How to Wash Poison Ivy Clothes

Summer means more outdoor time and engaging in fun activities like gardening, camping, and hiking. But it may also mean brushing against poison ivy, a plant that causes skin reactions for many people. Once exposed to poison ivy, you’ll have to wash your clothes to reduce the chances of having the resin on your skin.

Fortunately, there are effective ways to get rid of poison ivy from your fabric, and we’ll discuss them in this guide.

What Is Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy is a plant that grows in many parts of the world, including Canada and the United States. You are right to be worried when poison ivy comes in contact with your cloth. This plant produces a resin called Urushiol and unfortunately, it triggers an allergic rash when it in contact with your skin. Having it on your clothes is a major risk to having it on your skin so you have to be careful.

In addition, effect of poison ivy can last for weeks, and if the cloth isn’t handled well, you risk having it on your skin again. Also, the resin on poison ivy is so persistent that it can remain on dead and dried plants for 2 to 5 years. That means unwashed clothes can still trigger a rash up to 2 years later.

If you are concerned about poison ivy getting in contact with your cloth, you should follow these procedures. 

Getting Ready 

Keep this in mind when trying to wash clothes contaminated with poison ivy: 

1: Take off Your Clothes Carefully

The first thing to do when poison ivy gets on your clothes is to remove the cloth, which you must do carefully. You can consider wearing some gloves before taking off the clothes. Next, place the clothes inside a plastic bag to prevent the poison ivy from transferring to other surfaces. Also, discard the gloves and avoid letting your bare hands touch them. 

2: Keep it Away From Other Clothes

Do not wash affected clothes with other garments. It’s essential to wash them separately to prevent them from affecting other clothes. Also, it’s best not to overload the machine so that affected clothes can agitate freely to increase the chances of removing the sticky Urushiol. 

3: It’s Best Not To Wash By Hands

The best way to get rid of poison ivy is using a machine. It will help if you protect your hands from exposure to the active resin deposited on your clothes. But if you must wash by hand, consider protecting yourself with vinyl gloves. 

Washing Clothes

Here are the procedures to keep poison ivy out of your clothes. 

1: Wash Immediately 

The faster your deal with the affected clothes, the better. If you cannot launder the cloth immediately, leave it in a large plastic bag until you’re ready. 

2: Put on Some Gloves

Handling a cloth affected with poison ivy requires protecting yourself. For this reason, it’s best to get some vinyl or thick gloves before washing the cloth. 

Note: Avoid thin gloves because Urushiol can penetrate rubber which may defeat the purpose of wearing gloves in the first place 

3: Drop Clothes Into the Washer


Transfer the cloth from the plastic bag into the washer and ensure no other garment is in the machine. 

4. Use a Scoop of Detergent 


Also, you will need some mild detergent to do the work. Because of Urushiol solubility and persistence, you will need a lot of detergents. Also, it’s best to use a degreaser detergent to launder poison ivy clothes. 

5: Use Hot Water

Don’t underestimate the importance of hot water when dealing with poison ivy clothes. Urushiol is oil-based and persistent, making it hard to remove from clothes, so it’s best to use a lot of hot water and detergent. Therefore, use the hottest water your garment can withstand when dealing with poison ivy. You should check through the care label to find out the hot water capacity of your garment. 

6: Set the Washer To Extended Cycle

Normal or regular cycle isn’t suitable for clothes stained with urushiol. Instead, set your washing machine to the extended cycle for proper agitation. A long cycle wash will also prevent residue from redepositing on your washing machine and clothes 

7: Use The Largest Load Setting

Largest Load Setting

Another valuable tip is to use the largest load setting when washing a cloth affected with poison ivy. This may sound wasteful, but Urushiol (the resin in poison ivy) is an oil stain. To get rid of them effectively, you need a lot of solutions. 

8: Use Multiple Washes

The key to getting rid of poison ivy is by repeating the washing process. After the first washing cycle, it’s best to repeat the process a second time. You may also want to even a third time if you fear the Urushiol contamination is a lot. Perhaps even a fourth time to be on the safe side. 

9: Air Dry Your Clothes

Once you are done washing multiple times, it’s time to dry the clothes. It’s a good idea to dry your clothes by air drying on a clothesline or rack. This is to prevent contaminating the dryer if there are traces of Urushiol on the garment. 

10: Consider Getting a Professional 

Another option to wash clothes with poison ivy is by leaving it to a dry cleaning professional. Dry cleaners use chemical-based cleaners that can strip out the poison ivy oils. If you are going with this method, be sure to let your dry cleaner know that the clothes are in contact with poison ivy. 

How To Get Rid of Poison Ivy From Shoes

Unlike clothes, you can’t just toss shoes into the washing machine. This means you have to clean them by hand to get rid of the resin.

To get this done, wear the thickest gloves you can find and unlace the shoe. Next, make a solution of hot water and detergent, then use a soft-bristled brush to clean in and out of the affected shoe.
After this, soak a cloth in water, squeeze it out to clean your clothes. Dry the shoes by placing them in an open or breezy area. 

Protecting Yourself From Poison Ivy

Rashes induced by exposure to poison ivy can be such a painful experience, especially if you have sensitive skin. Some steps you can take to reduce the risk of exposure to these plants include: 

  1. Wear Protective Clothing

One of the ways to reduce the risk of poison ivy is by wearing protective clothing like gloves, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. This way, when you come in contact with the plant, your cloth takes the fall first. After all, it’s easier to deal with affected clothes than affected skin. 

  1. Know How to Spot Poison Ivy

Another form of your prevention is knowing how to spot poison ivy. You can do a quick search on the internet to know what these plants look like. This way, it’ll be easy to spot them and stay away from them. 

  1. Stay On Pathways

When hiking or exploring new areas, it’s best to stay on the pathway to reduce the chances of coming in contact with poison ivy. The more you stay clear of the plants, the lower the chances of getting in contact with them. 

  1. Cut Down The Plants

If the poison ivy plants are around your home or an area you use often, it would be best if you find a way to remove them permanently. 

  1. Clean Your Clothes and Tools

Another important tip is to clean your tools and clothes if you suspect exposure to poison ivy. Follow the steps in this guide to clean your clothes and use rubbing alcohol or soap to clean your tools. 

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