Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How to remove poison ivy safely

Poison ivy is both dangerous and annoying. The best safe ways to remove poison ivy plants is provided here.

poison ivy plant picture
Poison ivy plants are among the most hated plants.
Poison ivy, or in latin Toxicodendron radicans, is a commonly found plant that grows in most of North America and is probably among the most dangerous and annoying plant for anyone to find on their properties. The plant can also be found in other temperate parts of the world, mainly in Japan, China and Taiwan.

The plant itself is poisonous and direct contact with either the leaves or the vines of the plant can lead to anything from mild irritation to itches and serious rashes and blisters. What is worse is that even dead poison ivy plants can cause trouble as the poisonous substance breaks down very slowly and even plants that have been dead for years can potentially cause irritation and rashes. It has been shown that in the US alone, more than 350,000 people are affected by poison ivy every year. Therefore, it is not surprising that many people find it difficult to remove poison ivy plants from their properties and would rather let the plant be than taking the risk of getting hurt.

Fortunately, by following some simple steps, getting rid of poison ivy plants can be made both easy and safe.

Chemical removal of poison ivy plants not very effective

dangerous weed killing chemicals
Do you really want to get rid
of poison ivy plants using super
strong chemicals?
Usually the first thing people tend to think of is to attack the plant through chemicals that can be applied in a non-contact way. Commonly used chemicals include super strength weed killer and Round Up. However, experience shows that the use of chemicals against the plant is not very effective for many reasons.

First of all, the leaves and vines of poison ivy plants are covered with a lipid or oil based substance. This is known as urushiol and is an oil that is classified as an allergen. It is also this oily substance that creates the allergic reaction that can lead to painful rashes and blisters upon touch. Now, since many weed killing chemicals are water soluble and not lipid (fat) soluble, this means that by simply spraying your standard weed killing agent on the poison ivy plants, you will not really induce much damage. The reason being that most of the chemicals simply slip off the oil coated leaves and vines. 

The end result using this approach is that super strong weed killing chemicals will need to be used which obviously is not very attractive both from a health aspect and from an environmental aspect. In addition, poison ivy plants are notorious for being able to regrow from even the tiniest portion of root left alive in the soil. Therefore, even if super strong chemicals are used, one really need to apply them several times to ensure that the plant is dead all the way down in every part of the root system.

Physical removal of poison ivy plants

Dead poison ivy plants
Death to poison ivy plants!
The best way to completely get rid of poison ivy plants once and for all and in a quick manner is to use mechanical and physical means to pull the plants out from the ground with its roots. This will guarantee that the plant does not regrow. While this sounds easy, it is important to take appropriate caution when doing this as improper protection will most definitely result in painful rashes and blisters and a trip to the closest hospital.

Fortunately, by following a few easy steps, it is very possible to remove poison ivy plants physically both in a safe way and a quick way.

Best and safest way to get rid of poison ivy plants

  1. Protect your body: Equip yourself with thick pants, for example, jeans, long sleeved shirt and a jacket. In addition, put on a face mask, goggles and a hat to protect your extremely sensitive face. Finally, wear appropriate working gloves, preferably water proof.
  2. Water the ground: Grab your water hose or water can and soak the soil with water as close to the roots of the plant as possible. The reason for doing this is that physically pulling out the plant in wet soil is much easier to do than in dry soil.
  3. Use a large waste bag and pull out the plant: Take a sufficiently large plastic garbage bag and turn it inside out. Hold the plastic bag in your hand and grab the vines as close to the ground as possible and pull. If the soil is thoroughly wet, the plant should come out very easily, including its root system. Once it is out of the soil, quickly wrap the plastic bag around the plant and tie it tightly.
  4. Dispose of the plant properly: This step is extremely important and by forgetting this step, you will certainly be greeted with an unpleasant surprise sooner or later. Once you have the plant in the plastic bag, ask someone else to open up the garbage can for you and dispose of the plant. If you would have opened the garbage can, then it is almost guaranteed that you will stain its handles and surfaces with the poison which can create troubles for you or other people in the future coming into contact with the garbage can.
  5. Wash all of your clothes and yourself: By repeating the above steps until you have gotten rid of all the poison ivy plants, you will finally need to ensure that you get rid of all residues of poison ivy from your clothes. Again, ask someone else to help you to open doors and prep the washing machine. Undress and throw all of your clothes into the machine and wash them thoroughly.
If you have followed the above steps, you should now have a property that is poison ivy free and simultaneously you will be without rashes and will continue to be so even in the future. The only thing you need to keep an eye out for is that the plants do not regrow. In principle, you have removed the whole plant with its roots, preventing it to regrow, but it is very possible that some small segments remain and that the soil itself contain seeds. Therefore, it is worthwhile to monitor the previous location of the poison ivy and ensure that any new plants sprouting are eliminated at an early stage using similar procedures as above.

Summary of poison ivy removal

Based on experience, physical or mechanical removal of poison ivy plants is definitely the best and easiest way to completely get rid of the plants. However, it is also understandable that some people may be afraid or otherwise hesitant to touch the plants even with proper protection. If this is the case, then chemical removal using long spray tubes is likely the only way, even if it is not very healthy. If you do decide to use chemical removal, you have to be persistent. Continue to spray the plants multiple times until you really have killed it completely. There is nothing worse than allowing the plant to regain its strength and in the worst case even some degree of resistance to the chemicals!

I hope you will find the information in this article useful and please feel free to leave a comment if you know of better ways to get rid of poison ivy!


  1. Thank you for sharing this knowledge. Learning of effective ways on how to get rid of poison ivy may be one of the most important survival skills to posses because it might be able to save you or your loved one if any of you became a victim of this plant’s allergy-causing poison. See more