Removing Poison Ivy from Clothes and Skin

Posted on September 2, 2020 at 8:10 AM by Tom Swegle

Image of clothing items with poison ivy and washing hands with

Getting Rid of Poison Ivy is a Pain

Has this ever happened to you?

You go camping, fishing, or on a nice little hike through the woods only to figure out too late that your clothing has come in contact with poisonous plants that are now causing you to break out into that horrible and painful rash. You try to wash it out, but nothing seems to work and now others in your family are showing symptoms of poison ivy contact. You Google how to remove poison ivy only to find misinformation and confusion. 

If so, you're not alone.

Check out this letter one customer recently sent us (and see if it sounds familiar):

"Hi Outdoor Joe®,

[I'm] very pleased to have stumbled upon your site. Hoping you can speak to a current information gap on how to remove poison ivy resin from a vehicle and other upholstered  surfaces.

Perhaps some background is helpful. [Last month] I went hiking and swimming and unknowingly managed to contact poison ivy/ sumac or oak (not sure which but VERY severe reaction; doc later said worst case they ever saw) all over my body/clothes. I then drove home, showered, and went about my life.

I was completely unaware I had an encounter with poison something until [a few days later]. I immediately began trying to [find the source of] the reaction but didn’t think about surfaces that, by this point were surely contaminated and continued to drive to and from work until [about three days later]. I’ve been housebound since then as my case is very severe.

It finally dawned on me in the last few a days that I was likely re-infecting myself and my home when my mother, with whom I live, began to show a reaction. She did not attend the hike with me the day of contact and she does not and has not used my car. I therefore believe I was unknowingly continuing to bring the resin into the home from my car until [the next day] and by that time had likely spread it to the couch, and I can’t even begin to imagine what other surfaces.

I am now very aware that I need to scrub not only my home and my office but also my car from top to bottom!

Which leads me to my questions on cleaning. There appears to be a lot of information on cleaning hard surfaces (i.e.. using bleach and some info on clothes cleaning- though info on this is variable too), but I have found essentially nothing on how to remove urushiol from upholstery like a fabric couch or a car’s interior.

I’m not only terrified about re-infecting myself as I clean these areas but also don’t know what to use or how to do so. I resorted to using a carpet cleaning machine and the manufacturer’s carpeting cleaning solution with an upholstery attachment to clean the couch but it was impossible to do with rubber gloves, messy and left me feeling unsure I had effectively removed the urushiol (per machine instructions use hot warm, though it became cold by the time the water tank ran out) and with the sense that I likely re-exposed myself in the process, though I showered immediately after.

Hoping you can provide some instruction and/or tips on how to clean these surfaces and what to use ie fabric couch, car interior (leather in my case) but carpets mats, dash etc. I would be thrilled to hear that there is a spray available to douse everything in but anticipate that I will perhaps need to upholstery clean car interior with a degreased like Dawn dish soap? Also, I need rubber gloves, clothing I cover head to toe and perhaps goggles, anything else you recommend for safe cleaning? I have tried to find information provided by car detailing services on the subject with no insight.

Your site has been the most comprehensive on this matter. I trust that if there is information of this issue that you be the source appropriate to provide it.

Ever so gratefully,


Well, Alexandra, you’ve come to the right place! The rash and other allergic reactions that come from contact with Urushiol from poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak is a pain. Figuring out how to remove urushiol from clothes, upholstery, and even from your skin can be almost as big of a pain as the rash itself!

Fortunately for you, Outdoor Joe's® is here to help: Consider this your guide to removing Urushiol!

Urushiol Removal: Best Practices

Simply brushing up against the resin from poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac is a real problem. Even brief contact can cause the sticky substance to stay on your shoes, clothes, and other fabrics for days, weeks, or even months. Our research indicates that it can even remain on dead and dried plants for as many as five years!

Here’s the problem: Urushiol is an oil-based plant toxin. Meaning, it doesn’t dissolve naturally so it must be washed away, or it may continue to spread to more and more items it comes in contact with… for up to two years.

Here are a few “best practices” to keep in mind when you wage your war against urushiol to reclaim your rash-free life!

1. Always use vinyl or cotton gloves for protection when cleaning up Urushiol.

The resin can penetrate rubber so thin latex gloves won’t always protect your hands!

2. Wash your gloves after use.

Vinyl gloves can be washed in hot water with standard dish soap while cotton gloves can be thrown in the laundry with standard detergent (again, at the highest possible temp).

3. Use the right soaps for the job.

Detergent works great for getting Urushiol out of clothes, but for other fabrics and upholstery, consider using simple dish soap and hot water. It’s smart to let the mixture soak in a bit before scrubbing it out but be sure to either wash or throw away the washcloth or towel used to clean as contact with the soiled rag could spread the resin to other surfaces.

Specifically, you should Mix a solution of two cups of hot water and two tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent or liquid dish soap. Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the exposed fabric. Be careful not to get the items soaking wet but be sure to clean every surface. Then use a clean damp cloth to rinse and, if possible, allow to air dry. Depending on the fabric material, drying may take several days.

4. Use the right product for the skin: Zanfel.

As we’ve previously stated in past articles, Urushiol completely soaks into the skin after about 30 minutes. At that point, no amount of scrubbing with regular soaps will remove the pesky resin.

The good news is that there’s a solution! Forget normal detergents and soaps- there is only one product to turn to- Zanfel.

Zanfel is the only product that has been clinically shown to remove the poison ivy plants oily toxin, urushiol, from the skin ANYTIME after the outbreak of the rash.

After the poison ivy toxin is removed from the layers of the skin, the itching stops, and the body is put into a position to immediately begin healing the rash. Many people start to feel the healing relief of Zanfel within 30 seconds of applying the product!

Outdoor Joe’s® is great for helping build your tolerance to urushiol and help you keep from having a reaction before contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, but Zanfel is only one product we trust to remove the resin from skin after contact.

How does Zanfel Work?

Zanfel is a soap mixture that breaks the bond between urushiol and the skin, urushiol is then trapped inside of a micelle within Zanfel. Because it soaks into the skin to fight the rash from within, it’s never "too late" to use Zanfel. 

Like fabric, Urushiol can dwell within the skin for weeks.  If a person has itching and other symptoms, it means that urushiol is still in the skin. By removing the urushiol allergen, the itching stops, and relief starts almost instantly as the body heals itself.

Where can I get Zanfel?

After years of helping people avoid getting poison ivy rashes, we’re excited to announce that Outdoor Joe’s® now offers Zanfel on the Outdoor Joe’s® website! Outdoor Joe’s® may relieve symptoms of Urushiol, but Zanfel treats it!


Want to avoid getting poison ivy related rashes? Get Outdoor Joe’s®!


Want to get rid of the rash and get relief? Get Zanfel!!

With Love,
Outdoor Joe®
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