What Items Should I Wash When Crossing Poison Ivy or Oak?

A closer look on a set of various gardening tools placed on backyard grass.

Exploring the great outdoors is a wonderful way to unwind and connect with nature. However, the risk of encountering poison ivy or oak can dampen your adventurous spirit. These pesky plants can leave you with a nasty rash, thanks to an oil called urushiol. But fear not, knowing what to wash after crossing poison ivy or oak can help you avoid an itchy situation. Let's dive into the essentials and ensure you're well-prepared for your next outdoor adventure, feeling confident and reassured.

How Poison Ivy/Poison Oak is Spread

Poison ivy and oak spread through urushiol oil, a potent allergen found in all parts of these plants. This oil is incredibly resilient and can cling to various surfaces for a long time. It's important to note that urushiol oil can cause a rash even after it's dried, so it's crucial to remove it promptly and thoroughly to prevent a reaction.

  • Direct Contact: Touching the plant directly is the most straightforward way to get the oil on you.
  • Indirect Contact: Urushiol can stick to gardening tools, shoes, clothing, and even your pets' fur. When you touch these contaminated items, the oil transfers to your skin.
  • Burning Plants: Burning poison ivy or oak releases urushiol into the air, which can land on your skin or be inhaled, causing severe reactions.

Understanding these pathways is empowering, as it highlights the importance of prompt and thorough cleaning to prevent the spread of urushiol oil. By taking immediate action, you can effectively protect yourself and others from the potential discomfort of a poison ivy or oak rash.

Essential Items to Wash After Exposure

After spending time in areas where poison ivy or oak might be present, it's crucial to clean various items to prevent the spread of urushiol oil. Here are the key items to wash:


Urushiol can easily transfer to your clothes. After an outing, remove your clothes carefully to avoid touching any contaminated areas. Wash the clothing separately in hot water with detergent. For a more thorough cleanse, trust in the effectiveness of Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser. Saturate the unwetted clothing in a bucket or dishpan, let it soak for several minutes, and then launder as usual.

Gardening Tools

Tools and equipment can harbor urushiol oil long after your encounter with poison ivy or oak. To clean your tools, wipe them down with a cloth soaked in Tecnu Original. This will help remove the oil and prevent any future contact with contaminated surfaces. After wiping, make sure to rinse the tools thoroughly with soap and water to ensure all the oil is removed.


If you walk through poison ivy or oak, your shoes are likely to pick up urushiol. Clean your shoes by wiping down the exterior with Tecnu Original, ensuring you cover all surfaces, including the soles. Rinse with water to remove any remaining oil.


Pets can become contaminated by urushiol oil and transfer it to you without being affected themselves. If your pets have been exploring, it's crucial to give them a good wash to remove any urushiol they might have picked up. Wipe down your pet's coat with a cloth soaked in Tecnu Original, then follow with a pet shampoo and water bath to ensure all the oil is removed. This will help prevent the spread of urushiol from your pet to your household.

Door Handles and Other Surfaces

Urushiol can transfer from your hands to door handles, steering wheels, and other surfaces. Wipe these down with a cloth soaked in Tecnu Original to remove any lingering oil. This is especially important for frequently touched surfaces to avoid spreading the oil to others.

Miscellaneous Items

Items like backpacks, camping gear, and even your car's interior can harbor urushiol oil. Use Tecnu Original to clean these items thoroughly to prevent any future contact with the oil.

How to Prevent Poison Ivy Spread

Prevention is your best defense against poison ivy and oak rashes. Here are some essential tips to help you stay safe:

  • Identify and Avoid: Learn to recognize poison ivy and oak plants and steer clear of them.
  • Protective Clothing: Wear long sleeves, pants, and gloves when hiking or working in areas where these plants grow.
  • Wash Promptly: After spending time outdoors, wash your skin, clothing, and gear as soon as possible. Tecnu Original is highly effective for this purpose, helping to remove urushiol oil before it causes a rash.
  • Care for Pets: If your pets have been exploring, give them a good wash to remove any urushiol they might have picked up.

What to Do If You Get Poison Ivy

Despite your best efforts, you might still find yourself with an itchy rash. If you do, it's important to cleanse the affected area immediately. Use Tecnu Original to remove any remaining urushiol oil from your skin. Follow up with a topical treatment like Tecnu Rash Relief or Calagel Anti-itch Gel to soothe the itching. Avoid scratching the rash as this can lead to infection; try to keep the affected area clean and dry.

NOTE: If the rash is severe or covers a large area, seeking medical advice is recommended as additional treatments or medications may be necessary. It's worth noting that a severe poison ivy or oak rash can cause significant discomfort and may require medical intervention, so it's best to take preventive measures and act promptly if you do get a rash.

While the rash from poison ivy is not directly contagious, the urushiol oil that causes it can spread through contact with contaminated objects, skin, or pets.