A Natural and Fast Poison Ivy Cure

Updated on April 27, 2017
Man from Modesto profile image

I spent 5 years as a site surveyor in Georgia, which meant that I frequently encountered poison ivy. This natural treatment worked for me.

Poison Ivy dries and turns red in late summer and fall. This is the worst time to contact it. The dry chemical transfers like sticky dust.
Poison Ivy dries and turns red in late summer and fall. This is the worst time to contact it. The dry chemical transfers like sticky dust.

Why I Contracted so Much Poison Ivy

I worked in Georgia for five years. One of my tasks was to survey sites for proposed construction, hammer in guide stakes for underground storm water lines, locate property pins, and similar surveying tasks. This requires romping through the brush.

You can imagine that I encountered poison ivy many times!

The following tips are the techniques I learned to prevent, minimize, and quickly clear up poison ivy (or poison sumac, it's all the same after it starts burning and itching!).

How to Remove the Sting and Start Rapid Healing

I moved out to Georgia from California. I knew nothing of identifying, treating, or blocking poison ivy. I only knew that the rash results from a chemical reaction with the oil of the plant, which is called urushiol.

One day, standing in line at CVS, or maybe it was the Food Lion, a little old African-American church lady tapped my elbow. In the south, there remains some hesitancy to communicate between light skin and dark skin. So, it was a real God-send. What she told me next saved me many weeks of suffering under the curse of poison ivy.

"I see you must have poison ivy," she said. She pointed in a slow direct motion toward a pink plastic bottle of calamine lotion tucked under my arm and a big bag of white cotton balls in my hand.

"Yes," I said. "I hate this. I get a case every two or three weeks surveying in the bushes around here."

"Well," she told me, "What you need is some vinegar. Apple cider vinegar will dry that out in a few days."

Despite the standard medical prognosis of "this will clear up in one or two weeks," I have had cases of poison ivy that lasted for months. Not just two months, either. I'm talking about 4 months once and 3 and a half months another time. In Georgia, the rashes tended to last three weeks. Still, a day or an hour with poison ivy is intolerable. So, I did as the woman in her Sunday best advised: I bought a jug of apple cider vinegar.

A Good Overview of Poison Ivy

Apple Cider Vinegar Stops the Itch!

I came home with my bottle of apple cider vinegar. Being scientifically oriented, I decided to put calamine lotion on the right arm and cider vinegar on the left. I finished dabbing the lotion on the right side, and let it slowly dry. The preferred method is to dab, not brush on the lotion. It saves against popping rash bubbles, which then take longer to heal.

It really itched as the calamine dried. Ugh!

Next, I put vinegar on the blotchy red rashes on my left arm. It burned! Wow. But, once the initial burning subsided, it no longer itched. This was an unexpected extra bonus with this treatment: it burned for a few moments, then the itching left completely for about an hour. It was worth it! Also, be sure not to break bubbles with scratching. The sting of vinegar intensifies a little with the broken skin. And, it takes longer to heal.

After just one day of my left-arm-vinegar and right-arm-calamine, it was very obvious that calamine lotion does nothing for the sting and itch. So, I quit the calamine completely and have used vinegar exclusively since then. Later, I threw out the calamine as I realized it is worthless in the shadow of using a natural remedy- common vinegar! But, I hope you will return yours to the store and get a full refund. Tell the clerk, "This stuff doesn't work. It just stains my clothes pink."

Poison Ivy Rhyme

Rhymes are easier to remember. They use higher (deeper) mind functions, which stay in long-term memory better.
Rhymes are easier to remember. They use higher (deeper) mind functions, which stay in long-term memory better. | Source

This Man Knows the Truth- Chemical Burn, NOT Allergic Reaction

Keep Applying Small Amounts

As the vinegar dries, it dries up the rash. Please carefully consider the next tip- I want you to believe me. I have used this vinegar method many, many times.

The more you apply the vinegar, the faster the poison ivy dries!

Keep a small cap full of vinegar, or a half-inch in a shallow coffee cup near your work station, or on a coffee table. Keep it, and a dozen Q-tips at hand. Every few minutes, dip the cotton tip into the vinegar and dab it onto the rash. Let it completely dry before dabbing more vinegar. I also use my finger after the rash has begun to dry. It is just faster. As the rash dries, it becomes less tender, itches less, and becomes sufficiently tough to use a finger tip and spread the vinegar in a non-dabbing technique.

The more you dab the vinegar, the faster it will dry. It will begin to dry out and produce brown flakes. I think the brown tint is from the color of the apple cider vinegar. I'm not sure. But, that is the way it always works. Applying large amounts to the poison ivy rash seems to delay the drying, extend the stinging, and only produce the same drying effect as a small amount does. So, just dab on a small amount, and let it completely dry between applications. At first, you will not be able to discern the effect. However, by the second day, you will notice that the edges of the rash have begun to dry. The postules (bubbles) and any skin breaks will take the longest to dry out and heal. So, don't scratch!

Anticipate Outbreaks, and treat with apple cider vinegar:

The body's reaction appears faster on thinner skin. If you find a rash forming on your wrist, or between your fingers, expect you have likely had contact in other locations. Wash first with soap and your bare hands (nothing that might scratch the skin, however minor, and allow urushiol oil to take sanctuary.) Next, splash the vinegar around.

Cheap Method to Cure Poison Ivy Rash:

Net Cost? A gallon of cider vinegar costs 3 to 5 dollars. You will use a few cups at most. Your cost to use this treatment will be under a dollar.

Can Calamine Lotion Spread Poison Ivy?

The proper way to use Calamine Lotion is to wet a cotton ball and then dab the lotion onto your wounds. Do not stroke the lotion onto the poison ivy rash as you would to paint fingernails.

Officially, it is impossible to spread poison ivy by touching a rash and then touching clear skin. However, some medical professionals have argued that poison ivy can become systemic and spread from one location to another. The mechanics of this are unclear. Personally, I believe one of the following two scenarios are more likely:

  1. An item in your home is covered in the urushiol oil of ivy, oak, or sumac. By contacting one or more such items, you are getting burned over and over again.
  2. Urushiol does not burn at the exact same rate on all parts of your body. The chemical burn is slower where less oil contacted you. It will be more severe where clothing rubbed the skin, or where skin rubbed skin. The waistline, under the arms, and beneath backpack straps are such areas. Thinner areas of skin like the wrist and between the fingers will rash before thicker skin like the back of the neck. Bodily reactions will be visible on thin skin first.

If new burns appear more than two days after the first signs, you have a problem. Keep washing with soap- It takes at least an hour for the oil to chemically react with the skin. You can neutralize urushiol with soap.

Also clean everything that might be the source of secondary contamination (like doorknobs and hiking boots). If your dog joined you on a hike in which you acquired poison ivy burns, wash your dog, too. Even if your dog explored the woods alone, and you somehow gained a mysterious urushiol rash, it's bath time for Fido.

Stay Cool

If you get hot, the poison ivy burn gets irritated. You will be more comfortable in an air conditioned space. Sleep with a minimum of blankets to avoid overheating.

Keeping comfortable is an important part of treating poison ivy. When it burns, it itches. Scratching can break skin, especially the bubbles. That will increase healing time.

Sweating moistens the rash as well. Keep the burned area dry. You want it to dry out. This expedites healing.

Stop Poison Ivy Spreading

Poison Ivy may slowly appear over 24 to 36 hours. This is because thicker skin reacts more slowly to the burn.

However, if you have a rash migrate from the left side to the right side, or from right to left, it is more likely you have something contaminated with the Urushiol chemical. Each new contact is putting more oil on your skin, and new burns result.

If new rashes appear after the first day, be sure to read How to Prevent Poison Ivy, and implement the steps given.

Further Reading

This is a related article I wrote: How to Prevent Poison Ivy.


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    • profile image

      marina 9 months ago

      i have poison ivy since sunday and it seems like more irrated when i put the acv today-as i read some of the comment i realize i have to put water on it-how long does it uselually last before it gets better.over the counter doesnt seems to work so acv does gives me some relief of the itching_ i havent been sleeping because of the itching.

    • profile image

      nancy baltinsky 10 months ago

      how about coconut oil? does it work? does drinking lots of water help?

    • profile image

      Stacey G Reality 23 months ago

      Apple Cider Vinegar WORKS !!! Bleach can be toxic and can cause your rash to scar btw.

      I also tried the calamine lotion I had and it did diddly. I also tried some over the counter itch relief ointment, it too was useless.

      By the next day I was still itching like the blue blazes getting virtually no relief from the above mentioned treatments...maaaan, it is one unbearable itch,

      THEN I remembered hearing about Apple Cider Vinegar being a cure (and I always have some on hand because I drink it regularly after meals to help with digestion and it's also good a for a ton of other things, heals urinary system, prevents colds, good for pet's, spray right on fur to heal hot spots, repels fleas, saved my cat's life when she couldn't pass urine, the list almost endless!),

      so I put some slightly diluted ACV on the affected skin ( 1 part ACV to one part water) it stung for half a second but then boom! the itch was GONE ! I continued applying at regular intervals and the spots healed up just fine and itch free, I can't recommend it enough ! Apple Cider Vinegar should be a staple in everyone's pantry as well as medicine cabinet...

      The kind of ACV I used was the Organic undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother (which is the be eficial film full of nutrients found only in unfiltered ACV.

      The brand I use is Vitamin Shoppe brand, I researched and they have the best prices as well as superior quality over that hyped "Bragg's" brand which is a shady so-called health company with alot of questioanble practices, Google "Bragg's health company toxic products" and read the stories .

      Anyhow, Vitamin Shoppe Organic Apple Cider Vinegar rocks, costs less and is a superior product.

      Be Healthy ~

      Peace !

    • Man from Modesto profile image

      Man from Modesto 2 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

      Suzanne, When I was in the Marines, we used bleach to clean out poison ivy rash. It hurts like nobody's business. And, it scars up the skin.

    • profile image

      Suzanne Biely 2 years ago

      Bleach....gone !

    • profile image

      Rain 2 years ago

      So glad I still have a container of ACV with the "mother" in the cabinet from when I have pink eye. I've been using Ivy Dry and while it's great for over nite, or while at work, or it doesn't help when I'm at home and relaxing. Calamine lotion never did anything for me. I just wish I knew about ACV when I was teenage and had Poison Ivy for months on my ankle. I've still got scars from that

    • profile image

      Angie 3 years ago

      it REALLY does work!!! I can get poison ivy just going from the car to the house, never doing any yard work at all!!! All spring and summer!!! This has really helped!!! It's fast relief!!! Nothing else Iv ever tried works this fast!!!

    • sabrani44 profile image

      sabrani44 6 years ago

      Great hub! I will definitely have to try that if I ever get poison ivy.