Poison ivy is one of the great equalizers of the natural world. Not only do we despise it, but we also have trouble getting rid of it, even when it’s in our own backyard. Like mosquitoes and gnats, we often have a hard time figuring out just what purpose poison ivy serves in the grand scheme of the world, but thankfully, poison ivy can be quite a bit easier to eradicate from your yard than trying to keep mosquitoes from biting. You just have to have the right weapons in your arsenal.
In the south, poison ivy often grows as vines right up the side of a tree. The thick, woody vines have just as much urushiol as the leaves themselves, and sometimes even more. If you unwittingly try to tear off the vines from the sides of the tree, not only can you find yourself touching extremely heavy concentrations of the urushiol oil, but you may also end up breathing in particles of dead poison ivy vines (which are still full of the oil) and severely irritating your lungs.
The best way to combat this tree-infesting ivy is to begin by cutting the vines at the base of the tree. This will not kill the vine completely, however. After it is cut, you must then spray the vine with a full-strength, undiluted chemical treatment, making certain that the chemical comes into contact with the inner rings of the vine. This will allow the chemical to be drawn up into the plant, effectively killing it from the inside out.
From the vine on the tree, there will also be a number of ground-growing vines that will have to be removed, as well. These often show up as the small green shoots with three leaves on top. Spray each of these shoots with the chemical treatment, and then make a mental note as to where they are located. Once the plant shoots have died off, they will have to be dug up.
Dig the underground vines out of the ground, tracing them back to the main root. It will likely be very close to the tree itself, but as these vines can re-root themselves, it may take you some time to find it. When you do, remove the entire root and place it in a plastic trash bag. Whatever you do, do not burn the poison ivy root or vines. The urushiol when burned still maintains its allergen, and you can easily irritate your lungs by breathing even a small amount of the smoke from the fire. In addition, you may place in danger any people nearby who may be severely allergic to poison ivy. Once you’ve got it bagged, the best thing to do with it is to simply place it in the trash.
Any time you handle poison ivy, even if you use gloves and full-coverage clothing, it’s a good idea to wash your hands with poison ivy soap. This soap contains chemicals that neutralize the poison ivy oil and wash it from your skin. You can also use high-strength rubbing alcohol for this, as alcohol tends to dissolve the urushiol and wash it away.