Killing Poison Oak, Ivy and Sumac

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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Poison ivy, oak, or sumac can be difficult to deal with but with some precautions it can be killed. When I bought my vacant lot from the city to develop it into a garden little did I know that 10 feet away from my picnic table area giant poison oak vines were climbing up a huge cotton wood tree. When I brought the donated picnic table to the garden, I made sure no one would steal it by using U blots over the legs to anchor them into 300 pounds of concrete. Therefore moving the picnic table is not really an option. So with the help of my Mother Earth News friends, I came up with a plan.

Step 1 – The assessment. 

It’s always good to do research and make sure that the task is within my skills or within my ability to learn the skills. This is where advice from those in the know comes in handy. I sent out the call on Mother Earth News Facebook.

Poison Oak Vine

There it is. The dreaded vine that looks to be almost as old as the tree. It’s been there so long that the tree has grown around the vine making it even more of a challenge. I’ve decided to give it a try.

Step 2 – Formulate a plan

After reading, researching, and getting advice, I’ve decided the best approach is to remove a section of the vine from the base and just leaving the vine on the tree to die. Yes, I know that the active ingredient is still in the vine for many years but at least it won’t be growing new vines or leaves.


Step 3 – Gather clothes and tools

Old clothes that can be bagged up and thrown away will be worn.  Hat, old sun glasses, face mask, long sleeve shirt, heavy gloves, old pants, and old socks are never to be worn again. Tools are simple with only an axe and a matock.

Dressed with clothes and tools

Step 4 – Execute the plan.

Poison Oak Vine Removed

Chop through the poison oak vine with the axe being careful not to have contact with vine.

Step 5 – Dispose of vine debris and clothes.

 After the section was removed it was carefully put in a yard waste bag along with all the wood chips produced by chopping the vine. “DO NOT” ever burn any poison vines. The smoke will carry the resin called urushiol that causes the skin rash. If inhaled it could cause major respitory issues. My method was to take the bag with vine debris; dig a hole in the wooded unused area of my garden lot; and bury the bag and all. An Immediate change of clothes when the vine cleanup was done. All the clothes were bagged in plastic bags never to be washed or used again. They will be double bagged and set out for the trash men to take to the landfill. 

Step 6 – Clean tools.

The tools used are washed with clean water and left to dry.

Step 7 – Wash skin as soon as possible

There are many soaps that are especially made for washing after exposure to poison oak. Any good grease cutter such as Dawn dish soap will wash away the resin of poison oak. This should be done as quickly as possible.

Planning and caution keeps the experience of killing poison oak positive. 

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