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Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac: Tips for Removing Plants

Topic Overview

Usually people come into contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac in wooded areas, in parks, or on beaches. If these plants invade your yard or property, you may wish to remove them permanently.

Tips for removing poison ivy, oak, or sumac plants

  • Never burn the plants. When the plant burns, the plant's oil (urushiol) is dispersed into the air on smoke and ash particles. It can cause serious lung irritation and a rash on all body parts exposed to the smoke.
  • Always wear as much protection as possible, such as long pants, long sleeves, boots, and gloves. Vinyl or leather gloves, or cotton gloves covered with disposable plastic gloves, work well. Rubber (latex) gloves offer no protection, because urushiol can penetrate rubber.
  • Weed killers (herbicides) will kill the problem plants but will usually kill any other plants in the area as well. But some products, when used sparingly, will kill the poison ivy, oak, or sumac without killing surrounding trees or plants. When using herbicides, you may try:
    • Pulling the poison ivy, oak, or sumac away from surrounding plants.
    • Wiping the foliage with the herbicide.
    • Using a shield on the sprayer to direct the herbicide more specifically.
  • Manual removal can be very difficult because you must remove every part of the plants (leaves, vines, roots), or they will sprout again.

Dispose of the plants according to your local regulations. Do not compost the dead plants. Urushiol breaks down too slowly, and chopping the vines for the compost heap increases exposure to the oil.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised August 19, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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