Tecnu Washes Away Poison Ivy Oils Instead Of Just Dulling The Itch

We got some poison ivy and first we tried our Hot/Cold water method. In this, first you run hot water on the rash until it’s so hot you can’t stand it. Then hold it there. Then flip the water to freezing. Your nerves will be so freaked out they won’t know how to itch for the next few fours.

Days later, the rash hadn’t gone away and we were starting to go insane. We bought 3 poison ivy products but only one of them really worked.

Extra-Strength Benadryl Anti-Itch Cream sorta/maybe dulled the itching, but we didn’t notice a big difference. Ivy-Dry Super was fun to squirt on and we didn’t have to touch our weeping balls of poison ivy, but after the menthol dissipated it didn’t really seem to do much.

Then we tried Tecnu Outdor Skin Cleanser. You rub it on for two minutes then run it in cold water. It actually cuts the oils causing the irritation and washed them away, and we felt immediate relief. After that, we felt no more itching. Tecnu is awesome, you can get some here. They’re selling it for about $11 on Amazon.


Edit Your Comment

  1. boandmichele says:

    i am one of those weird folk that are not affected by poison ivy. but i must say that it does not sound pleasant.

  2. Fujikopez says:

    “…we didn’t have to touch our weeping poison ivy balls…”

    That’s great, but why did you have poison ivy down there?

  3. Toof_75_75 says:

    When I used to work for the street department near my house (before I went to college), I would get small bits of poison ivy from weed-whacking and such…I always just rubbed gasoline into the affected area and it dried it up in no time.

  4. davere says:

    As gross as it is, pee a bit on the affected area and you’ll be fine in seconds. Great tip for when you are out enjoying nature.

  5. rhombopteryx says:

    This works better than just killing the pain because it removes the problem ranther than just treating the symptom. This works great too for chile oils like habanero or other uncomfortably hot chiles. The secret ingredient? Mineral oil and simple detergents (soap) which dissolve the offending oils and allow them to be rinsed off in water they wouldn’t otherwise dissolve in. Great as these chemical formulations are, you can even get them cheaper yourself, just buy the active ingredient and use that instead.

  6. grins says:

    Ben, how bad were your infections? Do you believe the Tecnu cured you?

    I used Zanfel ([www.zanfel.com]) on my last two PI infections. It does significantly reduce the itching, and they document clinical trials proving its effectiveness at removing the urushiol oil. Caveat emptor; for both my infections with poison ivy, I ended up needing steroids from my doctor to clear them up. Zanfel was

  7. homerjay says:

    I’ve used Ivy-Dry several times and its worked great. Are you sure you’re not being paid to push this product?? :)

  8. rhombopteryx says:


    If it isn’t immediately obvious, disregard Davre and listen to Toof_75. The poison ivy oils are just that, “oils.” They dissolve in other oils, like gasoline, much more readily than in water solutions, like pee. Unless you piss 100 proof or kerosene, you’ll just smell bad and itch. Large enough quantities might eventually rinse it off, but there’s so many more sanitary things to use.

  9. The Walking Eye says:

    You really should have put a blanket down next to that tree, Ben.

  10. Skyoodpov says:

    I have used this in the past, and when used properly it is a lifesaver. If you already have poison ivy, it works ok, nothing miraculous. It will however STOP you from getting PI if you apply it quickly enough.

    If you already have PI, and have insurance, a quick trip to the doctor will net you some Prednizone (sp?), which cleared it up for me in about 36 hours.

  11. timmus says:

    Here in Texas we’ve got a ton of poison oak on our property and have a lot of experience with this type of thing. Tecnu is okay, but you’ve got to use it during the first 12 hours or so for it to really work. Usually by the time you’re itching up a storm, it’s too late to use Tecnu. Zanfel (about $35 a tube) is a holy grail. I’ve had it completely cure a 2-day old rash in just minutes.

    As far as I’m concerned, there are no products or techniques that work at all except those specifically designed for poison oak / poison ivy.

  12. timmus says:

    Also here’s a good overview of treatment options:

  13. qwertybot says:

    @rhombopteryx: I don’t know whether or not urine works, but in term of how sanitary it is, as long as you don’t have a bladder infection (in which case you have problems bigger than poison ivy to worry about), it’s sterile.

  14. loreshdw says:

    I am the lucky member of my household that has never (yet) had a reaction to PI, only Poison Oak, so I was nominated to pull up a whole bed of the stuff next to my house.

    Best treatment: prevention. I know it’s oh-so-fun to wear long sleeves & pants when it is over 80 by 10am, but better than itchiness. And rubber dish gloves are a cheap alternative to gardening gloves, you can toss them instead of infecting your washing machine. My hubby is so allergic, I have to run a bleach load after washing anything with PI in the machine.

    If you do get it on your skin, wash with soap and cold water ASAP, hot water will increase any inflammation. Don’t wait until you start to itch. If you are itchy, take a cold shower (in case you spread it without noticing, PI on the forehead is hysterical when it isn’t on you) and take a Benadryl. Every anti-itch cream my family tried doesn’t do much, but if the PI gets to the point of weepy blisters, a doctor suggested a cheap rinse: Listerine, the yellow stuff only, green mint flavor has sugar in it which you do not want.

    Every home-treatment is about the same. Wash as much off as you can as soon as you can. Try not to spread it. Wait. Don’t scratch. Wait some more.

  15. WNW says:

    Where was this post a month ago?

    Stupid poison oak.

  16. alicetheowl says:

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the oatmeal trick. You basically make a paste of oatmeal and water, and slop that on the affected area for about a half an hour. It absorbs the oils, and then you just scrape it off.

    It worked when my husband got poison oak a few months ago, and it’s way cheaper. The catch is that you have to put it on the affected area as soon as possible, before the skin has absorbed the oils.

  17. Snakeophelia says:

    I never paid attention to poison ivy treatments much in the past. Then I decided to clean out my back garden. Suffice to say that my ignorance of what poison ivy looks and feels like when it starts led to my spreading it over pretty much my entire body.

    I noticed CVS has a store-brand poison ivy treatment that is $20 – perhaps it is a generic of Zanfel?

  18. AcidReign says:

        I don’t get poison ivy itch, but my brother does, if he even looks at the stuff! His remedy? Get in the shower, and scratch like crazy. Just claw the crap out of yourself in the water. Then shut the shower off, and apply rubbing alcohol liberally. Rub the stuff into the clawed skin for at least 15 minutes. Then rinse again.

        He swore up and down that it works. Couldn’t say for sure, but I do know that it was tough to listen to him scream in the shower for 15 minutes…

  19. mandawest says:

    Dish soap is way cheaper … the poison ivy irritant is an oil, so a cheap dish soap works the same.

  20. Antediluvian says:

    Executive summary: Tecnu = GREATEST, Cala-Gel = EXCELLENT, piss & gasoline = NO, steroids = Barry Bonds, oatmeal = breakfast.

    Tecnu is THE product for preventing an outbreak Hands down, after exposure. Cleanse with it properly after you’ve been exposed and you won’t get an outbreak.

    For relief AFTER an outbreak has happened, use Tecnu’s product “Cala-Gel.” It’s the only thing that works for me. It’s a thick gel, and just a little rubbed on regularly relieves the itch and speeds the healing. I have pushed this product on friends and strangers for years. It smells pleasant and won’t stain. It’s thick, so it won’t run.

    Urine is fine for jellyfish stings, probably okay for nettles and other “stinging” problems, but not for poison ivy. Never rub gasoline on your skin — that should go without saying. I don’t know where to begin w/ the “scratch yourself raw and bathe in rubbing alcohol” technique.

    Avoid prednisone and other steroids unless you absolutely need them — PI in your eyes or other mucous membranes or a seriously bad case. I used prednisone when I had PI covering both forearms solidly after chainsawing the stuff (don’t do that). It works but can mess up your body in very bad ways, so only use it short-term if you can.

    Often you can find Cala-Gel with sample size bottle of Tecnu free. You can buy them both at CVS here in Mass.

    I can’t vouch for the oatmeal trick, but I’m more than willing to spend a few bucks for the Tecnu.

    I haven’t yet spent the big bucks for the other product mentioned here (the Z-thing) because it’s $35 at CVS and the Tecnu stuff works great.

    Your sensitivity to PI WILL change over time and with greater exposure, so enjoy your immunity it while it lasts.

  21. timmus says:

    Dish soap is way cheaper … the poison ivy irritant is an oil, so a cheap dish soap works the same.

    Only in the first 15 minutes of exposure. After that, the urushiol oils form a chemical bond with the skin. When that happens, soap can’t form micelles and wash it away.

  22. kimsama says:

    Wow…just wow. I am extremely allergic to urushiol (Poison Ivy, Oak, Sumac, and mangoes, cashews, etc), and I am glad I’ve never had to pee on myself ^_^

    I tried Tecnu and it didn’t work. I also tried about 4 other brands, with the same result.

    The only thing that seems to work for me is corticosteroids (mild cases) or prednisone (severe). Luckily, since I have a long history of urushiol-induced dermatitis, I have a tube of corticosteroids all the time. Joy! Poison Ivy is gone before it really starts. I highly recommend it, since poison ivy-induced rashes are allergic reactions, after all. Unfortunately, many docs won’t just give out corticosteroid scripts for minor cases. Ah well!

    The best method really is prevention. But sometimes you don’t know what foods mangoes have snuck their way into…

  23. timmus says:

    In short, dish soap does not work the same.

  24. Antediluvian says:

    Dish soap will not work as well as Tecnu. If it were true, then ANY soap would work — dish, hand, or face, since they all work on the same principle. It might work for you, but you might also spread the oil around and get it in other interesting places.

    Use Tecnu. It works.

    — Not a shill, just a highly satisfied customer.

  25. Antediluvian says:

    Oh, and this is the most important advice of all: learn to identify the plant and avoid it if possible, or at least know when you’ve been exposed. Here are some helpful sites:

    Poison ivy is notoriously variable! It always has three leaflets, but sometimes it’s a vine, a bush, or an herb. It can be shiny or dull, dark or light green, even red colored. The oil is found in ALL PARTS of the plant, and is still potent in winter. Poison ivy can climb trees and if you’re not careful while walking in the woods you may get hit in the face with a branch. This is bad. Go home and bathe in Tecnu, and probably see your doctor.

    Poison ivy on delicate membranes — eyes, lungs, nose, mouth, genitals — are all serious medical situations requiring a doctor visit. Do not just self-treat PI on these places.

    And for FSM’s sake, don’t burn the stuff.

  26. SirKeats says:

    when i get the oak, i itch till it bleeds, then pour rubbing alcohol on it. dries it right up and stops the itch. lol. extreme, i know, but it’s worked for me in the past.

  27. EtherealStrife says:

    As a boy scout for over 10 years (200-250 nights under the stars), I picked up poison oak on more than one occasion. The problem with the urushiol is that your own body is doing the damage, not the oil/plant. So as you build up antibodies through repeated exposures, the damage is increased. Those of you who never get it WILL get it, if exposed on enough occasions.
    At this point if I pick it up I’ll almost certainly be hospitalized, so my main defense is avoidance. Whether it’s Joshua Tree in the middle of summer or Mammoth during winter, I always wear full cover. Military surplus uniform top and bottom, wide brimmed boonie hat to keep leaves and branches out of my face (and the sun/heat), and pre-exposure lotion on every mm of skin that COULD be exposed (delays skin bonding). Wear clothing you can afford to toss if need be, as a single normal wash will often leave some of the oil (nothing sucks like re-exposure…I know :( ). I now do multiple “quarantined” hard washes after each camping or hiking trip, regardless of whether or not I’m exposed.

    Short sleeved shirts or shorts are a death wish.

    The only way I’m aware of to avoid the reaction is to suppress your body’s immune system or sensitivity in exposed areas (there are anti-urushiol products that do this, but I’ve steered clear of them).

    Urushiol is persistent. Remember that when handling dead branches, or exposed clothing. It doesn’t have an expiration date.

  28. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Ahh the good ole Poison Ivy routine. I was mowing the grass in our back yard or as we called it the jungle, when I inhaled little bits of PI. You think it itches on your outer skin? Try in your mouth and nose. I was shoving qtips with calamine up my nose :(. The DR gave me Prednisone and had me gargle with listerine every 10-15 min for days…I still cant handle listerine to this day (shudder)

  29. Antediluvian says:

    Another consideration with the alcohol baths: if you’re scratching yourself to the point of oozing — nevermind to the point of bleeding — you are at risk of scarring. If you then kill your skin cells with the alcohol, you’re almost certain to do serious PERMANENT damage to your skin.

  30. anatak says:

    Dermaplast makes a great PI treatment. The key is to wash the oils off. With a bad rash, $20-$30 is well worth the relief. Demaplast worked with several repeated treatments. Twice a day at first, then once daily.

    I do know the PO is different. Vinegar does work as a treatment for PO, though it does hurt like hell for about 5 minutes

  31. Slack says:

    Another product that seems to bond with the urushoil after exposure is. Ivy Stat.

    After clearing out my back yard, and getting exposed, I balked at the 25 bucks for Ivy Stat, slathered my self up in Caladryl.

    Days, and many google searches later, I took hom eht Ivy Stat. Relief was apparent withing several hours.

    Now I can spot PI from a safe distance. Never plam to repeat that mistake.

  32. ElizabethD says:

    Some of us can’t quash a PI outbreak with any of those OTC soaps or lotions. My reaction to PI tends to generalize if the rash has several days to bloat into blisters.

    I have two words for poison ivy, and both of them require prescriptions:

    1) Lidex
    2) Prednisone

    The first is an amazing steroid gel that dries the stuff up like a miracle. The second is an oral steroid that makes you crazy for a few days but saves you from your misery. In my case, I have to take the full 10-day course of Pred. or I get a rash relapse. The one OTC product that does help with the itching is Aveeno oatmeal bath soak dissolved in cool or tepid (not hot) water.

    God, I hate poison ivy!

  33. nardo218 says:

    I wash with brown soap after I’ve been in the woods, and then if I still get it, I use Benedryl GEL or Rhuli gel. Second works the best, but nothing works as well as washing the oils off whn you get in from the garden, before you break out.

  34. synergy says:

    I tried the oatmeal, the benadryl, the caladryl, and just about every anti-itch cream. The only thing that’s worked for me is oral antihistamines and soaking in epsom salt water to relieve the inflammation (it usually happens on my feet and ankles).

    A month ago I found something great, though. I was freaking out and wishing I had topical antihistamine when lo and behold! There it was. Walgreens sells a sprayable antihistamine. Creatively it’s called Wal-dryl. Combined with an oral anti-inflammatories (because unfortunately I got some on my belly somehow) it was gone in no time.

    I’ve meant to try Tecnu, but haven’t so far.

  35. Nakko says:

    It may be that oils dissolve in other oils such as gasoline, but please don’t put gasoline onto your skin! Gasoline is carcinogenic as it contains benzene, and all sorts of other bad nasty stuff.

  36. TeraGram says:

    Jojoba oil is an absolute miracle worker for poison oak. I don’t know if it will work on poison ivy or not.

    Rub on jojoba oil. Wait a bit. Wash off.

  37. gusgus says:

    The original cure that I was taught is that if you wash with soap & COLD water within an hour or two of getting it on you, you should be OK.

    Recently I had heard good things about using Dawn dish washing detergent. It makes sense. Cut out the grease (or oils in this case) and you should be fine.

  38. smirkette says:

    Hot water is the worst thing you can do–it opens the pores in your skin letting the irritating oils go deeper. I don’t know about urine, but it’s warm, so I don’t think that would help much. Use cold water if you don’t have fancier treatment at hand!

  39. LukeCopyfighter says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ivy Block. I don’t work for the company, but I’ve had the good fortune to use their product. It works like sun block to prevent the urushiol from affecting the skin. As for all the home remedies for exposure, Tecnu is still the magic bullet for instant relief. And I can’t emphasize enough the need to clean EVERYTHING that might have come in contact with urushiol. This means clothes, boots, coolers, and especially the car you rode back in from the exposure site. Learned that last lesson the hard way.

  40. heat_sink says:

    My father and I have been using Goop / Gojo on poison ivy with quite
    effective results: 2 days of mild itching instead of 5-7 days of
    itching, bubbling, and oozing. The product is a hand de-greaser, used
    by mechanics and such to remove oil and grease, and as such is intended
    to be applied to the skin.

    Obviously, the sooner you get to it, the better.

  41. Greeper says:

    I am extremely allergic to poison ivy and get it about 6 times a year. Tecnu is OK but a recent study showed that it had the same effectiveness as Dial liquid soap. (Other soaps did not do as well). The instructions on Tecnu say to scrub for 2 minutes, which is ridiculous. I found that itis good to use on pets and probably has marginal effect if used right away. If you get poison ivy and get weeping sores, don’t fuck around. GO to your doctor, ask for a steriod shot, a Medrol Dosepak, and/or a tube of diprolene ointment. At a minimum, get the diprolene; it will take care of small areas extremely well (and it’s like 2 bucks a tube).

  42. rjbrash says:

    I used to get horrible blisters from poison ivy and poison oak as a child. We found the quickest way to dry up the blisters was a chlorine bleach and water solution. I don’t remember the concentration of bleach to water, but I do remember the blisters disappearing in two to three days.

    Now I just avoid the plants.

  43. delirium says:

    I, too, ended up in the emergency room in July due to the EVIL poison oak in my yard. After 9 days I was begging for mercy and decided it was time to go get help… Man, I wish I had gone earlier but all in all this nasty plant took about 5 weeks from me, and I will have scars forever. BE CAREFUL, the plants are getting more potent and widespread from a few articles I read recently. And the thing that blows my mind is that the poison plants are called the “chameleons” of the plant world…I am SO paranoid now if a leaf touches me, and this experience has turned me into the girl who turns sideways and cringes on a mountain path-and that really pisses me off!

  44. ekthesy says:

    Those of us who have pumped gasoline for a living at any point know its useful properties…and we were surely inhaling more benzene than was ever absorbed through skin.

    However, Ethereal Strife and his “be prepared” idea is the best of all. Having had Lyme disease I never go into the woods without coverage. Laugh now, but spend three weeks in the hospital too listless to move, get three lumbar punctures, and then tell me I’m overdressed…

    To the folks whose anti-PI methods involve self-mutilation…I react horribly to mosquito bites. My typical remedy is to take my fingernail and press hard, right into the heart of the bite twice, to make an “X”. The pressure reliees This flattens out the bite, and for some reason, the problem is gone the next

  45. ekthesy says:


    Whoops…alt-tab =/ alt-space…

    anyway, the pressure from your fingernail relieves the itching, and everything is fine the next day. I do have a few small scars, but they’re a small price to pay for relief.

  46. methane says:

    As someone who reacts very badly to PI, I will add my voice to the Prednisone camp. It’s awesome. And, if you can get a prescription for it, IIRC, triamcinolone which is a topical cream.

  47. GrassMan says:

    I live in Grass Valley, California, which I believe is the poison oak capital of the universe. I own 5 acres and it’s covered with the stuff. The stuff I’ve used for years now is Tecnu Extreme. It’s made by the same people that make Tecnu. I’ve used Zanfel, Tecnu, Benadryl and everything else. Tecnu Extreme is the best by far. It has scrubby things in it like Zanfel but Zanfel is $40 for a 1 oz tube. Tecnu Extreme is $15 for a 4 oz tube. Maybe the folks at Tecnu should start charging $160 a tube.

  48. John from Huntersville says:

    I’ll second the Goop (waterless hand cleaner) usage as soon as possible after contacting poison ivy (or even if you think you might have contacted it).

    As others have commented, it’s the urushiol oil that does the damage, and that’s what you need to get rid of as soon as possible. Waterless hand cleaners like Goop (or GoJo) do a good job of removing grease and oil.

    I use a lot of waterless hand cleaner and scrub thoroughly (with a brush if possible) before rinsing with water. I dry with paper towels and throw them out immediately.

    Works for me (and my family), and it’s a lot cheaper than Tecnu. YMMV.

  49. yeabirfday says:

    another vote for zanfel over tecnu (excluding steroids). Tecnu’s great if you’re using it before the boils appear, but zanfel works at any time (according to zanfel’s documentation, urushiol chemically binds after a few hours, and then it’s there causing the allergic reaction while you can’t remove it). Then again, given the cost of zanfel, avoidance is the best option. I’ve gotten poison oak and poison ivy, and slowly but surely much better at spotting them.

    OH, and remembering that as urushiol is an oil, make sure to wash stuff that’s not your skin, ie clothes (simple hot laundry wash should be fine), metal surfaces such as garden shears, etc. It can last a LONG time.

    also, please listen to Nakko, do NOT use gasoline, there’s so much other crap dissolved in there, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

    the jojoba oil sounds interesting to try. here’s hoping I never have to.

  50. WillACarpenter says:

    I wonder if this stuff works just as well on Poison Oak (as I’ve had HORRIBLE cases of that 3 times, and never any poison ivy) or Sumac.

    I’m sure it would at least help, though the ingredients could be specific to the particular oils in poison ivy…but I doubt it.

    (weeping balls? seriously what were you people DOING!?)