Can you spread poison ivy?

A woman is hiking around Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada.

So you just discovered that you have an unfortunate poison ivy rash, and you’re worried that you could spread this rash to your family. The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. Poison ivy and its relatives, poison sumac and poison oak cause this rash through specific means. Let’s talk about the plant, how it causes inflammation, and what you can do to prevent spreading it.

What is this plant?

Poison ivy is a vine or shrub found in woods, fields, and even your backyard that contains an oil called urushiol which causes a bad allergic reaction when absorbed by the skin. This plant usually grows in leaves of three but may look different depending on the location and season. The plant can also somewhat disguise itself as tree leaves if the vine manages to grow on trees without disturbance, so caution should be taken if you see even a single plant, as there could be more in the area.

How does poison ivy cause rashes?

As we stated above, it contains an oil called urushiol found in every part of the plant. Urushiol contains molecules known as haptens. These particular molecules tend to bond to skin cells, and while it doesn’t necessarily damage the cell, your immune system sees this as a threat and may have a reaction as a result. They attack the affected skin cell and cells surrounding it, and a chain of events happens, creating the pesky rash.

Urushiol is highly potent, so even a small amount of contact can cause a skin reaction.

How to prevent spreading poison ivy

You don’t actually spread the poison ivy rash itself. Instead, you spread the urushiol oil that causes the rash. If you have already developed the rash, it's more than likely than not that you’ve already gotten rid of the nasty oil that you had to worry about. However, if a rash continues to form in other places, you may need to clean up your clothes, tools, and other items that have oils on their surface. Tecnu Detox Wipes and Tecnu Original are safe to use on both tools and pets for a deep cleaning of your environment.

If you’ve become aware you’ve been recently exposed to poison ivy, you should do the following to avoid exposing others:

  1. Notify people around you that you have been exposed to poison ivy and to be cautious of their surroundings.
  2. Take off any clothes you suspect have been exposed to the plant and either dispose of them or put them in a different container from your other clothing to be washed separately later.
  3. Use Tecnu Detox Wipes to remove the urushiol from your skin as soon as possible.
  4. Avoid physical contact with anyone until you get home and take a shower with Tecnu Original.


Your rashes can’t spread poison ivy. Even the oils from your blisters won’t do that. Only the urushiol oil can cause poison ivy rashes, but by following the four steps above, you can rest assured that you won’t give anyone a rash. Whether you reach for Original, Extreme, or Detox Wipes, Tecnu is your number one choice for innovative outdoor solutions.