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Poison Ivy and Poisonous Vines – Natural Preventative Measures

Since I don’t like to use chemicals in the garden, I have been trying to find natural treatments for poison Ivy prevention so that I don’t have to use poisons  

We have a patch of poison ivy that seems to keep re-appearing in one of my garden beds every so often.

You have all heard the saying “leaves of three”, let them be, I’m sure. The distinctive pattern of poison ivy is one that you should be able to recognize. Natural tips for poison ivy prevention without resorting to harsh chemicals

Poison Oak and Poison Sumac Poison Ivy Prevention Tips

My husband is not one for pulling weeds, but he never lets this one stay in the yard for long!

He is also not as much of an organic gardener as I am, so In the past, he normally just treated it with Roundup, but I decided to try and figure out some more natural ways to treat this problem in our yard.Poison ivy vine

It turns out there are many options other than chemicals for poison ivy prevention.

Unfortunately, most of the remedies will also kill any neighboring plants, so care must be taken with them.  Here are a few natural ways to kill Poison Ivy and other poisonous vines:

Poison Ivy prevention does not mean that you have to resort to round up. There are lots of natural ways to deal with this invasive weed.

Dress for the job

Before you try to deal with poison ivy, be sure that you are dressed correctly.Wear disposable gloves and make sure that your skin is well covered before you begin the job.

Choose the right day.

Be sure there is no wind and the day is dry, especially if you are going to be using any type of spray to treat poisonous vines.

You don’t want wind to put the preventative back on you or on neighboring plants.

Digging and rooting it out. 

This is by far the most effective and safe method.   Larger vines will have to be dug out by the roots with a shovel.  Repeated digging and pulling may be needed as some roots will remain.

digging poison ivy is the best way to get rid of it.

Cut the plants first

If you decide that digging is your best choice, cut the plants to ground level first. Use pruners or shears and remove all the stems you can see and dispose of them in garbage bags.

Doing this will make the job of digging much easier.

Boiling Water

Don’t want to dig?  Apply boiling water to the plants’ roots every day until the plants die off.

If you decide to do it this way, remember that the dead plants still have itch-inducing oils on them, so they should be removed with tongs.  (boiling water will also kill nearby plants)

Smother the area where the poison ivy is growing

A Longer term solution is similar to lasagna gardening. Just use cardboard, black plastic, newspaper, or composted leaf mulch to cover up the area where the poison ivy grows.  In time, the lack of light to the plant will kill it and the roots.

Sprays for poison ivy prevention

Many products can be made at home with natural ingredients for a fraction of the cost and poison ivy sprays are no exception. (see my tutorial for DIY disinfectant wipes, too.

You can use them to wipe down garden tools that might be infected.)

Here are a few natural sprays to treat poison ivy in the garden. Use them on dry days when no rain is expected for several days.

There are several sprays that ill kill poison ivy.

Soap Spray

Make a mixture of 4 tablespoons of liquid dish washing soap and 1 quart of water.  Combine well and put in a spray bottle. 

Please note that this method will also kill nearby plants so be careful where you spray it.

Vinegar, detergent and salt spray

Vinegar has long been used as a weed killer because it is so acidic.  Combine a cup of salt, a tsp of dish washing liquid and a gallon of vinegar.  Heat the salt and vinegar to dissolve the salt. 

Cool, and then add the detergent.  Pour into a spray bottle.

Spray on the poison ivy.   (note…also kills near by plants so be careful.)

Horticultural vinegar spray

This natural weed killer uses no salt, which can be damaging to the soil. But for it to work, the vinegar must be at least a 20% strength. For poison ivy, stronger is even better.

See how to make this vinegar weed killer here.

After Treating Poison Ivy

Once you have treated the poison ivy, follow these tips for more control.

Clean clothing, gloves and tools after treating poison ivy

Dispose of poisonous vines properly

Don’t add the vines to your compost pile or burn it.  Inhaling the smoke from the plants can hurt your lungs.

Place the plants in heavy plastic bags and dispose of rubber gloves, as well.

Disinfect tools

Don’t allow the poison ivy to infect other plants in your yard.  Rinse your shovels, pruners and other tools with rubbing alcohol. Let them dry and then add oil to prevent rust.

See my general tips for treating garden tools.

Clean the clothing

The clothes that you used to deal with poisonous vines will need to be washed separately.  Also be sure to clean your boots or shoes with soapy water.  If you used rubber gloves, dispose of them.

If you feel you must resort to a spray to tackle the problem, a natural herbicide that works is St Gabriel Labs’ Poison Ivy Defoliant, which is made from plant oils. 

Another more natural killer is called Bite Blocker Weed Killer.

Types of poisonous vines

There are other poisonous vines too. They react similarly on the skin but have different leaf formation.  This graphic shows the differences.These are the three poisonous vines common to homes in our area - poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. There are lots of natural ways to get rid of it in your yard without using poisonous chemicals.

What have you successfully used for poison ivy prevention in your yard other than chemicals?  Please leave your comments below.

Treating Poison Ivy Rash

Normally people can develop a sensitivity poison ivy, oak or sumac only after they have encountered it several times. Sometimes this takes years, But sensitivity can occur with some people after only one encounter with the plant.

If, in spite of your best efforts, you have come in contact with the plant and have developed a rash, please try these home remedies to treat it. 

Leaves of three...leave them be. But what do you do if you get a case of poison ivy? See my natural remedies.

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Sunday 2nd of July 2023

I’m still working on getting rid of the poison ivy and have always used vinegar salt and soap remedy for weeds so I’ll give it a go with the ivy. In way of a rash treatment this I found after some experimenting. While my husband is fishing in a lake next to our home our dog wanders around sniffing and what have you then sits between my husbands feet. Our dog must have rubbed on some plants which was transferred to my husbands calves and inner lower thighs. It was pretty inflamed. After a cool shower I have him use Clearasil acne pads (it’s basically liquid aspirin)to wipe down the entire rash area making sure the skin is well saturated, then let it air dry without fanning so it throughly absorbs into the skin on its own. Which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Then apply Calamine lotion. Doing this process 2x daily, morning and before bed. In less than 3 days it’s completely cleared up. If it’s really bad then 3x daily won’t hurt but my husband could only handle twice. I use the pads for scratches and minor cuts also for itchy feet, mosquito bites and the list goes on. We never travel without it and its in our emergency car kit.


Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Thanks Carol. I recently published an article on how to identify ivy types and I am also looking for ways to kill poison ivy. Many thanks for your article because the method is completely natural. I will try to apply and update to my article.

Katherine Edwards

Friday 20th of April 2018

When can i plant after using vinegar solution?


Friday 20th of April 2018

Hi Katherine. I've never tried planting right after using any weed killer including vinegar, but most weed killers Are supposed to degrade readily in the soil. Even round up says that you can plant about a week later. The poison ivy that I've treated was not in an area where I needed to plant anything for several months. Carol


Friday 20th of April 2018

When can i plant after using vinegar solution?


Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Are there any plants that will "drown out" poison ivy? Or block it from spreading further?



Saturday 8th of October 2022


I agree with your strategy Carol, but also found as this person did, poison ivy didn't grow where Sweet Fern is.

I never had a poison ivy problem until a few years after I pulled out the Sweet Fern to create a heather garden ...

And, where the sweet Fern grows in my yard, there is no poison ivy.

Hmmm, certainly an interesting coincidence, unless of course there's something more going on.

Will attempt to plant Sweet Fern in the heather garden, to see what happens. (Don't hold your breath though. That project is in the distant future.)


Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Hi Sue. I have not heard of any plants that will do this. Even if they kept it from spreading it would always be there, ready to be a problem. Poison ivy is tenacious. Carol

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