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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.
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.
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.