How To Get Poison Ivy off Garden Tools

Poison ivy is always a nuisance to deal with, as it can affect not only your skin but your garden tools as well. If you’ve recently used your gardening equipment to remove poison ivy from your garden, you’re probably wondering how to get it off them.

Here’s how to get poison ivy off garden tools:

  1. Wear thick gloves and old clothes.
  2. Use hot water and strong soap.
  3. Scrub off the poison ivy.
  4. Dry tools thoroughly.
  5. Use rubbing alcohol (optional).
  6. Dispose of clothes once done.
  7. Use oil on the tools (optional).

In this article, I’ll discuss these seven steps in more detail. I’ll also answer some of your most common questions, such as how long poison ivy stays on garden tools, how long it stays on skin, and if poison ivy oil can damage other plants.

1. Wear Thick Gloves and Old Clothes

First, you want to find some thick gloves and old clothes to wear. You should wear old clothes because you’ll likely get poison ivy on them. Therefore, it might be necessary to dispose of them afterward.

Of course, you can wash your clothes with hot water and heavy-duty laundry detergent after you’re finished, but it’s always good to wear old clothes just in case. You also want to make sure the clothes you wear cover your skin. For example, you should wear a long-sleeve top and trousers or jeans that cover your entire legs. Wear shoes that you don’t care about or that are easy to clean.

Additionally, thick gloves are going to be essential. If you don’t wear them, your hand will likely come into contact with some of the poison ivy residue on the tools.

You can wear washable heavy-duty gloves, but it’s best to wear disposable ones. Medical latex gloves are made to withstand many substances (even strong chemicals), so they’re guaranteed to protect your hands from poison ivy.

If you wear reusable cloth gloves, wash them thoroughly afterward. If you don’t, it’d be best to dispose of them and buy new ones.

2. Use Hot Water and Strong Soap

Once you’re dressed appropriately, the next step is to use hot water and strong soap or detergent. You can use any detergent or soap that fights grease, such as laundry or dish soap.

When mixing the soap in with the hot water, it’s best to use a large bucket. If you don’t mind the idea, you could use your bathtub. However, many people would prefer to do this outdoors in a large bucket to avoid the risk of poison ivy contamination inside their homes.

Once you’ve got your bucket (or bathtub), you can pour clean hot water into it. The water must be hot to break down the poison ivy oils more efficiently. Then, you can add in the soap.

It would be best if you let the tools soak for around 20-30 minutes; then, you can move on to the next step.

3. Scrub Off the Poison Ivy

The oils should be loosened once the tools have soaked in hot water and soap for 20-30 minutes. If the water has become too cold, replace it with hot water before continuing.

Next, you can scrub off the poison ivy using any scrubbing brush. Make sure to go over every part of the tool with your scrubbing brush—you don’t want to miss any spots!

While scrubbing, place the brush back in the water now and then to rinse it and make it hotter—this will help remove the poison ivy quicker and remove any residue from the brush.

The time you spend scrubbing the tools will depend on the size and how many you use. Once you think they’re clean, you can move to the next step.

4. Dry Tools Thoroughly

Drying the tools is the next step, but you must rinse them first. Use clean water to rinse the tools after scrubbing. Then, you can dry them using a clean towel or cloth. Ensure you dry them thoroughly because leaving them damp in certain places could lead to rusting.

At this stage, it should be safe to remove your gloves (assuming you’ve managed to remove all the poison ivy). If you’re unsure, you can keep your gloves on for this step. However, this would mean that you’d need to wear gloves each time you use the tools in the future, so keep that in mind.

After drying the tools, you don’t have to do anything else. However, oiling them is an excellent idea to protect them from further damage. Read the following steps if you’re interested in this.

5. Use Rubbing Alcohol (Optional)

Rubbing alcohol can kill many bacteria, but it can also help remove poison ivy from garden tools. It comes in different strengths, and it’s best to go with a high-strength bottle when eliminating poison ivy. The higher the strength, the more likely it is to remove the oil.

After cleaning the tools with hot water and soap, you can use rubbing alcohol as an added precaution. However, if you’re confident that you’ve removed all the oil, you could skip this step.

Alternatively, you can apply rubbing alcohol to the tools instead of cleaning them with hot water and soap. To do it this way, you can use the same type of rubbing alcohol on the tools and scrub them—this is another highly effective way to remove poison ivy.

6. Dispose of Clothes Once Done

Once you’ve removed all the poison ivy from your garden tools, you can remove your clothes and dispose of them. When removing them, it’s a good idea to put on a fresh pair of gloves in case you have to touch their exterior. However, it’s best to avoid touching the outside of your clothes if possible.

When disposing of your clothes, you should place them in 2-3 heavy-duty trash bags—this will ensure the poison ivy doesn’t seep through the bags, potentially harming other people who come into contact with the trash.

If you don’t want to dispose of your clothes, you’ll need to wash them. To doso, place the clothes in your washing machine and choose a hot wash setting. You want the water to be hot so it can easily break down any poison ivy residue. A strong detergent that can break down grease and oils is also vital.

Make sure you wash your clothes by themselves—don’t add any other items to the wash because you may damage or get poison ivy on them. To be extra cautious, you could wash your clothes twice, ensuring all the poison ivy has come off.

7. Use Oil on the Tools (Optional)

The final step is to put oil on your garden tools. Although this is optional, I would highly recommend going through this step because it will protect your tools and prevent rust in the future.

Although rusting doesn’t always affect the performance of tools, it looks unpleasant and will eventually decrease the quality of your gardening equipment. Oiling tools like shears can be essential because rusting will make them more challenging to use.

There are many oil varieties you can use on your tools. Some of them include:

  • WD40
  • Tung oil
  • Linseed oil
  • Cooking oil
  • Motor oil

Applying oil on tools isn’t just something you should do after removing poison ivy. It’s an excellent practice any time you wash your tools or anytime they need it. To learn more about oiling garden tools, be sure to check out this article: Should You Oil Your Garden Tools?

How Long Does Poison Ivy Stay on Garden Tools?

Poison ivy can stay on garden tools for around five years, so it’s essential to clean any tools that have come into contact with it immediately. Plus, poison ivy residue is often impossible to detect, so you may not even realize you’re coming into contact with it until you get a rash.

Although poison ivy can last on garden tools and other surfaces for approximately five years, the time frame can vary. According to a factsheet published by Illinois Wesleyan University, the oil can remain on surfaces for 1-5 years. Either way, it’s not something that goes away after a few months.

How Long Does a Poison Ivy Rash Last?

A poison ivy rash lasts for approximately three weeks. You can take medication and apply ointments, but the rash won’t magically disappear within a few days. Unfortunately, patience is vital when dealing with a poison ivy rash.

It’s possible to get poison ivy on your skin while cleaning your garden tools, so it’s crucial to wear thick protective gloves and clothing. Since the rash lasts for two to three weeks and is often painful, it will significantly disrupt your life for a while. It can even cause you to stay awake at night.

To make it as bearable as possible, you can try remedies like:

  • Ointments and creams
  • Antihistamines
  • Cool baths
  • Ice

Once you’ve reached the second week, you should notice significant improvements. In some cases, the rash may be gone entirely by the second week! By the third week, the rash should be gone.

Avoid scratching the rash at all costs—this can lead to a spread, making it even more unpleasant.

If you have any concerns or the rash is still present after three weeks, you should see a doctor.

Will Poison Ivy Damage Garden Tools?

Poison ivy won’t damage garden tools, but it will make you susceptible to a poison ivy rash if you come into contact with them. Since poison ivy can remain on solid surfaces for many years, you should wash any tools that have been in contact with it.

Thankfully, poison ivy won’t wear down your tools or cause any rusting or other damage. In many cases, you may not even realize that poison ivy oil is present on your tools. If you suspect your equipment has come in contact with the plant, wear thick gloves any time you handle it and keep it away from other tools.

Not only can garden tools with poison ivy affect your skin, but they can also affect your clothing. Again, the oil won’t necessarily damage your clothes, but it will make you more likely to get a bothersome rash that will last for weeks.

Can Poison Ivy Oil Damage Other Plants?

Poison ivy oil can’t damage other plants, but you should avoid getting it on them anyway. If you touch a plant that has poison ivy oils on it, you will probably get a rash within 48 hours. 

In short, your healthy plants won’t die if they come into contact with poison ivy. However, the oils still contaminate them, meaning you should always wear gloves near those plants.

If you’ve used a garden tool on poison ivy, never use it on other plants before washing it—this will spread the oils around your garden, which you certainly want to avoid. It could cause many people to come into contact with poison ivy, meaning others could get rashes as well.

If you suspect that you have spread poison ivy to a healthy plant, it’s a good idea to remove it and plant a new one—this reduces the risk of you or others getting severe rashes.

Best Products for Removing Poison Ivy From Tools

It’s essential to remove poison ivy from tools to prevent spreading, and having the right products will help you along the way. You now know from reading this article that laundry detergent and dish soap are some of the best products you can use, but there are others.

Below, I’ll discuss the best products to use if you want to remove poison ivy from your garden tools (and other surfaces).

Laundry Detergent and Dish Soap

Laundry detergent and dish soap are some of the best products for removing poison ivy. You likely already have them in your home, and they’re excellent at breaking down crude oils. These products should thoroughly remove any poison ivy residue from your tools when used with hot water.

Any dish soap or detergent that is strong and can fight through grease should work perfectly.

Disinfecting Wipes

Another option to consider is a disinfecting wipe. When using disinfecting wipes, you need to wear gloves to avoid getting chemicals on your hands, but you should be wearing gloves anyway (to avoid touching the poison ivy)!

You could use these wipes after washing your tools with soap and water or use them instead of soap and water. They can remove common allergens and bacteria, so they’re excellent for many uses.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another product to consider when removing poison ivy from garden tools. This product is excellent at breaking down oils, and it’s easy to buy in many stores and online. It would be best if you scrubbed it into the tools using a bristle brush for the best results.

You can use it alone, or you can use it after washing your tools with soap and water.

Poison Ivy Remover

Many products are made explicitly for removing poison ivy from the skin, tools, and other surfaces. These products are excellent if you don’t want to use any other products mentioned in this article.

Can You Use Cold Water To Remove Poison Ivy From Tools?

You can’t use cold water to remove poison ivy from tools because it won’t break down the oils as easily. Using hot water with soap will break down the poison ivy much quicker than cold water, so it’s never a good idea to use cold or even lukewarm water.

Hot water is often superior to its cold counterpart when it comes to cleaning purposes.

Final Thoughts

Getting poison ivy off your garden tools is essential if you don’t want to keep coming in contact with the plant’s residue.

Here are some essential things to remember:

  • Always wear thick gloves when removing poison ivy from garden tools.
  • Soak the tools in hot water and detergent or dish soap for 20-30 minutes.
  • Scrub the oils off the tools using a brush.
  • Oil tools after washing and drying them to prevent rust.
  • Use rubbing alcohol or poison ivy remover if you don’t want to use soap and hot water.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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