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
  • 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
    • 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


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Martin J. Gabica, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 5, 2017