How to Get Rid of Poison Oak Bushes


When people are exposed to poison oak sap, chances are they will break out in blisters that itch and burn. Sap exposure can occur directly from the plant or indirectly from the toxins that are being carried by other people and animals, on clothes and even in smoke when it is burned. Reactions can occur within a couple hours after exposure, but it may surprisingly manifest itself after a few days. Poison oak does not climb like poison ivy, but rather grows as low-growing shrubs. The leaves appear in threes and are lobe-shaped like oak leaves, hence the name.

Step 1

Wear gloves, long-sleeve shirt, long pants and goggles. If you are allergic or have severe reactions to poison oak, get somebody else who is less sensitive to do this job for you.

Step 2

Remove the poison oak by hand. You can also use a shovel or pick to aid in the step. This must be done when the soil is wet in order to successfully pull up the roots.

Step 3

Discard of the poison oak in a bag and throw it in your trash or take it to your local dump that as a yard waste area. Do not burn it.

Step 4

Cut down the poison oak if it grows back. Repeatedly do this in order to starve the plant. If it can't absorb sunlight, it can't make food.

Step 5

Wash your clothing, including your shoes to remove any traces of the poison oak.

Step 6

Apply an herbicide as an alternative to previous steps. Choose an herbicide that is labeled to kill poison oak, such as ones that contain glyphosate or triclopyr, and adhere to the label instructions for application methods and frequency. Herbicides can kill nearby plants and grass, so be careful. Follow the recommended timing for the herbicide, but in general, an herbicide is most successful in killing the poison oak if it is applied in the late spring or early summer after new growth begins, or in early fall before the first frost.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Goggles
  • Pick or shovel
  • Herbicide


  • Oregon State University: How to Deal with Poison Oak and Ivy
  • University of Florida Extension:Identification of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac in Florida
  • University of California: Poison Oak
Keywords: get rid of poison oak, kill poison oak, remove poison oak

About this Author

Melissa Lewis graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has written over 20 episodes for the radio drama entitled "A Work in Progress." She also writes for several online outlets, including Gardenguides, Travels and Examiner, and is currently finalizing a movie script to be filmed in 2010.