Getting poison ivy off your hiking gear is pretty easy once you have read the suggestions below.

Being out and about exploring nature, often leaves you open to everything and anything happening including an attack of poison ivy either on yourself or your clothes. The compound urushiol is responsible for the irritation from poison ivy. It is a pretty potent substance and can transfer to other items of clothing very easily and can remain live on clothes for years if not treated properly.

How to Get Poison Ivy Off Your Hiking Gear: Things to Consider

There are several ways of removing urushiol but always remember to try and ensure there is no cross contamination in the process. If you cannot wash the clothes that are affected immediately with gloves, then store said items in a plastic bag to ensure the urushiol does not transfer to other items. This also includes making sure that all washing items that you have used – including sponges and cloths – must be thrown away once used. The use of long rubber gloves is also highly recommended to ensure the urushiol does not come into contact with your skin.

Ways to Remove the Urushiol

Washing Machine

Use the hottest wash, the longest washing cycle and the biggest load size possible to ensure all traces of the urushiol are removed. It is vital that these three items are done to ensure that as much of the oil is eliminated as possible simply because urushiol is not that soluble in water due to its chemical make-up.

Make sure that no uncontaminated items of clothing are in the same wash; the process of washing will transfer the oil to those items that are uncontaminated. This is not a good idea. Although the majority of the urushiol oil should be removed in this wash there is the distinct possibility that some of the oil may well remain in the washing machine and the undrained water. It would therefore certainly be worth putting the machine on for a hot and long wash without any clothes inside afterwards, just to remove any of the leftover oil from both the machine and any water left inside the machine.

Using as large an amount of detergent in the wash as possible will also help to get rid of the urushiol. As highlighted above, the oil does not disappear easily with water alone so the detergent will further assist with the removal process. Depending on what you use as your detergent and your washing machine, aim for the largest amount possible whether a capful, a drawerful or scoopful.

It may also be advisable to use a specialist degreasing detergent for this particular wash instead of your standard washing power/liquid. You may wish to use either Tecnu or Zanfel – both urushiol specialized removal products – to assist with the thorough cleaning of your clothes.

When using a washing machine, do not overfill the machine as this will not help with the removal of all of the oil. You need to make sure that your washing machine is half full at the most to guarantee the most effective wash for the removal of the oil. Clothes need to be able to agitate well in the machine to remove as much of the oil as possible.

If you do use a separate clothes dryer then always make sure that you use gloves to move the clothes from the washing machine to the tumbler dryer as there still be Urushiol on your clothes even after washing them. You do not want this touching your skin or you will be heading straight to the doctors. These gloves will need to be thrown out once you have placed the clothing in the tumble dryer.

Hand Washing

Getting poison ivy off your hiking gear if you don’t have access to a washing machine or if the items of clothing affected are for hand washing only, is still pretty simple. Make sure in the first place that you wear long rubber gloves to wash your clothes and use very hot water and detergent to make sure you get as much of the oil out as possible.

The suggested ratio of detergent to hot water is two tablespoons of detergent to two cups/480ml of boiling hot water. Do remember that whatever you use to clean the items, whether it be a cloth, sponge or toothbrush, you should throw out once you have finished cleaning your contaminated clothes. This is to avoid any cross contamination.

If the item is leather, ensure the detergent you purchase to remove the urushiol can actually be used on leather in the first place. Alternatively, purchase a urushiol–specific removal product and simply follow the instructions.

You are also able to wash any tools or other equipment to clean off any urushiol oil. Rubbing alcohol is one of the best options on items such as jewelry, garden equipment or golf clubs. Alternatively, hot water and laundry or dish detergent will do the necessary cleaning job.

Dry Cleaner

If your clothing is delicate then it most certainly is worth taking your clothes to a dry cleaners who will be able to remove the urushiol. Just be sure to tell the dry cleaner that your clothing items have been in contact with poison ivy and will need to be specially treated so as not to contaminate any other items of clothing, or cause a reaction in the person doing the cleaning.


As you can see, there are several options for removing poison ivy oil from your clothing. The main thing is to use hot water and plenty of detergent if your clothes can take it. If not, you can use the expertise of a dry cleaner.

Always remember to clean the equipment where the clothing was washed in the first place – whether a chasing machine or a sink. Bleach and water, or rubbing alcohol will do the trick for you to cleanse the equipment thoroughly. Also throw away any items including gloves, sponges and cloths that also helped in the cleaning process. The main things to avoid are cross contamination on you or any of your clothes.