Removing Poison Ivy from Clothing

July 12, 2022

Summer in Boston means more time enjoying the outdoors, whether it’s at camp, playing in the back yard, gardening, or hiking. That can mean a brush with poison ivy.

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) produces an active irritant called urushiol, an oily resin contained in all parts of the plant, but the leaves are the most toxic.  Contact with any part of the plant can cause an allergic reaction ranging from simple skin irritation to life-threatening allergic response. Pets are less likely to suffer from poison ivy but they can spread it to you and your family. When your clothing comes in contact with poison ivy, the oily resin remains on the fabric and can get transferred to your skin. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to take care of clothes that have been exposed to poison ivy.

Poison ivy by the road sideBoth dry-cleaning and laundering are acceptable methods for removing poison ivy from clothing. Wear vinyl or thick cotton gloves when handling the contaminated items no matter which method you choose to avoid contact with your skin.

Laundering is preferred because it provides multiple flushes through the fabric. Lots of hot water, agitation, and washing time are the keys to poison ivy removal.

Wash the contaminated clothing separately at the highest recommended water temperature for the fabric. Use a full scoop of laundry detergent. Use the longest wash cycle and the largest load setting to maximize the amount of water.  More wash water circulating through the fabric helps remove the oil.   Leave plenty of room in the washing machine for the clothes to agitate freely so that all of the oil is exposed and flushed away.  The load should only fill the washer halfway at most.  Divide the clothes into multiple loads if necessary.

Run the empty washer once on a hot self-cleaning cycle to remove any residual oil.

It is necessary to clean the laundry basket or hamper that contained the contaminated clothes as well. This can be done by scrubbing it with some detergent and hot water.

If the clothing is dry clean only, bring it to Utopia Cleaners and be sure to tell the dry cleaners at our stores that the clothing has been exposed to poison ivy oils.  Alternatively, you can take advantage of the convenience of our wash dry and fold service or dry cleaning pickup and delivery service. Again, remember to let us know that the laundry had come into contact with poison ivy.