How to Wash Poison Oak Out of Clothes & Shoes


Poison oak (as well as poison ivy and poison sumac) contains a sticky oil called urushiol. Urushiol is what causes the itchy rash when you come into contact with these plants. Because the severity of the reaction increases with the time the oil is in contact with your skin, you should remove any contaminated clothing items (including shoes) as soon as possible, and wash them before wearing them again.

Things You'll Need

  • Disposable gloves
  • Regular laundry detergent
  • Washing machine
  • Put on the disposable gloves.

  • Place the soiled clothing into the washing machine, being careful not to let your skin come into contact with the clothing. Dispose of the gloves.

  • Add regular laundry detergent to the machine and wash normally.

  • Wash the clothes several times if desired, particularly in cases of prolonged exposure to the plants. Some sources recommend washing them a minimum of three times.

Tips & Warnings

  • Regular laundry detergent is formulated to remove oils, so purchasing a special detergent is unnecessary.
  • If you have contaminated shoes, wash them in the machine with the other clothes if at all possible, to minimize the time you spend handling the items. Otherwise, extreme care must be taken in washing them by hand, to avoid further skin exposure to the urushiol. Be sure to wear gloves.
  • Use hot water to wash the clothes, if possible. The oil will more easily be removed.
  • Repeated exposure to urushiol can result in an increasingly severe reaction. If you are severely allergic, you might wish to consider disposing of the clothing.
  • To avoid potentially spreading the toxin, do not wash poison oak-contaminated clothing with other clothing.

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