Q: Can you tell me the best way to disrobe and launder my work clothes after I mess with poison ivy?

— Paul, Columbia, IL

A: Roger Cook replies: Poison ivy contains a sticky, resinlike substance called urushiol, an oil so potent that even a tiny amount of it can cause an excruciating, itchy rash. One touch of a leaf or stem is all it takes to get the oil on you. Then simply scratching your skin or wiping your brow is enough to spread it around. Anything that causes the oil to become airborne — mowing, using a string trimmer, or burning the plants — can also bring on the dreaded rash.

To get out of my work clothes, I first take off as much as I can with my work gloves on, making sure that the gloves don't touch skin. Then I remove my gloves and finish with my clothes, and wash up with soap and cold water. When I want to be extra cautious, I rub a poison-ivy wash (such as Oak-N-Ivy Brand Technu Barrier cream) anywhere that might have been exposed to the oil, particularly my face, ears, arms, and hands. (If you have someone help you take off your clothes, make sure he or she wears gloves and washes up just as you do.) Then I wash my poison-ivy "armor" separately from other laundry so I don't contaminate those clothes too.
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