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How to Kill Poison Ivy in the Yard

By G.K. Bayne ; Updated September 21, 2017
Note the three leaves of poison ivy.
poison ivy, autumn image by Carbonbrain from Fotolia.com

Poison ivy is a three-leaved plant that spreads through rhizomes on its underground roots. The plant will climb most any vertical structure, especially trees. According to Oklahoma State University, first-time infections from the oil in the plant can cause severe skin reactions in some people. Washing thoroughly with a modern dishwashing, degreasing detergent will aid in alleviating itching and removing the oil from the skin. There are two primary methods for removal of the poison ivy plant. Physical digging is suitable if the plant or plants are limited. Use chemical herbicide for large infestations.

Wear old clothing that covers all exposed portions of your body, arms and legs. Place gloves over your hands that also conceal any exposure to your wrist areas.

Dig individual poison ivy plants from the lawn area when the ground is wet. Removing a poison ivy plant from the soil when it is dry may leave portions of the rhizome root structure intact. Any rhizome roots left in the soil will grow back new plants.

Dispose of the poison ivy plants in a safe location. Do not compost the plants or burn them. If placing the plants in the trash, be sure to securely tie the top of any trash bag being used to contain the debris.

Mix the herbicide to the label directions on the container. Apply the herbicide directly to the leaves of the plant by using a sprayer or a wick-type applicator. A wick-type applicator is useful for applying herbicides as the device utilizes a small-diameter cotton wick. Touch the exposed wick, which is soaked with the chemical, on each leaf of the plant. Exercise caution when using the sprayer. Over-spray from the herbicide may infect plants that are not destined to be killed.


Things You Will Need

  • Old clothing
  • Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Plastic trash bags
  • Herbicide (specific for poison ivy)
  • Sprayer or wick applicator


  • Wash all clothing and gloves that come into contact with the plant. Wash the infected clothes, separate from any other laundry, in hot soapy water. Do not dry the clothes in a mechanical dryer, as some of the oil may contaminate the interior of the dryer or become airborne through the heating action. Hang the clothes outdoors to thoroughly dry.


  • Never burn poison ivy plants. The oil in the plants will become airborne and can infect the lungs when breathed. A severe allergic reaction can take place.