How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!

Poison Ivy 150x150 How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!

Scientist and wildlife habitat enthusiast Jim Brauker holding a poison ivy leaf.

I am very allergic to poison ivy yet am no longer afraid to touch it because I understand how to avoid getting a rash.

When I retired as a research scientist I had been involved in studies of wound healing, immunology, and  inflammation of the skin for over 25 years. After retiring I started spending much of my time in the woods doing work on deer habitat. I had several serious bouts with poison ivy before I decided I was either going to figure things out or quit working in the woods.  I figured it out. I know now how poison ivy works, and so I doubt I will ever have a serious rash again. If I do, it will be my fault not the fault of the poison ivy. Watch this video and I believe that you will be convinced that you do not have to fear poison ivy.  How it infects you is actually no mysterious at all but is really quite simple.  You can act to never have a serious poison ivy rash again.

My upcoming book, “Extreme Deer Habitat” will have an entire chapter with lots of other tips about how to prevent and treat poison ivy, oak, and sumac reactions.

Click HERE for more videos and articles on Deer Habitat and Hinge Cutting


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  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!
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  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!
  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!
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239 comments on “How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!
  1. Evie says:

    There isn’t a Pintrest button for sharing your video! Thank you soo very much for this tip.

    • admin says:

      Evie, I have a social networking plugin that is supposed to have buttons for various networks. Did not notice there is no Pinterest button. Thanks for the heads yup, I will look in to it.

    • JJ Charby-Green says:

      You can cut and paste the link in a Pinterest pin. Choose Add a Pin, From the Web.:)

    • Wm, Dexter says:

      Thank you Sir for your very generous tips on avoiding this rash….shared with my friends too !!!

    • David says:

      How do you stop it from getting inside your body when it is in the air in smoke from fires?

      • Dr Jim says:

        I strongly recommend you never burn it and never breath the smoke if you do burn it. It is a bad idea to breath smoke anyway but multiply contraindicated when urushiol is in the mix.

      • Christina Akins says:

        What if you are a wildland fire fighter and cannot avoid being around burning poison oak etc. Do you have additional recommendations?

        • Dr Jim says:

          Under those conditions the biggest risk is inhaling. Any skin contact can be handled by washing, but you need a good respirator and eye protection.

    • Nancy J says:

      Do you then discard the washcloth?

      • Dr Jim says:

        Just wash it in the washing machine with your other cloths. It will entirely remove the urushiol.

        • onafixedincome says:

          I would wash them separately, with serious soap and HOT water. Loofah? Discard. Too many nooks and crannies there for my taste. Suggest cutting the loofah into flat sections that you can use and discard; the flat sections also get into crevices a bit better.

          • Dr Jim says:

            It is not necessary to wash things separately. Household detergents are easily capable of removing all urushiol in one cycle.

        • Jamie says:

          What if you touched it with your clothes and didn’t know it the it appears next few days

    • Paul Heagen says:

      Pretty clear. He only question I have is what about the washcloth? Isn’t that now essentially infused with the poison ivy oil?

      • Dr Jim says:

        Wash it and don’t worry about mixing it with other laundry. Household detergents are very powerful and will remove it all.

    • Robin says:

      Thanks for this information.

  2. Roger Hammer says:

    I live in Oregon and spend a lot of time in oak woods that are covered with poison oak and I am very allergic to it. I have tried all the products available. I find that Goop mechanics’ hand cleaner works the best. It was developed to remove grease after all. I have only had mild rashes since I started using it. I think that the washcloth/friction idea is a very good one and I will start doing that along with the Goop.

    • admin says:

      Roger, yes Goop is great. It is a solvent based cleaner that is very efficient at removing grease and oil but the downside is that if you miss some and leave it on your skin, it might help to speed up entry of the urushiol through the skin. But as long as you rinse good after there is probably nothing better.

      • Angela says:

        I live in an area covered in poison oak, I don’t react to it all that bad. I rinse with vinegar and also will apple a spray deodorant on my skin if I remember to. My daughter doesn’t react to it and when I was younger I never reacted to it either.

      • Anthony williams says:

        My name is Anthony Williams and rn I have the rash of poison ivy it is covering my stomach and my face and arms. I can’t try this stuff Bc I’m young and didn’t notice I had it on me. I want to know what u think the best way to get the poison oak or ivy dead/dryed so I can use it?

        • Dr Jim says:

          You should go to the Emergency Room if it is severe.

        • Tammy Valerio says:

          Lather soap then let it dry on the skin. Learned this trick from my local fire Dept, it dries the rash in a fraction of time!

          • Dr Jim says:

            Soap can do absolutely nothing for the rash. it is happening under your skin. If the soap reached the area causing the rash it would cause even a worse response than the PI. Soap may help before the rash forms but friction from a washcloth is far more effective.

  3. Karissa says:

    I am a GM of a Holiday Inn Express and I was very surprised to see the man in the video sporting an IHG shirt. Whoop Whoop… go IHG! 🙂

    • admin says:

      Ha ha! Good eye Karissa. I slept in a Holiday Inn Express the night before making this video, otherwise it would have been a mess.

      Actually, I have a good friend who works for corporate in Atlanta who gave me the shirt. She noticed it right away too when she saw the video. I make a point of just wearing whatever I happen to be wearing in my videos to make it clear I have nothing to sell when I talk about products that work for me.

      Thanks for commenting. Fun.

      • Jan Laliberte says:

        Is this one of those commercials? —-I’m not a poison ivy expert…but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

        • Dr Jim says:

          LOL! I was wearing an IHG shirt in the video (parent company of Holiday Inn) but as a disclaimer I just happened to be wearing a shirt given to me by an employee of the company and I have no interest in promoting HI.

  4. G K says:

    Could I use paper towels in place of the washcloth?

    • admin says:

      GK. Yes, you can use paper towels.That is why I suggest people think about automotive grease. Anything you would use to remove visible grease or oil can be effective for removing urushiol. It is all about physically removing it with friction.

      • Jen says:

        I’m curios if the washcloth than has traces of the oil and if it can become urushiol free by just laundring it? Does the oil get on clothing? Does laundering alone clean it off fabrics? I had a bad case of it this year that kept coming back and I think it came from my dog having gotten into it. I washed him with dawn 🙂

  5. Martha Spielman says:

    I am 63 now and when I was in 3rd grade I sat in poison ivy with a friend, on purpose. (I know, but I was a kid.) We broke open the stems and rub the white liquid all over ourselves. When we were discovered we were quickly whisked away and got washed in the sink at the group leaders home. After I got home I was put in the tub. Neither Pam nor I got a rash. I have never had the rash and I have been all around poison ivy. Husband and daughter got severe cases year after year. I know I have been exposed. I read in a book sometime ago that that Indians would rub their children with the juice and leaves of the ivy plant as to immune them from the rash. I have also read you can’t be immune because it is in a class of poison called ‘memory reaction.’ So my question is; Do you think I have immunity to poison ivy OR I have been washing the correct way and have been lucky? Thank you for this article and it is great to have this knowledge!

    • admin says:

      If you are immune it means you will get a reaction. it is your immune system that reacts. So your question really is, “am I not immune?”

      The answer is, maybe. Whether you are going to react or not is very complicated. Someone may have several exposures and not react because the immune system is no yet sensitive. But i can happen to anybody at any time.

      Some people have developed what is called “tolerance” because of multiple small exposures. I would not count on you being one of them. The consequences are huge if your first reaction happens. So stay away from it if you can, and wash carefully. Be safe.

      • Laurie says:

        I was also “Immune” to poison ivy…to the point that I never had to ID it as I walked through fields and woods as a birdwatcher…however, 14 years ago (at age 52) I underwent chemo and radiation for breast cancer…since then, I am highly adverse to it…ever heard of such a thing?

        • Yes, Laurie! The “new normal” for your immune system post-treatment will be a lower threshold than before. Feel free to message me, I don’t want to hijack the comments with cancery comparisons!

        • zach says:

          Iv always been told that you have to be allergic to the oil in the plants to get a reaction from it. Makes sense though. I know people that wasn’t allergic to anything their whole lives and are now allergic to bee’s ect,and vice versa. I can’t remember ever getting poison and Iv burned it, cut it, and rubbed it all over me. I guess some people just have different reactions to it.

        • Eli says:

          Your body remembers what to react to with one type of T-cell, what to tolerate with another type. It sounds like chemo can decimate either population.

      • Harry says:

        A fellow who claimed to be immune to poison ivy weed whacked a bunch of it for me a few years ago and had to go to the doctor for the very bad case he got. Past tolerance is no guarantee of the future.

        • Naomi says:

          As a 10 y/o had a wicked reaction to poison sumac; had it on my face and eyelids but have not yet had more than one or two blisters from poison ivy. Interetingly, both times I was (supposedly) vaccinated for smallpox, neither site ever showed any reaction at all. I still avoid any of the big three contact-dermatitis offenders though; never want to go through that experience again. At least I know what to do now thanks to this post if I should have a run-in.

      • Amber says:

        So I know this is old but by being immune means you will have no reaction and not being immune you will have reaction. Immunity means resistance causing no reaction. If someone is immune then they will not get it. I’m sure you just said it backwards on accident!! Lol it happens

        • Dr Jim says:

          I’m afraid you have it backwards Amber. The reaction you get from urushiol is your immune system reacting to the oil and damaging your own tissues. It is a T-cell response known as delayed type hypersensitivity. You can only get poison ivy if you have immunity to it. Some people do not get a rash, usually because they have not been exposed enough to prime the immune system. Once the immune system is primed, you will usually get a reaction when exposed. Some people develop a tolerance to urushiol after repeated minor exposures but it is relatively rare. In that case your immune system is still recognizing it but not responding to it.

    • Karin Matheson says:

      As a child, my mom got into the smoke of burning poison ivy and had a horrific case of it. She hasn’t had it since.

    • Brad says:

      No, you’re not immune to poison ivy. As time goes on you stand a greater chance of getting the rash. I have been a Scoutmaster for over 32 years now and have NEVER had poison ivy. But I know I still have to be very careful.

  6. JT says:

    Jim – I am fan of ours from the several blogs you subscribe to and often your knowledge. But I have to tell you this info was by far my favorite. I have struggled my entire life with poison ivy. This weekend I tested this method, knowing that I was in and around poison ivy while working TSI. I also have a Lab that loves to roll around in it. I scrubbed with cool water with a washcloth my face, arms, neck, and hands (especially between my fingers). After two days I have not had a single spot show up. I think the biggest light bulb moment for me was you stating treat it like automotive grease. Thank you again for continually sharing your knowledge and making playing in the woods fun.

    • admin says:

      Thanks JT. Keep on washing. it is the secret to avoiding a severe reaction. You still may have minor reactions if you wait several hours to wash, but severe reactions really come from sustained exposure because of incomplete removal.

  7. G K says:

    Can I wash my exposed clothes and wash cloth in with my normal laundry – or wash separately? Hot water vs cold water?

  8. Thank you for this great video! We promote families taking kids in the outdoors and it is important to make sure the littlest outdoorsmen stay safe – and as you mention – unafraid to be in nature! This is an excellent tip – we’ve shared it on our facebook page. Thank you for making this available to all outdoor families!

  9. Sarah R. says:

    My body reacts terribly anymore to urushiol. I scrub with a loofah and use Ivarest brand poison remover, and still I end up reacting for weeks, sometimes up to 2 months. But as you say it’s on everything so if I clean myself then throw clothes in the wash or in the garage and mess with my mower I could just get it again. Will need to pay more attention.

    Someone’s comment made me wonder, if you take a pet into the woods and they end up with oils on their fur, pretty much inevitable, what is the best method to get it n off them so it doesn’t transfer to you and everything else? Bath them with soap and a towel? Also I was told wash with cold not hot because the warmth opens the pores allowing the oil to enter. Does temperature matter if effectively removed or better safe than sorry? Great tips with the video thanks so much for sharing.

    • Jenny S. says:

      Hi Jim and thank you so much for posting this. I was one of the lucky people that did not get poison ivy. My brother and I would go out and play and he would be covered in it in a few days and i would have not a dot.
      Then my Auntie asked if I could a huge vine from a tree in her yard when I was about 20. Unfortunately I got a rope burn on my hands, I highly really highly don’t recommend doing that. Got it on 45 percent of my body within 24 hours. Ah! Such misery and nothing would help the itching! Tried every cream on the market and it just kept spreading. Finally went the cortisone route but still took a long time to heal. ‘Got it 7 times in the next year even tho I could have sworn I hadn’t touched any! 5 times the next year, then tapered off more until I haven’t had any for several years. I think I was getting it from the pollen my system was so sensitive but who knows.
      In my desperation to find relief from the itching I asked all my relatives and friends what to use and an elderly relative recommended bleach. I know! Chemical burn right! So I only recommend this for parts of the body without holes in it like your face and bottom and you have to thoroughly wash it off after 60 seconds. You will do serious damage if you get this in your eyes so be really careful, but that is true with a lot of things.
      I usually step into the bathtub with my bottle of bleach and a rag, wet the rag using plenty of bleach and rub it in. Burns like your vinegar if you have been scratching but otherwise is ok. Literally watch the clock for 60 seconds then wash with soap and water. Works every time. One time I had to do it again the next day but usually you are good to not itch within hours. The quicker you treat the reaction the better. I think the bleach goes through your skin and breaks the chemical bond that is causing the reaction. Anyway that is what a brainy chemist doctor friend told me was probably happening.
      Thanks again for the wash up video I will definitely be using your advice. Oh and tell people to wash their shoes, I was picking it up on my fingers from putting them on and lacing them up. Stupid poison ivy.

      • Dr Jim says:

        Hi Jenny. Bleach is very effective at removing/neutralizing urushiol. I do not recommend it because of the risks that you clearly understand. As a scientist who worked in subcutaneous tissue for over 2 decades I can tell you your chemist friend is incorrect. If the bleach entered your skin it would cause extremely severe reactions, probably worse than poison ivy or oak, because it would react with countless molecules and cells in your tissues. The cornified layers of your skin prevent the bleach from entering. What the bleach is doing is removing and or neutralizing the urushiol on the surface of your skin before it has a chance to penetrate.

        • Karen Kelly says:

          Everything you posted in your video was correct and I’ve found that out from experience. The oil can stay on equipment and clothing for years. I’m severely allergic to poison ivy, etc. and got it several times every year after we moved to KY and was exposed to it in our woods. I have found that rubbing alcohol seems to neutralize the areas the oil gets on. I just pour the alcohol on a washcloth and then wipe the areas really well where I think I may have been exposed and I do it within eight hours or sooner. I haven’t had a case of poison ivy since I started doing this. I buy the 90% just to be on the safe side. I figured the stronger the better and it’s not caustic like bleach. I usually wash down with alcohol before I get in the shower, then wash with soap in the shower to removed the alcohol.

          We just moved back to KY after we retired and my husband has been working outside a lot. He has several places with poison ivy he didn’t know he’d even gotten exposed and now he uses the alcohol and has had no new infections.

          • Karen Kelly says:

            By the way, if you do get the rash from the poison ivy, to get some relief if you have a really large, itchy spot, run water as hot as you can stand it on the infected area. The hot water releases histamines and gives you several house of relief from the itching.

          • Dr Jim says:

            This is the single most effective way I know of to get rid of the itch. The hot water treatment is similar to the process of “arterialization”
            that I used to use in diabetes research. When you heat up an area of the body you increase the rate of transport of interstitial fluid, resulting in rapid removal of histamines in the area. Ity takes hours for them to build back up again.

      • Naomi says:

        Yup about the bleach. As a kid temporarily in Pennsylvania with my family, and no family doctor there, my mother went to a pharmacist to try to find something to treat my poison sumac outbreak. He told her to put bleach-water compresses on my face over my eyes and it was very effective. I was really careful about not opening my eyes for sure, but I would have tried most anything to get some relief.

  10. Philip Reid says:

    I too have completed extensive research on this topic and would like to add my 2 cents. Just like in the demo where he used 3 soaps, the dawn did better initially. The reason this is, is because dawn is a de-greaser and can remove the poison ivy oil better than average soap. The video did not touch on the fact that the oil can survive on clothing, even through standard washes. Place infected clothing in your washing machine and add several squirts of Dawn into the wash load. During the cycle, lift the lid to stop the washing machine and allow the clothes to set in the soapy water for several hours. I repeat this 3 times myself after being infected form a pair of shorts that sat in my drawer for almost a year. Third, a rash from poison ivy is an allergic reaction. If infected, the best and only relief you can get is from allergy medication like benadryl.

  11. Deborah says:

    My whole family was exposed and 4 out if the 6 if us got the rash. 3 of us were so extreme that we had to go on steroids and antibiotics. It has been miserable, especially the itching! We have cleaned our tools, clothes, the dog, and our trashcans. We also bought every potion on the shelf that we thought might help without much success. I will definitely take your advice for the future!

  12. Steve says:

    I’ve heard that if you put baby oil on your skin before anticipated exposure it will mitigate the adherence of the urushiol to ones skin. What do you think about that?
    Thanks for the great information!

    • Jaime Guerrero says:

      Tecnu made a pre-exposure preventative that was a greasy oil and waxy material. Supposedly nothing for the urushiols to bind to.

      Another company made a preventative made from bentonite– clay, which absorbs any oil.

      Like any preventative treatment, it is difficult to say with certainty that they are effective (without a controlled test involving intentional, measured exposure– who wants to do that?)

  13. Tara Garcia says:

    I have earned a healthy fear of this plant as well. Wehn I findi t on my property, I dig it up, bag it and pitch it. Last time as I was bagging a sprig twiste and tapped my arm above the gloves. Within minutes I could feel my skin tingling. I waited only 10 minutes to finish and washed well knowing the area affected, but I still had a small breakout. I happened to already have a dermatology appt for unrelated reason in 1.5 weeks. I told her “I have a bonus for you!” It was nearly dried up by then, so I declined treatment. I asked her why I keep breaking out in new places where I had NO CONTACT. I washed everything, shoes and all. She said I get it systemically and it will continue for 4 weeks! Man do I wish I hadn’t declined a treatment, because it would pop up on my hip, or my abdomen – just one tiny spot, but just as aggravating!! I will certainly focus on this method. But I’ll still ask a neighbor to bag my plants. BTW – (question for everyone): How many of you get real pleasure from hot, HOT water on your rash? It’s better than …anything! Yes, that too! But just the same, I’d rather live without it. Thanks for your research!!!

    • Dr Jim says:

      I disagree with your dermatologist’s assessment. Urushiol reaction is a delayed type hypersensitivity response that occurs in the subcutaneous tissue only upon contact with urushiol and transport through the skin. If you keep getting new reactions, you missed something that still has urushiol on it that you are repeatedly coming into contact with. Could be your cell phone, a tool you were using, or a host of other possibilities. Believing the nonsense coming from your Dr. will cause you to lose focus on what is really causing the reaction, and it is something you missed when doing your cleaning.

      • You say the dermatologist was wrong for saying poison ivy allergy can be systemic? What is your argument for this? My young son once got poison ivy on his leg which had a deep scratch, the urushiol went into the blood stream and he developed itches in places where he never could have touched ivy. This went on for a few weeks, and he was indoors the whole time. So yes, it can be systemic (but I think that is probably rare). I have a feeling dermatologists know more about poison ivy than anybody.

        • Dr Jim says:

          Most people get it on several parts of their body. But it is not because it becomes systemic and finds its way back to the skin. Once it makes its way to the bloodstream it is over. If your son got it on other parts of his body it was moved via contact with oil that was not removed either from his skin or some other contaminant.

        • Jess says:

          I am going through this right now and agree with it being about to be systemic. I too had been cut on my leg by a poison ivy stem which flared up to a large portion of my leg blistering with a nasty rash. About 3-5 days after my initial exposure is when the rash and itching started where the cut was. Shortly after, I broke out in hives all over my body after scratching areas that were itchy (no poison ivy rash in these areas either, just itchy skin which caused hives after itching). After about 2 weeks, the rash on my leg started healing nicely, however the rest of my skin (mostly my torso and arms) was extremely itchy and keeping me up at night. Went to the Dr. who put me on a 40mg dose of Prednisone every day for 7 days, along with a nightly antihistamine. This provided very minimal relief for my itchy skin. After I had finished the prednisone, the itchy skin persisted. Right now I’m sitting here, still with itchy skin (and no rash besides the marks I create my scratching), 3 weeks after my initial poison ivy exposure. Seems to be made worse if I have any clothing that is tight against my skin, enough to create depressions which are extra itchy. I should also mention that this is my first time dealing with any sort of poison ivy reaction. But I do believe it got into my blood via the cut on my leg…

      • Hazel Husted says:

        I’m told that drinking goat’s milk after the goat has eaten poison ivy will make you much less inclined to ever break out from it.

      • Karen Kelly says:

        I agree as well in disagreeing with the dermatologist. I’ve found it depends on how much contact I’ve had with oil as to how bad the outbreak is. If I just get a tiny bit on my skin, it takes longer to show up and the outbreak is smaller. If I get a lot on my skin, it shows up much sooner and is worse.

    • Stephan says:

      YES on the hot water! I know it’s not a good thing to do, but when you’ve got an outbreak and get in a shower and make the water as hot as you can stand it…like you said, there’s simply nothing that feels better! And the itching stops for awhile afterwards.

    • Laurie says:

      Dont forget to scrub under your finger nailes. Thats how I spread mine.

  14. Angel says:

    Just curious as to what other skin reactions you have studied? I’m in my early 30’s and always look like I have had a reaction to something on my arms. I have had allergy testing and it shows all of our trees and formaldehyde as the major things I’m allergic to. Just wondering if you did any studies.
    Thank you for your post on the poison ivy. GREAT to know with an 8 & 9 yr old 🙂

    • Dr Jim says:

      Angel; I would recommend seeing a dermatologist in addition to the allergist. I certainly cannot tell you what those reactions are in a youtube chat area.

  15. catherine peterson says:

    In recent years, I’ve had a couple of substantial poison ivy episodes, which I never had as a kid. The quickest and best relief I’ve found, after washing with a jewelweed soap, is to use the inside of a banana peel. I cut little 1 inch squares and put them in the freezer. Rub the inside part of the peel over the infected area every couple of hours and not only does it relieve the itch substantially, it dries up the rash in just a couple of days.

  16. Kim says:

    I have been scrubbing down with apple cider vinegar after exposure and have had no poison ivy since. Great video. Thanks.

  17. William says:

    any recommendations for treating spots you may have accidentally missed that turn into full blown rashes?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Hot water treatments are by far the best thing I have found. You can also get some strong steroid creams from your doctor. They help, but hot water is the only thing I know of that can give complete relief for several hours for minor reactions or spot reactions.

    • ERic says:

      The best thing to use on the rash is Benydrel gel

  18. Lulu says:

    I’ve read that when washing with a washcloth you run the risk of then spreading the oils from the washcloth to other clothing items and even the inside of your washing machine. Have you found this to be a problem? Also, if you use a loofah, couldn’t you respread the oils that remain on the loofah after washing?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Hi Lulu. There is a reason every mechanic in the world carries a grease rag in their back pocket. It is because friction with a cloth is the best way to remove grease and oil from the skin. Whether you get some back on the skin is not as important as the very effective removal from the skin. It is important to vigorously wash the skin and toss the rag directly into the wash with a good detergent. Using two or three wash rags is a good idea but I have not found it to be necessary. I use the loofah last as a means to remove any residual amounts. It is so porous it is unlikely that you will recontaminate your skin with the tiny amounts you are removing with this last wash with the loofah. As far as contaminating your clothing, the detergents and long wash and rinse cycles in a standard home washer will efficiently remove all oils and grease through the formation of water soluble micelles that carry the oils away (oil and grease stains in clothing are from contaminants, not from the actual oil or grease. I would not be at all concerned about that. Many of the experts you hear that from have made up a reason for continued recontamination, usually because they did not effectively remove it from the skin in the first place. These are the same nincompoops telling you to not rub it off with a rag in the first place. Therefore they ensure that they will get severe ongoing reactions, then they make up reasons for the continued reactions. The video is showing you the common sense reality that you need friction to effectively remove oils and grease from the skin.

      • Kelly says:

        I used to work in landscape construction in California, and I am very reactive to poison oak. I can say that the oils can remain in clothes for a very long time, even when washed several times. I had a pair of pants that would give me a rash in a line along a small portion of the waistband every time I wore them, even after six or seven washings.

        Anyone who has spilled cooking oil on clothes knows that the oil can get fixed in the fibers, particularly cotton. If you catch it right away you can get it out with a direct prewash treatment with Dawn, but once it’s been heated and polymerized, it is nearly impossible to remove. I would suspect that Urishiol is the same. I don’t know at what temperature/time factor it polymerizes, but it might be smart to avoid the dryer and wash in warm water with extra detergent.

        • Naomi says:

          I have to wonder if Murphy’s Oil Soap might work well as the cleaning agent, for both skin and clothing. It does wonders on oil stains in clothing, so…

        • Laurie says:

          Try GoJo Or Fast Orange hand cleaner that mechanics use. I work on a restaurant and our uniforms are black and get grease spots on them all the time. I just rubsome on rhe spot let it sit for a minute o you can use a small scrub brush on it and then wash. Sometimes it needs a second treatment but it comes out. I use Fast Orange.

  19. Kim says:

    I’m very curious about this because I was also told NOT to rub it when washing, that it would force it into my skin. But I’m willing to try this.

    I’ve also used Mean Green Hand Scrubber and it works really well! I’ve heard it helps after the rash too.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Hi Kim. This advice makes no sense to me. The way urushiol enters the skin is by slow penetration over many hours. Rubbing it will remove it but will not speed up its entry. Serious cases occur because the urushiol is left on the skion for many hours or days. Removing it within the few hours will prevent serious reactions but you may suffer minor reactions from the initial amount that entered. The worst thing I can think of to do after contact is not to rub it off.

  20. Todd Hogeman says:

    Thank you Jim! Sounds like solid advice. As a mountain biker in an area with loads of poison ivy I’m sure to be able to test out this theory. This gives me a good reason to wash my bike after riding. I think shoes are a huge culprit in re-contamination as people don’t really wash their shoes but handling the laces could get the stuff right in between the fingers. Also the car’s interior particularly the steering wheel.
    The key seems to be “Keep It Clean!”

  21. Shelley Benvie says:

    Hi. Although this has nothing to do with poison Ivy, I have suffered with PMLE for 15 years and it is horrible. Seeing as how it is autoimmune and and inflamtion of the skin, I thought I would ask. Have you ever done any studies on this? Any recommendations? I slather in suncreen and keep covered up but still get breakouts. What would be the best way to treat it once an eruption has occured?

  22. Souky says:

    Great advice Dr. Jim. I am one of the fortunates who NEVER got any poison “anything” rashes – in spite of spending my entire life wandering thru the woods – and TONS of Ivy. I even rolled naked in it once as a kid to prove to my friends ” I didn’t get it”.

    Then, about 2 years ago, I started getting rashes. Nasty stuff. I feel for anybody who gets it bad.

    And, although, when I DO get it, it doesn’t go away easily or quickly….it also is never big and never spreads.

    guess I am VERY lucky.

  23. Sabrina Henneman says:

    How does the washcloth not transfer the oil to elsewhere on your body as you wash? Will regular laundry detergent wash the oil off in the washing machine?

  24. Margaret Williams says:

    We have had excellent results using Borax soap. The type you get at the grocery store – in powder form.

    • Margaret Williams says:

      Just saw the note before. This note refers to getting poison ivy off the body. But I bet it would work for getting the oil off the wash cloth as well.

      • Dr Jim says:

        All you need to get it off the washcloth is to throw it in the washing machine. It will be agitated in strong detergent for 25 minutes or more, rinsed, spun, rinsed, spun. This will remove virtually all the oil.

  25. mark says:

    I suffer a lot. Once i was even denied entry onto a plane b/c my arms were so broken out to be frightening to others (this was in summer of course.)
    My BIG QUESTION: I don’t doubt the wisdom of the scrubbing and all, but this all presupposes that you know you have touched it. What about when you just do not know, are not sure what the plant looks like and how to distinguish it from other vines? i am still not at all sure how to spot it. ARE THERE ALWAYS THREE LEAVES, even on the multiple ferns you showed? I think I could well into contact with it and not know. So taking action in minutes or hours is something I might not do in my ignorance of recognizing it. Can you add some sure-fire vine identifying info? That would be SO helpful in addition to the other info….

    • Dr Jim says:

      As guy who spent much of my career in polymer science, I can tell you that once a monomer is polymerized, it will no longer have the chemical properties it originally had. The stains that remain behind from oils are not the oils themselves, but are residuals within the oils, or dyes originally included within the oils.

    • I’m with you Mark. Have gotten it 4 times in the past 12 months. Last week it was because my dog ran through it, in an area that has not had poison oak for 15 years and now suddenly does. Hugged my dog and buried my face in her fur, and got a rash all over my face, neck and arms with my eye swollen shut the next day.

      This is a great video for when you KNOW you have come in contact with it. But what about all the tools he touched? What about your car, someone else’s tools/car/dog/jacket? You can’t scrub yourself with dishwashing soap all over your body every few hours your entire life. It seems impossible for me to avoid poison oak without living a completely cloistered life. It seems I need to avoid ever petting a dog, avoid sitting in someone else’s car, avoid everything in nature.

      • Dr Jim says:

        You are correct to point out that in some cases urushiol can be carried by pets or via other sources to people who have not knowingly been working around the palnt. Although not explicitly stated, my video is mainly aimed at people doing work in the outdoors who may come into contact with it while working and therefore can take action through the day to reduce the load. Thank you.

        • Patty Rech says:

          This is such great material, Jim. I got my first case of poison ivy about 6 weeks ago at the ripe old age of 68. I had no idea what it was, but researched everywhere so I at least knew what it looked like (I had no idea it could get as big as that big thing in your video – holy moly). I found it later at the edge of the wooded area behind my home, but I had not been *NEAR* it in the previous weeks. Baffled how I got it.
          But I echo others about how to know if you’ve been exposed to it. I repeat – I had no contact with where I found it behind my home when I contracted the stuff. I would understand if I had gone tromping through it during my spring cleanup/trimming, etc but I had not.

          So…what I am extrapolating is that for me, after yardwork, make sure to toss off and wash all clothing immediately (shoes? how to address those?), and use Dawn in my ensuing shower, washing 3 times bodily with a cloth (which is what I use, anyway) in the shower…am I getting this right? Paying close attention – this is such great stuff, Jim.

          Also – as a sidebar…in doing hours and hours of internet info research, Dawn was suggested, but the application was not explained – it sounded as if one should apply the liquid directly to the itchy, irritated area. I did. No effect. So thank you for this wonderful clarification.

          I finally got rid of it, after almost a month. I cannot take Benadryl, as it lays me out for 3 days, even a half-dose of OTC. But it was interesting to see there is a Benadryl topical available – obviously, you see I am a novice at PI – ha!

          Thank you for any response to my queries. I hope I never, ever get this again, and will do what you tell me in preventive measure.

          Best from Atlanta,

          • Dr Jim says:

            Patty; Shoes are the toughest thing to deal with. I have several pairs of contaminated shoes. I do nothing to treat them. I simply treat them as contaminated and never touch them without washing. They are kept in a muc room and used only when working in the woods.

        • Michelle von Koch says:

          I have 3 outdoor cats–who clearly are the source of the blotches of PI thatI have on my face, arm,, torso and back. Think they slept on the clean laundry, because I’ve not seen or touched the plant this year.

          Have been wondering about alternatives to bathing and scrubbing them–Wondering if fur hs different absorbtion qualities that might allow grooming them with flour or sawdust–or using baby wipes which have alcahol and detergent in them.

          Doesn’t fur absorb oil differently from skin? Might there be a way to remove the U oil that’s an alternative to bathing?


      • Wendy says:

        I agree with the hot water shower. Darn that feels good. I suddenly started having bad breakouts after decades of none. I suspect the dog contributed to this, but after reading last year about rubbing alcohol, I haven’t had any breakouts for a year. 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water in a squirt bottle, spray anything you think may have come in contact with poison ivy, wait a minute and wash with soap. It’s been working for me so far, knock on wood.

    • Betty-Ann says:

      Betty-Ann: I and all of my children grew up in MA, in areas where there were lots of woods and trails. I KNOW I taught them all at an early age “Leaves three-Let them be”, something I learned as a Girl Scout. But sometimes if you haven’t seen it in many years I guess you forget. One son who moved to CA 30+ years ago came back to visit. Walking a trail near his brother’s house he spotted some ‘pretty’ red leaves, and was about to pick them. Thank goodness I was with him. In the Fall, and maybe other times, Poison Ivy leaves often will turn RED. Jim made no mention of this. Please be aware—if the plant has 3,only 3, leaves stay away from the area.

  26. Kim Dorman says:

    I appreciate the information in this post. I have a mango tree in my yard and Everytime I tough a mango I break out from the clear sab. It’s the same stuff in poison ivy. I must rub my eyes after washing my hands and my face blows up and eyes swell shut. I will make sure I have gloves on and wash hands better. Thank you

  27. Bud Rutkowski says:

    Good information about the nasty oil residue. Thanks.

    BUT what do you do with the wash cloth afterwards. Can it be laundered ?

    BUT what do you do with the clothes that you wear when working in the ivy patch ?

    But what do you do with the ivy leaves that you have cut out from along the home fence ? Does the oil ever break down ? Does Dead ivy always have oil ?

  28. Linda McParland says:

    VINEGAR my dear. I use vinegar.

  29. Susan says:

    There’s one thing that wasn’t explained. How do you clean the washcloth after you use it? Thanks!

    • Dr Jim says:

      Just throw it in the washer with a standard household detergent.

    • Wendy says:

      I might try vinegar in the last rinse of the load of laundry suspected of oil on it. If what others are saying about vinegar. I use clear vinegar all the time to wash wool, (gets the soap out). For the vinegar believers, are you using cider or clear?

  30. Diane Moore says:

    Could you please change your picture to depict poison ivy? I’m not for sure what plant this is, but it’s not poison ivy. Thanks!

  31. tad says:


    This is great. Thanks. I have horrible reaction to a plant called Virginia creeper as do other people in my family but not all of us. We’ve read that only 25% of gen pop will react. In any event do you believe friction will help the same way as urushiol removal? It is everywhere around us and to find a way to prevent, remove or treat it would be wonderful. If you have any knowledge or info that is great. Thanks, Tad

    • Dr Jim says:

      Although I am aware that some people are sensitive to VC I have not studied the mechanism of the reaction and therefore cannot comment.

  32. paula says:

    I used to suffer horribly from it. No question that I had to get a prescription for steroids when I came in contact with it. Someone told me to take large doses of Vitamin C (it is a water soluble vitamin so your body will expel what it does not use) several times a day. I have done this ever since at the first sign of a single blister and it has never progressed. I generally take 1,500 mg, 3 times a day for 3 days.

  33. Bridget says:

    What about washing washcloths or clothes in a HE washer? There isn’t the same volume of water in the washer as the standard type, and I wonder if the oil would just be spread to the other clothes more efficiently. You also can’t add too much extra soap or Dawn to the load because it messes up the sensors in the machine. Does anyone have experience with getting fabrics oil-free in an HE machine?

  34. jan says:

    Thank you for this information. I am highly allergic to poison ivy. I already do these things. I wash using Dawn and loufas, top to bottom including my scalp several times. When I’ve been exposed to poison ivy away from home (hiking, park), I use the hand sanitizer and a washrag. I scrub up several times then, and still go through the shower routine when I get home. I also usually go through the washing up process again the next morning. Guess what? I still break out with the poison ivy rash. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get rid of the poison ivy without steroid treatment.

  35. Richard says:

    I use Grandpa’s Pine Tar soap; I pat dry, not rub dry. I am highly sensitive to P.I. but like you over the years have found simple non-oily soaps are better in washing the P.I. oils out of skin. I also use a powder laundry detergent in my washing machine when washing suspected clothing of P.I. I have found that using liquid laundry detergent spreads the P.I. oils around on the clothing being washed.

  36. Betty says:

    thank you for this info! I have just got over the nastiest month long case of poison ivy I have ever had! It is absolutely the worst misery! Wish I had seen your video 2 Dr visits, 1 hospital visit and lots of $$$$ on supplies ago!! Lol will definitely be taking your advise next time I think I am exposed!

  37. jj says:

    We can’t always bag or spray the ivy we spot in the yard – and don’t always remember it, later. Last week, I got some of those flags that the gas company uses in your yard, to mark their their lines. I’m going to keep some in the F+Bk yard, to mark the plant. May be more trouble than it’s worth?
    I was never allergic until I was 30. I had it a few months ago. I had knee pads on, and the leaves snagged on the upper edges. Not pretty!

  38. Dawn Marie says:

    Thanks very much for your great video. With a compromised immune system, I was told on 3 occasions I had severe”systemic” reactions to poison ivy and sumac. I grew up in NH where poison ivy most often is in groundcover form with 3 shiny reddish green leaves and sumac is a small shrub with RED stems,oval parallel leaves and pretty, tiny pink flowers. I learned the hard way about the potency of urishioil; On a long hike in the White Mtns.,I was biten by many hoseflies, especially around my eyes and nose and had a reaction to the oil residue on the insects! I’m very wary of these plants and tried to educate my family and friends about poison sumac as the majority don’t know what it looks like! I have also inhaled the poisonous smoke from a brushfire burning an area covered by sumac, Not good!
    I now live in Beaufort county in the lowcountry of South Carolina and often explore the beautiful natural areas, tropical forests and my own backyard.After watching your video I can now identify poison ivy in it’s much larger form. Please continue your efforts to educate and encourage us to coexist with nature.
    I am unable to find any accurate pictures of poison sumac, oak and ALL the forms of poison ivy that grow in the southeast coastal area. Please help and Thanks again! I appreciate your learned advice.

  39. Glenn says:

    Great video. Have you noticex a degradation in the effectiveness of the soap and the friction when the skin is wet versus dry. I have used technu prior with mixed result and have noticed that they say to apply to dry skin.

  40. Karen Sturdevant says:

    Thank you for this great information! I am severely allergic to poison ivy. I caught it from the wind once and from a person another time, plus other times from actual contact with the plant. When I told my (former) dermatologist about the allergy, he said, “Okaaaay.” Thank you for your interest in helping. I never want to have another case of it again. It spreads everywhere. My first day of third grade was spent with an eye swollen shut. I was denied entry somewhere too as a child. Yes, I enjoyed reading others’ stories.

  41. Stephan says:

    I’ve always been allergic to poison oak, but a couple of years ago I unknowingly got into some poison oak. Didn’t wash, didn’t do anything. And I got so ill. I had to go to the hospital finally and get some shots and creams. Now I’m TERRIFIED (slightly irrationally, I admit) of poison oak. I buy disposable tyvex suits once a year now, including shoe covers, and cut and kill any new growth. All tools are soaked in a bucket of bleach afterwards. I keep a robe by the washing machine and immediately wash every piece of clothing I was wearing, including my shoes. I haven’t gotten it since then, so precaution pays off.

    One thing…growing up we used a cheap laundry bar soap called Fels-Naphtha after exposure. It’s been around for over 100 years to get rid of oily stains in clothes. I now keep it around again and clean myself (will try the rubbing thing!) and grate some up with a cheese grater and put it in the laundry if I think I’ve been exposed. Or if I looked at a poison oak plant for too long and expect that it somehow spit some urushiol at me 😉

    • Wendy says:

      Fels-napth was the cure when I was a kid. They have changed the soap. Now it’s a soft yellow. Doesn’t work the same. I do use it as a precaution on my dog’s feet if I suspect he may have made contact.

  42. Jim Fellows says:

    I have some serious concerns about the information in this video. I would recommend instead that the science of reactions by our immune system to urushiol oil is far more complex than presented here; if the author is the expert he claims to be he would know this and never recommend such a simple minded “this will work for everyone” approach. In his particular case he would at least mention that at his age and after so many exposures it is not uncommon for the immune system to greatly reduce it’s reaction to urushiol.

    I you were thinking to buy Dawn dishwashing detergent after watching the video I would suggest that you use that money instead to purchase a used copy of the best source (but out of print) of accurate information on urushiol reactions in humans: The Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Book by Thomas E. Anderson. Perhaps your library may still have a copy.

    As for the author of this video: I can’t claim to understand his motivation. Not everything he says is completely wrong, just wildly irresponsible in its presentation; there are some small glimpses of things you need to be aware of, but presented in such a misleading and unhelpful way as to put people at serious risk in dealing with what can be a very serious allergic reaction to this otherwise harmless oil. Just because I can eat peanuts doesn’t mean they won’t kill someone else if they shake my hand when I have peanut oil on it.

    Yes, goats can eat urushiol: it is also a nutritious oil, and birds love the berries too. But your own immune system is capable of killing you for being foolish and uninformed around urushiol. The answer to the questions you have will not fit in a short video, but they are available.

    Washing is essential, and this video gives you a tiny bit of the knowledge you need about this, but not nearly enough to be safe. Pages 60-65 in the reference cited will clearly explain the problems with this presentation and summarize several medical studies that show how few minutes some people have and why saponification of the oil with soap and the terrible mistake of using hot water may be your worst enemy.

    Any serious understanding of urushiol comes with a great deal of humility, caution, and awareness of the unpredictable nature of how our immune systems will react to exposure at any given time — the opposite of what this video promotes.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Jim Fellows you are welcome to your opinion. However, this video was not concerned with immunology, so your comments about immunology are misplaced. My discussion is related to removal of the native oil from the skin. Once it penetrates and is oxidized there is nothing you can do to prevent the reaction from happening if the patient is sensitized. The immune mechanism has nothing whatsoever to do with the process of transport of the oil. It involves delayed hypersensitivity of the oxidized urushiol AFTER it has already penetrated the skin. I maintain, and strongly believe that if urushiol were not invisible, reactions would be extremely rare.

  43. Yvonne says:

    My mother and I both get systemic reactions to poison ivy. I do literally catch it out of the air, as I did this Spring when my husband pulled it out of a flower bed while I was close by pointing it out. The only areas exposed were my face and I had sunglasses on and a strip about 2 inches wide on my arms between my gloves and shirt/jacket. I immediately showered afterward using the Technu. Within a 2 days, I was broke out on my face, waist, arms, stomach, backs of my legs. It was the same symmetrical spots on both sides of my body. It gets so bad, many times I have to go get a steroid shot & take meds for days afterward, as I did this year. I’ve always scrubbed after a chance for exposure, but in more recent years, my reactions are worse. I agree with your preventative measures, but know first hand it can go systemic. Oddly enough, I never get it on my hands or on the front of my legs. I’ve fought it for years and my shower is loaded with products to fight it. Another soap to use is Fels Naptha – a laundry soap that has been around for years. Great for removing spots on clothes too.

    • Dr Jim says:

      You somehow got it on your skin either from touching your husband or something he touched. It cannot go through the air and there are only rare reports of systemic reactions, mainly from obscure Korean Journals regarding people who ingest urushiol. As a scientist, I give little credence to those papers. It will help you immensely in the future if you recognize that it will only affect you if you touch it rather than thinking it is magically transporting through the air. It isn’t. It may be spattered on you, or it may be carried on particulates coming from a fire, but it does not travel through the air.

      • Susie says:

        I enjoy your matter of fact responses Dr. Jim & thank you for this site. I am hyper sensitive and hike and do yard work and, son has a dog, and other son likes to run into the woods and touch everything in the house on the way back in, and, and… I am pretty careful, use medical gloves for shoe removal, scrub as soon as I can. But, I have found that here and there I forget I touched my cell phone, then rubbed an eye, before scrubbing and then “forgot.” Or, rather got a little lazy. And sometimes, when my son brings it in unbeknownst to me—life is particularly rough.
        In response to the “it must be systemic” folks, I know from experience that where it touches in great amounts is worse. If there is some residual oils (i.e. on a cell phone for instance) then I touch other areas but don’t break out until later and then not as badly. But IT IS where I touched. Or a doorknob, or a tool or whatever. Those who believe it spreads through the blood stream need to read empirical studies before defending that they couldn’t possibly got that spot on their right butt cheek from their right thumb while wiping!!
        IRT to your video, luv it! I have been appreciating the lesson in “friction” for some time now. Also, when I do get a reaction do to poor removal or unknown contact, I find that the only relief from itching is Tecnu Extreme Woods scrub for me (usually every 3 hours for several weeks and then sometimes just in morning and before bed in week 4 and 5. The homeopathic ingredient work for me. I have tried virtually all the old wives tales decades ago; hairspray, urine, etc., to no avail. I have long ago refused Prednison, although that is what I need due to the ravenous side effects, 30 years ago and the empirical studies that show macular degeneration for long term use. As much as I am careful on the trail, etc. I had 3 back to back bouts last year totally 4 months of misery. I won’t go into detail re. the crazy things I do to avoid others on the trail who sit in the stuff and then want to share some jerky. I respect the tiniest drop of urushiol.
        Also, I have found normal washing to be effective for my clothing. Thx again for the time that you put in to all of this. I still read comment after comment later in life in hopes of some modern medicine or new cure. NOPE!! Even went to doc once 6 bouts ago to ask doc about any new protocols. She wants to give me steroids. not my thing although I had the grinding pain. what I did finally also start taking during the first several weeks in really bad cases that kept me up at night was Zyrtec EQ, 10 MG. Doc also gave Rantitidine (ZanTAC EQ) twice a day for day time use to help with itching. WORKS. I hate taking meds period, but when super bad, it is a living hell. Ahh, back to my point, I read this comments to know I am not alone in the world. and I hope my comment might help someone who gets a bad case and wants to avoid the internet urine recommendations. skip it. If you are hyper allergic and managed to get against all best efforts, take meds (just not necessarily steroids if you get often, yikes! To all fellow sufferers, I feel your pain!!!!

    • shelly says:

      I agree about systemic! …Im no scientist, but I can assure you Ive been covered, evenly, with the rash from head to foot…not one inch of unaffected skin!!!

  44. Gregg Anderson says:

    Thanks for the tips- both my son and I are massively sensitive to PI- my question is- how do you wash the washcloths?

  45. Samantha says:

    I am so terrified of poison ivy that I have nightmares about it. Last year I got it so bad I had to go through 3 steroid packs for treatment. My yard has a lot of poison ivy and I am so afraid of getting it again that I am afraid to go in my yard or touch anything green. I am very allergic. I had it all over my entire body. I can’t even do yard work now; I have to hire other people to pull weeds for me. I bought all of the soaps and treatments for poison ivy. The problem is I contaminated everything before I knew I had been in contact with the poison ivy. My body still turns red and rashy when I take a shower because it remembers where the rash was the worst. It lasted almost 2 months before it went away. It even got infected. It was terrible.

  46. Mary Alice says:

    I am in the woods all the time, and never get Poison Ivy. I am careful in the woods, avoiding it if possible, then I drop all clothing (shoes, too) into the wash when I get home (and do a tick check while I am at it) then get a shower. I am going to add your suggestions to my routine, so thanks for posting this.

    I am far more concerned about Wild Parsnip, which is becoming more and more abundant in our area. Do you have any knowledge around this? I do basically as I would for Poison Ivy, even rinsing off in the field wherever I can find water if I know I have come in contact with the plant. I know that it is sun activated, which is why I act right away, but I wonder if friction might be a benefit or not.

  47. Mojo Bone says:

    I suspect that if you had NOT made this discovery, you’d be immune to urushiol, by now; my father-in-law is a leading naturalist and birder and has had poison everything so often and for so long, it no longer affects him in the least. He’s ninety-four, and I often see him pulling the stuff out, bare-handed.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Mojo your FIL is very lucky. Obtaining a resistance after having reacted to it in the past is possible but very rare. One sensitized, most people will react to it whenever exposed for the rest of their lives.

      • Erik Danielsen says:

        I wonder to what degree that rarity might be just a function of frequency and intensity of exposure? I had strong reactions as a teenager when my exposures were always to a large amount on an episodic basis. More recently I have almost daily minor exposure through both work and recreation, and used to be religious about a cold water wash within the hour but have the last year or so simply ignored it. I occasionally get single “pre-rash” bumps, usually on my hands or wrists or ankles, which I don’t itch and disappear within a couple days. I’m just 24 at this point, so it may be that age is less the factor in tolerance than that chronic minor exposure can result in tolerance (at least to similarly minor exposures) in some individuals.

        • Dr Jim says:

          Some people develop a tolerance to urushiol. You should count yourself lucky but at the same time I would avoid all exposure because you very well could respond to it aggressively again. Good luck!

          • Erik Danielsen says:

            Certainly, I avoid exposure as prudently as possible but do count myself lucky that its inevitable occurrence isn’t too consequential for the time being. Things can change, I know.

  48. Herschel says:

    I keep a bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol in my tool box. I use a rag or shop towel with the alcohol anytime I think I might have been exposed and at the end of the day. That has seemed to work for me.
    Let’s talk about notching trees so they don’t hang on the stump…….that can be dangerous!!

  49. Anne says:

    What about the oil on your clothes? What is the best way to wash and remove it?
    Water temperature, soap/detergent, air dry, dryer, you mentioned getting it from tools that can be wiped down, but what about clothing, is there something special on should do or consider?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Hi Anne. Standard detergents and wash cycles are more than sufficient to remove all urushiol from your clothing and washcloths.

  50. Brent says:

    Good to know.

    Someone should come up with something you can spray on yourself that will react with the oil and make it visible. I just got a bit of poison ivy this weekend, and I scrubbed and cleaned, and still have a couple small spots break out

  51. KB Smith says:

    I hike daily with my two dogs where poison oak is everywhere. I never touch it, but they brush against it and I get it from touching them. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to effectively remove any oils from their coats short of bathing them after every walk? (not a realistic proposition for my time constraints).

    • Dr Jim says:

      KB this is a tough one. I doubt there is a reasonable way to get it off daily, so the best means for you is probably avoidance. I would keep the dogs on leash when near PO, and release them to run freely only in a location where you know it is not present.

  52. janice says:

    This may have already been addressed in the comments as I didn’t read them all,but I was wondering what you do with the wash cloth after you are done washing? It must have some of the oil, could you “reinfect” yourself by touching the washcloth?

  53. Michelle says:

    Do you have any recommendations for detergents to wash the washcloth and contaminated clothing with?

  54. Peter Gelinas says:

    A great number of years ago (60’s) I read an article (perhaps by Euell Gibbons?) that suggested you eat a small amount of poison ivy every day as it starts to grow in the Spring. This would bolster your tolerance to the reaction to poison ivy.

    • Dr Jim says:

      While tolerance can be achieved results are highly variable and the procedure is very, very risky. I do not recommend anybody trying it on their own. It is a good way to find out what it feels like to lie in a hospital bed for a few days.

      • Darlene says:

        My husband swears that because he ate some poison ivy he never became allergic to it. But he has rashes of other types and has an allergic type symptom to other things. And our daughter was born allergic to everything. Is there anything logical about eating poison ivy to become immune to it?

        • Dr Jim says:

          When you are immune to it you get the rash. He currently has a lack of immunity to it if he does not get it when exposed. He is playing Russian Roulette if he exposes himself thinking he won’t eventually react. While there is some underlying science supporting tolerance induction by regular, sustained ingestion of urushiol, it is dumb and dangerous to eat the poison ivy plant, and a mistake to think you have induced tolerance because you ate it and did not react. It often takes many exposures to create a reaction. When he does finally react, he may end up getting to know some Emergency Care people. Tell him to be careful.

    • maria says:

      Well, first off the poison ivy today is NOT the poison ivy we had back in the 60s. We used to get it ALL THE TIME and it was gone in a couple of days, not a big deal EVER. Now it is because of the increased carbon in the atmosphere and poison ivy is not only everywhere but more potent. My friend who is a landscaper explained this to me and it makes sense because the last time I got it a few years ago I ended up in the ER and it was the most horrible case of poison ivy they had ever seen. I avoid it but LOVE being in the woods and outdoors so now I am more confident that I wil have a way to stop the spreading before it gets bad. Thanks!

  55. Xanithar says:

    Gonna get blasted for this but i use household bleach when i know i have a rash that is about to spread. It dries it out completely. Sure its not good for your skin but it works dab nab it

  56. Mike says:

    A couple of questions and an anecdotal story. First the joke around my house is I get this stuff just by looking at a picture of it. At one point as a kid my Dr looked at me and asked if I knew what poison ivy looked like. I was covered with rash at the time. I said yes. Doc then says then stay the hell out of it! I have gotten it in January with a foot of snow on the ground cutting firewood. Old dead vines still held the oil. The worst case was when one of the neighbors was burning and the smoke blew over to our property. That time it was in my, mouth, nose and eyes as well as most of my body. Nasty stuff that. Last I was in Louisiana as a kid visiting and managed to get it all over my feet. The old woman who was in her 90s at the time said to take some of the fresh cream right after milking and wash the area well with it. As a health care professional and knowing how allergic reactions work this makes no sense to me. All I can say though is it cleared up in a couple days.

  57. Nancy Morris says:

    Great tips! But unfortunately the clothes you wear also get the urushiol on them. I had a break out a year later wearing the same sweater that I had worn pulling a few dead “vines” off the fence. And because it was on the sleeve of my sweater, not only did my arm break out (again) but also my hip (again) on the same side (through my jeans!) from my arm rubbing while walking. Be aware.

  58. Carin says:

    What should I do if my gig runs through it?

  59. maria says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!! You are a HERO!!!!

  60. hnf says:

    I wonder if he’s ever tried a waterless grease/oil remover like goop. Its formulated to remove oil porducts from skin and just about anything else. Mechanics use it. Its fast and a very effective degreaser made for skin…

  61. Doris Willis says:

    I burned PI years ago and was told that for 7 years I would break out if I just got near it. I had problems with it for years and could just dri e down the road and they could be clean burning and I would break out with a bad rash. I still after 35 years still can not be near it or I will have to go get Medici e from the DR. So be very careful around it

  62. Ivey Jackson says:

    Chlorine is very helpful to rid Poisin Ivy. I had a friend very allergic to PI. In summer, he jumped in a Clorinated Pool. I shower immediately after golf or jaunt in the woods that works very well.
    If I do find PI whelps on my skin, I scrap with knife for dots of red (blood), then rub with cotton soaked in Clorox…gone the next day…not recommended for the face.we should all appreciate your advice and book.

    • Dr Jim says:

      I HOPE NO ONE FOLLOWS THIS ADVICE TO ABRADE THE SKIN WITH A KNIFE! Although chlorine may remove urushiol from the skin and or neutralize it, it will do nothing once the reaction has started. Nor will abrading the skin with a knife or any other mechanism help once the reaction has started. It is dangerous and may lead to an infection. There is a very straightforward and safe way to reduce the reaction, and that is to apply heat to the area.

  63. David Thomas says:

    So many important ideas in this video and they are well presented.

    I had screamingly bad cases of Poison Oak until I learned to reliably ID it (Summer and Winter!) and stay out of it. Then, upon finding myself also suffering Contact Dermatitis to English Ivy, I learned to wash myself thoroughly after exposure. Doing that, as the video author states, I could work in it without fear, as long as I had time and a place to wash completely afterwards. While I agree that some soap / any soap is better, I have had been successful with water when that was all I had – water and vigorous rubbing of the exposed areas. Anything – a garden hose or pond water, I would use as soon as possible. And, if hours later, when soap and water was available, I’d wash again.

    2-week-long attacks, blisters oozing plasma through your skin and constant itching are powerful motivations to avoid another case of dermatitis at all costs.

    In addition to “Don’t burn it. Avoid smoke at all costs!”, I’d say, be careful about atomizing the Poison Oak oils into the ivy. Don’t use a chainsaw or weed whacker. Use clippers to trim PO and PI without the potential of spray the oils into the air (and into your eyes, nose, or throat).

    Also, and perhaps TMI, previously while doing field work, I’d drink a lot of fluids. Drinking a lot means peeing a lot. One’s groin is a really bad place to get a PI/PO rash. It’s happened. To me. So now I dial back on the fluids and am rigorous about washing thoroughly before using the toilet facilities.

    I question a little bit the “2 to 8 hours”. My sense is that thicker skinned areas might be safe for quite a long time, but I’d be very concerned waiting 8 hours if the thin skin between my fingers, my inner arms, or groin had been exposed.

  64. Robin says:

    I just wanted to give a little info for anyone who is sensitive to urushiol. If you get severe reactions, STAY AWAY FROM MANGO PEELS!!!! The mango plant has urushiol in it’s sap and can be on the peels of the fruit. It’s the largest cause of contact dermatitis in Hawaii. I learned this the hard way.

  65. Bill little says:

    I have used the old Lye soap for years. Get a bar go and use cold running water, work up lather and rub it all over skin with poison ivy, etc exposure to, do not rinse walk away and let dry. If you see rash or bumps on skin go wash them in Lye Soap. Used it for years. No itching, blisters, or any thing else! It works. The red bumps will go away in a week. Wash once a day, for three days. I keep many bars on hand. Be sure it is the real stuff. Sort of a gray brown color.

  66. Marie says:

    Could you work on a lotion or oil that we could put on our hands and arms before going out that would turn red wherever the urishol might be?

  67. Jola500 says:

    I’m one of the lucky few. I touch it, handle it, dig through it, walk though it, wade through it dressed in shorts, and nothing ever happens. My 2 brothers and sister are the same way, totally immune to it, so I’m wondering if the immunity is hereditary. That would be worth some research, maybe.

    • Dr Jim says:

      There are two kinds of people in the world for the most part (with rare exceptions). Those who get it and those who haven’t gotten it yet (YET). My brother-in-law thought he was “immune” to it and handled it regularly throughout his life. He used to brag about it, right up until the day he ended up in the emergency room. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT think you won’t get it. Thinking that could lead you to the most miserable 2-3 weeks of your life. By the way, if you were immune to it it means you would get it. So far you have not set up an immunity to it but keep up with the continued exposures and you may become immune to it. Then you will be very sorry you messed with it.

  68. Julie says:

    Thanks for the tips! It is quite pricey, but Zanfel works wonders and eliminates the itch.

    • Dr Jim says:

      Zanfel does absolutely nothing to get rid of the itch once the reaction has started. If you do a search on the ingredients you will find they are ingredients in many other cleansers and detergents. It has little fragments of polyethylene in it that make you feel better while scratching. You pay about $30 an ounce for that feeling when you could by Mean Green Power Hand Scrub for $0.37 and ounce and get exactly the same feeling.

      If you get relief from using Zanfel it is probably because you ran hot water on the area while using it, or because of the placebo effect, not because of any of the ingredients in the Zanfel. It can do nothing to reduce the itch. If the ingredients in Zanfel could really make their way through the cornified layers of your skin (it can’t) you would probably have a worse reaction to it than to the poison ivy.

  69. jayne P says:

    I had my first ever horrible PI reaction not long ago. I became very fearful as our property has PI everywhere. Your video is very helpful and I plan to be diligent. My questions: should a cloth used to remove the PI oil be washed for reuse….or thrown away? Everyone was telling me that I could have deposited the PI oil everywhere I touched after the exposure and before the diagnosis. Can cloths used after PI exposure be completely and safely cleaned for reuse….or best not to risk it?

    • Dr Jim says:

      A single cycle in a family waher with household detergents will effectively remove all the urushiol from clothing.

  70. Gayle says:

    I currently have a severe case of poison ivy. Is there anything I can use to speed up the drying out of the blisters?

    • Dr Jim says:

      How water is by far the best method to reduce the amount of itching. There is no such thing as “drying up” poison ivy. It is an immune reaction happening in the tissues of your skin and it will not end until the urushiol slowly disappears. There is nothing you can apply to “dry it up” –that is all mythology.

  71. James Lehman, Jr. says:

    Oh the stories. My father could pull the stuff up with his bare hands. I got it by winking at it. So what did I do summers for college money? I worked as a surveyor. A surveyor goes where the line leads, no matter what is growing in the way.
    I learned early on that avoiding the rash involved three things: (1) Knowledge: Avoid contact (if possible!) with EVERY plant with three leaves in a group. PI can grow as a shrub, a little vine, a BIG vine choking out oak trees. It can be green in the summer, red in the fall, partially die back in the winter. The leaves and vines are not always of the same shape. I am of the opinion that there are at least three sub species of PI in our area, not counting Poison Oak, which is rare around here. Every part of the plant contains the urushiol, leaves, stem, roots. . Touching any part of the plant can transfer that oil to the skin. Likewise, anything that touches the plant that YOU touch can transfer that oil. THEREFORE, (2) Memory and Discipline: There were times when I rode home in the truck KNOWING I dare not touch my face or scratch my ear or … anywhere else until I could wash thoroughly. AND wash the tools and instruments. I would put on gloves to untie my boots and CAREFULLY take off my pants and shirt, knowing that I had walked thru PI vines, even after cutting thru them with the brush hook, which also got washed with hose and detergent. Wipe off the truck seat and armrests, too. My boss and fellow crew understood and often followed the same discipline. Clothes went in the washer and I did my own laundry, to my mom’s amazement. (3)Wash and clean: See above.
    I learned the hard way, sometimes, when I let my guard down or neglected a step. Wash and scrub the boots, too, and the laces…..
    I teach Scouts and have a set of PI leaves sealed in plastic . They are (I am not exaggerating) 28 inches across.
    “Leaflets three, leave it be”. You may avoid Jack in the Pulpit, trefoil, and some berries, but you will also avoid the PI.
    My old doctor told me this was my choice in treating the rash: Rub on the commercial salves and ointments, it will go away in a week or ten days. Wash regularly with strong soap and warm water, pat dry with a paper towel, it will heal in 7 days to a week and a half.
    Go Camping. Repeat as necessary for treatment of cabin fever.

  72. Steve Tobey says:

    Fels-Naptha heavy duty laundry bar soap is an excellent backpacking soap. Works well on your clothes and dishes and is an excellent urushiol oil solvent.

  73. Brian Sjogren says:

    When I was in Boy Scouts after we were in the woods all day we went to the lake and washed with Fels Naptha laundry soap with cloths on and no one ever got PI. It was a mandatory part of our camping gear.

  74. Michael says:

    Thanks for the sensible strategy. I’m definitely better informed now.

    As a kid, I too was exposed to poison ivy without incident. As an adult, I’ve had several cases working in the forest. One time I got what my doctor called a “systemic case” (i.e. throughout my body). I required drug therapy for about a month. What surprised me was his question during the interview. The question was, “Did you consume nuts that day?”. According to my doctor, the consumption of nuts after exposure to poison ivy can create such complications.

  75. CMR says:

    I never had poison ivy as a kid, but as an adult I’ve had my share of nasty outbreaks-I’ve even had to take Prednisone a few times. I’ve learned to shower immediately after working in the yard. I scrub with both Technu and Fels Naptha laundry soap. I’m not sure which one does the trick, but I haven’t had poison ivy in years despite spending copious amount of time outside. The extra $10 per year is worth it for me.

  76. Ivy Poison says:

    I would suggest not to wash with hot water since this will open the pores of your skin allowing the oil to enter and cause a rash. Cold water would be better.

    • Dr Jim says:

      I agree on the first wash but strongly urge folks to use hot water on two subsequent washes. Hot water will help remove any residual oil better than cold.

  77. K. Crossman says:

    Actually, I have a question. My gut reaction is that the wash cloth used to clean the Ivy’s oil, should be discarded or burned, never to be used again. Is that the recommeneded action?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Your washer and detergent are more than capable of completely removing the urushiol. In a normal cycle the rag is constantly agitated and immersed in strong detergents, so the rag gets a lot more thorough cleaning with stronger detergents than would normally be used on skin. There is no concern whatsoever about residuals after a full wash-rinse cycle.

  78. Sandy says:

    After washing off the oils can I throw the wash cloths in the washing machine. ..will they remove the oil or do I need to throw them out?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Just throw the wash cloths and any other contaminated clothes in the machine with any household detergent. It will remove it all.

  79. Ginny says:

    I had the worst and longest case ever when moving in to my new house. The fields were pastures of poison oak. Somehow it got on my shoes, then on my floors, then walking barefoot on floors and dogs doing same. Sliding in to bed, got it on my backside. Took MONTHS to get rid of the oils. I understand the oil maintains its strength for a hundred years.

  80. John Lind says:

    I’m wondering why I have to wait two hours in order to wash. If I was exposed an hour ago why do I have to wash within 2 to 8 hours of exposure? Can I not wash right away?

    • Dr Jim says:

      You don’t have to wait. The sooner you wash the better. This video was aimed at people who are working in the field and cannot wash immediately every time they are exposed. Two to 8 hours is a target period during which, if the residuals are completely removed, most people will not have a severe reaction. Severe reactions can be virtually eliminated in most people with a thorough scrubbing within a few hours of exposure.

  81. Courtney says:

    Great tips! But what about urushiol that accidentally ends up on dog or cat’s fur?

  82. LINDA RITCHIE says:

    thanks for the info…could have used this many years ago…i liked out my Point Pelee National Park south of Leamington Ont canada…my cat loved to hunt in the bush…so guess who pet the cat and got poisin ivy…i went to emerg 3 days in a row before the dr. there said i had it …by that time they had to put me on steroids to get rid of it…lesson learned…

  83. Buddy Walter says:

    Fifty years ago, after a day working on a farmer’s tractor, he showed me a sure way to remove the sticky grease easily: first, put household cooking oil on the spots of adhesive grease, and squish and rub. The tractor grease dissolves into the cooking oil–grease still there, but no longer sticky. THEN, use dish detergent, and it cuts away this brown mush easily. Rubbing with a washcloth gets the tough spots. If ivy oil is like tractor grease, it should dissolve the same way. I guess it would be good to use little cooking oil, enough to dissolve the grease but not enough to spread to new spots. So your recommendation for poison ivy seems right on, and I’d try adding a cooking-oil mixing stage to it. What do you think?

  84. Dawn says:

    Thank you Jim for the advice… I will heed it! I’m just getting over my 5th bout of pi this summer… Have had it for 8 weeks running:( and not knowing where it was coming from since I lavender farm naturally and hand weed in the field daily. Well just spotted it in my long establish flower beds by the house, in the garden, and in my rock wall. Somehow it invaded my space with out me knowing it. I’m armed and ready now! Must appreciated.

  85. I am in the woods in Missouri all the time. I don’t think I get a rash from poison ivy and walk through it all the time. What I do get which I have attributed to bugs (chiggers?) are tiny dots that are widespread that get a tiny blister on top and then open up into very deep sores. It affects me MUCH worse than anyone who is with me. Any thoughts on that? Is washing as you describe helpful in any way with bug bites? An antihistamine is the only thing that gives me any relief.

  86. Audrey says:

    My husband stepped on what looked like poison ivy. It was quick and possibly not significant exposure. I had him put his shoes and pants in a hot washing machine load. Was that okay to put shoes in there? We have a young son and don’t want his clothes getting contaminated. Is there a way to clean the washer and dryer? I didn’t relaize that the washing machine won’t remove it from shoes!!! Thank you.

    • Dr Jim says:

      People say that it won’t remove it from shoes but I don’t believe it. The detergents are very powerful and you go through wash and rinse cycles. Do not worry about cleaning the washer. The urushiol is carried out with the detergent and rinse.

  87. Cherry says:

    First, thank you for posting such good advice! Second, we have poison ivy along our driveway. It has been successfully avoided all summer but we are concerned about the changing seasons. We don’t want to use pesticides and can’t afford removal services. Plus it sounds like urishiol sticks around on dead plants. Should we be concerned about fallen poison ivy leaves blowing around our driveway? Could we pick up the oil on our shoes and track it through the house? There’s a pile of maple leaves covering some of the poison ivy right now but I’m terrified that we might step on those leaves. Poison ivy feels kinda hopeless to me 🙁 thanks

    • Dr Jim says:

      Just curious about why you don’t want to use herbicides. Something like Round-up (glypohosate) is safe for humans and pets but lethal for PI.

      • Cherry says:

        Thanks. We are always told to avoid herbicides around young children. I also understand that the chemical treatments don’t actually remove the urishiol.At this point, so many maple leaves are covering the poison ivy that it might prove risky to deal with by hand. My husband is allergic so I was hoping someone might know the risk level of fallen poison ivy leaves potentially blowing around. Overall, it just seems impossible to manage it now that it’s covered up by other leaves. I was hoping that I’m overreacting 😉

        • Dr Jim says:

          Yes, there is a risk from leaves blowing around. The risk to your children from herbicide treatment with glyphosate approaches zero (much lower than caffeine for instance in carcinogenicity tests), whereas the risk that children and pets may get a rash from either green or dried PI, or from pets brushing up against it, etc, is moderate to high if you sustain the plants in your yard. I strongly urge you to treat with herbicides. As a scientist I can tell you I have looked deeply into this subject and there is absolutely no evidence that glyphosate can hurt people (there are lots of scare sites on the web but these are all produced by anti-business and specifically anti-Monsanto fringe elements). If you fell in a vat of it you might drown but it cannot and will not hurt you or your children chemically even if used in great excess over the labeling.

          Glyphosate has a far lower risk to humans than many chemicals you find around your house such as detergents, cleaners, solvents, etc. Good luck if you do not choose to kill those weeds.

  88. Interesting and useful article for me thank you………..

  89. Sandy says:

    I am extremely sensitive to Poison Oak. You say that you have to come in contact with Urushiol to get it. I am a Boy Scout Leader and know I come in contact with Pois Oak from time to time and try to clean everything thoroughly but apparently have missed so spots. 2 weeks ago I work my hiking boots with low socks. A few days later I had 2 tiny blisters where my foot touched the leather at the top of the boot. When I figured out it was Poison Oak, I washed the area thoroughly (but not with a wash cloth) and have worn socks so as to not spread it. It has spread up my leg, it is on the other leg and has moved high up my thigh. I haven’t been close to the boots since see any other way that I could be spreading it other than the areas that have a rash. I try to bandage or cover the areas so it doesn’t spread but it always does. How do I keep it from spreading since I know I am no longer in contact with the original source?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Since it is an invisible oil, it is hard to say, but from your description you are likely repeatedly coming into contact with it from some source. For example, if you touched your billfold, belt, a door handle, or some other item after removing your boots, and retouch those items, you may get oil on you. There was likely a nice sized glob of oil somewhere on an item or a place on your skin you missed, and it keeps recontaminating you. Think about every item you had with you and how that item may have been contaminated or you may have touched it later. Remember, you don’t have to touch the plant to get it. If a deer eats some poison ivy, then nibbles on a maple branch, and you brush against that maple branch, you now may have a good dose of urushiol on you. It had to have gotten somewhere else besides the boots if you have not recontacted the boots.

  90. Paul says:

    Thank you for making the video. I will start having a “wash station break” every 2 hours. My question is regarding the face, neck and eyes. I volunteer and weed whip 6 miles of trail every April in California. I’m working for 4-8 hours and I sweat, so I’m careful with protectant. I use a full hooded Tyvek suit over light clothes, 2 synthetic balaclavas for the face and neck, along with plastic over the face mesh of a Stihl hard hat. Still, the pulverized PO and tall weeds get to my eyes. I’m even trying Vaseline or sweat proof suntan lotion. Goggles and gas masks sweat and fog. Next I’ll try my scuba mask. Any advice here?

    • Dr Jim says:

      Sounds like you are getting it covered by trial and error. I never had to go that far. The only thing I might add beyond the wash station is saline and do a vigorous rinse of your eyes. Can you build a plastic shield to place up high on the handle closer to your face? Used to hike a lot of trails in the Bay Area back in the 80s. Encountered a lot of poison oak there. Sorry I can’t help more but best of luck to you.

      • Paul says:

        Thanks for the saline tip. Yes, I bought some clear polycarbonate to extend a permanent wrap-around shield over the face mesh. Using sunglasses may help me see better without fogging. (The morning sun wouldn’t allow me to see where I was whipping.) I will also use the same plastic to expand the height of the whip guard. The rangers appreciate me!

        • Terry says:

          Possibly wear a logger’s hardhat with mesh faceshield? It breathes, but prevents most particles from hitting the face. Paired with close fitting safety glasses or spoggles, it helps.

  91. Terry says:

    Thanks for the helpful advice. I will be passing these techniques along to our field crews. If I can put in my 2 cents worth to contribute: We work extensively in areas overgrown with poison oak/ivy/sumac and the most effective weapon we have against spreading contamination is rubbing alcohol. Either straight, or mixed 50/50 with water in a spay bottle. We spray down everything that might be contaminated as a matter of course throughout the day. Tools, gloves, boots, vehicle interiors and floormats, pickup rails, even skin and clothing. It seems to break down the oil immediately, and we seldom have any case of rash. We also follow good hygiene protocols with soap and water for face and hands, of course. And Isolating potentially contaminated clothing before traipsing around the house. Taken together, the combined steps work like a charm.

  92. ali says:

    I get poison ivy a lot and constantly keep washing it but in getting for some reason a lot and I guarantee there’s no urusioil in my clothes neither my dog bc we just washed her is there anyway to keep all the urusioil out of my house

  93. Tara Garcia says:

    Although I may have attacked it too late. My puppy ran through poison ivy and apparently shared it with me when we lied down to sleep. There’s nothing like getting poison ivy in your sleep!! I woke up itching and did the scrub, but it’s still there. : (

  94. Gabby says:

    I keep reading that poison ivy can spread without touching the actual plant. If that’s true, why don’t people have poison ivy all the time? If animals frolic in poison ivy plants and run all over your grass, why aren’t we getting it from that? Everyone I know (not that many) that gets poison ivy has a memory of where they got exposed.

    • Dr Jim says:

      I guess everyone you know is not a large enough sample size. Just scroll through the comments on here and you will find lots of people get it and continue to get it repeatedly without being able to identify the source.

  95. Claudia M says:

    June – 2016, Midwest – THANKS SO MUCH for posting this!! as I am living in fear as the poison ivy on our home’s lot has grown wildly this spring. Loved the concept of this video, but hate to have to face a full body scrubdown with a rough rag/brush every time I go outside – I seem to pick up the oil from EVERYTHING in my garden. We’re doing the best we can to control the plants (I’m VERY ALLERGIC to this stuff) but it’s so dang hard!!

  96. richard wysham says:

    Call me crazy. When you’re exposed to poison oak/Ivy you’re outside walking or working. You sweat. That means your pores are open. That’s when the oil gets in your pores. Why would you take a cold shower? You’re sealing the oil in, not washing it out. If you take a hot shower your pores are open and you’re able to wash the oil off.What removes oil better? Cold water with soap or hot water with soap? I’ve kept from getting it by doing just that. And I used to get horrific cases of it.Everyone says I’m wrong. Shrug. I take a shower to clean my pores as well as my skin under normal conditions. Why would I completely reverse the normal process of getting any oil out of my pores and off my skin?

    • Dr Jim says:

      I agree completely with your advice to take a warm to hot shower to remove urushiol Richard. People make up lots of things about PI that seem to make sense but it is only because they view it as a mysterious thing, which it isn’t. Want to wash grease or oil off your body more effectively? Use hot water rather than cold water. It is dumb to use cold water yet that is what most people are taught and what most people do. By the way, an old trick of Forest Service workers is to spray exposed skin with antiperspirant (Sure makes a good spray odorless antiperspirant) to close pores.

  97. Amy says:

    Loved the video and comments. Passing along the info to my husband who seems to find himself with Ivy Oak and Sumac blisters every weekend in the summer (mainly because he enjoys “clearing” our property with chainsaws etc)
    Thank you

  98. Joseph Gorse says:

    I wonder if there are any chemical indicators which work with urushiol?

    Searches… It exists. It seems to be un- or under-commercialized:

    Visual indication completes the feedback loop needed to act.


  99. 24SevnLibrarian says:

    After skimming through all the informative posts and numerous other websites, I don’t believe I’ve seen any information on how to remove urushiol from carpet. I ignorantly picked up some sticks left from a pine tree that fell over my grandmother’s fence from the neighbor’s yard during a thunderstorm last fall. The tree had poison ivy growing on it and it took several weeks to work out the insurance details while the tree lay there dying. I promised my grandmother I would work on some things around her house last summer since she was no longer able to do them. She unexpectedly passed away before summer began, but I’m now living in her house and taking care of it. After the tree was finally removed, I picked up the larger sticks leftover but there are quite a number of 2″ – 6″ sticks half-embedded in the dirt. I stupidly started picking up some of those sticks a week ago. It didn’t occur to me to investigate how PI works until I started itching and seeing the rash begin a few days later. By then, I had walked throughout the house and touched everything. I have wiped doorknobs, tools, light switches, countertops, appliance knobs, etc., with alcohol and/or Dawn. I have thrown away the shoes I was wearing and washed countless loads of clothes and sheets, but I continue to see new areas of rash on my arms and lower legs. The carpet and the dog are the only things I can think of that might be re-exposing me. I can’t restrict the dog from a large center section of the backyard, and honestly, I doubt she is the source because it has rained multiple times in the past couple of weeks and she has been bathed twice in the interim. I cover the furniture with sheets and doggie blankets that are washed frequently. That leaves the carpet. Will baking soda absorb the oil? Or do I have to pay to shampoo the carpet? Luckily I have hardwoods in half of the house and they are not so hard to clean.

    Then, I need to figure out what to do about the sticks I didn’t dig out of the dirt yet. It’s a good thing I didn’t burn the yard to eliminate weeds and replant actual grass or I would likely be in a much bigger world of hurt right now. Obviously, I’ve now had a reaction so I would prefer not to risk this loveliness again. However, the yard still needs work that will involve aerating, etc., so I’m going to have to do something to eliminate any exposure to the oil on the sticks. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for any help. I am trying to learn as much as I can so I can get rid of this stuff (which is growing like crazy along with what is likely poison sumac in the very back of the neighbor’s yard near my side of the fence – and no, it’s unlikely I could get her to do anything about it. I just spray poison on it myself.)

  100. Brian King says:

    I am the director of education at Wilderness Skills Institute. We are in the field with poison oak exposure nearly everyday in the 300 days or more we are in the field. It is rare that our students get a rash from poison oak after that they learned the why and how to wash effectively after going into the field. We used to keep Zanfel or Tecnu in our staff and vehicle first aid kits. For the past 4 years we only keep dish soap and changed our P&Os to reflect that. In most cases we are only using the sand and creek water to wash when we have a known contact and have never had any of the students get the rash after doing so. We have shared your video for over a year and would like to include it in our staff training.

    • Dr Jim says:

      No problem Brian. I made it for anyone who wants to use it. Thanks for your nice comments. Friended you on FB.

      • Brian King says:

        Thanks Jim, Cal Fire is getting hammered this week with multiple fires, one in particular the Soberanes Fire near Big Sur (Monterey County). Many of our community members are fighting it. I just checked the incident status is now 46,700 acres & 25% contained. I am hearing again a major issue for the hand crews is poison oak. It has been a few years since I checked the stats, at that time they reported 30% of their Workman’s Comp was poison oak related. If you come up with a good PandO for fighting fire and urushiol, I would love to pass it on to my students. I get how difficult it is to keep urushiol scrubbed off in the conditions they are dealing with. Chew on it Jim. Thanks again.

  101. Patrick Barron says:

    Thanks–this is very helpful information and confirms what I discovered after many painful rashes. Once while bushwacking down a thickly wooded slope I stumbled into a giant snarl of poison oak, to which I am very allergic. I feared the worst, but then a few minutes later at the bottom of the slope found a small stream. I stripped down and vigorously rubbed sandy muck and water over my arms and legs, in essence taking a mud bath. I didn’t get any rash…

    • Brian King says:

      Patric, I am glad it worked for you. I am with Jim that diligence and scrubbing is the key. I work in the mixed redwood fir forest (should be called a mixed redwood poison oak forest) daily with my students, we truly are in constant contact with poison oak. I don’t react to urushiol but must be mindful that I don’t spread it to my students or my wife. Throughout my day I am scrubbing my hands with no more than the “clean dirt” under the duff before I touch anything just out of habit. I model the habit and ask the students do the same. With my seasoned students never a rash (or colds or flu, only the students that are also taking college classes are getting sick.)

      I had a several teen newbies join our 3 week total immersion wilderness camp. After I introduce myself I give them the PandP dealing with poison oak. I get the “I know, I know” Three days later I am taking a teen down the mountain to the doctor. Nothing teaches the lesson of cause and effect better than poison oak!

  102. DS says:

    Family and I recently was clearing out an area around home. Mostly honeysuckle vines, but there was poison ivy hiding with in. We didn’t realize until 2 days later when we starting to get the rash. WE have been trying to get it under control. Washing everything in sight and scrubbing down with dish soap and a rag. I am wondering what to do in the area we was working in. The large poison ivy vine is still there and small pieces are on the ground. If the oil is always in the plant whether alive on dead how to you ever get rid of it? Does touching the main large stem have the oil all around it or is it just when you cut into it? There are so many conflicting ideas regarding poison ivy and I don’t want to be paranoid in my home or around my yard. I still need to clean the tools that was in contact during the clean up. Thank you for any information and advise.

  103. Ginny says:

    My PI goes systemic and has lasted for months. The Doctor is needed for a steroid shot for the inside but I scrub with dawn and rub down with ANTISEPTIC to treat the outside. It’s amazing! Catch it early enough and you don’t even need the Doctor. I can’t believe nobody knows about this. Use a cotton pad or paper towel. Wet it with the ANTISEPTIC and rub skin every few hours. I keep a bottle at work too. Only a few dollars for generic brands.

  104. Abby boak says:

    Hi, I moved to Michigan last year and recently discovered a pi vine in my backyard creeping up my porch. Unfortunately the leaves hadn’t grown in so I didn’t positively identify it until 3 days later. I suited up to remove it but believe I reexposed myself then. Now (1week later) the primary rash is healing and the rash from removal is healing but I am finding new bubbles in between my fingers and on the back side of hand. I used the technu scrub with micro beads but NO washcloth. Is it possible I didn’t wash properly and have been reexposed by my own skin? My dog was also laying on a vine and then layed on the carpet before a bath. Should I was my carpets? Thank you

    • Dr Jim says:

      You need the friction of a washcloth to be sure to remove it no matter what solvent or cleaner you use. Yes, you should clean the dog and the carpet.

      • Sally says:

        Hi Dr. Jim-
        Thank you SO much for all of the information. We discovered a few poison ivy plants amongst the playset of our newly-purchased lake cabin last night. Our 4 and 2 year olds (the 2 year old was only wearing shorts and was barefoot) played there for about ten minutes before we noticed. We brought them in, but instead of a shower we gave them a warm (not hot) bath, about 30 minutes after the first possible exposure. We scrubbed them vigorously all over with washcloths and a bar of soap, rinsing only with water from the bath tub (it was about 5 inches deep). I’m paranoid that we spread it all over their bodies! Do you think we need to worry about this? Any advice for treating the rash in young children? As a teen, I got a poison ivy rash so badly that I had to take oral steroids (granted, I don’t remember showering until the day after exposure, and certainly didn’t scrub as you recommend). I’m so worried about them!

        • Dr Jim says:

          Sally it is possible to transfer it from them to you but if you were scrubbing with a washcloth probably didn’t. But you should clean yourself throughly after washing them. And it is better to do a shower than bath because the urushiol will be carried down the drain.

  105. Abby boak says:

    Thank you so much for the info. I am so glad I found your video. The hot water trick really helps with the itch.

  106. Maureen says:

    Thank you sooooo much for this information! You mention washing off from two to eight hours after contact. Does this mean that we would not wash off in the first two hours? Or do you mean simply washing off within eight hours?

    • Dr Jim says:

      You can wash it off constantly if you want but then you would not get any work done. Just stating a reasonable minimum time frame.

  107. Chris says:

    I work for a tree service in Michigan and now have to be an expert in identifying it. The Ivy will often overtake dead ash trees which we have to remove. I would get small but very annoying reactions on my wrists, forearms, around the waist and on the neck typically, even when using gloves and wearing long sleeves. I had one severe reaction that covered both arms which became swollen and got nasty blisters in some spots, it was on my neck and chest as well, I had to get a steroid from the doctor. Looking back I think that I either washed too late or that when I washed I essentially spread it all over my arms instead of removing it. Since then I do my best to avoid contact but it is inevitable. Thorough washing is the only answer, however what I find it that a chainsaw can “throw” the oil at me as it sticks to the saw dust, thus getting down my shirt, I’m now going to wear a shemagh to prevent the oily dust from getting to my chest and torso. Great video thanks.

  108. Patrick says:

    Dear Dr Jim. Got a severe reaction from cutting down Pepper Trees which produce the same oil as poison ivy. Taking prescribed steroids and the rash keeps appearing in new spots and I think I’m reinvented myself cause the oil is on my cell phone. The reason I say that cause I got a little irritation of the rash around the back of my ear and can’t figure out how else it got there. My cell was with me the whole time I was clearing the brush. What would be a safe way to wash the oil off the phone without breaking it? I tried a damp paper towel with dawn dish soap. Good enough? Please advise. Thanks!

5 Pings/Trackbacks for "How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again!"
  1. […] I don't have an extensive self-test on this yet, but I Will be testing it as I found it convincing: How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again! | Extreme Deer Habitat The Clif Notes version: Wash within 2-8 hrs, Everywhere the oil from the plant could have touched, […]

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  3. […] deal with it if we fail? Jim Brauker, a scientist, self-described wildlife enthusiast and author of Extreme Deer Habitat, says he’s found a simple solution to the poison problem, one that comes from his studies of skin […]

  4. […] deal with it if we fail? Jim Brauker, a scientist, self-described wildlife enthusiast and author of Extreme Deer Habitat, says he’s found a simple solution to the poison problem, one that comes from his studies of skin […]

  5. […] How to never have a serious poison ivy … – Scientist and wildlife habitat enthusiast Jim Brauker holding a poison ivy leaf. I am very allergic to poison ivy yet am no longer afraid to touch it because […]

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