There's no poison ivy but I keep getting it

Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)March 29, 2012

...or a rash exactly like it. Tiny little oh-so-itchy blisters in singles and line-shaped clumps. I've had PI many times as a kid and have definitely learned to recognize it and avoid it. I'm certain there is none growing in my yard (and never has in the 5 years I've been here) and don't see any around the fences in neighbors' yards although there are a ton of weeds along the fence on 2 sides. They are all plants I've handled before with no problem. Nothing that looks like poison sumac out there either. I haven't been anywhere near PI since last year while camping. None of my tools have been exposed to PI. So I really think it's coming from some other plant although the rash is identical.

What could be doing this? I mowed Monday and started breaking out later that day, with new blisters showing up today still. Could I suddenly have developed an allergic reaction to one of these?:

velcro weed





yellow clover

bermuda grass

pink oxalis clover

fig tree



grape ivy



elephant ear (Colocasia)

English ivy (Hedera helix)

That's what I can remember touching within the past week but if you know of something else that can cause a rash identical to PI please say so, it could be out there & I'm just not thinking of it.

One other thought I had was that I was handling leaf litter. Could PI leaves have blown into my yard and still have urishiol on them? I also threw out those black walnuts (from another post) and since the carboard boxes no longer had bottoms, I touched them a lot.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

purple, I'm not sure what it could have been but I can tell you that MANY plants can cause dermatitis. Just for a couple of examples, your English ivy and honeysuckle are known irritants. I haven't looked up any plants on your list, but you might want to do that before you go digging around anymore.

Yes, the urushiol in PI can be very persistent.

I don't know if Ivy Block works for other plants than PI (and relatives), but a whole bunch of the arborists and landscapers that I've taught over the years swear by it. Might be worth investigating!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 4:31PM
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Dear purpleinopp 8b AL,

Do you sleep on a mattress? If so, you may have bedbugs. Call an exterminator.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:28AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks for the replies & suggestion. I appreciate any straw to grasp at and/or thoughts anyone has.

There is a few-years-old discussion on the perennial forum about plants that can cause a rash, but I read that over a couple times and didn't find anything I haven't touched many times before.

Of course I sleep on a mattress, but my partner doesn't have any of this rash (which appeared suddenly after several days of the first yardwork of the year).

This Wiki article includes some plants known to cause contact dermatitis. The 3 suspects are Quercus - I moved a lot of oak leaves last weekend. I was surprised to find this on the list since I've never heard of anyone being allergic to oak leaves, and the regular Quercus article on Wiki doesn't mention contact dermatitis.

The other two are greater celandine and English ivy. I did take some cuttings of my potted variegated Hedera helix, but can't figure how that would have yielded rash spots on my legs. I guess I could have transferred the oil from arm to leg when I sat down to rest. The celandine doesn't look familiar by flower or leaf. Would that be a "normal" weed for this area? I think I would have noticed yellow sap if I pulled some up?

This happened last spring also, although just on 1 wrist. This year I've managed to get it on both forearms & a few spots on my legs. It is concentrated on the "bottom" of my forearms, right where I would have had the most contact with the leaves I was picking up by the armload.

There is also grape ivy growing in a few spots that I probably brushed against, but unless I've developed a new allergy to this plant, I ruled that out since I've handled it many times before although I know it's got a reputation for giving people a rash. I ripped some off the fence last summer in chunks with my hands and didn't get any rash.

Luckily most of the spots are about finished, and thanks to the wonderful folks at Aveeno, I've been able to turn the itching down to a dull roar. The mystery remains, though...

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:55AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I don't think it's a mystery. You spend a lot of time working around a wide variety of plants MANY of which can and do cause contact dermatitis. It could very well be (and most likely IS) a reaction to more than one plant. Some people are more sensitive than others.

To avoid problems in the future, you may need to wear long sleeves and gloves while working...and strip off before coming inside to jump into a hot shower. I still think you ought to investigate the IVY OFF, a lotion you simply apply before you begin your yard work.

(Gee, really sleep on a mattress? Gawly, you comin up in the world, ain't ya? lolol)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:30PM
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Re: Bedbugs and Their Feeding Habits

Research reveals that the common bedbug discriminates in its dining options. For example, multiple humans may routinely repose upon the same mattress, but not all of the reposers will become targets of the bedbugs' dining pleasure. Some may be nibbled upon; others not. There's no accounting for taste--even among bedbugs.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:02AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Again, thanks for the suggestion, Jay, but we don't have any of the 3 types of bed bugs. This rash appeared suddenly, within 48 hours, is subsiding, and does not look like pics of bed bug bites. Naturally, though, they would choose to bite me over him, good point! I wonder how those researchers were able to stay focused in the midst of an orgy?! Multiple people sleeping in a bed. Kinky.

Thanks again, Rhizo, good ideas for prevention. If it happens again, I think I'll be motivated enough to see an allergist. Guess we'll have to find new, upscale friends when we get a new mattress soon. This set is only 3 years old, but I knew the euro-top would cave in. We're going to bite the bullet & get a ******pedic!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 11:34AM
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I can't speak to the plant causing the problem, but another solution help is Tecnu. I hate PI, and use Ivy Off before I'm going to be in the weedy area - Tecnu you use after possible contact, when you come in. It's helped keep PI away from me (plus increased diligence watching for it, of course).

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Dear purpleinopp,
If you've ruled out bedbugs, it may be a case of The Shingles.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks, drippy. Hopefully I won't get into this again & it is gone except for some reddish spots where you can see where it was. Whew!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Fig Leaves give me a problem, but it usually lasts only a day or so, and PI lasts much longer, Miserable while it lasts, however.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Tecnu is a life saver! I suffered for years with poison ivy from smoke that drifted over from people burning the overgrowth around trees in Kansas. I cannot stop from getting the nasty rash but can scrub the oils off my skin with tecnu and find relief. So far, here in Tennessee I have not had any problems which I think really supports my theory that it was the drifting smoke that got to me in Kansas. Anyway, just a hip hip hurrah for tecnu!!!


    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 10:00AM
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If you feel that your household can be swarmed by these particular terrible scary crawlies, it might be beneficial to discover more regarding cures for the removal of bedbugs. Initially, you'll need one simple suggestion on the subject of the concealing destinations. Examine the stitches or folds from your bedding. You are most probably to discover these kinds of pesky insects hidden in it. You will need to also search inside carpeting and rugs or loose picture. Go searching for crevices in the wall space. All of these could also be hidden below wall hangings. If you've got recently purchased very old or previously owned bedroom furniture, give a great look. If the room in your home is in a mess, they likely should have an abundance of location to conceal, so, it may be worthy to have the surrounding thoroughly clean. Provided below is a facts about selected successful family home treatments for bedbugs removal.

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Here is a link that might be useful: get rid of bed bugs

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 3:15AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi David & welcome to Gardenweb.

As I said on 4/9, my contact dermatitis is gone. If anyone who reads this does have an actual bed bug problem and not poison ivy, I hope this info is helpful.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 8:54AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

purple....lolololol I'm waiting to see what other 'dreaded' scourge you are diagnosed with.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

LOL! IKR! Herpes!?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 10:11AM
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Bamatufa(7 - Trussville, AL)

I am allergic to PI also.Use to catch it every year as a kid playing in the woods.My grandfather believed in taking a good yard bath in rubbing alcohol during and after working in the yard/farm. He would buy it by the case and always hand me a full bottle to wash down my arms and legs.I never had problems with PI when I did this.He had some kind of wild bush growing everywhere my grandfather warned me not to touch.He referred to it as the "Fire Bush". He claimed it was worse than PI or PO.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 7:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Don't know why I never saw your post before, bamatufa. Thanks for the input! Wonder if that "fire bush" was poison sumac?

I don't go in the woods and would never trust bathing or anything to wash off urishiol, although I'm sure that works. I just never touch it, so I know my rash isn't from actual PI.

An entry in the weeds forum has me wondering. There is a picture of a weed I know I've pulled a lot each spring. Wonder if it was this Euphorbia?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:01AM
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Purple, I have that spurge and it doesn't bother me at all. But by chance are you allergic to latex? It has a latex sap, as do quite a few plants.

By the way, all the Euphorbia sp. have latex in them. You might want to in vestigate if this is the problem plant before picking up the Spurge you mentioned on the other thread.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I don't want to find out if I'm allergic to the spurge I mentioned in my other post here, and Euphorbias are well-known rash-causers for those who are sensitive, already decided against it. MIGHT give me a rash and probably will die, no thanks! But I thought maybe since that one used to be named something else it might not have irritating sap in it.

That's why the other post in weed forum which named the pictured plant Euphorbia caught my attention.

That I know of, I've not had contact with any Euphorbias before moving here from OH a few years ago, so I will hope/assume the one pictured in the discussion on the weeds forum is the plant giving me a rash. Next time I notice some, I'll use a plastic bag to pull it, wash immediately in case (the same way I pull PI sprouts but luckily haven't had any of those here.) If I do that and get through next spring without getting a rash again, that was probably it. If not... (serious sailor cussing!) LOL! thanks!!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 5:16PM
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a simple change in daily regimens can effect a rash, too. i broke out 2 weekends ago in a rash that at first resembled poison ivy exposure. it never progressed into blisters that weeped but it was red, raised and very itchy. as it turns out, the cause was a change in laundry detergent. i have used a free and clear detergent for years but decided to buy tide brand a few weeks ago. just washing clothes, towels and sheets in that brand caused contact dermatitis. i have since re-washed everything in a brand with no dyes or perfumes and am clearing up. just a thought for your consideration. possibly changing bath soap or body wash might do the same thing.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's an excellent suggestion. My daughter has to use that laundry soap for babies, and only certain soaps and lotions, so I'm familiar with the idea. Unfortunately I haven't changed brands of anything for an embarrassingly long time. It's "on the record" now for whoever may read this, desperately itching. Glad that no longer includes you! Thanks for taking a minute to share it!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 5:00PM
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super65(z8 TX)

I think we had some mulch one time that contained poison ivy. I know I didn't come in contact with any from my yard, yet after having re-potted several plants I then developed the classic poison ivy type rash between my fingers. My wife also did, and the only thing we both came in contact with was the mulch

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

You know, that's not out of the realm of possibility, super. There's construction debris in mulch sometimes, PI debris is not out of the question!! It's very plausible that something from the bag could brush my wrist, where this keeps happening, then I only wash hands but not wrist if I don't see dirt there. Interesting hypothesis!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 2:52PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I've found another candidate, Lactuca serriola. It's between this and grape ivy, I think... maybe both.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 2:21PM
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haven't read the entire thread, but, the smoke tree as well as cashew trees and mango skins contain urushiol which is the stuff that causes the poison ivy dermatitis. My daughter is highly allergic to it (but didn't know it) and was gardening on a weekend, on Tuesday eve she went into the hospital to deliver her baby. She had some marks on her that looked like slightly infected scratches. By the time the baby was born, she was in full bloom. She still doesn't want to see pictures of herself holding her new baby. Needless to say, the tree was removed immediately.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thank you, Nana! HTH someone! Sorry that happened.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 5:41PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I have figured this out! I'm 99.9% sure it's the seemingly innocuous Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato vine.

As this discussion is evidence, I've been seriously investigating this for almost 3 years, which coincides with my acquisition of the SPV that I have. That white, sticky, milky sap should have been a clue, but I didn't know until investigating that anything but poison ivy could give a person an identical rash. Let's just say my last experience with taking cuttings has had bad and obvious results. And explains why I've occasionally gotten this rash during winter. Although trimmed to come inside, this vine will start sprouting again in a mixed pot inside over winter, and I've kept cuttings in glass bottles which have occasionally needed maintenance to make it through winter.

I think I am also sensitive to Ficus (fig) sap and probably that of any other plant that's stick/white/milky inside. That seems to indicate the presence of latex, the likely culprit, from what I can understand about this stuff, a common dermatitis-causing substance - not only in Euphorbias! Before starting this investigation, I thought that was a fabricated entity, like polyester.

Bottom line, at least for me, if I ever see white sap in a plant, I need to go wash thoroughly, no matter what its' name is, or how cozy of friends I think I am with this plant.

Edited to add forgotten pic.

This post was edited by purpleinopp on Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 11:03

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Not all plants with latex have milky sap, although in general it's a good indicator. If you have latex sensitivity, wild lettuces and thistles in particular don't always have the milky appearance, but do still contain the latex.

In other words... wear garden gloves when weeding.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 4:18PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Yes, I appreciate that, thank you. I never considered the sweet potato vine I bought to be a weed, although it can be weed-y if let loose in the ground in the wrong spot.

This is not about weeds, although I suspected that originally. I never go outside with the intention of weeding but do pull what I see when I see it. The only weeds I touch regularly are grass and oak tree sprouts, which I pull on site. I wish I could get a'hold of those with gloves on but I've tried and it doesn't work. Everything else that sprouts does so seasonally, and this rash has definitely not been that, showing up at any time of year. If I'd opened my thinking sooner to cultivated plants instead of 'weeds' or touching dead leaves often, I think it would have been obvious much sooner also. Oxalis stricta does show up over a long period of time, but I've been pulling those most of my life. I knew it wasn't that when I got this rash early this spring before pulling any of those for the year.

Thanks for the tip about other plants with latex! If I see any of those sprouts, I'll use a plastic bag to pull them. I don't want that stuff on my gloves.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:24PM
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hementia8(8 MS)

This time of year red bugs/chiggers are very aggresive
I had thought I had got into poison ivy on my legs although I had on jeans
After suffering a few days I reallized that it could be red bugs and treated them with olive oil which suffacated them

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 5:17PM
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My first thought was chiggers -- they leave trails of bumps, but they spread and don't go away easily without effort (clear nail polish on the sores suffocates them quickly).

I don't believe bed bug bites blister, but I've never been bitten by one so can't say for sure. Regardless, usually the onset of bedbugs (when there aren't many around) will only bite one person.

You can develop an allergy overnight to something that has never bothered you before. So strange how that happens.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 3:00AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Excellent inputs for anyone investigating mysterious dermatitis. Thanks for adding!

I'm now 100% sure I'm allergic to latex sap in the sweet potato vine and that there isn't a window for washing it off like the urishiol in poison ivy. If there is, it's less than 5 minutes on my skin. No more fig picking for me.

And heart-leaf Philodendron. Haven't experimented with other Philos, but no question whatsoever I'm allergic to this vine.

I'm currently sporting 2 different but similar rashes in very specific test spots.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 2:20PM
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You need to put latex allergy in your medical files. They don't use latex a lot anymore in doctor's offices because of allergic reactions, but it's best to be careful.

There are several foods which are cross-reactive, meaning people with latex allergies often become allergic to them as well. You many want to keep an eye out in this area.
High occurrence rates: Banana, Avocado, Chestnut, Kiwi
Moderate occurrence rates: Apple, Carrot, Celery, Papaya, Potato, Tomato, Melons

    Bookmark   October 26, 2013 at 7:59AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Lantana, lantana, lantana. I thought I was allergic to nothing - have a cast iron constitution - and healthy as a horse - but if I even trim a few branches of lantana and if the leaves even brush against my arms, they immediately begin to itch. The leaves are not torn open, and there is no sap or liquid, but just the brush of the leaves against my skin causes itching and burning. Others on the Florida Gardening forum have posted about Lantana, too.

Carol in Jacksonville

Here is a link that might be useful: Lantana allergy

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 8:22PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks, Carol! Now that my tests of sweet potato vine and hart-leaf Philo are finished, I should test myself for Lantana sensitivity too. There's several extremely large plants along the back fence but I don't usually touch them except to take cuttings for people. Thanks so much for adding that info!

Juniper affects me like you describe though it's a short-lived misery, not a full-blown rash that takes a week to go away.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 7:38AM
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hementia8(8 MS)

I am highly alergic to cashews in addition to poison ivy/oak
Cashews,poison ivy/oak/sumac and the shins of mangos all contain urushial that could cause a bad reaction

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 9:56AM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Purple, my itching from Lantana is eased by rinsing my arms afterwards with the hose. And now that I know about the itching, whenever I plan to prune it, I wear long sleeves, even in summer. I don't know what a full-blown lantana rash would be like (or if it would even occur), as I have been lucky enough to never have that. For me, a rinse with the hose or a shower has been enough to erase it. However, like all allergies, it can affect people to different degrees.


    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 11:58AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Nicole, don't know why I didn't notice your comment originally, sorry. Thanks so much for adding that info! The box of cheap 'rubber gloves' I have doesn't say 'latex free' on the label but they don't seem to bother me, strange. But I mention this because susceptibility of reaction to latex rubber and to latex sap don't seem to be interchangeable. Being able to wear a glove or prophylactic with latex isn't an indication of whether a plant with latex sap will give you a rash.

The rash from heart-leaf Philodendron vine is just as bad, but easy to avoid now that I know, just don't touch the sap when taking cuttings. Guttation moisture doesn't seem to cause me a rash, just the sap. I KNOW I was not allergic to this before, I've taken cuttings many times over the many years I've had it around.

Excellent point about those foods, thanks!

Hementia, thanks!

Carol, you never know when the Lantana might 'attack' you more severely! Good plan!

DH finagled an outdoor sink for me, from a cracked bathroom sink we found on the curb. It's not pretty, but I can wash hands w/o tromping inside constantly.

This bears repeating in italics:
"You can develop an allergy overnight to something that has never bothered you before. So strange how that happens." Man, you ain't kiddin'! The only thing worse is not being able to figure out what's going on. Soooo glad I did (at least for now, and possibly partially. I suspect a lot of my 'house plants' have unfriendly sap - to my skin.)

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 7:47AM
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Pets - same thing happened to me - pets were bringing it in on their fur. Grandma's Soap (lye soap), just used a few times, worked; also homeopathic Poison Ivy pills work for me in conjunction with washing; Tecnu works. I had it so bad the first time I had to finally be saran-wrapped and that did the trick. Those three work!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:48PM
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