• Mike Roberts

Safe Removal of Poison Ivy From Your Landscape


Poison ivy is not just a hazard for kids at summer camp. This toxic plant can show up in your landscape and, when touched, cause people and even pets a nasty, blistering rash. Let’s identify this landscape nemesis and dispose of it safely.

Leaves of three, let it be

Poison ivy’s appearance can vary by region, but the leaves tend to grow in clusters of three. In most of the country, poison ivy is a vine, but in the western states, it grows as a bush. In some areas of the country, the leaves’ edges are saw-toothed. In early spring and in the fall, the leaves turn red and gold. Some species have white berries in late summer. If you are uncertain of the plant’s appearance in your region, a Google search can help.

Upon skin contact with the plant, more than 90 percent of people will develop the typical rash, which can be severe enough to require medical attention. Those with a specific allergy to poison ivy can have a life-threatening reaction, even by just breathing the air near the plant.

Safe removal of poison ivy

Urushiol is the oily resin in poison ivy that causes skin irritation. The resin is in every part of the plant, not just the leaves. You must take great care in removing this insidious plant.

  • Dress in long sleeves, long pants tucked into long socks, and shoes that can be washed afterward. Wear rubber gloves. It’s not a bad idea to also don a breathing mask and goggles.

  • Do not hack and chop the vine with a hoe or pickax. This releases the plant’s resin into the air. Instead, with your gloved hands, move the vine aside to clip it low with pruning shears. Gather the vines into thick lawn garbage bags, tie them off securely at the tops and pitch them in the trash.

  • With a shovel, dig up as many roots as you can and bag them.

  • Never mulch poison ivy nor burn it. The poisonous resin will be in mulch and in the smoke. Inhaling it can cause serious respiratory inflammation.

  • You can spray poison ivy with a systemic herbicide to ensure that the plant dies down to the roots, but make sure the product you use works for poison ivy. Spray on a calm day to avoid having the spray drift onto good plants or onto your body.

Very important cleanup

When you are finished, clean your tools with rubbing alcohol to remove the plant residue. Wash your clothes separately and even wash your shoes.

Poison Ivy First aid

If your skin touches poison ivy, wash as soon as possible with a strong soap and cold water. If you have an allergy to poison ivy or are affected by just inhaling the air near it, contact your doctor immediately.

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