Sunday, August 1, 2010

Removing Poison Ivy safely

photo by Sam Fraser-Smith
My former home had English Ivy between my property and the neighbors. The ivy was mixed with a lot of poison Ivy. I thought it was a simple matter of pulling it out. One day when I was weeding I put on a pair of heavy gloves, grabbed a few garbage bags and got to work. I was careful not to brush it against my bare arms and legs. I am sure you can see how this story ends, a few days later, while on a business trip, a painful itchy rash bloomed all over my arms and legs. That was the longest flight home of my life!

To add insult to injury, the poison ivy came back the following year. Luckily, by then I had learned from my mistake. There is the correct way to get rid of poison ivy.

Suit up properly in long pants and a long sleeved shirt; tuck the bottom of your pants into your socks. You must wear goggles; you do NOT want poison ivy in your eye. Some people are so allergic that they can get the rash by inhaling the oils, so wearing a mask is a good idea too. Finally cover your hands with rubber gloves. I wear a pair of surgical type gloves under rubber dishwashing gloves to make sure nothing gets through.

Trace the vines back to the source. Poison Ivy grows out from a main stem in several directions. A friend of mine has tried pulling out the vines each year to find it grows back even thicker. He jokes that he’s merely pruning it. Rather than pulling each vine hard enough to break it off, walk it back to the source and cut the stem. If the area is “infested” there can be many main stems.

I have heard of home remedies for killing the plants that call for using a strong salt solutionso I gave it a try. While it did kill some plants, my yard was too over-run for this remedy to work effectively. So I chose to use an herbicide. I sprayed it right into each the cut in each stem. Within a few days the remaining vines withered and died. Some of the spray blew onto nearby English ivy and killed it. Be careful where you spray it. If you must spray near a garden plant, cover it temporarily with a plastic bag to protect it.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
  • Never burn poison ivy, the oil can be released in the smoke and inhaled. Seal it up carefully in heavy plastic bags.
  • Remove the clothes you were wearing carefully. I take off the rubber gloves but leave on the surgical ones so I don’t risk spreading the oil from my clothes to my hands or from my gloves to my bare skin.
  • Wash the clothes separately from other laundry.
  • After you're done rinse your hands and arms with alcohol then shower with cold water, never use hot water it will allow the oils to get into your pores.

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