laundry room organization

How To Wash Clothes Contaminated With Poison Ivy, Oak, And Sumac

Learn how to properly wash and dry clothes that have come in contact with urushiol oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Also find out how to clean your washing machine afterward so you don’t contaminate future loads of laundry.

A couple of weeks ago I came in contact with poison oak, but I didn’t exactly know it at the time. I just thought they were weedy vines. I knew it wasn’t poison ivy because of that little “leaves of three let them be” saying I learned in elementary school. So long story short, the clothes contaminated with the oil from the poison oak got laundered with an entire load of other clothes.

Here I am two weeks later, covered in blisters from head to toe, and my clothes had been making it worse the whole time. After doing a ton of research as I itched uncomfortably, I finally found the right combination of methods to get all the oil off my clothes and am slowly but surely healing up.

There is a lot of conflicting info online about how to wash clothes contaminated with urushiol oil from poison ivy, oak, and sumac, so today I want to share with you the method that I found that worked the best, along with some tips I got from my Instagram community for preventing further contamination though your washer and dryer.

small pink laundry room by Lela Burris

How To Wash Clothes Contaminated With Urushiol Oil

1. Put on a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves, then put the contaminated clothes into the washing machine alone with nothing else.

2. Wash the gloves with dish soap immediately so you don’t forget.

3. Run the washing machine with detergent on the hottest water setting your clothes will allow. If you can use hot water, definitely do it. But if your clothes can only handle warm water, that’s okay too.

4. Once the washing cycle is complete, add another round of detergent and run the washer again for a second time.

5. If you are very allergic, wash a third time.

6. Dry with the hottest heat your clothes can handle without shrinking.

7. Keep the freshly dried clothes separate from your other clothes until you wear them again. If for some reason all the oil didn’t come out and you had another reaction, the clothes didn’t touch other pieces in your closet so nothing else was contaminated.

PS: You can tour my laundry room here!

washing machine with vinegar

How To Clean Your Washing Machine After Contact With Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac Urushiol Oil

1. Fill the prewash reservoir with vinegar.

2. Fill the detergent reservoir with vinegar.

3. Run the washing machine on the hottest water setting for the longest wash cycle.

4. Wipe down the inner door gasket on front-loaders with vinegar-soaked paper towels or disinfectant wipes. Also wipe down the outside of the door and the buttons.

5. Run another rinse cycle with hot water.

6. Your dryer should be ok, but if you’re very allergic to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, it’s a good idea to wipe down the barrel with a vinegar-soaked rag or paper towel, too.

laundry room organization

Do You Have Tips For Poison Ivy, Oak, And Sumac Urushiol Oil Cleanup And Removal?

I would love to hear what has worked for you in the past. Drop your cleanup, prevention, and healing methods in the comments below to share your tips and hacks for poison ivy contact reactions. I’m still itching away over here as I’m typing, so I’ll take all the advice I can get!

PS: Read More Organized-ish Cleaning Tips Here


  1. It might be worth trying Sarna lotion, Original type. It kept my tick bite from itching. I discovered there are two kinds of Sarna, Sensitive and Original. I had previously used Sensitive and it was good for dry skin itching. Original has camphor and menthol and is really smelly, but it did seem to work well on the itch. It’s a bit on the expensive side.

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