Yes. I took my weedeater through a patch of poison ivy.
Yes. I am regretting it in a big way right now.
A week later I re-infected my hand with it off the weedeater when changing the spool (Damnit!)

So what is a good way to clean off equipment that has the taint of poison ivy on it? I was thinking of just running a power washer over it, but I'm not sure that would be all that effective. Is there something I can soak the business end of it in to de-activate the oils from the poison ivy (urushiol)?

  • you don't have to make inconsequential edits (like a single space) to bump the question... It's just been 5 hours, and is still on the front page. – Lorem Ipsum Jun 11 '12 at 6:05
  • @yoda Some of us are just anal. :) – Doresoom Jun 11 '12 at 14:52
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    Not trying to bump it. Just trying to get the line-wraps right. – JohnFx Jun 11 '12 at 15:52

Yup, it's an oil - a good de-emulsifier and lots of water will work. All you'll need is laundry detergent and a cheap scrub-brush you can toss at the end of it and your garden hose, no power wash needed, and wear some disposable dish gloves, too.

Depending on how allergic you are to it, products like Zanfel can prevent or cure mild cases, especially if you apply it right after you notice contact. If you're really sensitive to it, not much will help but time.

  • One more thing - use some WD-40 or any other spray lubricant that doesn't eat plastic to displace the water from the mechanism once you're done. This will keep stuff from rusting. – RI Swamp Yankee Jun 12 '12 at 14:00
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    Good answer. One correction - soap is an emulsifier (it allows the oil to mix with the water in an emulsion), not a "de-emulsifier". – augurar May 14 '15 at 6:32

Looking at the structure of urushiol, and recalling the rule of thumb 'like disolves like', the most suitable commonly available solvent I would try is rubbing alcohol with vigorous scrubbing. If you have access to these and know how to use them safely, try methanol, benzene, toluene, (Wikipedia also recommends ether). Having a long alkyl chain should mean it will respond well to soap and water as well.

Disclamer: I have never worked with urushiol.

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    I wouldn't use WD40, benzene, toluene or the like, unless you're using it on a cloth and then throwing the cloth away. These are highly toxic substances that shouldn't be getting into the ground or waste water (when you rinse away). Try the rubbing alcohol or soap route first. Vinegar seems to be good for everything, I wonder if that would also do the trick. – user11288 May 13 '15 at 12:44

You have my sympathies. From what I understand urushiol can stay active for 6-12 months (!).

There are various products marketed specifically for cleaning the oil off. I haven't used any of them. (Search for "poison ivy clean" or "urushiol clean" and you'll see a bunch of stuff.)

I've had it on my boots in the past (and, like you, gotten re-exposed after getting rid of the first round). A squirt of regular dish soap, a little scrubbing, and a good rinse seemed to get rid of it. I'd imagine that any reasonably strong detergent would do the job of breaking up the oil.

Obligatory obvious warning that I'm sure you don't need: wear disposable gloves when you handle the machine while you're cleaning it.

  • I'd go with the dish soap idea first. – Doresoom Jun 11 '12 at 14:56
  • That's what I always use when working in the woods. I wash myself down with Dawn. – Evil Elf Nov 14 '13 at 13:02
  • Where I live, Fels-Naptha bar soap is a standard washdown, there are even specific urushiol removal soaps such as Marie's Poison Oak Soap, Tecnu, among other brands. Search for "poison oak soap" From the land of three green leaves. – Fiasco Labs May 14 '15 at 3:08

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