How do you clean clothes after poison ivy exposure?

If you have come in contact with poison ivy either by accident or through an attempt at removing poison ivy from your property, there are certain things to remember about the dangers of poison ivy. While most people believe the leaves are the cause of the painful rash associated with poison ivy, it is actually the oil the plant secretes. The oil, called urushiol, cannot only remain on clothing for years while still being potent enough to cause rashes, but it is also impossible to detect. When you or someone in your home has contracted a poison ivy rash or has come into contact with the plant, you need to properly wash the clothing worn during the encounter. However, it is not as simple as throwing it in the washer like normal clothing.

How to Safely Clean Clothes 

  • Always wear gloves when handling clothes suspected of coming in contact with poison ivy. 
  • Wash clothing separate from clothing free from potential contamination. 
  • Do not overload the washer. Clothes need to be able to move around freely in the water for a thorough cleaning. 
  • Use regular detergent and wash on hot. Hot water can help break down the oils. 
  • Dry as usual. 
  • While the hot water should have properly removed the oils, a precautionary step many decide to take is to clean the washer after washing poison ivy clothing to avoid the slightest possibility of further issues. To do this simply run a hot wash with a cup of bleach. 
  • For shoes that are machine washable, repeat the same steps as clothing. 
  • For shoes that are not machine washable, while wearing gloves apply a mixture of hot water and laundry soap with a sponge. Discard the sponge and allow shoes to dry. 
  • Always discard of any gloves worn when handling contaminated clothing or shoes. 

As long as you follow these steps when dealing with clothing worn during an encounter, you should cut down your poison ivy rash risks greatly. It should be noted that the oils can be spread easily and cause a painful rash. If you use an outside cleaning service or a dry cleaner, make sure you let them know about the poison ivy concern to avoid any issues.

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