Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center


Some suggestions on controlling poison ivy, oak and sumac plants. If you're lucky you may be able to fully remove the plants - I've only been able to get them under control.

*Brush-B-Gone / Roundup

Mixed it according to label recommendations, then you probably will get a good kill of the parts you sprayed. The first sign is curling and twisting (epinasty in plant physiology terms), and it may take a week or two to look real dead. Some resprouting may occur from areas of the root system that the chemical did not reach. Respray after these sprouts reach 8 or 10 inches (too soon and there may not be enough leaf area to absorb enough chemical). Triclopyr (the active chemical) is sooo much more effective on woody plants than Roundup. But it really does little to kill grass family plants, or rosette type weeds that are already bolting.
--(matson@NOSPAMawwwsome.com) submitted Jun/6/1999

We just bought a piece of property and it has poison oak. It is covering a huge granite rock about 8 foot tall and 30 foot around. It is also growing between the rocks to the height of 10 to 12 feet and also growing like a vine over the rocks. I got two spots the first time. It is maddening to itch like that. I went out and bought a gallon of round up. The kind you dilute with water to the correct consistency. I sprayed that huge plant. It has been reduced to dead leaves and dead branches. I used about one forth of the gallon to do the job. The gallon cost $85.00 but even though I am on a limited budget it was worth every penny. And I still have enough round up just in case it comes back up. Then I was clearing a spot on another part of our property and got it again. The first two places to break out were the ones where it was before and then it spread. Tonight I actually took a bath in diluted bleach. Tomorrow I am going to go spray that new plant. Thanks for your web site about the evils of poison oak and ivy. Naoma Hayes
--"ppainter13" (ppainter13@NOSPAMmsn.com) submitted 25/Jun/2002

I have found Brush-B-Gone foam to be the best product for complete, easy removal of Poison Ivy. It is sometimes hard to find, perhaps they're discontinuing the foam? One can removed all the Poison Ivy in our large backyard with one application per plant (including a vine running some 20+ feet up a tree, about 4" around at base), and because it's a foam it is much easier to not hit plants you don't want to kill.
--"J. Simon" (mnrsage@NOSPAMvisi.net) submitted 30/May/2003

My comment is about Round-up, and its use on Poison Ivy etc. Guys, Round-Up doesn't work!! It's just that simple. It kills the upper leaves, but the roots remain. This product is a complete rip, and we are wasting our $$. And not just poison ivy, round up won't kill grass long term. What does work? Pick axes, hoes, gloves you wear for roses, and washing in cold water within one hour of known exposure.
--"molly" (mollysimonds@NOSPAMhotmail.com) submitted 8/Jun/2003
Editor: It is true that you might have to re-apply round-up but it will eventually kill poison ivy completely as I now have acres of no poison ivy to prove it. I have had to repeat my applications up to 3 times on some very resilient plants over a summer. You will not kill the big vines though and will need to cut a segment and use a herbicide containing triclopyr for those tough guys.
Pick axes, hoes, and gloves are a sure thing. The other nice thing about your comments is that its better for the environment and doesn't cost any money! Thank you.

I have used Roundup, etc for poison ivy, oak, but the only thing that I have found to really "kill" poison oak or ivy is Brush-B-Gone!!
--"Lin" (linb5@NOSPAMhotmail.com) submitted 19/Jun/2003


*General Discussion

Contact with poison ivy can leave you with a rash and persistent itch. This native perennial grows throughout Virginia, in woods, fields, and sometimes in the garden. It grows in sun or shade, and in wet or dry places. Its growth habit depends on where it is growing, resulting in a trailing ground cover, free-standing shrub, or a vine supported by trees, shrubbery and fences.

All parts of the poison ivy plant contain an oil, urushiol, which causes the allergic reaction. Most poisoning occur during the growing season when the presence of lush foliage increases the chance of contact, but the dormant stems and roots of the vine can cause winter poisoning as well. Individuals vary in their sensitivity to poison ivy, but repeated exposure can lead to increased sensitivity. It would be a good idea for everyone to avoid this plant.

Poison ivy appears in many forms. The leaflets vary in size, glossiness, and marginal notching, but always occur in groups of three. If you avoid all unknown plants with leaves composed of three leaflets, you will be playing it safe.

Poison ivy is difficult but not impossible to eradicate. The chief difficulty lies in the chances of becoming poisoned when trying to remove it. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, whenever you are working near it. Pulling and grubbing are effective means of removal, though they necessitate close contact and will probably need to be repeated once or twice for complete control. If time is not an object, the vines can be smothered by completely covering them with black plastic for several months. Do not mow the plants as this will spew bits and pieces of poisonous material over the area. When removing poison ivy, take frequent breaks to change clothes and scrub thoroughly with a strong soap. Wash contaminated clothing separately. DO NOT BURN any plants that you physically remove. The resulting smoke can cause severe lung damage if inhaled.

Herbicides are effective and allow you to control the plant without getting too close to it. Several commercial products are available. Check labels to find one that will control poison ivy, and apply it as directed. Many of the herbicides for poison ivy control contain glyphosate. This chemical is systemic. It is absorbed by leaves and transferred to stems and roots, and slowly causes the death of the entire plant. It must be applied to an actively growing plant for this process to take place; do not apply it during a drought when even poison ivy will not be growing. Glyphosate, like most herbicides labelled for poison ivy removal, is nonselective and will kill any other plants it contacts.

Where poison ivy has grown up tree trunks or into hedges, cut the vine at ground level. Remove as much of the stump and roots as you can with a hoe or by pulling. As regrowth occurs, apply an herbicide to the leaves, or keep pulling up the growth. With perseverance, and probably of few itches, poison ivy can be controlled.
--(f_rushingr@NOSPAMccsvax.sfasu.edu) submitted May/21/1994


*Household mixtures to kill poison ivy plants

Here is one I found. Mix 3 pounds salt with 1 Gallon soapy water; spray the solution on the plant's leaves and stems. I have also used a combination of roundup and letting nature choke the plant (ie. wild rose) myself.
--Editor (July/27/1999)

I'm an environmentally sensitive landscaper and landscape designer with a good deal of experience in eliminating poison ivy from the landscape. And, little as I like the prospect of using an herbicide, out of considerations both for my personal health and for the environment, the only way I've found to get rid of substantial colonies of poison ivy is by the careful and responsible use of herbicide.

You can remove a single young plant or two by grasping it through a plastic garbage bag and pulling it up root and all. Turn the bag inside-out over the plant, and it's done. (You may have some growth return from broken roots, but can get rid of them in the same way.)

Glyphosate--the active ingredient in Roundup and Rodeo--is sometimes recommended for killing poison ivy. Because its active ingredient breaks down quickly, I initially tried to use Round-up, but found that plants could recover from as many as six applications over two years. Others with whom I've compared notes also describe similar experiences. I've only used the product as sold, with glyphosate.

The only thing that seems to work, in my experience, is a herbicide containing triclopyr. I've used Ortho Brush-b-Gon with a great deal of success. If I'm careful, I find I can spot-treat individual plants without doing much damage to what's growing around them. For greater accuracy, instead of spraying you can paint the herbicide directly on the leaves.

I hate to sound like a spokesperson for Monsanto. This company has many sins to answer for. And, as I've said above, I'm reluctant to use herbicides. But this product really does the job.

Use it with respect. Read the label and follow the directions religiously. Wait for a day when the winds are still. Don't use it in or within ten feet of a wetland. Use rubber gloves, and be careful not to breathe the spray. Wash up thoroughly afterwards, and put your clothes in the wash right away.

I strongly recommend against using salt to kill plants. Yes, we use salt in our food. But in the environment, in the quantities required, it's toxic and persistent--much more so than Roundup or Brush-b-Gon. It does not break down, and will continue to kill anything planted on the spot until it's thoroughly leached away--a matter of years even in regions of high rainfall. And even then, it continues to be a hazard, as it leaches into the groundwater. Using it is much more environmentally damaging than using herbicides whose sale for the purpose is allowed by the EPA.
--Don Galbreath submitted 23/Dec/2000
Editor: Thanks Don for an excellent discussion! I have been using Roundup exclusively here on a little more than 2 acres and while it takes repeated spraying I have had reasonable results because it contains the ivy long enough that other more invasive plants can choke it out. I am in year 4 of what I call my experimental program and would call it a success this far given that I have elminated about 1/4 acre of just poison ivy plants. I have to completely agree that the Ortho Brush-b-Gon product is incredible and I apply it with a paint brush to all large old growth stems.

"Glyphosate" will kill it. It I guess is the active ingredient in systemic killers. I wonder if it can be bought "over the counter" instead of in "round-up", etc.
-- Jeff (jzibrat@NOSPAMnb.net) submitted Jul/27/1999

Here is my way of getting back at that nasty plant and you don't have to spend alot of money...you need:

1 cup of salt,
8 drops of liquid detergent,
1 gallon of vinegar,
combine the salt and vinegar in a pan heat it up to dissolve the salt pour into a spray bottle and kill away. Warning this will kill all plants that you spray so don't spray anything important good luck.
-- Eddie Shaughnessy (eddie337@NOSPAMhotmail.com) submitted Jul/13/2002


*Large Area Control

I use the following on poison ivy, if it is in a place where I want to get rid of it:
  1. Growing in an open area (ie. field, etc.) - Mow it with the brush hog. After a while, if you mow it regularly, it will die.
  2. Growing up a tree - Cut the vine. If it is really big, use a chainsaw. If it is smaller, use what we call "nippers" (long handled shear like tool).
  3. Occasionally, if it is growing in a place where either 1 or 2 won't work, I spray it. For example, sometimes it will grow on the side of an outbuilding, but the vines are too small and numerous to cut easily. I use concentrated roundup diluted in water to the manufacturer's specifications and spray it. It always works for me. As far as getting rid of the rash, only time works for me.

--(Rob Gray@NOSPAMAlpha.injersey.com) submitted Jun/26/1999
Editor: I use a similiar approach but choose to use a bow saw for the big vines as I am worried about the chainsaw throwing more oil around.



Goats. Goats do an excellent job of cleaning out poison ivy and other unwanted brush, especially when its growing up in the fence line.
--(Sojourner@NOSPAMnotime4@summer.spam) submitted Jun/21/1999


*Mulch, Tarps, Pulling

I've taken out long-established vines with trunks as big as your arm with but two or three strategic, thorough cuttings and a bit of digging and pulling. I carefully note locations of major vine colonies in the middle of winter here, when they're easier to see and brittle to cut as well. One had completely covered a large stone retaining wall, at the bank to the ramp to the main barn loft. In winter I removed major sections of matted vines from the stones, after cutting all along the perimeter of the wall. I threw mulch hay along the top of the wall and it killed the poison ivy there without further ado. I knew that there'd be a good burst of new growth from the base of the big vine I chopped away and dug out, but part of that would be mowed as part of the yard and the other would be the rest of the project. More runners would pull up as the ground thawed, too. Then I waited until the leaf growth was as good as it could be before the seeds form. I cut the vines twice each with a sharp action of the corn knife, two or more inches apart, digging aside the cut section. That takes only minutes. I usually let it rot in place or at least wilt down to a dry brown before removing it to a composting area for ornamental, non-food uses. The seeds are a big source of food for birds and end up under trees to a large extent, so thick mulches can be used in places where mowing isn't practical, as long as they don't extend right up to the trees. I search for separate smaller vines and pull them to find all their branches. It's often easy that way to get most of the ivy in a big area just by first locating a small number of well-spread vines. I have a spading fork, rake, and hay hook that I use to lift stubborn vines rather than cut into the dirt with the knife. I also use nippers to finish off each and every smaller sprout in the area. At most I'll check it to remove any resprouts, once, later in the season. If I remove a plant I replace it with something else, and I'll mulch heavily and position the replacements once I see that the growth is all browned out. This is a plant that gets as indignant as any hothouse ornamental if you demonstrate your willingness to cut away at it with some persistence. It enjoys thick mulches even less. Hell, I've killed some vines just by dropping scrap visqueen and tarps on them, which do the job in a season or two and can be hidden under mulch until removed. One big cluster of vines used to live under a spot where I subsequently stored a couple tons of cypress bark, but it didn't seem to thrive at all once it was under a few feet of slow-rotting mill byproduct ...
--Muleskinner (green@NOSPAMtristate.pgh.net) submitted Jun/28/1999


*Never Burn Poison Ivy

Bag the plants, roots and debris in plastic, then take to the dumpster or land fill. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER try to burn poison ivy out or add to a burn pile. Smoke can and will carry the poison. This does damage lung tissue and can lead to a long hospital visit or death. If you ever do burn out an area of brush, stay out of the smoke. There may be poison ivy that you don't see.


Remove from other Items

Hi,Just wanted to thank you profusely for your site. Tons of useful information (more than I got from WebMD.) Most useful were the pictures (instead of the illustrations you tend to find elsewhere) which helped me realize I had more than one kind/growing habit of poison ivy growing in my yard. It took awhile, but eventually I found possible ways of washing the oil off my upholstry (you can't exactly throw a possibly contaminated couch into the washing machine.) Perhaps, if you've the time, a "section" on removing the oil from more than your hands and clothing would be useful. And lastly, simply reading about others who have gone through the same suffering as much (and more) than I am, has helped mentally. Thanks again :-) and much praise for your site :-)--Heidi m., a sufferer in central New Jersey
--"Heidi M." (workheidi@NOSPAMhotmail.com) submitted 2/Oct/2002
Editor: I would think it would come off rather easily with any cleaner that is good with oil. Even plain old water. The problem with the skin is that once the oil bonds, it is very difficult to remove. Not a problem with furniture, tools, etc. Anyone else?


Ammonium Sulfamate

I'm fascinated that in all your site and the other sites you hotlink, there's absolutely no mention of ammonium sulfamate, sold under the trade name of ammate among others. My 'job' when visiting my grandparents in ipswich was to fill up the 2-gal pressure sprayer every morning and roam around their 75 ac looking for p.i., and I did that for many years. Like glyphosate, it needed several applications at two-week intervals, but in my experience it was very effective. I know enough chemstry to appreciate its relative safety, and in my experience it's extremely selective, killing only the p.i. I can remember spraying it on a vine growing through a highbush blueberry and seeing only the p.i. leaves wilt. I'm very !$!#!$ that it seems to be completely unavailable now - perhaps because it's too cheap and commodity-like to be profitable when glyphosate and triclopyr can be sold instead? I'm tempted to try making it. I don't think it'd be too hard. My other grandmother swore by phenolic soap ['fels naptha'] for removing urushiol before the itch started, back in the '60s.
--"andrew hay" (adh@NOSPAMan.bradford.ma.us) submitted 26/Jun/2003