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How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy Plants

Six Parts:What is poison ivy?Pulling out the plantsCovering the rootsUsing herbicidesPreventing regrowthDecontaminating

Poison ivy plants make a dreadful garden companion. The resin in their oil is toxic and causes severe dermatitis upon contact, and respiratory problems if you burn it. To get rid of poison ivy plants, you can pull the plants if you stay covered and dispose of the plants carefully, or use natural or glyphosphate-based chemical herbicides labeled for use against poison ivy. You should also prevent regrowth afterward by digging up the roots, smothering the area with mulch, and treating the area with preventative herbicides throughout the growing season.

Part 1
What is poison ivy?

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    Recognize poison ivy. Poison ivy can be recognized as:
    • A vine with groups of three pointy leaves. – Remember the saying, "Leaves of three, let it be.'
    • The middle leaf has a slightly longer petiole (stem) than the two leaves on the side.
    • The leaflets are larger at the base.
    • There are no thorns on the stem.
    • Berries, if present, are a grey-ish white. – "Berries white, take fright."
    • It has three distinct forms:
      • a vine that climbs trees – "Hairy rope, don't be a dope."
      • ground cover up to 1–2 feet (0.3–0.6 m)
      • large shrub – This form is mostly found on sandy dunes.
    • Leaves are green during summer, red during fall.
    • It can grow just about anywhere.
    • If you have trouble recognizing poison ivy, practice by taking the photo quiz at the end of How to Prevent Getting Poison Ivy or Poison Oak.
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    Treat poison ivy as a native plant of great wildlife value. Humans and perhaps some other primates are the only known creature allergic to poison ivy.[1] If it is not growing in an area where people walk, let it be.

Part 2
Pulling out the plants

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    Consider pulling the plants out. If you are not particularly allergic or know someone who is not, pulling poison ivy works great. Repeated pulling will likely be needed as some roots will have been missed.
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    Keep your distance when pulling out the plants.
    • Wear long sleeved shirt, pants, boots, long, heavy duty rubber gloves.
    • Use long handled garden tools to handle the plant. Never touch any part of the plant with your gloved hands. The more distance between your skin and the plant, the better!
    • When up rooting, chop long roots and vines into short sections, lift with a "reacher" and deposit into a trash can lined with a plastic bag. (You can buy a "reacher" at some drug stores that carry medical supplies.)
    • Pull up roots only with long handled pliers, again in short sections. Long sections of vine will bounce around and eventually tap your face or other exposed skin.

Part 3
Covering the roots

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    Be aware that the roots contain rash-causing oils too. If you really need to remove or work in sites with ivy, follow these steps to cover.
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    Wear long pants, long sleeve shirt or get a slicker set that would be worn only for poison ivy work. Eye protection and hand protection are required.
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    Put down large pieces of cardboard. The boxes appliances come in are ideal; use these to walk on, over the patch.Those may be free from a local store but you have to ask to get them before they do their recycling.
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    Overlap with plastic past the cardboard. Use U-shaped landscape anchor pins and a sheet of 4 ml black plastic. This is sold in small to large rolls. Have one piece to cover, if possible. The pins must be close together and plastic should be bigger than the area you are covering.
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    Dump deep soils or light rocks to hold covers down. Consider concrete edging or rocks to reduce the likelihood of vine escape. Put pots of flowers if you want some color in the spot.
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    Wash all clothing, gloves and shoes isolated from other items three times. Tools also can be contaminated. Tecnu lotion or other remover should help. Oils last a year on most items.
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    Wash up with Tecnu Extreme. Shower. Repeat the Tecnu wash three times or more.

Part 4
Using herbicides

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    Opt to use an herbicide to kill the plants.
    • A natural herbicide that works is St Gabriel Labs' Poison Ivy Defoliant®, which is made from plant oils.
    • Another solution is to use a glyphosphate-based herbicide to kill the plants, such as Roundup™, Kleenup™, or a specific poison ivy killer.
    • Mix the concentrate herbicide with water, three times the normal strength. Don't use ready-mixed herbicide, as it's not strong enough to destroy poison ivy.
    • Put the herbicide concentrate (or other brand) in a sprayer, like an empty window cleaner sprayer. Read the instructions on the herbicide label. Label the sprayer and keep this sprayer for only this purpose, in a safe place.
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    On a day that is not windy or about to rain, spray thoroughly, to coat all poison ivy leaves with the solution.
    • Wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, plastic gloves over cotton, socks, and fully enclosed shoes or boots.
    • Try not to get solution on any other plants, or they will die too. Plants take the herbicide in through their leaves, then the plant dies.
    • For poison ivy high in trees, cut the vine off 6 inches above the ground and treat the stump with the glyphosate after cutting. Spray any leaves that re-sprout.[2]
    • If it keeps coming back on the ground, look for it up in some nearby trees. It will keep reseeding itself as long as you don't get the parent vine.
    • The poison ivy should turn yellow and die in a couple of weeks.

Part 5
Preventing regrowth

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    Wearing gloves, as the roots can also produce poison ivy's characteristic effect, dig down into the soil at least 8 inches (20.3 cm) and remove all of the roots. This will help prevent future regrowth. Be sure to go right to the end where the roots are growing.[3]
    • Make sure you keep your gloves on when digging, or you will get a rash, as even dead stalks can give you the rash from urushiol. Wearing a mask and safety glasses is also a good idea.[4]
    • Pick up the roots wearing gloves and use plastic bags to stuff the roots into for removal by garbage collection.
    • Use a hoe for stubborn or difficult root removal.
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    Smother the area where the poison ivy was growing. Use cardboard, black plastic, newspaper, mulch, etc., to cover up the area where the poison ivy grew to prevent its regrowth.[5]
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    Check the area several times a year and take steps to kill the poison ivy.
    • Do this for several years, because where there is poison ivy, there is probably more you haven't seen yet.
    • Poison ivy is very persistent; it will come back from roots that are not killed or removed. It may be necessary to spray the vines two or more times to succeed in removing it completely. Watch for seedlings dispersed by birds carrying the seeds.[6]

Part 6

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    Be absolutely vigilant as to which part of clothing the plant touches on you, such as your pants, gloves, etc. When removing your clothes later, be sure to use clean gloves and drop it all right into your washing machine. Wash these clothes separately.
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    Wait to use soap and water until after cleansing with rubbing alcohol, vinegar, mineral spirits or commercial cleanser. The initial cleanser will remove the poison ivy irritant.


  • Teach your kids to recognize poison ivy plants so they can avoid them.
  • If you think you may have come into contact with Poison Ivy, wash with cold water instead of warm. It causes the pores of your skin to close up. Warm water opens the pores, allowing the irritant to work in deeper.
  • Add a few drops of dishwashing soap to the herbicide. It will help the herbicide adhere to the ivy leaves.
  • Be aware that deer and birds eat poison ivy berries, and then drop the seeds. New plants can pop up nearly anywhere.
  • Contact your local agricultural extension office for the best method to remove poison ivy in your area.
  • Herbicide works best on poison ivy that has already formed berries.
  • Herbicides like Roundup™ need to be sprayed when the temperatures haven't gotten above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27°C) or so. If sprayed in heat, the spray turns into a gas that can spread much farther than your targeted spray range and harm you, too.
  • If you're not comfortable removing poison ivy yourself, get a professional landscaper or gardener to remove it for you.
  • If you continuously pour boiling water on it, it should wilt and die eventually.
  • If you know you have poison ivy on your land and you have kids, it is a good thing to have a special soap on hand in case someone comes into contact with it. These soaps are available at your local drugstore. The store's staff can help you find it.
  • Consider using an herbicide like Vinex™ if the plant is large or growing up a tree or fence. The application is actually quite minimal, coat the bark at the stem at the base of the plant with the brush which is permanently attached to the bottle of Vinex™.
  • Mark the spot where you found the poison ivy with something like a bamboo stick. This will help you check in the future.
  • Goats are voracious consumers of poison oak and ivy. If you can gain access to a goat, hire or borrow one to remove your poison ivy naturally. Nurseries or the agricultural extension office can point you in the direction of goats for hire. Remember that even if you use this method, you will still have to dig out the roots.


  • Never burn poison ivy. The smoke from burning poison ivy will cause the same reaction in your lungs that normally happens on the skin. Reactions to this kind of exposure are far more serious than those resulting from topical contact.
  • Do not use herbicides around children or animals. Always store out of reach of children and pets. Follow the instructions on the label carefully.
  • Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and will kill any plant that it comes in contact with. Keep it away from your landscape plants.
  • Remember that even the bare twigs and branches of these plants are toxic even during the dormant season.
  • Do not plant anything in an area that has been sprayed with glyphosate for a week, as the herbicide continues to kill for a number of days after application.
  • Be careful not to get herbicide on you or your pets or other animals as it may be toxic.
  • Be aware that an individual can become sensitized to the urushiol, meaning that even though an individual is not allergic to the plant at this time, repeated contact can initiate a severe allergic reaction. Therefore, it is prudent to avoid skin contact.
  • Properly label, handle, and dispose of all containers of mixed herbicide.

Things You'll Need

  • A sprayer like an empty Windex bottle. A larger sprayer can be bought at any garden center.
  • A glyphosphate-based herbicide like Roundup™
  • Long pants, long-sleeve shirts
  • Socks and fully-enclosed shoes. Boots may be even better.
  • Gloves (plastic over cotton)
  • Barrier cream
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vinegar, or mineral spirits
  • Commercial cleanser like Tecnu™ (optional)
  • Soap and water but only after cleansing with cool rubbing alcohol, vinegar, mineral spirits or Tecnu™

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