What kills poison ivy?

A young red poison ivy leaves.

You’re walking around in your yard and find a familiar-looking plant. You take out your phone and do a quick search. The results prove it—you have poison ivy. You’re wondering how to get rid of it; simply pulling it like a common weed isn’t an option—or is it? Let’s dive in and figure out what can kill this pesky plant and how to get rid of its remains.

How to identify poison ivy

Poison ivy isn’t very easy to spot. There are several similar-looking plants that you might think are poisonous plants but are, in fact, harmless. The old saying is, "Leaves of three, let them be." This is a pretty good rule of thumb, as poison ivy leaves will grow in threes with numerous shapes. However, they sometimes will be in leaves of five or seven, so it’s important to stay alert and cautious. Check out our pictures of poison ivy plants to help you identify them easier.

Things you should never do to poison ivy

Getting rid of poison ivy is a must when it comes to your backyard or property. You wouldn’t want your family, friends, or pets having a nasty run-in with the plant. But you must be careful not to treat it like any common weed. Here are a few things to avoid when getting rid of poison ivy:

  •  Using a weed whacker - The ease of using a weed whacker might be tempting if you find the plant growing on the ground. And who doesn’t like to blast through a pesty weed?  But if you use this tool, you and the tool will end up covered in urushiol, the oil that gives you a rash.
  • Burning it – While this could seem like the fastest way to get rid of pesky poison oak and ivy, you’ll end up inhaling the vaporized urushiol, which can cause a severe systemic allergic reaction. Imagine a severe poison ivy rash, except in your lungs. Again, DO NOT do this!
  • Not wearing protection - This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people take on poison ivy with minimal protection. Wear long pants and long sleeves, something disposable if possible, and non-absorbent clothing. Use disposable gloves, and for those who are very sensitive to the plants masks and goggles are also recommended.

How to kill poison ivy

Depending on the amount of poison ivy you’re handling, you have numerous effective ways to eliminate the pesky plant. From easy-to-find items around the house to the most effective plant-killing chemicals, here are the best ways to take care of your poison ivy problem:

  • Pull it - The easiest way is to pull it from its roots. If you’re not surrounded by it, simply get a knife or spade, wear some protective gear and remove it. You can then compost it or toss it in a plastic bag, label it, and get rid of it accordingly.  A common tip is to place a plastic bag over the plant and then pull it into the bag. Tie up and dispose of the bag without having to touch the plant. You must pull the roots if you do not want it to return.
  • Toss boiling water on it! - If you don’t want to risk it and, just like above, the amount of poison ivy isn’t too significant, you can kill it with hot water. While burning is a no-no, blanched poison ivy won’t release any poison smoke. Using boiling water can take several tries so this may not result in immediate removal of the plant.
  • Cover it - Smothering the plant with plywood is an effective way to kill it. Similar to the way grass dies when covered, your poison oak or ivy plant will do the same.
  • Herbicide - If the poison oak and ivy surrounds you, chemicals become the only option! Brush Killer and Roundup make products that are effective against poison ivy and is relatively easy to spread. 

Regardless of the method you choose to kill poison ivy, we highly recommend that you wear protective gear when handling the plant.

Useful products to have handy when dealing with poison ivy

Whether enjoying the outdoors or working hard to keep poison ivy growth at bay, you will need a backup plan just in case you get exposed to the plant’s urushiol. Tecnu produces the most effective products to remove the oil that causes rashes. Washing with Tecnu Original, Tecnu Extreme, or waterless Tecnu Detox Wipes will help keep your time outdoors enjoyable.