The unpleasant results to your health from a "brush" with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac may last for days, weeks or months. Fortunately, taking care of poison ivy exposed laundry is simple. The same cleaning techniques are recommended for fabrics exposed to poison oak and sumac.
How to Wash Poison Ivy Exposed Clothes
When clothing, hats and shoes come in contact with poison ivy, oak and sumac plants, the same oils that cause skin irritation remain on the surface of the fabric or leather.
The oil must be removed or it can continue to cause problems and even contaminate other surfaces.
To remove the urushiol oils and decontaminate clothing, wash with your regular laundry detergent at the highest recommended water temperature for the fabric. Do not overload the washing machine and allow clothes to agitate freely. The urushiol will be suspended in the water and will not transfer to unexposed clothing areas in the load before being flushed away.
For items like leather shoes that cannot be tossed in a washer, you must hand "wash" the shoe's interior and exterior to get rid of the oils. Unlace the shoes and pull the tongue out as far as possible. Mix a solution of hot water and regular laundry detergent - about 2 cups of hot water and 1/8 cup of liquid detergent.
Wearing rubber gloves - I can't emphasis the need for gloves enough - use a soft bristle brush to scrub the inside and outside of the shoes.
Don't get them soaking wet but clean every surface. Then using clear water and a clean white cloth, "rinse" the inside and outside of the shoes. Place them in a breezy, cool spot out of direct sunlight or heat and allow them to dry. It may take several days. If the leather seems stiff after the process, treat it with leather conditioner.
If you're lucky enough to have someone else help with laundry be sure to tell them that you may have encountered poison ivy. It is best to handle the clothes while wearing rubber gloves or pick up the soiled clothes with a clean cloth to avoid direct contact.
If the clothing is dry clean only, be sure to tell the folks at the dry cleaner. They will appreciate the notice!
The same goes for any automobile upholstery or carpet that has been exposed to the poison oils. Be sure to alert the professional cleaners.
Why Does Poison Ivy Causes Such A Problem
Poison ivy, as well as poison oak and poison sumac, produces a resin called urushiol. This clear, sticky, oily resin can trigger immunologic responses that usually lead to a rash that will need to be treated with over the counter products or by a physician. Urushiol is found in every part of the poison ivy plant throughout the year and can remain active on dead and dried plants for 2-5 years. Unwashed clothing can still deliver active urushiol a year or two later.
Clothing protects your skin from direct contact with the urushiol, but it can be a source of contact later. If your clothes have been exposed to poison ivy, don't rub against others or touch the outside of your clothing with bare skin. And if you used gloves to pull out poison ivy, don't touch exposed skin or eyes with the gloves until they have been washed.