How to Clean Poison Ivy Off Shoes and Clothes

After 1 Wash, You Might Need to Do Another

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 10 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $20

Learning how to clean poison ivy (as well as poison oak and poison sumac) off shoes and clothes is fairly straightforward and effective, but it requires a few precautions. The itchy rash that people get from poison ivy contact is caused by a clear, sticky, oily resin called urushiol. Urushiol is found in every part of the plant, and it can even remain active on dead and dried plants for two to five years. Unwashed clothing, shoes, and other contaminated items can cause reactions for one year or longer.

The only way to get rid of the urushiol is with a thorough washing using detergent and water. Here's what you need to know about cleaning poison ivy off your clothes and shoes.

Before You Begin

When it's time to wash poison ivy-exposed items, 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 transfer from items and penetrate rubber, so thin latex gloves won't provide reliable protection. If you don't have gloves, wash your hands with hot, soapy water immediately or use a specially formulated wipe, such as Cutter Poison Ivy Wipes, to remove the poison ivy oils.

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 other people use your laundry space and supplies, be sure to warn them about any items that contacted the poison ivy.

Stain Type Oil-based plant toxin
Detergent Type Standard laundry detergent
Wash Temperature Hot
0:58

Click Play to Learn How to Safely Remove Poison Ivy Stains

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Removing Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes

  • Vinyl or heavy cotton gloves
  • Washing machine

Removing Poison Ivy Stains From Shoes

  • Vinyl or heavy cotton gloves
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Cloth
  • Leather conditioner (optional)

Materials

Removing Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes

  • Laundry detergent

Removing Poison Ivy Stains From Shoes

  • Liquid laundry detergent

Instructions

vinyl gloves and detergent

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes

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

  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.

    Using your gloves, drop the affected clothes into the washer.

    put on vinyl gloves when handling poison ivy stained clothes

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  2. Choose the Washer Settings

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

    choosing a wash temperature

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Wash Again

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

    Tip

    If someone in your household is highly sensitive to urushiol oils, you should run a cleaning cycle in your washer after washing contaminated clothing and wipe down the outside carefully with a chlorine bleach and water solution.

    rewashing the garment

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  4. Dry the Clothes

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

    line drying fabric

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Shoes

With items like shoes and leather or 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 heavy gloves to protect your hands and wrists.

items for cleaning poison ivy affected shoes

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  1. Prepare the Shoes

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

    handling the shoes with gloves on

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  2. Wipe With Cleaning Solution

    Mix a solution of 2 cups of hot water and 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the inside and outside of the shoes and any separate insoles. Be careful not to get the items soaking wet, but make sure to clean every surface.

    using a brush to scrub the shoes

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  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.

    letting the shoes air dry

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

The best defense for poison ivy is either to 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 might take several attacks, it is possible to remove poison ivy completely from most home landscapes.

Watch Now: 8 Facts About Poison Ivy You Need to Know

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Allergens: Poison Ivy / Poison Oak / Poison Sumac. Johns Hopkins Medicine.