There are many ways to rid your yard of poison ivy plants. None of them good. But some are better than others.
My last post, Poison Ivy 101 – Learn how to identify and treat Poison Ivy, was about my misadventures with a yard full of poison ivy. How I learned to identify it, what makes it “poison”, what to do if you get into it and what to do if you break out in a rash or blisters. Make sure you read that post before you read this one about poison Ivy Removal.
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Getting Rid Of The Weed, Poison Ivy
First and foremost – Do Not Burn Poison Ivy!!
Related: 12 Ways To Make Weeds Go Away! – Naturally
For weed control in my garden, I LOVE the Red Dragon weeder. It will burn and kill all kinds of weeds like bindweed, trumpet vine and nutsedge, and all your average garden weeds, quick as a wink.
But do not use it on Poison Ivy.
Even dead poison ivy can contain urushiol that can be released through burning. Inhaling the smoke can inflame your lungs, bronchial tubes, and nasal passages. It can get into your eyes. It’s nasty stuff.
What is Urushiol? Read the first post in the series where I explain all about it.
Related: Poison Ivy 101 – Learn How To Identify And Treat Poison Ivy.
There is no weed harder to control than poison ivy. Not only does it spread and resist repeated attempts to spray it, dig it, or mow it into submission, its sap contains the chemical urushiol, which causes severe rashes, itching, swelling, and blisters. Many people are allergic to urushiol and some may need to go to the hospital for treatment if infected.
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What If You Have a Lot of Poison Ivy to Clear?
So if you can’t burn it, how can you get rid of it?
Here are 10 ways to get rid of the weed, poison ivy, in your yard, garden or homestead.
Use Goats To Get Rid Of Poison Ivy
If you have access to them, this is the best solution to a nasty problem. Especially if you have a large amount of ivy to eradicate.
Goats are wonderful for poison ivy removal. And removal for a lot of other weeds while you are at it.
Goats, like many other farm animals, can eat poison ivy without getting a rash or developing any other health problems. (But they can pass the urushiol from their hair to your skin, so don’t touch animals who have been walking through a poison ivy patch.)
Goats have been used for many years to clear land of other invasive plant species, such as briars and kudzu. Now, a growing number of goat rental companies are becoming popular for those who need to eradicate large swaths of poison ivy.
The rental company typically fences off the area to be cleared and lets the goats loose to eat their fill until the poison ivy is gone. Still, because goats don’t get to the roots of the plants, they may have to make return visits.
Pigs For Poison Ivy Removal
Like goats, pigs will eat almost everything. Pigs will even root out many of the roots if left in one place long enough. But unlike goats, you won’t have grass left when they are through. (you could have bacon though)
Hire A Professional To Clear Poison Ivy
The next best thing to animals eating it is to hire someone else to do it.
Hiring someone to come in and clean it for you may be a good option for you, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you do.
- If you think you may want to use a professional, call and ask for an inspection and estimate first before you try anything else. If you dig up and cut down first, you may make it difficult to see what the real extent of the problem is.
- Start with the worst section. If you have several areas of poison ivy have the contractor work on the worst first. If he or she does a good job, move on to the other areas.
- Let the contractor know whether you prefer hand removal, the use of chemical herbicides, or a combination of the two. Or if you want NO Herbicides At All.
- If the contractor says covering poison ivy with soil will kill them, don’t believe it. These plants will grow right through the soil.
- Be prepared to pay very well for these potentially dangerous services.
Use Boiling Water To Kill Poison Ivy
Boiling water, poured on the roots of weeds often kills the whole plant. You must be willing to kill everything else in the area too. It also may take more than one application to work. This may not be a good solution for a large area but may work for a few isolated plants.
If you decide to use this method, remember that the dead plants still have itch-inducing oils on them, so they should be carefully removed.
Use Sheet Mulch
Any kind of heavy mulch piled thick above a poison ivy plant will kill it off. (Eventually) This is a nice solution to use after you have cut back and removed all you can get to. This will help keep it from returning.
Sheet mulching consists of covering an area with a couple of layers of cardboard, black plastic, or plywood, then topping it with one to two feet of wood chips (or other mulch.) Let it sit for at least a year. In time, the lack of light to the plant will kill it and the roots.
Keeping the area deep in fresh wood chips lessens the possibility of the poison ivy returning. Be sure you have a reliable source of wood chips!
Check the surrounding area periodically as the plant can travel underground, a long way until it finds the light.
Repeatedly cutting poison ivy down will eventually exhaust the roots.
Related: Mulch For Your Vegetable Garden
Be very careful with this poison ivy removal method.
For a very small amount of poison ivy in the lawn, you could just keep the area well mowed at all times after the plants have been carefully cut down to ground level. You should not mow over standing plants.
Just as using a weed eater will toss bits of the plant and oil around, so will mowing. This can cause contact dermatitis and could even cause airway and lung irritation if you happen to inhale the oils in the air or the fine particles of the plant.
Cut the plants back by hand or have goats eat them first. As with continuous grazing, frequent mowing will eventually kill the roots by depriving them of the benefits of photosynthesis.
Repeatedly trimming or mowing off the vines at the soil surface will likely end your poison ivy problem, but you have to be diligent about keeping it trimmed every time the plant pokes its head above ground.
Chemical Herbicide For Poison Ivy Removal
Although one of the more effective forms of ivy control, it is also very dangerous. Not only do herbicides remain in the soil for a very long time, but they are also taken up in plants that we eat and transferred to us. They have been associated with human health risks.
I choose not to use Chemical Herbicides.
If you do, please take every precaution to cover your whole body so you don’t get any on your skin or inhale any spray.
One downside of all herbicides is that they are very detrimental to the immediate environment, the water table, and you. Herbicides are also not picky about what they kill. If you are not careful, you will end up killing plants you want, along with the poisonous plants.
And the kicker? Poison Ivy is so tenacious that it may take more than one application to do the job even with chemicals.
No matter which herbicide you choose, you must:
- Read the instructions and mix and apply the product accordingly.
- Wear long sleeves, pants, goggles, a breathing mask, and gloves while applying.
- Use the minimum amount needed for effectiveness.
- Use the right equipment (a tank sprayer or spray bottle).
- Apply on a still, dry, sunny day when the forecast calls for NO RAIN for at least 24 hours.
- Apply in the spring or summer when the poisonous plants are fully leafed.
- Keep children and pets away from treated areas for 24 hours.
- Store and dispose of herbicides per handling and packaging instructions.
Even though commercial herbicides often guarantee complete eradication with one application, it’s often not the case. It’s a good idea to check back and treat re-growth as needed.
Related: To Till Or Not To Till Your Garden
Natural Weed Killer #1 – DIY
Not as quick-acting, but much safer for you and the environment is a natural weed killer.
To make this weed killer combine these two items:
- 1 gallon of organic or horticultural 20% vinegar**
- 1 tbsp of dishwashing soap. (such as Dawn)
- (some people like to add ½ Cup of salt – just remember it will take a while to wash the salt out of the soil so you can plant there again if you do)
**For this to work, the vinegar must be at least 20% acidity which is why this remedy works better than normal vinegar which only has a 5% acidity level.
Do Not Dilute With Water.
Mix well, and place in a container that you will use just for killing weeds.
If adding the salt, combine the salt and vinegar in a pan and heat to dissolve the salt. Allow it to cool, then add the liquid detergent and put the mixture in a spray bottle. You can spray the poison ivy or pour it directly on the plant.
Tips For Using Vinegar Weed Killer
Use this weed killer in the sun. Be sure to apply the vinegar weed killer on a warm, sunny, and calm day. Try to apply it when there will be no rain for at least two days for best results. Vinegar works with the sun to dehydrate the plant. This may not work well on plants that are in the shade.
Vinegar is not selective. It will kill any plants it is sprayed on.
Good for the planet. The vinegar is completely biodegradable – it degrades in a matter of days – and does not accumulate so it is approved for organic agricultural use as well.
Use a pump sprayer to apply the organic vinegar to large areas. Your hands will thank you. Be sure to rinse your sprayer after use, or metal parts will corrode in time.
Reapply as needed. Poison Ivy loves to come back from the roots and birds drop the seeds and replant it. Recheck the area every week or two for several weeks and then at least quarterly
Natural Weed Killer #2
A natural herbicide that is reported to work well is St Gabriel Labs’ Poison Ivy Defoliant®, which is made from plant oils.
I’ve never tried this one, and the reviews are mixed. Either the users loved it or hated it. There seemed to be no middle ground.
Manually Pull The Poison Ivy
The most common and successful way to get rid of poison ivy and other poisonous plants altogether is to pull them up by the roots
Warning about Manually Pulling Poison Ivy
It’s important to remember that just because you weren’t allergic to poison ivy in the past doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t allergic to it now. People change when it comes to an allergic reaction to poison ivy. When pulling up the poison ivy by the roots be sure to wear protective clothing just in case. Also, make sure to wash yourself and your clothes immediately after touching the poison ivy plants.
Remember that this job is inherently risky. No matter how careful you are, there is always the possibility that something can go wrong, and the more time-consuming the job is, the greater the risk will be.
The following may seem extreme, but taking a few moments of extra precaution before the task could save you hours (or days or weeks) of discomfort afterward.
Read more about my experience with poison ivy and what treatments you can use if you are affected by it. Poison Ivy 101 – Learn how to identify and treat poison ivy.
Part 2 of Poison Ivy Removal – Protect Yourself
Here are the steps you should take when deciding to pull poison ivy by hand.
Choose the right day
You need to choose a day where there is little or no wind. No wind to blow the poison ivy plants and have them slap you in the face. No wind to carry the oils in the air. No wind to carry your herbicide to other plants.
No rain in the forecast. You want a day you can complete the task without stopping in the middle.
Not too hot. You have to dress like it’s winter. If it’s 90°F (32°C) you could overheat before the job is done.
Avoid rushing this process; this is a toxic plant that should be handled slowly and carefully.
Dress For Battle
If you’re going to tackle this problem yourself, the first thing you need to do is protect yourself.
Once again, the poisonous urushiol in poison ivy is in every part of the plant.
This is critical and the only way to prevent your skin from coming in contact with the plant.
Wear long pants, long sleeves, rubber boots, and heavy-duty long, disposable rubber gloves. To be extra-safe, seal the space between your pants and boots and the space between gloves and shirt with duct tape. You may even want to use a disposable jumpsuit. (I’ve considered a hazmat suit.)
Long rubber gloves OVER Long Sleeves. The first time I tried to clear this property my sleeves pulled up exposing a gap between my gloves and sleeves. That is where I broke out.
Vinyl or rubber gloves are best as urushiol can penetrate latex. Having several pairs of disposable gloves is a good idea, so you can change and discard the contaminated ones at each change of task.
Remember, everything you wear should either be easily washable or disposable.
Goggles or protective glasses and a breathing mask are things to consider too.
A hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and to prevent you from accidentally wanting to brush hair or sweat out of your face is a good idea too. It also will protect your scalp from that errant vine swaying in the breeze.
Coating your arms with Technu as a lotion before heading into poison ivy is also a good idea. It’s meant as an after-wash, but it offers some protection when applied before encountering the poison ivy plant.
Related: 19 Best Ways To Get Rid Of Mosquitoes
Assemble Your Tools
Sharp pruning shears or Loppers to remove the vines or branches first.
Sharp-edged shovel – A sharp trowel or a shovel should work well for removing poison ivy roots.
Heavy black plastic garbage bags and ties – to dispose of all the poison ivy. Even the roots.
Homemade herbicide and spray bottle – if you are using them.
Get Your Clean-up Station Ready
Fill a large plastic tub, trash can, or bucket with hot water. Add grease-fighting detergent Emulsifying detergents act to break down the poison ivy oils.
Also, get your ‘cleaning you’ station ready. Put a trash bag to put your clothes right outside the shower. Get your soaps ready before you begin.
Attack Thoroughly But Carefully
Poison ivy has a complex root system, so if you remove the plants above ground but don’t get rid of the roots, it will continue to grow. I’ve seen roots 30 feet long!
If you have young plants and vines, this can be relatively easy after a rain when the ground is still damp. Young plants have fairly shallow roots, and you can pull them by hand or use a shovel to dig them out of the ground.
Use caution, if you tear or rip the vines, leaves or roots, as they will disperse the urushiol into the air.
Cut The Plants First
If you decide that digging is your best choice, cut the plants just above ground level first. Use pruners or shears and remove all the stems you can. (Leave just enough so you can see where the roots start and you don’t lose them. You may even want to mark them.) Cut them into small enough sections so you can easily get them into your garbage bag. Then when you start removing the roots you don’t have stems and leaves flapping around spreading its oil everywhere.
Older plants can have thick trunks and deep roots so they can be a bit more of a challenge to remove.
Whether your plants are young or mature, be sure to check back frequently and spray, cut or pull up any new sprouts. If you miss only a little bit of root, a new plant will grow.
Removing Poison Ivy Vines From Trees And Buildings.
Poison ivy removal can be a bit tricky where trees and buildings are concerned.
The tiny, hair-like rootlets on ivy stems, also known as holdfasts, can attach to tiny crevices in building and the bark of trees which hold the ivy tight. The bond is so strong that if you pull on the ivy while it’s still alive, you may pull the tree bark off, or pull out the mortar from between bricks and stones.
To safely remove the ivy in this situation, you first need to kill it. You can do this by cutting the ivy off at the ground. Then you need to wait until the foliage is completely dead before attempting to remove it from a structure, so the rootlets shrink and release their grasp. This can take several months.
Remember the oils will still be active, even after the plant is dead, so every precaution will still need to be taken. The roots will also need to be removed or it will grow right back, but this can be done right away. No need to wait.
Bag It – Dispose of The Whole Plant.
After you cut, pull out, or dig up poison ivy, do not put it in your compost pile. Do not touch it with bare hands. Do not burn it.
Instead, put all the poison ivy leaves, branches, and roots in heavy-duty plastic bags to dispose of it.
Wash Everything Thoroughly
Please be fully aware that urushiol oil, if not washed off, can remain on fabric and surfaces like tools indefinitely and STILL cause the rash and blisters even many years after exposure.
Once the job is done and the poison ivy is bagged up and disposed of, place the poison ivy-infected tools in the soapy wash water, unless they are power tools.
Use care so as not to allow the tools to touch any clothing other than the rubber gloves you are wearing. Let the tools soak in the hot, soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub all tool surfaces with a rag to scrub away the poison ivy.
If you are cleaning power tools, dip a rag in the soapy water and wipe all surfaces with the rag.
Rinse the tools with a garden hose to remove the soapy residue. Dry the tools with a rag. Then wipe again with rubbing alcohol.
Let the tools dry, and then oil the metal parts to prevent rust.
Be careful how you take your clothes off. Whether you decide to clean your clothes or toss them, be careful taking them off. Avoid skin contact with your outer garments. Especially things like the hem of your pants around your ankles.
The clothes you wore while removing poison ivy must be carefully and thoroughly cleaned or discarded in a heavy plastic bag.
Wash your hands first, then carefully remove your clothing and change to a new outfit. Put the contaminated garments in a plastic bag or directly in the washing machine immediately.
Wash your clothing separately from your other laundry. Don’t mix contaminated with non-contaminated clothes. Wash them with a full scoop of a strong detergent. Degreaser detergent is the best. Or add dawn dish soap, borax or Fels Naptha to the detergent.
Wash and rinse this way, twice.
Throw the gloves away.
Don’t forget to clean your boots or shoes with cold, soapy water and a garden hose. While wearing gloves.
It’s Time To Clean You
If at any time you think you have been exposed to the oil. Stop your project and shower right then. Often, when the affected area is washed within 30 minutes of exposure, a full-on rash can be prevented.
Otherwise, when your project is completed, Shower (don’t bathe) immediately in cool water. Wash with Tecnu (Poison Oak and Ivy Skin Cleanser) to neutralize any urushiol that might have made its way to your skin.
If you don’t have that, use Dawn Dishwashing Detergent or wash and rinse several times with a good bath soap
The reason why you use cold water is that warm or hot water causes the pores on your skin to OPEN up, giving the urushiol oil the opportunity to slip into the pores and do its damage.
When you get out wipe down with rubbing alcohol to get any remaining oil off your skin.
How To Stop Poison Ivy From Growing Back
Poison ivy is very persistent. Even with the most careful weeding, some of the poison ivy roots will likely remain.
At the first sign of regrowth, pull the poison ivy plants again, smother them or spray them again. It may be necessary to spray the vines several times to succeed in removing it completely. This will, over time, sap the strength of the plant so it cannot regrow.
Check The Area Several Times A Year.
Do this for several years, because where there is poison ivy, there is probably more you haven’t seen yet.
The most difficult thing about getting rid of poison ivy is that the whole plant must be eliminated. If any of the roots survive, the poison ivy plant will come back.
If you do get a rash or other symptoms, see Poison Ivy 101 – How To Identify and Treat Poison Ivy for the best treatment and when to seek professional help.
The 10 Best Poison Ivy Plant Removal Methods Are:
Letting goats eat them
Letting pigs root them out
Hiring a professional
Use boiling water
Use thick sheet mulch
Use chemical herbicides
DIY weed killers
Whichever method you choose, make sure you use every precaution as a poison ivy reaction can be very serious and just no fun at all.
Related: 12 Ways To Make Weeds Go Away! – Naturally
Related: Poison Ivy 101- How To Identify And Treat Poison Ivy
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2 thoughts on “Poison Ivy Removal – 10 Best Ways To Get Rid Of Poison Ivy Plants”
Will grass or other plants grow following the vinegar method?
Vinegar will wash out after several rains letting grass grow back,(make sure the poison ivy is completely gone before you stop using it.) however, don’t use the salt as it will sterilize the soil for a long time.