doctor.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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