Removing poison ivy
May 9, 2021 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Have you removed poison ivy from your property without significant damage to your garden, self, or mental health? If so, how did you do it?

Last night I noticed a few poison ivy creepers right by our fence with a neighbor. I’m going to reach out to the owner next door to see if they are interested in splitting the cost of removal, but the spot is behind hedges on their side and much more open on our side, so they may not want to bother with it.

It’s probably just a single vine at the moment, and it would be easy enough to avoid, but I want to nip this in the bud sooner rather than later.

What’s the best way to remove and kill the ivy? What detergents should I use for cleaning the clothes we wear when dealing with it? What other things should we know beforehand?
posted by thecaddy to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My husband doesn't respond to poison ivy, so I send him to do it in the grimiest old clothes he has. That tee and shorts get tossed.
posted by heathrowga at 8:37 AM on May 9, 2021

Use disposable gloves. There is a product called TechNu that gets the oils off your skin and can be used to launder clothes. Wiping with alcohol also helps. Dispose in a trash bag, Absolutely do not burn it; the oils can be spread in the smoke. And heathrowga has the best idea, get someone who is not sensitive to pull it up from the roots. It's worthwhile to get it all uprooted otherwise it will spread.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:48 AM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

You could try slowly pouring a kettle full of boiling water on the stem right where it comes out of the ground, then just leaving the dead vine in place to rot down over time. Just don't breathe the steam.
posted by flabdablet at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I eradicated the poison ivy from an overgrown and long-neglected bank on my property last year. It took about 10 afternoons spread over a couple months to get it all. Pulling it up by the roots is what worked, and I can report that some roots were up to a foot deep and ran much further than I would have thought. My most useful tools were a sharp trowel and multiple pairs of gloves. I also found that digging out the roots was easiest the day after a soaking rain when the soil was soft.

Also - this previous ask has lots of good advice about how to clean your tools and clothes to prevent rashes afterwards.
posted by minervous at 8:57 AM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

So as someone who did tree work in areas with lots of poison ivy I can suggest some things.

Buy technu soap, it works well for removing the oils that cause the inflammatory response from skin and clothing. When washing your body with it make sure to rub the soap vigorously on any area exposed. When I say vigorously I mean over the top, you need lots of mechanical action to get the remnants of oils off of you. Launder anything exposed on it's own using the technu. Speed is of the essence with getting poison ivy oils off.

Wear clothing that covers your limbs fully. Don't wear basic rubber gloves, they are prone to tearing when working outdoors, instead go with a cheap leather pair you can ditch afterwards. Depending on how sensitive you are you can get disposable shoe covers as footwear is harder to clean.

Cut at base then pull the creepers out. If you can remove the roots easily do so. If they're more entrenched look for a stump and vine killing herbicide that can be painted on cut ends.

Dispose of the brush in a trash bag which you then put into a second bag to prevent getting oils on your waste bin.

Honestly it's not that hard unless it's well and fully entrenched. Just be methodical on avoiding cross contamination.
posted by Ferreous at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also keep an eye out for young poison ivy sprouts near anywhere birds like to gather. Much like mulberry and hackberry poison ivy is often spread by birds passing the seeds. Catching it when it's young is much easier to deal with.
posted by Ferreous at 9:20 AM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you can clearly identify the roots and get to them to try the boiling water method, do that. At the same time you can cut them down to a nub and take the rest away. Long BBQ tongs are useful for pulling it out, with two pair you can probably get away with never directly touching the ivy.

Glycophosphate is very bad but Round-Up's Poison Ivy-specific glyco + triclopyr killer generally works when nothing else has. If it grows back after cutting it back and boiling it, just get rid of it the nuclear way. If you ask around locally, you may find someone with unused product sitting around and not even have to buy any. You only need a couple tablespoons of it, because instead of using the sprayer you want to paint the leaves with the Round-Up and let them take the poison to the roots. Use disposable gloves, a cup with a tiny amount of Round-Up, and a paintbrush you're going to throw away (foam brushes are probably easiest for this, but whatever, or you can use tongs and a cotton ball, but be careful not to drip on anything you want to live).

Have someone use clean kitchen tongs to pull your gloves off after you've been near the ivy, to be absolutely safe.

If you have a really clear line of sight to the roots, you could try cutting it to the ground and then digging up what you can, but it sounds like it's going to be intermingled in hedge roots so that may be a no-go.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Absolutely get it now before it gets entrenched and becomes a real problem. After a rain when the ground is softest, I invert a double layer of bags over my hand (so it is sort of like a glove up to my elbow or higher). I then grab the poison ivy at the base, pulling slowly, trying to get the roots, with my bagged hand. When it starts coming out, with my other hand, I invert the bag over the poison ivy, trying to gather it into the bag without directly touching the poison ivy. I then put it into a waiting wide-mouthed trashcan that also is bagged. Repeat with fresh bags until all poison ivy is pulled. Then I can safely bag up the whole toxic mess and put it in the trash bin. It's a lot of plastic bags which isn't very planet friendly but it saves your skin! This method does not work when you have a huge patch or very long unwieldy strands of poison ivy, which is why I try to tackle it when it when it is small. The key is to work slowly and carefully and keep your eye on all the end bits and make sure they aren't touching you at all. One thing, others have said poison it with brush killer - that works but then you still have the dead vine which still has the oils in it for a while, which still needs to be avoided.
posted by molasses at 10:50 AM on May 9, 2021

Round up comes in a container with a battery powered wand spritzer, which is perfect for 'painting' the leaves. Apply liberally, let it work back to the root system for a day or two, then start pulling and digging. Be careful not to touch your face (to prevent needing to use Technu on it, not bc of roundup) - tie your hair back before you start working. Wear gardening gloves of course.

Keep a bottle of Technu in the shower, and shower when you're done working. Clothes on the washer on hot.

I'm in a constant battle with PI on my property, but haven't gotten it myself in years following the above.
posted by Dashy at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2021

If it spreads freely on the neighbor's side you're going to be at this for years to come. They ought to pitch in, but if push comes to shove, I'd do their side myself now rather than deal with it forever.
posted by away for regrooving at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would strongly advise against foliar application of herbicide. It's hard to contain and if this is near other plants you want to keep it's going to be a mess. A brush application to the cut stump of the vine will be far more targeted and introduce less herbicide into your yard. Look for something labeled as stump and vine killer.
posted by Ferreous at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm currently at battle with a LOT of poison ivy all over my yard, and I can only directly access some of it. I'm surrounded by woods here so it's an ongoing problem. Recently I pulled up a ton by hand (using the nitrile-gloves-plus-two-garbage-bags-over-my-arms method), only to find a ton more growing back in all the same places within a couple weeks. Pulling the stuff up when you've got that much is so risky that I've moved on to very targeted herbicide applications for the time being.

Hopefully your neighbor is willing to team up with you in your battle, but if not: If you've only got a couple vines coming through the fence, for herbicides I've had satisfyingly quick results with Natria. The sprayer has a stream setting that shoots pretty far, and you can aim pretty well at your target provided it's not a windy day. This stuff works best when it's sunny, hot, and not windy. I'm not convinced it kills down to the roots when you're spraying the leaves of a large poison ivy vine, but it causes the leaves to shrivel up and die within hours, which can't be good for the plant if you treat it regularly.

If you do pull it up, watch out for the surprisingly long vines/roots that will come at you as you try to hold them away from yourself.
posted by wondermouse at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2021

when I worked at a nature sanctuary, we would mix up 1:1 bleach and water, put it in a spritzer bottle, and hit the leaves thoroughly. there may be drawbacks, but it's probably better than RoundUp.
posted by entropone at 1:58 PM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

You NEED to figure things out with your neighbor. If this year you have "a few" vines creeping over from their property, next year it will be "many" and after that you'll be totally inundated. Plants don't recognize boundaries, so even if you keep your side clear, if their side becomes a hellscape you will always be doing battle (ask me how I know).

If they won't do anything about it, all you can do is offer to do it for them, which is awful, but better than the neverending invasion if they let this very invasive plant take deep root across their property.
posted by rikschell at 2:24 PM on May 9, 2021

Alcohol or bleach mixture spray and/or boiling water, and using long handled clippers to lop off the bottom of the vine—about a week or two ahead of removal.

Wear old clothes, with long sleeves. Don’t touch ANY part of your body!

Soak/wipe down your tools in TecNu. Old clothes immediately in the trash, your body directly in the shower and wash your whole self in TecNu.

Wait til the the vine/leaves are fully dead and rip them out with long-handled loppers and big gloves. And then rinse and repeat with the above TecNu treatment.

...or you could just hire a non-allergic person to get in there. (Highly Recommended if financially viable!)

Source: the most allergic person of all time, see my history :( :(

Good luck, and thanks for not using RoundUp!
posted by functionequalsform at 3:37 PM on May 9, 2021

Best answer: I deal with a ton of poison ivy on our property. I pull it by hand when I'm feeling like it or when it encroaches on something I want to harvest or cultivate.

I get dressed in a way to cover my entire body (so socks go up high beneath my pants, no ankle socks). I use rubber boots that can be sprayed off with a hose. I wear a long sleeved shirt and tie my hair back. I work on it for no more than half an hour, forty minutes. It pops out *very* easily. Especially in spring and especially after a rain. I toss it into an out of the way, inhospitable area of the woods after depositing it on a bedsheet (so I'm not just throwing it on the grass). You could wrap the bedsheet up and throw it out in the garbage. Where to put it is an issue--you could also use barbecue tongs and put it in a garbage bag.

So I do that for half an hour or so then discard the ivy, spray off the boots with the hose, go inside, put all my clothes, the sheet, the gardening gloves, etc. into the washing machine (warm, regular soap). Start the laundry, wrap myself in a clean towel, and go shower normally -- no scalding hot water, no scrubbing, just soap. The gardening gloves air-dry, everything else goes into the dryer.

I haven't had a problem in eight years I've been dealing with it and attribute that to the very limited amount of time involved--I don't spend more than an hour, top to bottom. I am sensitive to it -- I've gotten a rash on my ankles a few times, but on those occassions I was doing something else and was unaware of what I'd waded into.

Someone on Reddit mentioned a disposable hazmat type suit painters wear -- I think that would be a smart alternative idea. I'd be worried about cross contamination though -- still have my hair, boots, gardening gloves, so it is easier for me to be all or nothing about it.

Under no circumstances let anyone convince you burning it is a good idea.

Poison ivy is a good groundcover, it is native, it produces berries for birds, it has lovely fall color, and it is excellent for erosion control. So I do have areas where I leave it and put a sign up that I woodburned that just says 'Poison Ivy' and drew a little picture of the leaves.

In short, it's not plutonium, but it requires vigilance and A Plan.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:08 PM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh and heads up Virginia Creeper and sarsaparilla exhibit the same chemical compounds in the spring, that make the leaves glossy and reddish. Just for fun, they grow in the same environment, at least on our property. Jumpy times in the spring around here.

On the other hand it sure encourages that vigilance. If you aren't stuck with it long term, as we are, removing it summarily is a smart way to go. It is not a hard weed to remove, considering.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:26 PM on May 9, 2021

Best answer: Tecnu isn't worth it. Dawn will get fresh urushiol off of your skin, and any laundry detergent will get it off your clothes. If you can't wash it off quickly enough and you get a rash, then you want Zanfel. Source: Living on two acres of poison oak for 15 years.
posted by sageleaf at 6:38 PM on May 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nuke it from orbit with Bleach. Salt the Earth as it were with targeted friendly bio-degradable plant nerve gas.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:07 PM on May 9, 2021

Best answer: I think all the advice you've gotten to remove it is good, though I've never washed my clothes in any specific detergent, and I get bad outbreaks when I touch it I've learned to live with.

In my opinion though, poison ivy is a plant that thrives in poor soil, so once you remove it, improve your soil via compost or mulch or fertilizer or whatever so that better plants grow there. Otherwise it will just come back.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:21 AM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

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