Got the itch to remove poison ivy? Here’s how

Eighty-five percent of the world’s human population is allergic to urushiol, the oil inside poison ivy plants. A drop the size of a pin head is enough to make 500 people itch, and urushiol remains active for years. This means the jacket you wore on your hike last fall can make you break out next winter.

Keeping this in mind, it is best to avoid poison ivy altogether. If you have some growing in your yard, there are steps you can take to eliminate it.

Step 1: Pulling ivy is the most effective means of getting rid of it. Dig deep to eliminate the roots, then watch the area for new growth. Ivy will continue to grow back for a while, but diligent removal will eventually eliminate it entirely. To remove a single plant, put a plastic bag over it, uproot the ivy and turn the bag over, capturing the plant inside the bag. Seal the bag and dispose of it.

Step 2: If pulling ivy is not a good option, continual mowing or cutting back of ivy will eventually get rid of it, too. If you do mow, bag the clippings and dispose of them into a landfill, not a compost pile. Or just get a goat. Goats will eat the ivy down to the root and completely eliminate it.

Step 3: Another option is to cover the area with cardboard (or black plastic) and mulch on top of it. This will eventually kill the ivy, roots and all. If done in conjunction with a landscape plan, this method could be the most ecologically friendly and aesthetically pleasing way of eradicating unwanted foliage.

Step 4: Chemicals are also an option. Brushing the leaves and stems with a brush killer containing triclopyr is the most noninvasive method. Brushing the product directly onto the plant eliminates problematic overspray and can effectively kill ivy without doing much damage to the surrounding plant life, soil and water. Do not use a product containing glyphosate — it is extremely toxic.

Never burn poison ivy. Never use a string trimmer on poison ivy. When working around poison ivy, be sure to wear protective clothing — rubber gloves, long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks. Once you are done, immediately shower and wash the clothing separately. Soap does a good job of breaking down urushiol oil.


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