Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Prevention

Use These Products to Remove Toxic Oil and Prevent the Poison Ivy Rash

The best prevention for poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac rash is to avoid touching the plant and getting its toxic oil on your skin. But it can be impossible to avoid at times, or you may fail to identify it until it is too late. You can prevent poison ivy rash or poison oak rash by swift removal of the toxic oil as soon as possible. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends applying rubbing alcohol, a specialized poison plant cleanser, or degreasing soap (such as dishwashing liquid) and rinsing well with water. Be sure to wash under your fingernails as the oil can lurk there and get spread to other areas of your body. Here are items that can help you clean away the oil and minimize your exposure.

1
Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Dishwashing Liquid
Walter B. McKenzie/Photodisc/Getty Images

The first step is to wash immediately after contact with poison oak, ivy, or sumac plants to remove the toxic oil, which bonds quickly to your skin. Dawn dishwashing liquid soap is a powerful grease-cleaning product. It's used to clean oil-contaminated wildlife, and it will help get the nasty toxic oil off your skin. You may want to carry some in a small plastic bottle in your car or backpack to use in case you are exposed to poison ivy or oak. Lather and rinse well with water. It's gentle on fur and feathers for wildlife, so it shouldn't be toxic for you.

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2
Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer
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Hand sanitizer is primarily alcohol, and you should apply alcohol as soon as possible to an area exposed to poison ivy or poison oak. Using hand sanitizer and a tissue is an easy solution. It would also be good to rinse with water afterward. It's one more reason you need to take hand sanitizer with you everywhere you go. If you're lost in the woods, it can also be used as a fire starter. Just don't set fire to any poison oak or ivy, as the smoke will contain the oil that causes the rash.

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3
Alcohol Prep Pads

Webcol Alcohol Prep Pads
Webcol Alcohol Prep Pads. Courtesy of Amazon.com

NIOSH recommends immediately wiping the area of contact with alcohol to remove the toxic oil. Bringing individually packaged alcohol prep pads lets you do that conveniently. It's smart to carry these on longer walks as part of a blister kit. You can use them to clean any cuts or scrapes for first aid. Just be sure you are buying alcohol preps and not alcohol-free wipes, as alcohol is what's needed to remove the toxic oil. Rinse with water afterward. Also, authorities note that alcohol will strip protective oil from your skin and you need to be careful to avoid any more contact with poison plants for the rest of the day.

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4
Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser

Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser
Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser. Courtesy of Amazon.com

This is the original skin cleanser from Tecnu, and you can also use it on gear and clothing. The manufacturer recommends washing skin within two hours of exposure, so it would be wise to keep this handy with your walking gear. But you can use it at any time after exposure to minimize the eventual rash. The key is removing the toxic oil from the skin whenever you can.

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5
Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub

Tecnu Extreme Medicated Poison Ivy Scrub
Tecnu Extreme Medicated Poison Ivy Scrub. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Tecnu is the pioneer in poison ivy and poison oak scrubs. This preparation is an actual scrub that contains grit to help you remove the toxic oil from the skin. Once the oil is off of the skin, the reaction to it stops and healing can start. You can use this scrub anytime after exposure. The sooner, the better.

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6
All Terrain Poison Ivy/Oak Bar

All Terrain Poison Ivy/Oak Bar
All Terrain Poison Ivy/Oak Bar. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Hard-milled lye soap is the traditional scrub for after exposure to poison ivy or poison oak. All Terrain produces just such a bar, labeled for this use. It even includes a bag to save the soap in for future use. The soap lathers well, enabling it to strip all oils from the skin to get the toxic oil off. But this also dries out your skin, so the package includes moisturizers to help replace your own skin oil.

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7
Fels Naptha Laundry Soap Bar

Fels-Naptha Soap
Fels-Naptha Soap. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Fels Naptha soap is a traditional scrub for the removal of poison ivy/oak oil from skin, clothing, and gear. As with other scrubs, it should be used as soon as possible after exposure to prevent the rash. But it can also be used after the rash develops to remove remaining oil and shorten the rash outbreak. You can treat clothing and gear that has been exposed with the soap. For clothing, dampen the cloth and rub on the soap as a pre-treatment before washing.

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8
A Word From Verywell

As with so many things in life, prevention is the best cure. Learn what these plants look like and be wary of them when you are in areas where they grow. Be prepared to wash immediately if you have any suspected contact with these plants. You may not be able to completely avoid the rash, but you may help limit it.

Sources:

Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049342.htm

Poisonous Plants Symptoms and First Aid. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/symptoms.html.

The Poison Plants: Poison Ivy, Poison Oak & Poison Sumac. Cleveland Clinic. https://www.verywell.com/poison-ivy-and-poison-oak-prevention-3436294.

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