How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains From Clothes and Shoes

How to Remove Poison Ivy Stains

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 10 hrs

The unpleasant effects 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 using 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 contact with 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 year or longer. The only way to get rid of the toxic oil is with a thorough washing with detergent and water.

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 to 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.

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-bristled 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. 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 and Water Temperature

    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 may want to wash a third time.

    Tip

    If someone in your family is highly sensitive to urushiol oils, you should run a cleaning cycle in your washer 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 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 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, 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 two cups of hot water and two tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the inside and outside of the shoes and any separate insoles. Be careful not to get the items soaking wet, but be 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 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.

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.