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How to Wash & Remove Poison Ivy On Clothing


Poison ivy is a plant that grows in many parts of the United States, and warmer weather tends to be the time when most people encounter this treacherous plant. Roughly 85% of Americans are allergic to poison ivy, meaning that a simple brush by the plant in your yard, on a hike, when camping, or just when you happen to be near some wild growth, can lead to weeks of painful and itchy rashes.

What Are the Effects of Poison Ivy on Skin?

For those who are allergic to poison ivy, contact with the plant can cause a rash, blisters, redness, or general skin irritation . A poison ivy rash is caused by exposure to a specific oil that the poison ivy plant makes, called urushiol. This oil is very sticky; it attaches to your skin, hair, pet’s fur, and clothing. If you properly clean your body, you’ll begin the process of ridding yourself of the rash. However, if you touch the clothing before it has been properly cleaned (or better yet, dry cleaned to ensure total removal of the urushiol), you can start the process all over again.

(Learn more about poison ivy and poison oak on the FDA website at

Instructions to Remove Poison Ivy From Clothing

Here are a few tips on how to properly clean clothing that has been exposed to poison ivy:

1. Contain Any Clothing Exposed to Poison Ivy

The first step is to contain any clothing or materials, including apparel, gardening gloves, baskets, containers, and tools, that have come into contact with the poison ivy. This is best done by placing all the garments in a plastic garbage bag immediately, so that the fabric doesn’t have time to touch any of your other laundry or furniture.

For your metal, plastic, or other non-fabric items like gardening tools, washing them with very hot water and a good cleaning solution should be enough to get the oil off of them. But for your fabrics, you may find it a little bit harder to remove the oil without a dry cleaner, because the oily substance isn’t water soluble.

2. Wash Exposed Clothing to Remove Poison Ivy

If you want to give washing your fabrics a go first, we here at Mulberrys have a few tips. First, be sure that you wash all exposed fabrics separately from any other clothing or fabric items. Be sure you wear gloves and long sleeves when handling the dirty items.

In order to get off as much of the oil as possible, you need three things: hot water, a lot of detergent, and a lot of time. You’ll need to put your washer on the hottest setting for the largest load setting, for the longest time setting. This sounds pretty wasteful, but it’s the most efficient way besides dry cleaning to remove poison ivy from clothing. Be sure you use a full scoop of detergent, and don’t fill the washing machine up. The clothes need room to be agitated so that all of the oil is exposed.

When you transfer the clothing to a dryer, you need to wear gloves again. The oils from the poison ivy are located in the water in the washing machine. If you are concerned about your washing machine spreading the oil, you may want to carefully wash the machine, or allow it to run empty for one load, before resuming normal laundry.

3. Consider Dry Cleaning as an Alternative

If you don’t want to take the risk of trying to wash clothing exposed to poison ivy yourself, consider taking your garments to a professional dry cleaner. The cleaning techniques available with a dry cleaners or laundry service is the best way to guarantee that your clothing is free of any poison ivy residue that may still be on your clothing items. Dry cleaning uses chemical cleaners that are not water-based, so they can easily strip poison ivy oils off of clothing without wasting water or causing you more work. However, please be sure to tell any dry cleaner that you hire if your clothing has been exposed to poison ivy so that they can take care to protect their employees. Mulberrys is an expert in removing poison ivy or other stains or unwanted materials from clothing, so be sure to contact our cleaning experts in Minneapolis or San Francisco today!