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Discussion: Laundering gaiters - poison ivy oil...

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Jul 8, 2008 1:49 PM # 
When I've been using them and they get wet, mucky or muddy, I take the time to rinse them off immediately afterwards (swamp acids and all), but I've avoided sending my gaiters through the washer...

I always try to treat them as "hot" for poison ivy - simply because they are so likely to come in contact with the plants.

Unfortunately, it looks like I "know" they are hot as one slid down my leg in my most recent event, and I've got a nice bloom of sores right below my knee... And since I pulled them back up at least once, it's probably that they are hot on the inside as well as the outside surface...

And so, before I put them back on, I'd like to soak / launder / clean them very well ;-)

Any advice on best practices to both remove the poison ivy oil and keep them in good shape?
Jul 8, 2008 1:55 PM # 
Jul 8, 2008 2:14 PM # 
This may sound obvious, but do not, under any circumstances, was your gaiters, pants, socks, etc. that came into contact with poison ivy or oak with your underwear! And, remember, those same oils are on your running shoes. I keep a bag of latex gloves in the car to put on and take off my shoes. 1 to 5 years is normal for urushiol oil to stay active on any surface.
Jul 8, 2008 3:14 PM # 
I use a table spoonful of Tecnu in the washer with only the suspect poison ivy contaminated items. It works every time.
Jul 8, 2008 4:29 PM # 
I just wash them normally. Is anyone aware of a case where a normal washing failed?
Jul 8, 2008 5:20 PM # 
As cedarcreek asks, does it even matter whether you wash in cold or hot water?
Jul 8, 2008 6:26 PM # 
If you've ever had a bad case of oak or ivy poisioning, you won't take any chances, believe me!!! Most of the literature says cold water is best, but there is so much anecdotal evidence out there, it's hard to tell. I use cold with the Technu added and that has worked in the past. Zanfel is another product I've tried and it works too but is much more expensive.
Jul 8, 2008 6:38 PM # 
I don't think cold/hot matters very much when washing cloths. A good soap or detergent is critical though, since the urushiol oil (the active ingrediant in poison oak and ivy) is not very water soluble.

When taking a shower, it's been suggested to start with cold water until you've thoroughly soaped and rinsed. The hot water can open your pores and let oil work in deeper.
Jul 8, 2008 6:40 PM # 
"You're gonna need an ocean...
Of calamine lotion...
You'll be scratching like a hound...
The minute you start to mess around...."

Having fought poison oak all the way through childhood in the 1950's in northern California, with nothing but calamine lotion, I find Technu so effective and revolutionary, I don't know why anyone worries about poison oak any more.

I mean, I used to have to stay home from school for weeks covered with oozing sores...couldn't even walk. My face would swell up so that I couldn't open my eyes. I was very allergic.

Now I run on any part of BAOC maps, right through thickets of poison oak. Afterward I rub down critical areas such as forearms, neck and pelvis with Technu, shower it off, and wash clothes normally. I seldom get the slightest blister, and certainly have never been reinfected by my washed clothing or shoes...the oil is on the leaves at waist level or above, not on the base of the plant where your shoes spend their time.

If I do blister, I immediately vigorously rub in more Technu, breaking any blisters to make sure any urushiol oil is exposed to, and mixed with the Technu. Essentially you want to turn any itching blisters into minor skin abrasions that don't itch. If something still itches, you haven't been aggessive enough in your application of Technu.

I do this several times over the first day...feels good! By the next day, whatever blisters and oozing that existed have dried up and scabbed over, and heal like any other minor skin abrasion.
Jul 8, 2008 6:59 PM # 
Yet another bit of anecdotal advice...

I heard that dish soap is better for cleaning clothes and skin because it cuts through the oil better.
Jul 8, 2008 11:44 PM # 
I have been allergic to poison ivy since I was a teenager. As a adult I had a recurring case one entire winter. No sooner did I get rid of the rash but it would come back. I eventually realized that I was reinfecting myself every time I put on my hiking boots.

Twenty some years ago I was staying at a campground during a very hot multi-day meet that we were organizing. Although I was in ivy several times, I never got a rash. After talking to a chemist, we realized that I had oxidized the oil by swimming in the chlorinated pool every afternoon. I then started using a procedure that must be similar to the use of Technu. I haven't had trouble since.

After being in contact with ivy, I wash thoroughly as soon as possible (a few hours delay seems ok). I then put a small amount of bleach on a wet facecloth and wipe it all over me, then rinse. Sometimes I repeat this the next day. I don't touch myclothes and gear again until my wife has washed everything with mild bleach.

I used this procedure when I was controlling a meet that had a lot of poison ivy, some areas were chest-high. I was in the ivy for many hours each day. I just rubbed myself down with the facecloth with mild bleach part way through the day and I never developed a rash.

The idea is wash off the oil as soon as possible and then oxidize any that remains.
Jul 9, 2008 12:40 PM # 
Thanks for the answers - and here I was worried that I had to find a safe way to clean the gaiters without damaging them - and nobody has mentioned that aspect of it;-)
Jul 9, 2008 1:33 PM # 
Is the foam removable? I have VJs, and I just throw them in the washer. I know someone with Treklite (I think) who had a little trouble with bunching of the foam to the point he had to cut open the gaiters to reposition the foam.
Jul 9, 2008 3:43 PM # 
After sending them through the washer - why yes, the foam is removable, and they fell out;-)

That's ok, the foam came through just fine (tumble / front load washer, not an agitator) and could probably do with the cleaning as well though I will try to remember to remove them in the future.
Jul 10, 2008 1:24 PM # 
I wash my VJ gaiters after every event (with all the other o-clothes) and line dry them. ( I do put the other clothes in the dryer to kill off any remaning ticks). Each pair I've had have held up for at least two years. I'm sensitive to poison ivy and oak but have never had a problem while orienteering. I've read that the surfactants in detergent remove organic oils and stains. Perhaps this is why I haven't gotten it yet.
Jul 10, 2008 2:08 PM # 
I also wash my VJ gaiters (sport pro) in the washer and line dry them. The one thing to watch for is to not let them sit on light colored garments or the dye in the leather of the lace-through connection will bleed; I have a pair of light colored shorts that was in the same load that has dark spots on it now. This type is more likely to wear out from tears in the stretchy part than from laundering.
Jul 10, 2008 6:09 PM # 
Showering and laundary (including shoes) have usually worked for me; but I will now try Technu as well. When I get the rash, Calydral Clear has been very effective in relieving the itch and the oozing.
Jul 10, 2008 8:07 PM # 
Technu has worked great for me. Haven't had more than a couple of spots of PI Since I started using it 4 years ago. I use it for showering and on clothing after events. You can get 32 oz bottles online.

4 year old Treklite gaitors have been through the wash a bunch of times. The foam pad is removable in mine.
Jul 14, 2008 3:15 PM # 
I wash my Trimtex and Silva gaitors every time I wear them to avoid PI, using cold water and normal laundry detergent. They still seem to last a long time, and I don't have re-infection problems. I also wash my hands with cold water and soap immediately after I tie my O shoes if at all possible. I use Ivy Block before and Tecnu after ... and Zanfel if I miss a spot and get a rash (pricey but it works).
May 16, 2009 4:31 PM # 
Poison Ivy oil can easily get on our shoes from our own hands. I did not realize I touched poison ivy while weeding my yard. later when I started itching I thought I was reacting to my grass and I spread the poison ivy oil. Over 2 weeks I keep developing theory's on how I am reinfecting myself. I NOW THINK I AM GETTING REINFECTED FROM MY LEATHER SHOES I put on when I went to the store right after the yard work. On another web sight someone says mineral spirits is in TECNU.
May 16, 2009 5:27 PM # 
Besides choosing some routes through thorny areas at Pine Hill a few weeks ago I also apparently ran through some poison ivy vines (no leaves yet) and gave myself one of the worst cases in years.

I purchased a nice big bottle (32oz) of Tecnu over the web for $25 or so and it made a significant and immediate difference. I'm a convert and plan to keep a supply of it.
May 16, 2009 5:36 PM # 
I put my contaminated items in a separate load and was them with warm water and Simple Green. Simple Green is a degreaser and all purpose cleaner. I seem to work better than laundry soap at removing urushiol. I've had laundry soap fail ro remove urushiol from socks and suffered the consequences.
May 17, 2009 3:43 PM # 
In BAOC country large areas of Poison Oak are on most of our maps. One of my family members is highly sensitive to the point that any exposure can become systemic. This resulted in several trips to the ER. She had to give up serious orienteering, a sport she loves.

Now we always take a sun shower with us and we scrub (and scrub) with Technu immediately after our runs. We then scrub again after getting home. Still we get occasional small rashes.
May 17, 2009 5:37 PM # 
Oh, my first Poison Oak run in was scary. Being from the East, I did not recognize the winter version of simple stalks. Walk-in clinic visit needed because I rubbed my eyes with unwashed hands. The rash all over my legs was not a lot of fun either.

Don't forget the clothes you change into after orienteering, but before the shower. There is always the chance that you got some of the oils on your body which then transferred to your clean clothes.

And, clean the car seat. The backs of your legs or pants might have those pesky oils.
May 18, 2009 4:17 AM # 
Backstreet Boy:
Dishwashing soap has kept me in the clear for 20 years now out in BAOC land. While I don't seek out and thrash in poison oak, I don't let it hinder my progress. After an event, I just take a lukewarm shower with dish soap all over... then regular soap after that... I let my clothes air dry and put them in my laundry bag and just use regular detergent. To this day I still have not had anything.
May 19, 2009 3:24 PM # 
Also watch your use of bar soap when showering after beening in the garden pulling weeds or out in the woods. A number of years ago my husband used our common bar of soap to shower after pulling weeds and poison ivy in the garden before going away for 2 wks of active duty with the navy. Well I used the same bar of soap not knowing that he had used it to wash off the poison ivy oil and I ended up with poison ivy in places you don't even want to have it let alone talk about and to make matters worse I was about 6 months along with our second child and could not take most of the oral medications I usually use as I'm highly allegeric to poison ivy. Needless to say I was a VERY unhappy camper for a few weeks until that case of poison ivy went away. Thankfully I have seem to have grown out of beening so highly allegeric to it and have not had any real problems with it since I started orienteering but I still take precautions just to make sure.
Sep 3, 2010 2:40 PM # 
I know its an old thread but I just wanted to thank all of the posters; I found it helpful while Googling (after, of course, incurring poison ivy). The tips about dish soap are spot on. My story, abridged: moved into a house with an inground pool that was allowed to go to seed 30 years ago when tree roots grew up through it, and I want to clear it out and start a garden in there. I knew what poison ivy looked like but not oak. Equipped w/ pickaxe, shovel, bow saw, shears and rake, I took a hot August day off work to get started cutting the trees out, wore nothing but shorts and boots, figured it'd be a nice day of shirtless labor (sweating is healthy when you work white collar in an office all day, all year...). No gloves either, and working deep in overgrowth well over my head! Got a wicked case of poison oak/ivy, toughed it out for a week w/ no analgesic, and started Googling for precautions for my next foray into the pool-turned-arboretum when I found this forum.

Now my gear consists of: boots, long socks with nylon Addidas pants tucked in, a pair of jeans over those, a long sleeve shirt with small trash bags as liners for my arms (cut holes in bottom ends for wrists), latex gloves and leather work gloves over those. I don't touch my face while working, let the sweat run or use a rag only picked up from bottom.

Be meticulous! I setup the shower, washing machine beforehand laying out everything I'd need to touch. Immediately upon finishing work, I strip in the laundry room (leave latex gloves on while handling clothing). When washing the clothes I use my normal dry powdered Arm & Hammer laundry detergent plus cheap generic brand powdered dishwasher detergent. You can rub fabric softener into leather gloves after a run in the washer if you don't have leather care stuff. I shower cold, with an ancient, early-20th c. bar soap called Octagon made by Colgate - very strong stuff, a landscaper told me about it (its not w/ the rest of soaps in our grocery stores, but in the laundry isle - only comes in bar, which I love). I cover myself in Octagon then turn the water off and sit in the tub, counting to a full 3 minutes before washing the soap off.

Lastly, I've found it also helps to work in the rain - wet soil is easier to work w/ a pickaxe plus poison plants are oil (urushiol). Water and oil repel, and I don't think the urushiol has as much opportunity to stick when you're soaking wet in rain.

Thanks all!
Sep 8, 2010 8:17 PM # 
well since someone has brought this poison ivy/oak from the dead.... might as well as my question:
has anyone ever paid attention to the expiry date on Tecnu? I lived in California quite a while back so I had a pretty healthy supply of Tecnu... but since I've been in BC I haven't needed any of it (yay for BC!). Anyway, last year at the US team trials in California I dug out my old Tecnu that was expired by about 2 years. I asked a chemist from of mind that didn't think much of it.... so I did my usual ritual of applying Ivy Barrier before exposure and then stripping without touching any of my clothes ritual.... washing carefully at the car and then again at the hotel both times with the Tecnu.... and despite claims that there was barely any poison oak out there and despite all my careful handling of everything... I ended up with quite a few blisters.
So now I wonder if I simply have gotten this allergic to it, or if Tecnu actually DOES expire. Anyone else has had a similar experience?
Sep 8, 2010 9:53 PM # 
Sep 8, 2010 10:33 PM # 
"stripping without touching any of my clothes ritual."

shouldn't that be on that other thread, the one, you know, you know you are an orienteer when... ?
Sep 8, 2010 10:43 PM # 
As a child I was extremely allergic to poison ivy. We tried everything, shots etc. and I have the scars to prove it. It was before the days of Tecnu but finally in my late thirty's I outgrew the allergic reaction but I still don't mess around when it comes to being in woods with lots of poison. I would not trust any poison preventive that is expired. After all that I have suffered from poison ivy growing up I will spend the money to keep my tecnu supply current and ready to use. This is just my feelings and no real fact based information here.
Sep 9, 2010 2:37 AM # 
Haha Clark, very funny! wait til I see you next - you're in trouble!

O-mom - yeah I hear ya! it wasn't about saving the money, it was more that you can't find it in BC and apparently, there are no ingredients in it that should expire - according to my chemist friend of mine. But given the disaster I was wondering if anybody in this well-educated bunch knows anything about chemistry! it'll be interesting to see....
Sep 9, 2010 3:50 AM # 
As far as I know, it's just a specialized soap that has a particular affinity for urushiol.
Sep 9, 2010 3:10 PM # 
so does soap expire?
Sep 9, 2010 7:16 PM # 
Regular soap doesn't, at least not in the short term.
Sep 10, 2010 12:29 AM # 
One of the things that I used as a kid for poison ivy and that is still available today in our grocery stores is what we call yellow soap or fels napa soap. It is a very strong hard soap(not nice to our female skin) but it really works to get the oil off your skin without any problems. There has been a bar of it in our shower caddy all summer as our son's job is landscaping/hardscaping and he can come in contact with as he calls it PI on a daily basis and generally one good shower right after work with the yellow soap keeps him from getting the PI. I know as a kid we always had a bar of it around so I'm thinking it doesn't expire. If you want, I'll bring you a bar at the US Champs if you are going to be there.
Sep 10, 2010 5:09 AM # 
yes I'll be there and would love to try it!!
I've been told by the course setter that there won't be poison ivy over there :-)

This discussion thread is closed.