How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes and Shoes

how to get rid of poison ivy on clothes and shoes

The Spruce

The unpleasant results from a brush with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac may last for days, weeks, or even months. Fortunately, taking care of poison ivy-exposed clothes, shoes, and boots is simple and effective, but it requires taking a few precautions. The same cleaning techniques recommended for fabrics exposed to poison ivy can be used to remove poison oak and poison sumac.

The itchy rash that most people get from poison ivy is caused by a clear, sticky, oily resin called urushiol. Urushiol is found in every part of the poison ivy plant, throughout the year, and can remain active on dead and dried plants for two to five years. Unwashed clothing, shoes, and other items that are contaminated with urushiol can cause allergic reactions for one to two years. The only way to get rid of the toxic oil is with a thorough washing with soap and water.

Stain Type Oil-based
Detergent Type Standard laundry detergent
Wash Temperature Hot

Before You Begin

When it's time to wash poison ivy-exposed items, it is best to handle them while wearing vinyl or thick cotton gloves, or pick up the soiled items with a clean, heavy cloth to avoid contact with your skin. Urushiol can penetrate rubber, so thin latex gloves do not provide reliable protection.

Also, be sure to clean the laundry basket or hamper that contained the clothes after loading them into the washer by scrubbing it with some detergent and hot water. If you're lucky enough to have someone else help with laundry, be sure to warn them that the clothes may have been exposed to poison ivy.

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes

Cleaning washable items in the washing machine is the easiest way to get rid of urushiol.

Project Metrics

  • Total Time: Washing time for two or more wash cycles

What You'll Need


  • Laundry detergent


  • Vinyl or heavy cotton gloves
  • Washing machine
  1. Put on Some Gloves

    Protect your hands and wrists from potential exposure to urushiol by putting on vinyl or thick cotton gloves (not rubber/latex gloves). Vinyl gloves can be cleaned afterward with hot water and soap; cotton gloves can go right in the wash with the affected clothes.

  2. Begin Filling the Washer

    Set the washer for an extended or heavy-duty wash with the hottest water the clothes can handle (check the care label instructions). Add your regular laundry detergent to the water. Be sure to use a load size that is suitable for the amount of clothes you're washing—not to large and not too small—to ensure thorough agitation in the wash water.

  3. Add the Clothes

    Drop the affected clothes into the washer after it fills about halfway. Let the wash complete its cycle.

  4. Wash Again

    Repeat the wash cycle again, with new detergent, immediately after the first cycle is complete. If you feel that the contamination of urushiol is significant, you may want to wash a third time.

  5. Dry the Clothes

Play it safe by air drying the clothes. Two or three washings should get rid of the urushiol, but it any traces remain, drying the clothes in the dryer can contaminate it. Once you've worn the clothes without a problem, you can wash and dry them as usual with all of your other laundry.

Wash Your Washer

If someone in your family is highly sensitive to urushiol oils, you might want to run a cleaning cycle in your washer and wipe down the outside carefully with a chlorine bleach and water solution.

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Shoes

With items like shoes and leather and sheepskin boots that cannot be tossed in a washer, you must clean them by hand to get rid of the toxic oils. For this job, it is particularly important to wear gloves (either vinyl or heavy cotton) to protect your hands and wrists.

Project Metrics

  • Total Time: Washing time for two or more wash cycles

What You'll Need


  • Liquid laundry detergent


  • Vinyl or heavy cotton gloves
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Cloth
  • Leather conditioner (optional)
  1. Prepare the Shoes

    Put on protective gloves, then unlace each shoe and pull the tongue out as far as possible. Take out the insole if it is removable.

  2. Wash With Soap

    Mix a solution of hot water about two cups of hot water and two tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the inside and outside of the shoes any separate insoles. Be careful not to get the items soaking wet, but be sure to clean every surface.

  3. Rinse and Dry

Rinse all surfaces of the shoes and insoles with a clean cloth dampened with water. Place the shoes in a breezy, cool spot out of direct sunlight or heat, and allow them to dry completely; it may take several days. If the leather seems stiff after the process, ​treat it with leather conditioner.

The best defense for poison ivy is to either stay clear of the plants or get rid of the plants permanently if they are in an area you use often. Poison ivy is a perennial that grows back from the roots every year and spreads through underground runners, which help it multiply. While it may take several attacks, it is possible to remove poison ivy completely from most home landscapes.