Effective Poison Ivy Removal*

Wait until right after (or during) a heavy rain, or soak the area down thoroughly before beginning to loosen roots. All weeds come out much easier when the soil is soaking wet.

Apply "Ivy Block" lotion to your hands, face, ankles, wrists, etc. Available at most drug stores, it forms a protective barrier against the plant's dread allergenic oil. Locate the store nearest you or order direct at www.ivyblock.com (lots of good poison ivy info there, too) or call 800-421-1223.

Wear heavy boots, protective goggles, long pants and shirt.

Do the plastic bag dance: Gather up all those heavy plastic bags usually used by retailers to send you out their door with their advertising emblazened all over them. (Forget the the thin grocery store bags, which are generally too thin and will tear, exposing you to the poisonous allergenic oil.) Slip a bag over each hand, locate where a vine enters the soil and pull s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y; the vine will come right up for you if the soil is wet enough. If it resists, have your helper soak the soil with a hose. Don't you (the puller) touch anything else - especially your face! When you get the root (or the vine finally snaps), enfold the bag around the vines (turning the bag inside-out), completely enclosing the poisonous material. Carefully tie the bag shut. In spite of the tendancy to economize and re-use bags, don't risk it! Start with a pair of fresh bags for every vine to be pulled. Repeat until all the vines and roots you can find are gone, then dump all the bags into a trash can or large contractor's trash collection bag for disposal in the trash pick-up. Your local municipal workers will thank you for not adding Poison Ivy vines and roots to the local vegetation recycling program, probably saving the whole community from exposure to the allergenic oil from your cleanup project.

Warning!!! Do NOT burn Poison Ivy vines!!! Doing so will inject the poisonous allergenic oil into the local atmosphere, and anyone breathing the smoke will likely develop the traditional rash inside their lungs! Getting the smoke in the eyes will produce the rash there too. As the oil-laden smoke settles on local environmental surfaces, count on anyone in the area developing the rash as it is unknowingly contacted in the normal course of living.
Summary: Never burn Poison Ivy vines!!!

When you're finished, assume that the outer surface of your clothing is covered with the allergenic oil, and Don't touch ANYTHING! Have your helper open all doors for you as you proceed directly to the laundry area and remove your outer clothing, directly (If it's contaminated, it will also contaminate anything it touches.) to the washing machine tub. Run them through a cold water cycle, without soap. Believe it or not, this oil is water soluable, so all you need do is rinse it away, with some agitation. While that runs, you make a bee line to your own shower or bath and wash any areas that might have been exposed with cool water. No soap, and no washcloth. Again, water dissolves the allergenic oil; soap and cloth spread it, maybe right to where you REALLY don't want it. Then take a regular, warm water shower, with soap, and if it's your custom, with a washcloth, louffa, or some other skin-stimulating substance.

Next day, go back to where any roots escaped you, and either: Suit up, dig down, locate, and remove what will likely be giant roots, or "mulch" those spots with heavy carpet, metal sheeting, or something equally impenetrable to deny access to sunlight for missed sprouts. Ivy, like all green plants, requires sunlight to survive. No light means that any remaining roots will die.

Immediately pull (as above) any new sprouts or spray them with herbicidal soap or vinegar. Without green growth, any surviving roots will die.


*This page compiled from various sources, but mostly from Mike McGrath's You Bet Your Garden show on WHYY radio, aired on Saturday, May 18, 2002. Check out his page on their site at www.whyy.org/garden for more great Bio-LowTech and earth/people-friendly advice, including extensive archives at the Philadelphia Daily News.

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