Poison Oak Treatment :: Zanfel Ingredients

I have used the product Zanfel once before for a bad case of poison oak. You can read my previous article. But what is in Zanfel that makes it work?

You can find the list of ingredients on the product packaging and also by searching the web. But, the specific active ingredient that does all the magic appears missing. The website notes that “U.S. and Foreign Patents Pending” so they probably don’t need to give away the secret just yet.

So, I decided to look into the known ingredients to see what I could find.

Western Poison Oak Photo Gallery (click to view)
Western Poison Oak Photo Gallery (click to view)

Listed below are the ingredients as found on the Zanfel packaging.

Looking at this list leads me to believe that Zanfel is simply a cleanser. Similar to Tecnu. Of specific interest are the ingredients Quaternium-15 and Triethanolamine. These are both known irritants and may cause allergic reactions!
So, before using this product, be sure to follow any precautions and also to read through the ingredients. Note, the descriptions below are from my own quick sleuthing. They may or may not be correct. Let me know if you have corrections.


Zanfel Ingredients

  • Polyethylene Granules – Used to help active ingredients penetrate better when applied.
  • Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate – A weak anionic detergent (foaming/wetting agent).
  • Nonoxynol-9 – Commonly used as a spermicide. But, also widely used as a biocide (disinfectant) in cosmetics, baby wipes, detergents and other products.
  • C12-15 Pareth-9 – Typically used as sole detergent in highly alkaline laundry liquids and cleaning formulations.
  • Disodium EDTA – (Disodium Ethylene–Diamine–Tetra–Acetate) Anionic Surfactant. A sodium salt of a mild organic acid and helps the system resist bacterial spoilage.
  • Quaternium-15 – From http://www.dermnetnz.org/dna.acd/q-15.html Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative used in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical preparations. NOTE: Quaternium-15 may cause an allergic reaction with people that are either sensitive to formaldehyde or have a specific sensitivity. The reaction is normally a contact dermatitis.
  • Carbomer 2% – Found in many hair and lotion products. Possibly a polymer and used as a thickening ingredient.
  • Triethanolamine –
    From http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov/htdocs/IT-studies/imm90005.html Triethanolamine, produced along with mono- and diethanolamine by ammonolysis of ethylene oxide, is used in many cosmetics, fatty acid soaps, household detergents and emulsions, wood scouring, and as a water repellent in textiles. U. S. production and sales for 1989 was estimated to be 72 x 108 lb. Although triethanolamine is a skin, eye, and mucous membrane irritant, no information could be found on its sensitizing potential.
    From http://physchem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/TR/triethanolamine.html May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or through skin absorption. Chronic exposure may lead to liver and kidney damage. Skin irritant – may cause dermatitis.
    From http://umbbd.ahc.umn.edu/tea/tea_map.html Over 1.2 billion pounds of triethanolamine are produced annually in the United States. Triethanolamine is widely used as an ingredient in emulsifiers, thickeners, wetting agents, detergents, and alkalinizing agents in cosmetic products; as a chemical intermediate for anionic and nonionic surfactants and surface active agents in household cleaning agents, textiles, herbicides, pharmaceutical ointments, and other products; as a vulcanization accelerator in the manufacture of rubber; and in many other industrial applications.The National Cancer Institute nominated triethanolamine for study because of its widespread use in cosmetics and other consumer products, its high potential for worker exposure due to its many industrial uses, and its potential for conversion to the carcinogen N-nitrosodiethanolamine.
  • Water – Our friend H2O!

That’s all folks! 🙂

194 responses

  1. Walter Bliss Avatar
    Walter Bliss

    Nonoxynol 9 absorption through the skin in a wash off formula like a shampoo or Zanfel is extremely limited. It is a safe and effective treatment for poison ivy on skin. It is able to form micelles with the urushiol oil most likely in combination with the other surfactants so it can be washed away. If you know the required HLB of an oil the effective ratio of the surfactants can be calculated. Yes it is the magic ingredient with the support of the other surfactants. I would not hesitate and have used Zanfel and it was effective. My motivation here is to save people poison ivy grief. I do not benefit financially in any way.

  2. diane spence Avatar
    diane spence

    I tried the bleach, salt, and other home remedies. Don’t do it…a vinegar and soda mix wrap works well on blisters while taking benadryl. But the best thing I found as I am highly allergic…is No-More- Itch by Appalachian Secrets. Got my hands on one tube and works like a charm. But I can’t find it. It is a wash that will stop the rash from appearing or leave the wash on and it will stop the itch and break down the resin and it will disappear. Ivarest helps the itch but does not cause it to go away. NO home remedies from good intention folk. Not worth it.

  3. nielsen Avatar

    magic ingredient = nonoxynol 9. endocrine disruptor. sometime medicine, sometime poison.


  4. Dennis Avatar

    The gentleman who posted about the hot water is correct. What the hot water does is kill the bacteria which cases the itching. That supports the idea that the itching is bacteria based. But reducing the urushiol resin in your skin is achieved better with coconut oil with the process of reduction. The rubbing disperses the resin and the coconut oil allows it to slide back up where you can remove it with a sterile paper or cotton product. Coconut further shields the skin from subsequent infections. Bacteria cannot live in coconut oil.


  5. Dennis Avatar

    Let me add this for those who have not started any treatment yet. Before starting with the coconut oil, as I have written about above, if you have not taken a shower and washed your clothes and everything you touched on the way in, you need to do that first. Doorknobs, drawer handles dishes what ever you touched should be washed. The coconut application and the rubbing can spread all the urushiol resin on other parts of your body and you will be on agony street like me.

    Take a shower and use alcohol with sterile pads to clean all the sores thoroughly, first! Then apply the coconut oil and rub it in to stop the infection and further reduce the urushiol density within the skin.

    Keep washing and washing things manically.



  6. Dennis Avatar

    Alternative method of stopping Poison Ivy itching for good.******
    Today, January 10, starting with January the 8th I have been in agony and back. The itching was unbearable. I ended up rubbing my eyes and the eye lids were on fire. Nothing I tried worked. Alcohol used to do it years ago, but this time it only cooled things off for a while. The DomeBoro aluminum acetate they promised me at the drug store had no effect. The soaps work for 15 minutes and you have to take a shower again if you want the itching to stop. I tried many things and I don’t want to use drugs. I was looking of a natural source of help. I believe I found it and I am happy to share it with you. There is no charge or gimmick leading to a sale. But if you the whole post you will know why this works and perhaps you can make more contributions to solve this problem once and for all without bleeding people with $40 per ounce creams which do not works half of the time.

    So, let me continue. In desperation I tried something different. I read many of the postings above, in order to understand how to approach the problem. And the itching was killing me all along. In another article I read something about how urushiol acts on the skin and exposes it to opportunistic bacteria and the lights went on. The itching is mostly the invasive bacteria not the oil. If you don’t believe me, wash an infected spot on your body with the soap until the itching stops and protect it from the outside with a large bandage. It will take longer for the itching to return.

    With that in the pocket I wondered what could suppress the opportunistic bacteria and remove the urushiol resin. Water and soap sounds good, but this resin does not emulsify that well with soap, hence the rash continues and the skin is still exposed. So, the bacteria returns from air particles or contact with objects and peole etc… and a new colony starts to multiply. Apparently, urushiol is a resin. Resins require various density oils to be dissolved, so soaps are not that effective to begin with. Alcohol as an oil is effective early in the game but by the time you notice the itching it is too late. And we are dealing with just such a case here.

    The question is this. Can you think of a safe ingredient which will suppress bacteria permanently on the skin? Water and alcohol will evaporate and you are back to square one. Creams and oils can cause further irritation and who knows what ingredients are in some creams. But creams are the right idea if you want to protect the skin from new infections. But which cream can act as a barrier as well as an antibacterial for the skin as well as calming, not irritating the skin further?

    Now if that substance could further dissolve or dilute urushiol, WOW! We are talking about killing two birds with a stone. And there is such a substance. It is coconut oil. But that is not all you need to know. You need to make sure that it is not rancid, however. Rancid oils are irritants and can be carcinogenic. Many oils sold in health food stores are rancid because they have been heated in processing. I leave that to you to research. Rancid oils have a peculiar odor, so learn to detect it by smell on your own.

    So, coconut oil definitely soothes the itch except for the very damaged part where blisters are forming and the wound is oozing. In those areas the resin has moved down the strata of the skin and opportunistic bacteria have moved down with it, so covering the top layer of the skin with coconut oil does not stop the itching there.

    What I did was to rub those areas with the coconut oil vigorously, not with my nails, the with the soft part of the fingertips until the itching stops. The nice thing about that is that two actions take place. Coconut oil is thin enough to move into the strata of the skin and kill the bacteria deep under, as well as displace urushiol by dissolution. Every time you rub the coconut molecules dissolve the resin separating its molecules further and further apart, spreading and forcing a good amount of urushiol to the surface.

    Because of that, you must also use something clean, like a paper towel or anything you know is sterilized, to remove the urushiol and the dead bacteria that is displaced to the surface. Coconut oil kills bacteria to begin with. And it is very friendly to human skin. It is as safe as could be, except for some weird folk, perhaps. It is also the best oil you can use in cooking, bar none. And if you do not have oozing sores from poison ivy/oak/sumac it will stop the itching on contact. The rubbing moves the oil down into the skin and the infection dies rapidly.

    In sum, for those who did not want to read everything.
    -Use healthy coconut oil (I use Carrington Farms from Costco but there are others)
    -Rub it in vigorously and as you rub it the itching will subside with every rub.
    -When the itching stops use a clean paper towel/sterilized cloth to remove the oil
    -Then cover the area in oil and let the skin absorb it.
    -When the skin absorbs it, add more oil with a little rub and keep it up

    But on oozing areas keep the rubbing for longer. After a while it will suddenly stop. That means that the coconut oil arrived at its destination and the bacteria stopped chewing. It takes time to do that, but well worth the effort.

    And please do not use your fingernails to scratch, else you will make things worse. Fingernails have horrid and vile bacteria which can make things far worse for you. Cut your fingernails off and brush them thoroughly with antibacterial soap. We are talking surgery type of clean hands, here. You don’t want to introduce new colonies of bacteria into an open wound.

    Good luck. My itching is way way better. And any spot that restarts I treat early. I have successfully stopped the infection on my eyelids too. In fact that was the first thing I treated wit the coconut oil.

    I wish you well and spread this idea to others. The solution is very simple.

  7. Gary & Donna Davis Avatar

    I once did get poison ivy on my keyboard also. Donna’s favorite is Sasquatch Itch Cream for poison oak rash since it soothes the itch and solves her underlying rash. I like it but zanafel seems to be easier to find, so I end up using that most of the time. BUT, rubbing alcohol works early if you can get to it (about 30 min post exposure in my opinion)

  8. hans Avatar

    @john – Thanks for the information. I think you’re right about the hot water treatment for itch relief. I find the same results from doing something similar.

  9. john Avatar

    This is my second entry.

    Excluding my first entry, I’ve seen at least 7+ other PI itch remedies which use hot water. Do you think that this is a coincidence? It really works for me and also a few other people that I’ve shown the method to.

    First one must obviously thoroughly wash off all PI oils with liberal amounts of soap and cold water. Probably some time after you might even consider taking a shower & a change of clothes (slight humor).

    The hot water itch reduction method does not cure PI and I only use it for ITCH RELIEF after I’ve washed up. This is not a miracle cure, but it will more than likely produce several hours (helping you to get to sleep) to slightly more than a day of itch free time (providing you are not sweating) to allow one to experience other more pleasurable thoughts and activies in place of constant scratching & popping blisters.

    It is important to mention that this method can NOT be used ANYWHERE on the face or on difficult to reach areas on the body. And this method should NOT be used for severe exposure. I done correctly it should eliminate the need to scratch for a significant duration.

    The method (similar to other entries above)is to place PI afflicted body part/area under warm water and gradually increase water temperature until you almost can’t stand it; count to approximately 5 to 10 seconds, withdraw immediately and DRY thoroughly. (Refer to entries 48, 60, 119 and 130) Blow dryer hot air treatment can be used for hard to reach areas (excluding the face)but is not nearly as effective; I only use this if I am extremely desperate to stop the itching.

    When I get exposure all over hands & arms, one of my worst areas are between the fingers where the irritation can go beyond itching to sometimes a burning sensation (through to the bone); I have found the hot water method to be very effective there.

    It is crucial that you thoroughly wash to remove all external PI oils (as soon as possible after exposure)with what ever treatment you use.

    Hot water method can also be effective in temporarily eliminating itching from mosquito bites and for yellow jacket stings after a day or two when the sting subsides and the itching starts.

    As far as the rationale that medicines and pharmaceuticals are not priced according to their ingredients, who cares. There is no way I will pay even $5 (let alone $40) for topical creams (some people say work and others say don’t) that I need to apply regularly when I can apply hot water at no cost; it still works for me. If the creams worked so well people would not be experimenting with or looking for other remedies.
    Maybe it is that everyone’s body reacts and responds differently.

  10. Pat Avatar

    Don’t you people realize the Poison Oak/Ivy is on your keyboards! The more you type here, the more it spreads!!!
    Kidding. Maybe. Great site. Here’s what works for me:
    1. Cold water and a ton of any kind of soap at first exposure. Yes, a cold shower. Technu works great at this point but, honestly, if you know you have it, you can usually get rid of it with any sort of soap.
    2. Wash everything that can be washed, including backpacks. Spray everything that can’t with rubbing alcohol.
    3. Once it starts to blister/ooze, immediately get the prednisone. It’s the only thing that works at this point. The side effects can be unpleasant: Sleeplessness, red face, increased pulse. But it gives real relief and healing. I do the 21-day cycle and still get rebound outbreaks, though not to the blister stage. I would not go through it for anything less than severe blistering and oozing.
    4. I get real relief from using a hair dryer on the affected areas. It will get crazy itchy for a few seconds, then you get maybe 6 hours of relief.
    5. My wife paid the 40 for the Zanfel. It seemed to help a little, but not as much as the hair dryer, and it certainly didn’t make it go away. I wouldn’t call it worth it, overall.
    That’s my advice. That and quit using your computers! Just kidding. Maybe.

  11. artie Avatar

    Hey – The next time you get poison ivy, call your doctor and get a strong topical steroid (class I or II). They work well and fairly quickly, they are very safe (except for use on the face, underarms and groin, where you can use something a little milder) and have generic versions that are very cheap, much cheaper than Zanfel. No spermacide in them either. Wash off all the areas and put on the steroid ointment/cream/gel and it will help a lot. It might take a day or two, but it will make much more of an impact than a low-tech cleanser like zanfel.

  12. Wayne Touchstone Avatar
    Wayne Touchstone

    I had No problems with PI for most of my life. Since I made the big 60 I have had problems. The Best I have used , and is inexpensive is a Homopathic remedy made by Hilands,(pills) and I bought a can of Jewelweed salve. I take the Hilands and put the salve on my blisters and in less than 24 hrs they are starting to subside. I have used the Jewelweed plant and stripped all the leaves and stuff off the stem and liquified it and it stopped ALL THE ITCHING , SWELLING and REDNESS IMMEDIATELY! The problem is finding fresh Jewelweed in the woods. I keep a bottle of the Hilands at all times. Some of you have more outbreaks than I have and may need to do more experimenting and research. Mine is usually limited once a year as I stay out a lot in South MS. Hope this helps !!

  13. Mike Avatar

    In these last few days, I squeezed the remaining amounts of Zanfel from a tube I bought several years ago. It worked to reduce the itching and rash from a local PI infection on my leg. Zanfel did the job for me twice before on local PI infections so I definitely got my money’s worth. However, when I bought it, I, like others here, winched at the price and nearly put it back on the shelf. Later on, when I read through the Zanfel patent online, I was planning to try mixing toothpaste with nonoxynol-9, maybe add a little Tide and sand. But I’m glad to hear that cheaper generic versions of Zanfel are now available. Seems like the various generic versions lack the nonoxynol-9, but it’s pretty easy to add that in, and see if it really makes such a difference. (PS: Thanks vauron for posting your experiment findings.)

  14. lala Avatar

    to Mark, May 20, 2005: what on Earth makes you think that “Mom & Pop” stores aren’t capitalistic?

  15. tz Avatar

    my hubby swears by his terrible “cure” for poison ivy….
    I tell him that cure may be worse than the disease.. but he swears by it, and once he does it, it is GONE…
    So what he does: He scrubs with some type of abrasive – like LAVA soap, then pours straight bleach on the open rash area.
    Now this burns like hellfire eternal, but
    that is the end of it. (after your skin heals, of course)
    but you don’t itch anymore.
    He DOES rinse the bleach off after a minute….
    and if he catches an ivy rash early, and does this, it
    never spreads or gets bad at all.

  16. Doug Avatar

    I got a case of poison ivy rash in my backyard a couple days back and just tried a new product that I found and it has worked well. It is called Releaf or The Stuff (not sure which). It was for sale at a gardening store in my town but I see that they have a webpage at http://www.dontforgetthestuff.com and an Amazon store. It scrubs like Zanfel but has ingredients that keep the skin fro itching afterwards. I used Zanfel in the past but this was cheaper and felt better afterwards. It also had twice as much in the container than Zanfel, and for a lower price.

  17. vauron Avatar

    Our neighborhood has a lot of poison oak which I try to avoid, not always successfully. Two days ago I had a major encounter with it that has already brought up rashes on both legs, both arms, front chest and abdomen, face, and privates.
    As usual I got some more Zanfel, which I’ve found reasonably effective in the past in preventing the rashes from reaching the blistering stage provided I apply it several times. Given the area I’d need to cover this time, times the number of applications typically needed, it looked like I’d be up for at least a couple of tubes of the stuff!
    At $40 per one-ounce tube I figured it might be interesting to experiment a bit. So I bought only one tube of Zanfel, and for comparison mixed an ounce of Gynol II (as a source of nonoxynol-9, cost $15 for 3.8 oz) with 2 oz of GOJO Orange (I had a 4.7 liter container of it in the house that I’d bought some time ago from Costco, but it’s not expensive: Amazon sells a 14 oz. container of it for $4 plus shipping).
    I applied the Zanfel to my right arm, right leg, the left side of my abdomen, and the right side of my chest (to mix things up a bit), following the instructions to the letter. I then applied the G+G mixture to the matching half of me, following the same procedure. I also treated my face etc. but not in so systematic a way, I just wanted their puffiness to go down.
    As usual the Zanfel relieved the itching immediately. The GG did so too, with no perceptible difference between the two. After an hour the itching had returned and I applied both again, with a similar effect.
    After four applications of each the itching was mostly gone from my arms and legs, though my abdomen was still red and a bit itchy. The remaining few itches on my arms and legs were partly in the Zanfel-treated area and partly in the GG-treated area. If I had to tell them apart I’d say the Zanfel-treated areas were slightly itchier, but that could be explained by having more PO in those areas (the PO seemed spread all around but I couldn’t tell how uniformly).
    Whatever advantage the Zanfel has over my improvised GG mixture doesn’t seem to be so striking as to justify costing more than twenty times as much. While I’ve gone through most of the Zanfel tube, I seem to have a lifetime supply of GG left over, at half the cost of the Zanfel.
    I guess my next experiment is to see whether the Gynol II was needed. While it’s much cheaper than Zanfel it’s considerably more expensive than GOJO Orange. On the other hand even if it only has some sort of placebo effect it might be worth keeping as part of the recipe.
    Yet another experiment would be to compare GOJO Orange with the recipe paxpeg just tried, baking soda and dish detergent. Conceivably any mixture of scrubbing agent (Zanfel’s polyethylene granules, GOJO’s powdered pumice, paxpeg’s baking soda) and detergent/surfactant, applied sufficiently often and sufficiently vigorously, might remove the bulk of the urushiol. All these competing mystical remedies might come down to just scraping and dissolving and scraping and dissolving until most of the nasty stuff is gone.

  18. paxpeg Avatar

    wow–this is a great diverse and comphrehensive forum!! I hae a mild case (so far) on my left arm — been getting it for 3 years from my moms yard. I never learn but i love to garden. Last year it was awful and I used hot water ( for relief bc I was ready to jump out of my skin) and I think it made the PO spread even worse bt it did feel soo sood. Friend recommended Zanfel so of course I googled it to see what it was and wow–sticker shock on the cost!!
    After reading everything here I went in the kitchen this morning and concocted my own PO scrub from baking soda and dish detergent and made into a soft scrub (this can be used on your counter, bathtub surfaces and any leaning surfaces) — and then slathered it all over my arm, scrubbed in and let sit for 3 minutes then rinsesd. The oozing is donw and my skin is really dry so I am going to put some lotion/vitamin e oil on them and see what happens and report back. I would think you could use other soaps including shampoos… I am also taking generic benedryl……. I will update…..

  19. Scott Avatar

    First, thanks for creating this very informative and valuable page and thanks to everyone who has posted a comment! This is exactly what I was hoping to find. Wow, I have learned a lot.
    This long-winded comment describes the treatment I just have given to my left hand, wrist, and upper forearm. I hope this is helpful for those who do not have a very serious case requiring emergency medical attention.
    I just tried a product from Johnson & Johnson called Cortaid Poison Ivy Care, Removal Scrub. It cost $10/4 oz. at Walmart. It comes in a thick squeeze tube without a box. It was positioned right next to the Zanfel ($34.99/1 oz.) and is clearly being branded as J&J’s version of this, with a similar description of how the product binds to the urushiol that then can and must be washed off, etc.
    The Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Scrub ingredients are:
    Water, Polyethylene, laureth-4, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, glycol distearate, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, coco-glucoside, sodium hydroxide, microcrystalline wax, tetrasodium EDTA, glyceryl oleate, glyceryl stearate, quaternium-15, benzoic acid, chromium hydroxide green, tocopherol.
    Most notably, for whatever reason, it does not contain the nonoxynol-9 or carbomer 2% that is found in Zanfel. Still, it is generally similar to the Zanfel ingredients of:
    polyethylene granules, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, nonoxynol-9, C12-15 pareth-9, disodium EDTA, quaternium-15, carbomer 2%, triethanolamine, and water.
    I should say that last night I tried soaking the hand/wrist in running warm/hot water in the bathroom sink, water while periodically adding baking soda. In fact, I would pour it right on the rash, rub it in, then wash it off over and over. I kept the drain open slightly the whole time. Wow! What a bizarre series of intense sensations. Also, as the many tiny blisters would open, I would pull my hand out of the water and (using my good hand) squeeze each infected finger firmly with toilet paper to blot up the resin/oil, then throw this away.
    I did this for about 15 minutes. Then I rinsed one last time in cold water and dried the hand.
    A few have said that hot water is a bad idea as it opens the pores, inviting the urushiol into the body. Others say hot water is essential! I tried the hot water method and reasoned that I could flush/wipe it off the skin before it entered the pores. Who knows.
    Afterwords, even though the hand was swollen more and looked worse, I could tell already that something had changed. It wasn’t just that the itch was suppressed through histamine depletion; I was sure that some of the urushiol had been removed. This morning the skin was still red and swollen, but barely itched at all. However, it was very, very dry. I still could not close it.
    I tried the Cortaid product around 5 pm today. I really ground it in for over 1 minute, even though it suggests just 30 seconds. To my surprise it didn’t hurt at all, even on the very red, almost skinless areas where the rash was worst. I think this is because the skin was already starting to heal from the baking soda scrub last night.
    I am convinced the key is to literally grind the urushiol out of the skin, no matter how painful at first, and flush this off of the skin immediately. I have no doubt Zanfel works for some people without systemic cases, if used properly. But I also have no doubt that any similar combination of ingredients could work nearly as well, as well, or better, even the Dr. Scholl’s/Clearasil combination.
    I also think that scratching can work, as long as you are actively flushing the released urushiol off of the skin while you do it. This seems crucial.
    This Cortaid product may or may not not be as good as Zanfel, with its absence of Zanfel’s N-9 that binds well to foreign proteins, etc. but i truly think it helps remove the urushiol in a similar way. It was hard to pass up at $10.00/ 4 oz. I think you really have to go at it, and grind a very generous amount of it into the skin for a full minute, then rinse thouroughly. Mind hand still looks red, but I am 100% the skin is definitely less raised and is starting to dry up.
    Also, I bought a Cortaid Maximum Strength, which is just 1% Hydrocortisone to help keep the skin at the joints from cracking. I wish I had had this last night.
    The good thing with this particular Walmart is that you can return anything, and people do. The line is 30 feet long all day. Im sure I could return even the Zanfel if I tried it and it didn’t help me. I am sure I could return this Cortaid scrub, but I doubt I will because I really think it works as described.
    To me, p.i. is as close to pure evil as a plant can get.
    I am 95% sure I got this from one of my dogs. It can happen.
    If Zanfel works, and I think it does for many, I feel it is a steal at $34.95/ 1 oz., but if this Cortaid Scrub works nearly as well, and I think it might, it is even more of a bargain at what comes to $2.50/1 oz. and yes, I have to watch every penny. I have absolutely no connection with J & J or any other product, I am just offering this opinion to those with minor cases of p.i. who also need to be price conscious.
    Sorry for this long post. I sincerely hope it helps someone.

  20. Laurence D Cohen Avatar
    Laurence D Cohen

    I have just purchased a 1 oz tube of “Poison Ivy Wash” from Stop and Shop in Massachusetts for $9.99. It is the same composition as Zanfel.

  21. Nate Avatar

    I find the premise of this article completely silly. Since when have any of our medicines been priced according to the mere cost of their ingredients?
    Products are priced according to their value to the ultimate consumer. I agree with those whose comments make this point.
    $40 is nothing compared to the amount I end up paying for prescription drugs. Would the writer feel better about paying $40 if he first had to pay a doctor to write a prescription for this stuff?
    Thanks to the writer who provided the patent number. I was surprised to find how easy it was to read the history the inventor provided as to various remedies tried over the years and what worked and what didn’t and why. He even names other products that have ingredients that are the same or similar, so that if you want to buy them instead, feel free to do so.
    I am not connected in any way with this company or the inventor, but stumbled on this article while trying to help my girlfriend with her attack of poison ivy.

  22. Cindy Avatar

    One more thing:
    Forgot to mention I did wash the dog of course, but I can’t keep washing him more than every two weeks or so because it’s not good for his skin to get dried out with repeated baths.

    Just a quick light surface wash works for my pup.


  23. Cindy Avatar

    Thanks for a really helpful site Hans. I hope you’re still answering questions because I can’t find the answer to this anywhere.
    I got poison oak after a hike with my dog. I am absolutely positive I didn’t touch any of it, and I’m equally positive he didn’t run through a patch of it. We were on a wide fire trail that was just dirt. He must have stepped on a stray leaf or twig though because two days later I got a horrible case of poison oak all over my face and neck.
    I got it on my face because my dog sleeps in bed with my right up near my head. (He’s a smallish sized dog.) So I washed the sheets, all the clothes, and everything I could find that he might have come in contact with. Then I continued washing the sheets every two days for a week. Yesterday, after four days without washing the sheets, the poison oak rash returned, on my face again. I was afraid this was going to happen because obviously when we came home from the hike he walked into the house and his feet would have transferred the oil everywhere. I imagine it’s on the wood floors, the carpets, all the furniture.
    It’s impossible to de-contaminate every place he might have been. I am never ever EVER going back to the hills to hike since it’s riddled with poison oak, so that’s not an issue. My question (finally) is:
    How long can I expect the oil to be laying about my house? I have heard people say it’s active 30 days and other people say 3 years. I just want to know how long I need to keep washing everything every day.
    Thank you.

  24. matt Avatar

    I’ll vouch for the Mean Green claims.
    After learning about Zanfel years ago and experiencing that it worked, one of my fellow chemists and I pulled their MSDS and patent application to see if we could reverse engineer it easily (since it’s absurdly expensive). Much to our happy enjoyment the patent application, #20020183284, was obligated to refer to Mean Green which is highly similar in terms of active ingredient composition (ratios of ingredients differ). Rather than continue in our effort to reverse engineer the product, we have simply started purchasing direct from the company that markets Mean Green.
    Mean Green = low cost Zanfel. Save your cash, buy a 4 – pack of 64 ounce tubs of the mean green handcleaner with scrubbies and use it extensively after landscaping, yard work, hiking, etc.

    1. JB Avatar

      Matt, THANK YOU!!!!!

  25. info Avatar

    Something a yogi taught me many years ago while hiking/camping in the woods, was to look for the poison ivy and (in the New England) you may find Jewelweed there. To help prevent getting Poison Ivy, rub the crushed stems of the jewelweed over your exposed skin areas.
    I am not very sensitive to the poison plants but using jewelweed as a preventative seems to help those that I know that have tried it.

  26. Mugtoe Avatar

    I’m the sales department at Mean Green; there’s only five of us in the office when we’re fully staffed. Zanfel was created by one of our old outside reps a few years back when it was discovered that Mean Green provided near instant relief for most cases of urushiol exposure. Because of the buzz on the internet about the two products, we get a few calls every month, especially in Spring and Summer months, from people whose kid has just wandered into a patch. At $19.95 for a 60.5oz tub of Mean Green Power Hand Scrub (item #20-MG63S), even with overnight freight charges you still come out quite a bit better off with the Mean Green Power Hand Scrub, pricewise.
    If you want to keep a tub on hand, just in case, you can get it ahead of time and save yourself the overnight freight and have it sent UPS Ground instead for just a few bucks.
    My father has fifteen acres of river frontage on the Brazos River just west of Fort Worth, Texas. There is a fair amount of poison oak and poison ivy growing on his place, and he is really sensitive to it. I keep a few tubs out there for him, and he has had good results from it. And by good results, I mean it got rid of it after a few washings and he wasn’t bothered, whereas in previous years his eyes would swell shut and he’d be off his feed for days. So that’s my bit of anecdotal evidence to throw in. I’ve always been relatively immune to the stuff, but they say you lose that immunity without notice and in dramatic fashion. Fortunately for me I have a fairly inexhaustible supply of Mean Green Power Hand Scrub at my disposal.
    Anyway, I’ll have the online cart working in just a few days, and you can order online at: http://www.meangreen.us/
    Til then, if you want some Mean Green Power Hand Scrub to try out, give me a call at (800) 658-9811. I’m curious to hear from more people about their experience with it, but so far most of what I’ve heard has been pretty positive. It doesn’t represent a substantial part of our hand cleaner business, but there’s certainly a good-sized market out there for it.

  27. Rachel Avatar

    I suffer horribly from poison oak every spring and summer (I think I have actually had in every month of the year at some point)
    I found a product called Buji last year that has all the same ingredients (except for maybe that secret magic one) as Zanfel but it’s usually $15 a 2oz tube and less if you can find it on sale and a few places online. That is considerably less than Zanfel.
    I went to the dr. this morning for a pretty bad case of poison oak and got a shot of some combo type. I didn’t quite catch the name of it, but the oozing started drying up less than 12 hours later.

  28. Jack Avatar

    I found this new product called appalachian secrets at ACE hardware and it is half the cost of Zanfel. It was also more effective at relieving the itching sensation.

  29. John Avatar

    Please, more feedback on Tecnu Extreme needed (NOT from manufacturers).
    I get PI exposure frequently in the warm weather months. I can usually (quite successfully) ignore the itching & the blisters, when exposure is moderate or less.
    Where I have a problem is with more severe exposure in areas of my upper chest, neck chin, face (eyelids) in the webs of my fingers (no, I’m not a frog). I had only once had to resort to the SHOT (prednizone) to un-swell my face & eyes; boy did it work fast! I have gotten no itch relief during sleep using Benadryl (oral). Also if you’re gonna pop blisters be sure your fingers & nails are clean and you use topical antibiotics as you would with a minor wound (no guarantees here, you probably shouldn’t be doing this anyway).
    For every other PI exposure I have been using the hot water method for more then 10 years. FYI: It is my experience that the hot water is significantly more effective than a hot blow drier. If the hot water method is done correctly you can usually (not always) get almost a whole (awake hours) day itch /irritation free (although it initially stings and could dry out your skin). Nights in bed are different, slight sweating, dampness, stimulation from loose clothing / t-shirts and bed-sheets can restart the itching.
    Note: With the hot water method, I find that it is most important to dry yourself thoroughly!!
    The most relief I’ve ever gotten with a blow drier or heat gun was approximately 2 hours.
    It was amazing to me how many times I’ve seen this method mentioned; most every technique I’ve read was very similar to my technique & experiences. I had actually thought I had invented the idea, but obviously not!!
    Re- Be sure to “dry yourself thoroughly!!”
    The hot water method is at times not very convenient, and it can obviously be difficult to target hard to reach areas, and finally it has to be repeated many, many times over the course of the affliction (10 to 30 days….whatever). Pain in the A.
    I came upon this site with the following search: “Comparison of Tecnu Extreme vs. Zanfel” I thought it might be time to explore other (seemingly more civilized) more scientific methods….. Medicine! No way in HELL, am I going to spend $40 + tax for 1 skinny ounce tube of a non-prescription, off the shelf cream such as Zanfel unless it also cures cancer. It IS amazing how this company can charge this amount; the ingredients appear to be commonly used surfactants and other even less specialized materials that are widely used in many other (low cost) personal care products. IS THERE A SECRET INGREDIENT??? HOW MUCH R&D $ HAS THIS PHARMACEUTICAL?? COMPANY SPENT IN ITS DEVELOPMENT ….WHO CARES!!!
    Also I do not have the time to mess around with home formulations blending other low priced, off the shelf personal care products plus whatever else is needed; even if they do work. Not interested in any elaborate application sequences or procedures either. As Cher might say: I want it all in a bottle.
    Now Zanfel may work great for some people, but what I’d like to hear are more comments and experiences about the lower cost “Tecnu Extreme”. Several previous writers had mentioned that they would report back after trying this product. I don’t know whether or not the lack of comments or popularity of this product is related to its lack of performance. Hope not.
    I believe that some time in the 60’s Technu was introduced, than in 1999 Zanfel came out, and Technu Extreme was developed around 2005. I am obviously speculating that Technu Extreme might be Tec-Labs (next generation) answer to (competitor) Zanfel. Hope so for all us frugal people.
    Finally I hope that the majority of these published comments do not originate either directly or indirectly from manufacturer wars. I guess this is something that only a PI suffering, cynical, paranoid conspiracy theorist would say.

  30. Chris Avatar

    I had a recent bout of poison ivy. It was pretty bad, I seem to get this every other year or so since I was a teen. Anyway, this time I used two tubes of Zanfel in addition to prednizone. The Zanfel did give relief but only for a few hours, so I used more. About 4-5 weeks later, my liver crashed and I came down with a severe case of cholestasis and jaundice. I was hospitalized twice. I’m 40 and very health so this was all very nerve racking. The doctors said my liver biopsy looked like my liver was crashed due to a toxin. The doctors also said that toxin exposure in general can take about 4-5 weeks to crash a liver. Since Zanfel was the only toxic substance I was known to be exposed to during that time at a significant dose, it is the primary suspect. Be very careful using this product ! I recommend not using it of course. I’ve been sick with my liver problem for 5 weeks now, and the doctors say I will need about 4-5 weeks more time to make a full recovery if I am lucky. It’s miserable. The cholestasis itching is 10x worse than any poison ivy bout I’ve ever had. It’s madening and there is no help for itching from bile build up in your tissues. Oh, and I can’t eat and have lost 30 lbs.

  31. francine Avatar

    I’ve been plagued by poison oak twice the past 6 weeks….the first time it effected my two arms…. hydrocortisone cream, oatmeal, baking soda baths, benedryl, tecnu, tecnu extreme, ‘white flower’ oil, tea tree oils were tried but did not work…..finally i tried prednizone pills without success then a cortisone shot finally got rid of most of it!!!….my scars were still healing when the second more serious bout came …now arms, legs, scalp, torso and neck were red and swollen with insane incessant itching that would not let up!….i tried everything AGAIN and more – baking soda baths, lemon oil, tea tree oil, calagel, tecnu extreme, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, deodorant (if i’m forgetting to mention anything i’m sure i tried it)…a second round of prednizone pills did nothing!….i even put on eucalyptus oil just so i could burn rather than itch….but that only lasted only about 30 minutes….desperate i read reviews on zanfel and decided what’s $40 when i’m at the point of ripping off my skin….within 5 minutes i experienced relief…i could not believe i felt almost human again…..a tube only covered my body twice (very little amount in the tube) and it’s extremely expensive but the price is worth not wanting to be shot and taken out of the pain….i went to the doc after the first tube to see if i could get something additional to help me sleep….turns out i also have a secondary infection from the poison oak (easy to get with open wounds) so i’m taking 3 perscriptions: an antibiotic, something a bit stronger than benedryl to help me sleep and a double dosage of prednizone starting at 6 pills a day….with that and another tube of zanfel, applied last night, i had my first restful sleep in months….today the sores are notibliy drying up and i’m applying aloe vera to try to get rid of the leathery scaly sunburn-looking skin….i have a third tube of zanfel (there goes $120 !!!) to apply when itching becomes unbearable as the day wears on ~ ZANFEL is well worth the money and saved my sanity….the end is in site!….

  32. Jamie Avatar

    I too get PI a number of times each year. I have tried many many products over the years. I always wash with a degreaser of some kind as soon as I can get to a shower. That has always reduced my PI rashes, but I still get the rash a lot of times.
    I am currently battling my 3rd case of PI this year. The 1st 2 cases were healed very quickly with the use a fairly new product (not meant for PI/o/s) found at http://www.the-team.biz/mv1030758. I was able to get rid of the 1st 2 cases of PI in a week or less using this juice as a topical. This product is a functional food beverage, a fruit juice that is pacted full of antioxidants, and a lot of nutrients. I had been consuming this product for a few weeks when I got PI the 1st time this year. From my research on antioxidants and free-radicals, I thought that if the antioxidants were so vital for my body to fight free-radicals and promote healing, what would these high amounts of antioxidants & nutrients do for PI & other skin irritations.
    I have been amazed at the results. The itching was gone in a matter of a minute or less. I applied it 2-3 times per day(as the itching returned) as well as consumed it as I had been. The 1st 2 cases of PI were cleared up in about a week.
    My now 3rd case, is a very severe case covering both arms, both legs, stomach, face, & neck. A good friend that is also consuming the juice, tried in on his PO & noticed good results with the juice for reducing the itch, since he had PO badly on his face he bought Zanfel as well & had great results with the Zanfel. Since my 3rd case is so bad, he recommended Zanfel as a possible solution since it is on my face & neck as well. I had never heard of Zanfel and I am doing some research and landed on this site. I am currently on day 4 of my 3rd case (severe one at that) of PI. The juice takes the itch out very quickly, but I am researching Zanfel just in case the juice won’t kick this one.
    I am not recommending the juice as a remedy for PI/O/S, but it has done wonders for my overall health & wellness and reduced my joint pains. It is not a drug, but a Nutritious fruit juice blend that has done wonders for many peoples health & wellness.
    I just wanted to let people know that there is natural products out there that promote healing as well help with your overall heath & well being. This juice did help my last 2 cases of PI & is stopping the itch for my current case of PI. My friend said that the Zanfel did work for his PO as well. He now has PI, and is currently using the juice to treat it, because it is not on his face. The real benefit of using the juice for PI is the fact I already have it on hand & consume it for my health & wellness regularly, so it has not been an added cost to try it on my PI. I don’t know that I would buy it just for PI/O/S.

  33. Ellen Avatar

    Thank you so much for such an interesting evening of reading! I found this site to be funny at times and very informative. I would also like to say what has recently worked so well for my family. I have found a product that was a God sent that is called “Ivy Dry Scrub”. This product is 1/2 the price of Zanfel and worked Great. I also compared the ingredients on both Zanfel and Ivy Dry scrub and found them to be very similar. There was also a new ingredient called Zytrel. I would highly recommend this product, which I purchased online. As a side note I did notice that they have many other products other than just the Ivy Dry Scrub! I have purchased the Ivy Dry Super in the past and it has given my husband relieve from the intense itching. I clearly don’t understand why Zanfel costs so much money?? After reading everything here I still have no answers to that question!

  34. Dan Avatar

    You want to know what really works? Either take a shower with dish soap within 4-6 hrs of exposure, or if it’s too late and you already experience symptoms, just itch the crap out of it until it bleeds/hurts. Sounds crazy, yes, but it’s never spread when I do this, it doesn’t leave scars, and I would much rather have a little bit of pain and some scabs for a fews days. Plus it helps the “weeping” process. Anyone who tells you not to itch it is crazy in my opinion.

  35. Paul Avatar

    Indeed an amazing thread, so let me add my two cents as a recent sufferer who has done a lot of research. As some have mentioned, everyone will react differently to the oil and to the cures, but there definitely are some commonalities.
    If you have had it before, and severely, you will almost certainly be more susceptible in the future so remember to take precautions (as I never seem to heed my own advice). Once you have had a good soapy shower you have almost certainly removed the oil from the surface. So if you get more outbreaks, either you have oil on your shoes, clothes, bedding, anyplace you touched since coming in from contact – this can be maddening to find and clean all you have possibly touched (use rubbing alcohol). If still getting more outbreaks then it is likely systemic – you need prednisone, it works for the majority of people. There are many drugs and things that may not be the best for us, but at least for me a course (which is a tapered dosing) works fantastic and is worth the risks.
    Hot water is great for reducing the itch and as most have noted can last several hours. That is all it does, doesn’t make it go away quicker. After you wash thoroughly it is definitely not contagious to others or even yourself (i.e. spreading is either new contact or systemic).
    As for topical creams and cures, I haven’t used any other than cortisone and some samples from the doc, none of which did much if anything. I think whether it be tecnu or zanfel or a homemade concoction (I like the spermicide, clearasil, Dr. Scholls combo idea but no one seems to have written back with their experience), you have to see what will work best. I have a small case now and will check out the options at the drugstore, but even though I don’t necessarily want to spend $40 on a tube, how much does a doctor visit or two cost, and the pain and suffering. Guaranteed several months from now you won’t be thinking about the $40 or even $100 if you eventually found what works for you.

  36. DG Avatar

    I recently got an allergic reaction to a mango, which apparently is the same type as PI or PO. I never knew mangoes were related to such evil plants. I tried Zanfel today and it only very slightly reduced the itch. I used it twice and it almost made it worse because my face was hurting from the beads in it (my entire face is covered and swolen). I am going to wait it out until tomorrow and see if the swelling/itchiness goes down at all. I have to thank all the people here though for putting up all their home remedies. I just wish that a medicine that worked for some worked for all 🙁

  37. JW Avatar

    I’m blessed to not be allergic to this nasty little plant. My wife on the other hand seems like she gets it by looking at the stuff. And when she does it’s like a small speck on her ankle ends up all over her whole body in small patches and blisters.
    My son is the same way. Last year he got in some poison oak and it spread to his face and it looked like he had been burnt (blisters and all). He was swollen up and otherwise miserable.
    We live in The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and run a resort (see http://www.theofficialpigeonforgecabinguide.com ) and this plant as well as poison ivy are about everywhere you want to go. If you go near a stream or hike in our area, it’s not hard to find. Many times your dog will bring it back with it on it’s fur.
    We;; my wife discovered something called Maries Poison Oak soap and she absolutely swears by it. It seems to be the quickest remedy for halting the spread and process tat comes with being in contact with the itchy plants.
    Oh well, I hope this helps someone out.

  38. Lee Lee Avatar
    Lee Lee

    Poison Sumac Here!
    Tackling my new boyfriends untouched landscaping,oak trees abound ,and unexplored for 3yrs or more, I was determined to make it a garden oasis (true love). Being from the south, we do not fear; whether it be snakes, bugs, weeds, etc. Right now I am on my fourth day with Sumac P and virtually no itch and with light pink rash, recipe for success is any facial scrub with grit in it ( facial ones are gentler for those more gentle (or genital)areas, rinse immediately and pat dry (wash that towel) apply wart remover, basically salicylic acid, apply only where needed with the little brush (previous comments somebody over did this with an acne wash or similar product) the brush is so tiny you cant over do it. It may feel like a light burning sensation for seconds, then poof! No itch and redness down immediately! I did not realize I had PS as I had a blood test the day prior to contracting and thought I was having a reaction to the cuff used. (latex) Had I known it was PS, I would already be cured. Love this blog so informative and it seems everyone has treatments that work and (some that dont) for a lot less cost than Zanfel.

  39. Michelle Avatar

    Update on my 11 year old son, after repeating the Walgreens brand of Zanfel the 2nd night, the itching came back the next night so I got some Technu Extreme. He said it still felt pretty good being rubbed in, but not as gritty as the Zanfel. I also applied vitamin E to all the areas since his skin looked so dry. The next morning it looked great (the itching was gone) but when he got home from school that afternoon, there was much more spreading & the new areas itched like crazy. So I just took him to the Dr. (since he’d already had it for 2 weeks…time to stop the madness!) & was prescribed some Prednizone tablets. After taking these for 24 hours, the PO was virtually gone! Anyway, I think the Zanfel & Technu Extreme scrubs work temporarily to stop the itching, but don’t help much with spreading. Plus I think my son is really allergic.

    Also, be sure to wash all the clothes, shoes, and other items that might have come in contact with the PO. Otherwise it’s possible to keep “refreshing” yourself with PO.

  40. ronniereyes Avatar

    Today is my 13th day since getting poison ivy. The itching is pretty much gone, and there are marks but its more like scar tissue. The key was probably getting prednisone into my system last wednesday, and the Zanfel and Tecnu Extreme scrubs. I also had some rx cortisone to apply when a new bump would appear. The first week was pretty bad and I pity people who are more susceptible than I had been. I cannot imaging having this more than once or twice in a lifetime, nevermind several times in a season, however, if it comes up again in the future I would probably do what I just did. I have to say, the scrubs, either with the Zanfel or the Tecnu Extreme were ecstatic.

  41. Michelle Avatar

    Hans, I thank you for this wonderful website! I have read this entire thread over the past few hours (in b/w attempting getting some work done!) My 11 year old son broke out over a week ago, mostly on his legs. I originally bought Hydrocortisone & benadryl cream for the itching, but didn’t work too well. My son would scatch in his sleep & spread it even more. We heard from a friend about this “wash” that seemed to stop the itching with at least 2 applications, if not 1. I nearly fainted when I saw the price, so opted for the Walgreens brand. He loved the relief while I was scrubbing it on…he kept asking if I was using my nails! The itch was gone for the rest of the night & didn’t return until the next evening. (last night) So I squeezed what I could remaining in the tube (wasn’t able to use 1 1/2 inches each time) & repeated last night & this morning he claimed to be itch free! We’ll see how he feels tonight. I have to say that some of the new areas are very red now but for the most part, it looks like it’s drying up. I am going to try EMU oil to hydrate the skin a little. If he starts to itch again, I will probably get Technu Extreme since it’s so much cheaper. Good luck to everyone!

  42. ronniereyes Avatar

    I just had my first poison ivy or oak attack in my 61 years. I guess I was not previously allergic or something because I’ve certainly been exposed. I was barehandedly unwrapping a dogweed tree of vines enveloping it last Tuesday. About 3/4 of the way through I put on gloves. Around Thursday, rashes started to appear. By the weekend, I was beside myself with physical discomfort. On Sunday, I called my Dr. and got a prescription for a cortisone cream, after spending many dollars on various otc gels and creams which did almost nothing. By Wednesday, I thought insanity might takeover, so I called my Dr. (of 30 yrs) again and he gave me a prescription for prednisone. I took it, and in an hour I could feel it working. However, some of the rashes I had were still rather intrusive. I was referred to Zanfel by someone, and I went out and got it at WalMart for about $5 off regular retail. I followed directions closely, and got immediate relief on my arms. It was the first time I was physically content in a week. A couple of hours later, some itching began in areas I might have not focused on. I re-treated, and went to bed. I woke up without any itching in those areas. Theres a lot more areas to treat, but theyre spotty, and after reading this blog, I went out this morning and bought some Tecnu Extreme to test in those areas. So far, and its only been a few minutes, the Tecnu Extreme is giving me similar good results in spots, for 4 oz over 1 oz at less than half the cost. In retrospect, I probably should have tried the Tecnu Extreme first and saved a couple of bucks, but either way, I’m pretty happy.

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