So you’re out in your garden, working hard to keep it looking great. You’ve got gloves on, but the sun is beating down, and you’re sweating profusely.
But then… ouch! Your skin starts itching like mad. That’s right: you’ve been exposed to poison ivy!
Poison ivy is an invasive shrub that grows all over the world—in wooded areas most commonly, but also in fields and other places. Its compound leaves contain three leaves, usually shiny green ones; it can be identified by these features alone.
Urushiol—the oil that causes poison ivy rashes—is found in the sap of poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants. When it comes into contact with your skin, it can cause an allergic reaction. If you’re exposed, you’ll probably notice redness, swelling, and itching within 12 hours.
If you have symptoms of exposure, don’t panic. There are ways to prevent the rash from getting worse. You should first wash your skin with soap and water—this will remove any residual oil that might otherwise spread to other areas of your body.
The good news is that there are soaps out there that have been proven to work against poison ivy—you can’t just use any soap or body wash. You need to find a soap that contains ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and jewelweed, which are known to help manage the symptoms.
In this article, I am going to share with you some of my favorite soaps for treating poison ivy.
1. Grandma’s Pure & Natural Poison Ivy Soap Bar
I’m going to be honest with you: I didn’t expect this soap to work as well as it did.
But it did! Grandma’s poison ivy soap is manufactured in the United States and comes in a small, 2-ounce bar that looks more like a hotel bar of soap than typical soap. But don’t let the size fool you: This soap will do wonders for your skin, even if it is poison ivy or oak!
I can’t say this is my favorite smell—it’s not pleasant—but it didn’t bother me too much while using it.
I had developed an intense rash on my arms and legs after playing in the woods during my family vacation, and no matter what I tried (balm, lotion, aloe…), nothing seemed to help. The only thing that made a difference was this soap! It has colloidal oatmeal and jewelweed to soothe inflamed skin and help prevent further irritation.
I used this soap twice a day for about seven days, and by the end of that time, all signs of the rash were gone. If your rash is severe, try putting a thin film of this soap on your skin until it dries without wiping—it will help!
Even if you don’t see it, urushiol sticks to your skin and requires scrubbing in order to be completely removed. You should use a loofah or washcloth for this purpose—urushiol is like grease, so using something with a good amount of friction will help get it off.
2. Marie’s Original Poison Ivy Soap Bar
For years, I’ve had a family property in North Central Florida, so I’m very familiar with poison ivy. My husband and I are always careful to wear long sleeves and long pants when we’re working outside. But then last year, I got a nasty case of poison oak on my forearm.
It was so bad that it got under my skin and started to itch horribly. We went to the dermatologist and they prescribed calamine lotion. But it just wasn’t doing the trick—I was still itching like crazy! So my mom suggested that we try Marie’s Original Poison Ivy soap.
This soap was a total game changer for me. It smells nice, goes on easy, and the exfoliating side of the soap has been able to soothe my itching without damaging my skin. The other side of the soap is smooth and lathers up nicely when rubbed against wet skin.
To benefit most from this soap, leave it on your skin for five minutes before washing off with cool water. You’ll feel better after a day or two of using the soap—and you won’t need as much cortisone cream anymore! Sooner you use the soap, the better (it will work best if applied immediately following exposure).
The only downside is that it made my skin a little dry after using it for a few days in a row. If you have very dry skin already, I wouldn’t recommend trying this. It costs around $9 per 2.9-ounce bar—not bad considering how well it worked!
3. All Terrain Natural Poison Ivy Oak Soap
I’ve been dealing with poison ivy for as long as I can remember. It’s just one of those things that always seems to pop up when you least expect it—like right before your annual camping trip. Luckily, this soap is amazing at soothing and healing the skin after being exposed to the plant. The best part is that it works! After washing up with this soap and then spraying myself down with rubbing alcohol to kill any remaining itchiness, my poison ivy rash cleared up within about five days.
It has colloidal oatmeal and tea tree, which are both natural ingredients known to help with the itching and inflammation caused by poison ivy. It’s available in three versions: soap bars, spray, and cream.
The soap has a nice smell—not too strong or overwhelming—and doesn’t dry out my skin. Plus, I took WHP Be gone Poison Ivy pills internally, and the combination of those two things worked wonders for me!
I’ve also used their cream on my daughter. She had a bad case of poison ivy, and this helped hydrate her inflamed areas as well as soothe them (she used it for about five days before her skin healed completely).
I love that this product comes with its own resealable travel bag—so I can keep it with me everywhere, including when we’re out camping.
I like using this soap along with Marie’s Original Poison Ivy soap sometimes. The 4-ounce bar is also small enough to be portable—I keep one in my first aid kit in case I ever need it. And don’t worry about the price: one bar lasts quite a while, and each bar costs around $7.
4. Natrulo Poison Ivy Oak & Sumac Soap
I’ve been using Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy soap for years and really like the way it cleans my skin when I have an outbreak. When I couldn’t find it in stores anymore, I tried this soap.
What makes this soap particularly unique is its ingredients, which include goat’s milk, shea butter, and jewelweed. The combination of these ingredients makes this soap so effective at treating poison ivy rashes while also repairing damaged skin tissue.
It’s handmade, so you know it’s going to be fresh and full of skin-loving ingredients. The soap works right away to clear the rash right up, and it’s gentle on my skin. It has a pleasant scent and leathers well, which means you don’t have to use a lot of product each time you wash your hands or body.
I cut a small chunk of soap and put it in a mesh bag. Then, I lather up with water and let the soap sit on my skin for 2 or 3 minutes before rinsing off. Repeat as often as needed to control itching. Sometimes, it leaves a sticky residue behind—but you can wash off any leftover soap with your regular body wash.
I follow up with Ivarest Poison Ivy itch cream after washing with Natrulo soap. It works extremely well to stop the spread of poison ivy on the skin—and it lasts a long time! Each bar costs around $10 and is 4oz in size, and can be found at most drug stores.
5. Ivy-dry Soap for Poison-Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
I’m a huge fan of the Ivy-dry soap. It’s a great tool to have, whether you’re traveling or just want to be prepared for the next time you get exposed to poison ivy.
I’ve used this soap before and it really helps with inflammation and itching after exposure, which allows me to recover faster—and more importantly, reduces the risk of blistering and spreading my rash.
The 3 hotel-size soap bars in this pack are smaller than the standard bar of soap and have small bumps on them that, when rubbed against your skin, create a “scratching effect”—perfect for removing poison ivy oils. They fit perfectly in the size of your palm as you scrub, so they’re easy to hold while washing up.
After scrubbing with this soap, I usually follow up with their Ivy-Dry cream (which also happens to be amazing). It helps reduce inflammation within an hour or two of application.
These bars last longer than other brands I’ve tried before: they don’t melt away faster! You can use each bar more than once, but it’s recommended that you throw them away after one use to avoid further contamination with any residual plant oil.
Each bar is 0.7 oz and costs about $10—but it’s worth every penny! I recommend treating early before symptoms get worse (you can find this at any drugstore or grocery store).
6. Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy and Oak Scrub
If you’re looking for a soap scrub that can help with your poison ivy or oak rash, this is the one. It works way better than calamine lotion and is easy to use.
You just rub the soap on your skin for 15 seconds, scrub it around until the crystals dissolve, then rinse with cool water and towel dry gently. After just 2 washes, I noticed a significant difference: the itching stopped immediately; my skin felt clean; and after about 4 days of use, the rash was completely gone.
It’s like scrubbing your skin with soap and exfoliating beads… but instead of feeling like your skin is being rubbed raw, it feels like a light scratching and it is so satisfying! The odor is pleasant—and doesn’t linger too long after you rinse off!
It is available in 4oz and 10oz tubes. The 4oz size costs around $10, which isn’t too bad considering how effective this stuff really is. You only need to use it once or twice per day until your rash clears up completely.
If you’re a forestry worker or landscaper or if you do any kind of gardening or hiking or mountain biking (or if you have kids who spend time outdoors), this is an absolute must-have for your medicine cabinet!
7. ZANFEL Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Wash
I’ve used ZANFEL wash in the past and I have to say, it’s one of my favorite products for poison ivy. It’s safe for all ages, and it works if you use it correctly. You should apply the soap immediately after exposure and make sure to wet the area before applying.
ZANFEL is easy to use: Just wet the area of skin that has been exposed, take a small amount and apply it directly to the affected area. Rub it in for 30 seconds before rinsing it off.
The granules used in this product are very fine, so they don’t feel too harsh on your skin. They help remove the urushiol oils from your skin and reduce any itching or burning that may still be present.
You should be aware that there are many knockoff versions of this product on the market, including some at Walgreens. None of them work as well as the real deal.
It’s a bit on the expensive side—$25 for 1 oz tube—but if you can afford it and want something that works well, then this is a great choice!
I also like to use the IvyX wipes with it sometimes, because they’re easy to carry in my backpack when I’m hiking or camping. I use these when my hands get dirty during an activity, and I don’t have time—or access to water—to wash before continuing on. The wipes work really well for mild cases of poison ivy when you’re away from home!
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Zanfel and Tecnu in terms of effectiveness.
If you find yourself suffering from poison ivy, there are many treatments available. The most effective treatments consist of oral medications, steroids, and creams that you apply directly to the affected area. However, it is important to remember that if you’re going to use any of these remedies, you need to wash your skin with soap first. This will remove any of the urushiol oils from your skin, thereby minimizing the chance that you will spread it to other parts of your body or onto other people.
I hope you’ve found this article to be helpful. If you plan on being in the woods or camping this summer, make sure to bring one of these soaps along with you—it’s always good to be prepared for any situation! You never know when it might come in handy!