Monthly Archives: November 2015

How to Wash Clothes with Poison Ivy


The bad news is that you’ve been exposed to poison ivy. Obviously this is no fun; poison ivy is a truly unpleasant and painful experience. Its ability to negative impact your life goes beyond the rash. Once exposed to poison ivy, you’ll want to wash all exposed clothing to reduce the chances of experiencing yet more pain!


You are most likely to come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak while hiking or in the woods. One of the easiest ways to avoid poison ivy or poison oak is to stay on pathways, but the simple fact is that when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors you might not always want to stay on the “beaten path.”


Understanding “The Enemy”


Adventuring out into the best of the great outdoors comes with a little poison ivy risk, but there are steps you can take to reduce that risk. At the top of the list is wearing clothing that will protect your skin such as long pants and long sleeve shirts and in some cases even gloves. Of course, knowing how to spot poison ivy and poison oak is an excellent form of prevention. A picture is worth a thousand words. Using an image search tool such as Google Images or Wikipedia to see images of poison ivy and poison oak is very prudent move.


Time for Cleaning

washer and dryer

Once you have come in contact with poison ivy that means you’ll want to wash all of your clothing as soon as possible. The first step is to carefully remove and store any contaminated clothing so that you don’t have to touch them. When you do touch any contaminated clothing using gloves is a smart move. Rather shockingly, the problematic compound in poison ivy, urushiol, can stay active not just for months, but for years. This factor also underscores the tremendous importance of properly cleaning any clothing, including boots and shoes that may have come into contact with poison ivy.


Once you’ve removed poison ivy contaminated clothing, you’ll want to wash the clothing in a washing machine; however, it is very important to avoid cross containing other clothing in the process. This means transferring your poison ivy contaminated clothing directly from your “poison ivy bag” directly into the washing machine and then dispose of or wash the bag immediately. Don’t forget to either dispose of the gloves you are wearing or to use disposable gloves when handing poison ivy contaminated clothing and items.


Use Multiple Washings
When it comes to washing the clothing you should absolutely use soap and hot water. Additionally, you will want to be on the safe side and leave your clothing in the washing machine and perform at least three washings, perhaps even a forth washing for good measure. While this may seem excessive if you’ve ever experienced the irritation and pain of poison ivy firsthand, then you know just how memorable of experience it can be. In short, take every imaginable precaution.


Avoid These Mistakes

Next, don’t wash non-contaminated clothing with contaminated clothing. You will also want to keep the loads small as this will allow the clothing to agitate more easily and increase the chances of removing the rather sticky and persistent urushiol. You’ll want to open up the lid to your washing machine, set your machine and pour in detergent before putting on your gloves and removing your poison ivy contaminated clothing.

A failure to adhere to this step could lead to poison ivy contamination of your machine surfaces.  No doubt this is an easy mistake to make, but it is also one that can serve to spread the poison ivy. There are times to worry about water conservation but when it comes to successfully tackling poison ivy doing a couple of extra loads of laundry is most definitely in your best interest. If you are worried about the extra water used, simply skip a couple of showers!




Keep in mind that poison ivy is an expert at lurking in unsuspecting places. Poison ivy can make its way onto your hiking gear, jackets, the bottom of joes, shoe laces, car interiors, your bike seat, your backpack, your home’s rugs, seats or just about everywhere else. This serves to highlight the importance of immediately removing contaminated clothing and then thinking, quite carefully, about any objects you’ve come into contact with while wearing the contaminated clothing.


It May Be Time to Say “Goodbye” To a Few Garments


If you are thinking that the precautions are quite serious, you are, of course, correct. Considering the pain involved with poison ivy, there are many that feel the best option is to simply bag up and throw away any contaminated clothing. While this may feel wasteful, there is something to be said for this logic.


Ultimately the best choice for dealing with poison ivy contaminated clothing may be to simply say “goodbye” to the items and move on. If this is not a financially viable option then you may want to consider washing the contaminated clothing even more times than the 3 to 4 suggested in this article. Poison ivy is a uniquely painful experience and one well worth the price of even a favorite pair of pants to avoid.


Urushiol is oil-based and quite powerful. It doesn’t come out of clothing very easily and once poison ivy gets into your skin you are in for a rough ride. Remember that poison ivy most definitely earned its poisonous name. It must be treated with respect.

Posted by November 19, 2015 at 8:53 PM under Clotheslines and Laundry Home Living Tips