Q. Just thought I would let you know about a home remedy for poison ivy. My dad was a Boy Scout for 75 years (he got his 75 year pin the year he died).

I get poison ivy badly and so did he. We always tried to get rid of it whenever we found it and he told me to use borax (the only activated borax I’ve ever found is 20 Mule Team) and just sprinkle it on near the roots. This kills it and it doesn’t come back.

There is a cure that also works if you get into the stuff in the wild and can’t get to a bath or shower to wash off the oils. Dad always said that jimsonweed would fix it. He would snatch up some of the plant and crush the leaves and rub it on his arms where he might have gotten the poison ivy. I have also seen him take it in the house and put it in the blender with a little water and then sluice down his arms. It seemed to work for him.

Jimsonweed, however, is hard to find any more. Dad always let the little patch in the back yard grow but I truly can’t tell you where to find it now. I haven’t seen any in years.

 If you just want to get rid of poison ivy in your yard and don’t want to use herbicide, just sprinkle borax. It is also cheaper than commercial weed sprays. Hope this helps someone.


A. This is the time of year that a lot of folks are suffering from poison ivy. It is everywhere and dogs and cats can bring it home with them. Petting your cat or dog can transfer the oils to your skin and lead to all sorts of misery.

We have grave reservations about using jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) to treat poison ivy. This is a poisonous plant also known as thorn apple. It belongs in the nightshade family of plants. Chemicals in the plant include atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine. When taken orally, jimsonweed can cause dilated pupils, anxiety, hallucinations and even death. Rubbing it on the skin might lead to some absorption. The motion sickness medicine, Transderm Scop, contains scopolamine and comes as a patch that allows the drug to be absorbed through the skin. This reinforces our fear that rubbing in on the skin could cause toxicity.

We suspect that what your father may have been using for poison ivy was actually jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Native Americans and herbalists have been using the juice from the leaves and stems of this plant for centuries to treat poison ivy as well as for insect bites and minor skin irritations. Old-timers have been telling us for years that if you suspect you have been exposed to poison ivy while hiking or working outside, you should search for some jewelweed, mash up the leaves and stems and spread the juice all over the area that was exposed.

For those that may have trouble identifying jewelweed, another reader suggested taking along some old-fashioned brown soap on outings so that poison ivy oils could be washed off immediately. The only problem with that strategy is that you need water.

Another option is individual packets with alcohol wipes. You can find them in the first aid section of the drug store. You may also find products like Ivy Wash Poison Ivy Cleanser, Tecnu Poison Ivy Outdoor Skin Cleanser or Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash can be helpful.

When it comes to using borax to kill poison ivy, please be careful. Too much might damage other plants. Here is a link to the Iowa State University Extension Outreach Service for a borax formula that may avoid this complication.

Of course the best solution to preventing poison ivy misery is to stay far away from those shiny leaves. That is not always so easy.

What is your favorite poison ivy prevention or treatment? Share you experience below.

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  1. Wendy

    I get poison ivy almost every year, have tried everything and end up taking prednisone. My dermatologist told me about Zenfel and it works! Follow directions exactly.

  2. Rich S

    Why would someone say dogs don’t bring poison ivy into the house? Anything, I mean ANYTHING, that gets the Urushiol oil can bring suffering to a human. What is true is most dogs do not themselves get poison ivy. But they 100%, absolutely bring the urushiol oil in the house.

    Once it’s in, it is hard to get out. It can literally last for years when rubbed onto something like a couch. You don’t have to believe me. Ask your vet. Google it. Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac ooze the oil. It is possible to have no allergy to it for most of your life and then suddenly develop one.

    I am on Prednisone at the moment after rubbing my face after petting my dog. The next morning, I couldn’t open my eyes. I am deeply concerned about informing people that dogs can’t carry it in when it is a well documented oil that can be carried on clothing, animal fur, or your skin.

    When you get a bad case on your face or in your eyes, you will most likely need to take another poison, Prednisone, to deal with the urushiol oil. Most important thing is to wash it as soon as possible after exposure. Advice seems torn between warm water or cold water. Some say warm open pores and helps it spread. I’ve always used warm water to wash it. This year I’m trying cold.

    I use Dawn dish soap. I gave the dog a bath with dish soap once but it removes all oils including essential ones so dilute it and use it rarely. There are many natural(ish) remedies that help a lot. I live in forest, so eradication is not even remotely possible.

    Please be aware that your cat or dog is probably running through the weed and is drenched in urushiol oil. Do not touch your face or eyes after petting unless you wash thoroughly. Stay safe. Prednisone is an awful drug to have to be on.

  3. Mr Head To Toe Poision Oak

    Every summer I get poison oak over and over and it always takes forever to get rid of it until I tried Dawn Dish Soap, WOW works great on poison oak. I was covered head to toe with poison oak when a friend was told me that Dawn Dish Soap works great to get rid of poison oak so I took a shower using the dawn dish soap and I was amazed, the next day it was gone. Since I learned from the experiment, anytime I get poison oak I get out the dawn dish soap and I have not suffered with poison oak again. Dawn Dish Soap is the best trick I ever used to get rid of poison oak / ivy, it works great. If you suspect your dog may have played is poison oak and keeps giving it back to you, wash the dog with the dawn dish soap it works great.
    So if you get poison oak / ivy or sumac, use dawn dish soap and the next day it will be cleared up, in my opinion nothing works like dawn dish soap to get rid of poison oak. If you have poison oak, take a shower with dawn dish soap and you will be glad you did because it will be gone by the next day.

  4. EMG

    I have experience getting Poison ivy from a pet. I had an eight pound Papillon that loved to sit on my left forearm with her paws in my palm. She felt quite regal. I developed a Poison Ivy rash right where her butt had been on my arm. It can happen.

  5. Mike

    After being out side, with a even casual possibility of exposure. Enter House Strip naked next to washer. Wash clothing before exposing any part of the house to to stop cross contamination.
    Hopefully a robe or towel can be kept near by for modesty while you go to take a shower. using warm or hot water and simple soap (like Ivory). Use a NEW towel (towel used for modesty is cross contaminated. All all the towels and washing cloths used to was put them in to the wash and begin the load.
    It is important to not get the oil in the house. I got the oil on my bed sheets once and it was the worst.

  6. Thomas M.

    Living as I do on the east coast near a beach, I have found that a dip in salt water hastens the drying process of a poison ivy rash. However, the best “remedy” is to recognize it and stay away from it!

  7. DM

    Just have to remember to pick some jewel weed when walking in the woods, crush it until the sap runs , then rub it wherever you think you’ve been exposed to poison ivy. Much more effective than any other remedy-in fact my doctor recommends using jewel weed!

  8. bill

    Best cure I have found is to use any powder soap to wash off resin as soon as possible and scald with hot water (as hot as you can safely stand) it last hours or more and seems to stop major blistering.

    • Dee

      DO NOT use hot water! It opens your pores and makes it worse.

  9. S Carr

    I’ve used bars of Fels-Naptha for years to remove the oil from poison ivy and it works well to prevent an outbreak when you realize you have been exposed. Does not do much to relieve after the rash has started. We keep it on hand so we can wash within an hour or so after exposure.

  10. Ellie D.

    We had a large poison ivy plant–the stem was about 1″ in diameter–growing in a stand of trees behind our house. It had climbed to the top of an 80′ pine tree. My husband cut a 2″ section out of the vine near the root and then poured a good dose of salt on it. What was in the top of the tree died fromlack of nutrients. The root died because the salt poisoned it. It’s been six years, and it hasn’t come back.

  11. jackc

    I have found that I can touch Poison Ivy and even pull it out by hand as long as wash my hands off within 10 minutes with cold water. If I contact it while weeding or walking, I spit on the spot and wipe. I’ve been allergic forever, but no incidents in the past 3 years as long as I’m observant.

  12. Jerry

    If I have come in contact with Poison Ivy, I wash the area with Dawn (original formula). Many times that has been sufficient and I do not break out. This works best when you have just come in contact with the Poison Ivy. If I break out, I use warm water and Dawn on the area. The warm water will stop the itching for some time.

  13. Donnie

    I have a lot of wild Jewelweed growing on my property, in unmowed areas bordering my lawn. Along with some poison ivy. I kill poison ivy by carefully spraying new shoots with strong vinegar water. Care must be taken not to get it on plants you want to keep. Borax mixed with a little honey and aspartame, and put into a small pill or other small bottle, will kill ants. They get into it and take some of it back to the colony, and that wipes them all out, too. Must be kept out of reach of pets and children, because it could make them sick. Otherwise, it isn’t deadly poisonous or toxic like ant or other poisons.

  14. JKB

    Zanfel cream is the answer. Rub it on and the gritty cream will dissolve the poison ivy oil on the skin. Rub it in well rinse and the poison ivy is gone. It is the only thing that truly works. The other remedies may help but do not banish the poison ivy rash.

  15. Robin E.

    I found making a paste of clay slip (powdered dry clay used for ceramics) and putting it over the rash when it first appears draws it to a head much quicker and keeps it localized.
    Another “myth” that highly recommend to avoid is eating a small piece of the leaf to make yourself immune. I tried that and suffered for weeks with a rash all over my body!

  16. Hanna J.

    Here in Oregon we have poison oak, not sure if it is the same, and both my daughter and I get bad reactions. We tried everything, but found that calamine lotion was the only thing that really helped. Otherwise, time. It does go away eventually on its own.

  17. TA

    Up here in the NW we rub fern spores on the affected area. Viola!

  18. Claude Badley

    I am terribly allergic to poison ivy. I have to take issue with RG who said the pets don’t bring it in. I know what it looks like and I avoid it. Still, I get it. If it can stay on your clothing for a year and still infect you, why wouldn’t the oils be transferred from a pet’s fur to your skin?
    Anywho, I started spraying the poison ivy with this mixture and it has really visibly “hurt” the plants with just two applications. I’m preparing to spray again, soon.
    3 cups vinegar
    1/2 cup salt
    1 tablespoon liquid detergent or soap
    (I use Dawn) for stick-to-itiveness
    Mix vinegar and salt until the salt is completely dissolved. Stir in liquid detergent, and pour into a sprayer. Spray onto the green growing leaves of the plants. Wait a week, then repeat on any survivors. Best time to apply: during a dry spell. Do not spray on plants you want to keep.
    source: http://purecajunsunshine.blogspot.com/2007/08/homemade-poison-ivy-and-weed-killer.html
    If you have enough poison ivy to spray you can follow this recipe that uses a gallon of vinegar.
    Poison Ivy Vegetation Killer
    1 cup salt
    8 drops liquid detergent
    1 gallon vinegar
    Combine the salt and vinegar in a pan and heat to dissolve the salt. Cool the vinegar, add the detergent, and pour some of the liquid into a large spray bottle. Spray the vegetation. (You can also just pour the mixture onto the weeds.) Refill the spray bottle as necessary. Note that this formula will kill all the vegetation, so make sure that you are only spraying the plants you want to kill. If you need to use a lot of this spray, avoid spraying it near wells, as the salt can leach into your water supply.
    Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-to-nip-poison-ivy-in-the-bud.html#ixzz2TZKnmiq8

  19. paul

    Mother nature has her way of balancing thing in her domain. Take for instance poison ivy; there is almost always jewelweed growing near by…is that mother natures balancing act?

  20. chuck

    interestingly enough, jewelweed is usually found in close proximity to poison ivy patches in the wild, it is easily recognizable by its small yellowish flowers. good luck!

  21. M.C.

    My husband is very allergic to poison ivy and has a reminder on his hiking shirt that reads, “leaves three and shinny, not for the hinny”

  22. P

    Borax is also very good to get rid of wasps. We had yellow jackets in the wall of our home, when we plugged the entrance, they came out in our house. Someone told us to unplugged the entrance and pour a mound of Borax high enough where the wasps would have to touch it, they will take it into the nest on their wings and after 3-4 days, it will kill the whole nest! Trust me, it really works!

  23. RG

    “It is everywhere and dogs and cats can bring it home with them.”
    I used to believe this and even repeated it to others. However, I have come to believe that this is not true. I walk in wooded areas with my dog almost every day and he runs through poison ivy all the time. I pet him a lot and I have never gotten poison ivy from him even though I am very sensitive to it.
    I think people come into contact with poison ivy without realizing it and blame it on pets because they see them in contact with it.

  24. D.G.

    When I was a young boy, I would get poison ivy every summer. Before I went to bed, my grandmother would wet the affected area with water, sprinkle salt on it, and gently rub it in. She would then cover it with a cloth. The next morning the rash would be gone. I guess the salt would draw out the moisture.

  25. M

    It’s definitely jewelweed. Learned this from wildlife biologists 30 years ago.

    • Bobbie

      My father always rubbed night shade on our poison ivy… Took away the itch and no bad reactions. This was in Missouri, don’t know what variety of night shade it was!!

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