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What is the Best Method of Poison Ivy Removal?

The best method for poison ivy removal combines safety and effectiveness: wear protective clothing and carefully uproot the plants, ensuring all roots are removed to prevent regrowth. Herbicides can be used as a last resort, but always follow environmental guidelines. Remember, never burn poison ivy, as the smoke can be hazardous. How will you tackle this pesky plant in your backyard?
C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz

Poison Ivy may be simple to identify with its clusters of three almond-shaped light green leaves and hairy vines, but since it is perennial and can propagate itself via underground runners, it can be difficult to remove completely. Further complicating poison ivy removal is the fact that the plant produces a resin like substance called urushiol or a skin irritant that commonly causes a painful rash and even blisters at the point of contact. Although professional poison ivy removal services and herbicidal sprays exist, these methods can prove costly are not always suitable for those who prefer organic solutions. With some patience and preparation, effective poison ivy removal can be almost as easy as identifying the plant.

Prior to beginning any poison ivy removal, the plant must be correctly identified and the individuals who will be participating in the eradication should dress appropriately by limiting skin exposure. Pants tucked into socks, rubber boots and gloves, a long sleeved shirt, a breathing mask and goggles can help protect from the health risks and irritants of poison ivy. A day without wind is preferable if using herbicidal spray and poison ivy is less potent at colder temperatures.

Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.
Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.

The most effective organic method of poison ivy removal involves cutting all plants to ground level and digging out the roots. All plant materials including the roots should be disposed in a garbage bag and thrown away. Poison ivy should not be composted or shredded and especially not burned since inhaling the plant’s fumes can cause lung damage.

If it is too difficult to dig up all the poison ivy roots, smothering the plants is an additional organic solution for removal. The plants are cut to the ground and then covered with newspaper, cardboard, mulch or tarps so that the supply of sunlight is disrupted. Poison Ivy can also be removed by spraying the roots with an herbicidal spray that contains glyphosate, but care is needed to avoid killing surrounding plants. It may take several attempts to completely remove and eradicate a poison ivy patch depending on its size.

Poison ivy.
Poison ivy.

All clothing and equipment must be cleaned after removing poison ivy plants. Rubber gloves can be discarded, clothing immediately washed separately, boots rinsed with soapy water and tools disinfected with rubbing alcohol. Skin that has come into contact with poison ivy should be cleaned with cold water to prevent the pores from opening and absorbing the urushiol. Special soaps that remove poison ivy resin are available at drug and hardware stores.

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Discussion Comments


I want to mention that when poison ivy plants are sprayed, they should not be dug up. The spray needs to stay on the plant so that it gets absorbed by the leaves all the way to the root of the plant. If it's dug up, there's no point.


@ysmina-- What works for me is cutting poison ivy plants at the base and applying herbicidal spray to the root and the exposed part of the base. The spray is more effective this way and I can avoid killing other plants.

When you're doing this, wear two layers of gloves and make sure that no part of your skin is exposed. Wear a mask too because breathing in the urushiol is also problematic. After you're done, clean your pruner and other tools with rubbing alcohol. Throw away the gloves and wash your clothes immediately. Wash your hands and arms and any other potentially exposed area with special soap to remove poison ivy resin.

This is what I do and the poison ivy in my yard is almost entirely eradicated. There are just a few plants left and I will take care of those this weekend.


I've been spraying poison ivy at the far end of our property with herbicidal spray since the past month. I had to do something about the poison ivy because I have had three poison ivy rashes on my arms in the past three months. I do my best to cover my skin and always use gloves when mowing the lawn but I somehow still come in contact with the plant resin.

Unfortunately, the spray doesn't seem to be working. It's killing everything near the poison ivy but the poison ivy is still intact. This is an unbelievably stubborn plant. I would dig it out but I'm sure I'll be hospitalized with rashes if I attempt that.

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    • Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.
      By: Melanie DeFazio
      Using an oatmeal based lotion can soothe a poison ivy rash.
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      A man with poison ivy blisters on his hand.
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      A poison ivy rash may appear as a red, itchy rash marked by bumps.