Every summer despite my best attempts to be careful, I end up developing a nasty rash due to an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy while doing routine yard work.

How can I best identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac?

What are the best methods for eradicating these from my yard without killing the existing trees and shrubs they seem to grow around?

Are there any specific chemicals that are better than others?

What special considerations are there if there are young children or pets in the area?

  • 5
    I agree with Tim. Once you've identified them in your yard, you won't soon forget them. Keeping your garden free of these plants (particularly poison ivy) will be an annual chore since seeds are distributed by birds. The best measure is to carefully dig up and dispose of young plants before they develop extensive root systems. Poison ivy can spread vegetatively via roots so be sure you get ALL of the root.
    – Shanna
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 9:36
  • @BJQ the identification of Poison Ivy is covered in a previous question Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


I'd stay away from chemicals. Why?

Herbicides are generally useless when dealing with those poison plants, the dead curled up remains of those dermatologically dangerous plants can still give you a nasty rash. All parts of those plants - roots, leaves, stalk and stems, dead or alive, contain the oil "Urushiol" that triggers the reaction...

You have to pull them out, below is a highly recommended and effective method of removing poison ivy:

  • Collect as many thick plastic shopping bags as you can.

  • A large dustbin (trashcan) or large "heavy gauge" rubbish (trash) bags.

  • Somebody to help you, get someone you don't mind who sees you naked (reason being is explained later).

  • Don't do this without a helper. The helper is your "non poison ivy" hands while you're handling the poison ivy with your "thick plastic bag covered" hands.

  • Protect your hands, face, and other exposed areas with "Ivy Block".

  • Go out when the ground is soaking wet or drench it yourself.

  • Put a thick plastic bag over each of your hands.

  • Locate where each vine enters the soil and pull (very) slowly with one of your bagged hands, the whole vine, root and all should come out easily.

    • If the vine does not come out easily, get your helper to soak the soil around the base of the vine with a garden hose.

    • Don't you, the puller, touch anything. Keep you hands inside the bags and don't touch anything with those bags except the vines you're trying to remove.

    • Now that the ground around the vine has been soaked even more, try pulling the vine again. Finger-crossed it should come out this time.

  • Fold the bag that's been covering your other hand over the pulled vine, and drop the poison ivy and both bags into the dustbin (trashcan).

    • Never re-use any of your "hand bags", always start with a fresh, clean set every time.
  • If the vine breaks leaving the root in the soil, get your helper to put a marker in that location, then come back the following day with the strongest vinegar you can find to kill the root.

    • Obviously if you use vinegar to kill the root, care needs to be taken that you don't kill any wanted plants within the surrounding area.
  • When you've finished pulling all the vines, get your helper to open all the doors for you.

    • Go straight to your washing machine, put all your clothes in and get your helper to run them through a cold water cycle.

    • Or if they're old cloths and you can afford to throw them away, do so. Bag them up immediately and put that bag with the poison ivy you've pulled.

    • Get in the shower, have your helper turn it on, then wash yourself well with cool water. No soap or washcloth. Water alone will remove the Urushiol oil, soap and cloth can spread it to other parts, more sensitive areas...

Credit, the above procedure comes via, "Poison Ivy Problems? Pulling is the way to go - dangerous chemical herbicides are NOT!"

Some additional reading, "Polish Off Your Poison Ivy Without Personal Peril - With These Seven Secrets of Successful PI Pullers!"

They are all very easy to identify - a local book store or the internet is your friend for identifying them. eg

Note: Poison Ivy's most recognizable 3-leafed plant is not the only form - it also takes the form of a vine or bush. The most commonly seen (for me) is the plant form though the vine is common around where I live as well.

Good luck.

  • 3
    I would add one important caution: DO NOT burn the plants. This will put the oils into the air and can make you (and your neighbors) very sick! Also, you will want to wash your boots to get the oil off so you don't get a rash the next time you pull them on.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 18:16
  • Another important caution: poison ivy becomes a lot more potent after it has been injured. Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 17:32
  • 1
    @Tim I have used similar methods to the above with success, except that I have always used soap and/or rubbing alcohol. Although it may be true that water will remove urushiol oil from the skin, urushiol is not water-soluble. So I would personally err on the side of safety and use rubbing alchohol (or anything from the liquor cabinet >= 40 proof in a pinch) or soap. Commented Aug 21, 2011 at 17:36
  • I wrote very little of the answer above. Most of it was edited by someone else. My initial response was: Brown soap - naptha soap and don't use chemicals on the plants. Someone else added all the other stuff
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 0:40
  • @Tim It sounds like you disapprove of the changes. If so, please let me know and I'll ask Mike to add it as an answer of his own. Mike was genuinely trying to be helpful and was responding to my request to improve the answer. Commented Sep 3, 2011 at 5:03

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