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How to Kill Poison Ivy

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

Poison ivy can present a nuisance when it grows in places that you frequently traverse in your yard, garden or woodlands. You can kill poison ivy and eradicate it for good, even the vines that stretch many feet high up into the upper parts of trees, without suffering from the effects of the urushiol oil the plant contains that causes reaction rashes in most people. Be very careful during the process, however, beginning with protective clothing.

Identify a plant positively as poison ivy before trying to get rid of it. Look for a small shrub low to the ground or for a vine that climbs and snakes its way around a tree or bush. The leaves will have an alternate position on the stem, with one leaflet at each node on the stem. The leaves come three on a long stem, with two across for each other and the middle leaf growing between them on a longer stalk. On a tree, the vine will have hairy roots that secure it onto the trunk all the way up.

Spray flowering poison ivy from May through July with herbicides containing glyphocate. This prevents the plant from completing its reproduction cycle. Products such as Roundup, Ortho Brush Be Gone and Kleenup all are effective for this purpose. Follow the directions carefully on the label and spray the plants. Remember that these products will kill any plant they encounter, so aim with care.

Dig up the root system of the dead poison ivy plants that are low to the ground. No matter what you do to the poison ivy above ground, it can grow back from the roots. Dig them up, follow them to their ends and carefully remove them from the area. Realize that even the roots contain the oils responsible for the rash and that touching them with bare skin can result in a possible reaction. Place these roots in thick plastic bags and dispose of them.

Cut poison ivy growing on trees and other structures 6 inches above where it emerges from the ground. Spray this stump immediately with herbicide and check it every so often; you may need to spray it again if it seems to be coming back to life. If possible, remove the root system by digging around this stump, which is often difficult due to the close proximity of tree roots.

Pull the poison ivy vines from the tree after you have cut them close to the root. Wait about a week to 10 days before doing so and make sure that you have your face, hands and legs covered when doing so to avoid unexpected contact with falling vines.


Things You Will Need

  • Protective clothing
  • Herbicides
  • Brush cutters
  • Shovel
  • Thick plastic bags


  • Never spray poison ivy with herbicides on windy days and always wear a mask, gloves and goggles when using these toxic solutions.
  • Never burn poison ivy as this process will release the urushiol oil into the surrounding air, with terrible consequences such as reaction in your throat and lungs possible.
  • Remember that even when dead, poison ivy can cause a rash. Never use it in compost bins and always keep the dead parts in bags or closed containers until you can get rid of them.

About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.