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Skunk spray has been compared to tear gas, and with good reason. Skunk spray and tear gas are both lachrymators — chemical substances designed to irritate the eyes and nose, causing redness, mucus production, and tears. In some instances, the scent of skunk spray may even cause nausea.
Thankfully, skunks don’t go around looking to spray people and pets. Skunks are nocturnal, and tend to avoid humans and other animals.
However, if they sense danger, they’ll discharge an oily, yellow spray from their anal glands to protect themselves. This spray can reach a distance of over three feet. It also vaporizes quickly, permeating practically everything it touches.
Getting rid of skunk odor takes quick action and the right products. The sooner and more efficiently you act, the better your chances of eliminating the skunk gunk completely and quickly.
There are several internet myths for getting rid of skunk smell that may lead you astray. In this article, we’ll tell you the truth about what works and what doesn’t.
The noxious scent of skunk spray can be long-lasting and overpowering. Skunk spray contains sulfur-based organic compounds called thiols. These compounds let off an immediate blast of acrid scent, reminiscent of rotten eggs.
Skunk spray also contains thioacetates. Thioacetates remain dormant at first, but can morph into smell-producing thiols when they come into contact with water or humidity. This can happen days or longer after the skunking occurred. It’s the thioacetates in skunk spray that give it its staying power.
Compounding this stinky situation is the sensitivity of the human nose, which can pick up skunk smell in tiny quantities — as low as 1 part per 10 billion.
(Video) How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell
If you get “skunked,” an immediate bath or shower should be your first step for removing the smell. In scientific terms, this means you’ll be attempting to oxidize the thiols into sulfonic acids, which have little-to-no skunk smell left in them.
Wash your entire body with deodorant soap or a grease-cutting dish detergent. Wash your hair with a shampoo made for oily hair.
You can also soak in a baking-soda bath for 15 to 20 minutes:
- Pour 2 to 4 cups of baking soda into hot water.
- Rinse to remove the residue from your skin.
If your pet gets sprayed, create a homemade mixture of:
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
- 1 teaspoon baby shampoo or grease-cutting dish detergent
- 1/4 cup baking soda
Lather this mixture onto your pet’s fur and let it sit for five minutes. Make sure not to get it into their eyes. Then rinse and wash your pet with their regular shampoo. Repeat if necessary.
Keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide may lighten your pet’s fur, so don’t leave the lather on for more than five minutes at a time
Note: Do not store the leftover mixture in a sealed container or bottle, since there is a risk it could explode. Also, if you don’t have hydrogen peroxide on hand, you can try white vinegar.
You can also use a store-bought product, such as Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover on your pet. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and air dry their fur.
You can find this product at most pet supply stores or order online.
Debunking the tomato juice myth
Contrary to urban legend and online myth, tomato products, such as tomato juice and sauce, do not eliminate skunk smell. These products may help mask odor, but they do not oxidize or destroy the thiols or thioacetates that cause them. This is also true for beer and oatmeal.
You can remove skunk smell from most clothing and fabrics by washing them with a regular laundry detergent mixed with 1/2 cup baking soda in hot water. Then air dry the clothes.
Air drying may be more effective than machine drying. A dryer may bake in the smell, if it’s not removed completely during washing.
Repeat this process until the skunk smell is completely gone.
Delicate fabrics may not survive vigorous washing in the machine. Try soaking delicate fabrics in the laundry detergent and baking soda solution for up to 30 minutes in the sink, instead. Rinse and air dry. Repeat if needed.
Soft surfaces that cannot be washed by hand or in a machine, such as carpets and couches, can be steam cleaned.
You can also try products designed for this purpose, such as Skunk Off Liquid Soaker.
Commercial products may also be your best bet for removing skunk smell from mattresses.
You can purchase Skunk Off Liquid Soaker online.
Skunk smell can permeate an entire home, including hard and soft surfaces. If your pet has been skunked outside, bathe them outdoors if possible so they cannot bring the smell in with them.
If this cannot be avoided, or if a skunk sprays inside, near, or under your home, try the following:
- Ventilate your home by opening all windows and running fans on high.
- If your home is temperature controlled with an HVAC system, let the fan run continuously until the smell is gone.
- Let sunlight in, as this will help oxidize the odor.
- Place bowls of vinegar in each room of the house and leave them in place for 24 to 48 hours, or until the scent is gone. Make sure the bowls are out of reach of pets and children.
- Once the smell is gone, change the filters on your air conditioners, heaters, and furnace to avoid reintroducing it into your home.
- Hard surfaces, such as floors and furniture, can be treated with a solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water. Patch test this solution first, to make sure it does not take the color out of wood and ceramics. You can also try a 10 to 90 mixture of white vinegar and water.
- Commercially prepared cleaning sprays and solutions can also help remove skunk smell from flooring, carpets, upholstery, and walls.
- If your car has been skunked, open the windows and let the sun shine on the upholstery.
- Use a 10 to 90 solution of bleach and water, or a solution of hydrogen peroxide, water, and baby shampoo to wash down the car’s interior, including the carpet and the seats. Do a patch test first to make sure it doesn’t lighten the fabric.
- If necessary, place bowls of vinegar in the front and back seats for several days. You can also use charcoal for this purpose.
- Hose down the car’s tires and exterior.
- If the smell persists, use a commercial product in your car’s interior.
Skunk smell can cause a physical reaction including a runny nose, watering eyes, and nausea. It can last for days or longer if not removed.
There are several at-home techniques and commercial products that can help remove skunk smell from people, pets, homes, and cars. Using the right products and acting quickly are key.
Wash your entire body with deodorant soap or a grease-cutting dish detergent. Wash your hair with a shampoo made for oily hair. You can also soak in a baking-soda bath for 15 to 20 minutes: Pour 2 to 4 cups of baking soda into hot water.How long does skunk smell last on person? ›
The smell from skunk spray can linger for two to three weeks, so if you're the unfortunate recipient you need to act fast. Skunk spray is pungent, oily and hard to remove. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to neutralize.How do you get skunk smell out of everything? ›
- Open all of your windows and let as much sunlight in as possible to oxidize the odor and shorten its lifespan. ...
- Place bowls of vinegar in each room for two or three days. ...
- Place any affected clothing, bedding, and other launderable fabrics in a washer set to the hottest setting.
Skunk smell can last anywhere from two weeks 14 to 21 days. The best ways to remove the smell from your clothes, furniture, hair or dog's fur is using a mix of baking soda and vinegar or peroxide.Does toothpaste get rid of skunk smell? ›
THE BEST THING to remove the stench is Crest toothpaste.Will Febreze remove skunk odor? ›
Use commercial sprays designed to deodorize and neutralize smells. Household cleaning sprays such as Febreze or Simple Green can be effective against skunk smell on fabrics and furniture.Can breathing in skunk smell make you sick? ›
Breathing it in can irritate the lungs. The odor has the potential to worsen asthma symptoms, but this is quite rare. The smell can be nauseating. While skunk spray is best classified as an irritant, rare but important effects have been described in dogs.Can humans get sick from skunk smell? ›
Nausea and vomiting – The smell can be stomach-turning. If any spray gets in the mouth, the person may throw up or experience diarrhea. Respiratory problems – Skunk odor can cause breathing issues. People with conditions that affect their respiratory systems, such as COPD or asthma, may have problems breathing.Why does skunk smell not disappear? ›
The primary stinky compounds are thiols and thioacetates, both rich in sulfur—the same element that makes rotten eggs gag-inducing. Sulfur atoms in thiols and thioacetates also have a lot of stability in the way they bond to other atoms, which is part of the reason the smell is hard to get rid of.How do you get skunk smell out of clothes without washing? ›
Soak in Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda
Completely submerge the stinky items and soak at least one hour. This works well because the oxygen molecules in the hydrogen peroxide neutralize the skunk scent by bonding to the odor-producing elements.
The vinegar will sit and absorb the skunk odor molecules floating about and neutralize it. You can speed up the process a bit through boiling vinegar. Put a pot of white vinegar on the stove and boil for an hour.Does vinegar absorb skunk smell? ›
Eliminating Skunk Spray from the Air
Simply pour vinegar into bowls and place around your home. Activated charcoal can be yet another effective way to trap skunk spray odor. You can also use carbon filters to remove a skunk smell.
Your clothes may smell 'skunky' after bathing your dog because skunk spray particles (mercaptans, or thiols) are so tiny and easily infiltrate thin fabric, but with one thorough wash the odour should be removed especially if you haven't come into direct contact with the spray.Does tomato juice get rid of skunk smell? ›
A popular myth is that bathing an animal in tomato juice will eliminate or neutralize skunk odor – it does not.How do you get skunk smell off a dog's face? ›
- ¼ cup of baking soda.
- 1-2 teaspoons of mild dishwashing detergent like Ivory Snow.
- 1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution.
- Mix in a bucket and use immediately.
- Work the foaming mixture well into the coat.
- Leave on for five minutes.
- Rinse with warm water.
- Follow with dog shampoo if desired.
1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide. ¼ cup of baking soda. 1 teaspoon of liquid soap (we have found dawn dish soap to work the best)What smell do skunks hate the most? ›
It may seem ironic, but skunks hate certain odors (as if they have room to judge). Citrus, ammonia, mothballs and predator urine (dog, coyote, etc) are three smells that can scare off skunks. If you use mothballs or ammonia-soaked cotton balls, be sure to keep them far away from children.Will shampoo get rid of skunk smell? ›
Simple soap and water or standard dog shampoo won't neutralize skunk odor. Instead, rinse or wipe as much spray off the dog as you can, then follow up with a commercial skunk odor shampoo or a blend of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap, followed by a standard pet shampoo.How do groomers get rid of skunk smell? ›
A groomer would first wash the dog with an appropriate shampoo to help remove any of the scent from the fur. They would have the proper types of shampoo to handle this matter without the need for home treatment options like tomato juice, which could leave an acidic scent behind.Is skunk spray poisonous to humans? ›
No. Skunk spray is not poisonous. It will not kill you or your pets, but a direct hit to the eyes has been known to cause temporary blindness. The spray can cause nausea and vomiting, as well as watery eyes and itching.
How far can skunk be smelled outdoors? Downwind, skunk musk is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to 3.5 miles away. 6.What food is poisonous to skunks? ›
- Cat food.
- Avocado skin and seeds.
This is incorrect. The spray is produced by two small glands that are inside the anus of the skunk. Once enough spray is created, it is stored in the sacs for safekeeping if the skunk needs to use it for defense. Unlike urine or feces, it is not a waste product.Does water make skunk smell worse? ›
Although thioacetates are usually less smelly than thiols, they are readily converted into thiols when they are mixed with water. This is the reason why skunk odor becomes more pungent when the animal becomes wet.Why does skunk smell stay? ›
The skunk's spray is a thiol, an organic compound in which sulfur is one of the main components. Sulfur has a rotten egg scent that is distained by most, making a skunk's spray extremely pungent. The scent is so strong it can be smelled up to half a mile away and can linger for days to weeks.What does lingering skunk smell like? ›
Persistent, faint musky smells under a building or woodpile may suggest that a skunk has taken up residence. You may find small, shallow holes in the lawn, similar to those made by squirrels, which are a result of a skunk foraging for grubs.Does hydrogen peroxide get rid of skunk smell? ›
Chemist Paul Krebaum discovered a solution that changes the odorous thiols into odorless acids, thereby chemically neutralizing the skunk odor. The formula is: 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (fresh bottle), • ¼ cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and • 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap.What removes strong odors from clothes? ›
Many odors can be removed using vinegar or baking soda as part of your wash cycle, and if those don't work, commercial sanitizers and sports detergents target odor-causing bacteria, too. Air drying outside is also a great option for freshening fabrics.Does boiling apple cider vinegar get rid of skunk smell? ›
If this happens, it should resolve over time. You can burn incense or boil apple cider vinegar on the stove and open the windows to help with the smell around the house. White vinegar can be used as well, but apple cider is a little less abrasive.Does lemon remove skunk smell? ›
White vinegar mixed with lemon juice will cut through a good chunk of the smell. Dr Bronner's makes a citrus soap that also does a surprisingly great job on skunk smells. Both are chemically mild and easy on the animal. One round of each is a good idea to really work through the smell and break down the chemicals.
Here's A Recipe That Works:
- 1 qt. 3% hydrogen peroxide.
- ¼ c. Baking soda.
- 1 t. Dish detergent.
Now we know yet another use for coffee grounds. A Google search found other techniques to remove the smell, but the coffee ground techniques mentioned seemed to assume unused coffee grounds are the grounds of choice. The great smell masks the skunk odor well, especially when combined with the vinegar smell.Is skunk spray harmful to humans? ›
No. Skunk spray is not poisonous. It will not kill you or your pets, but a direct hit to the eyes has been known to cause temporary blindness. The spray can cause nausea and vomiting, as well as watery eyes and itching.Can you get sick from skunk smell? ›
Nausea and vomiting – The smell can be stomach-turning. If any spray gets in the mouth, the person may throw up or experience diarrhea. Respiratory problems – Skunk odor can cause breathing issues. People with conditions that affect their respiratory systems, such as COPD or asthma, may have problems breathing.What is the biggest threat to skunks? ›
Skunks have few predators—hungry coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and cougars, also large owls (which have little sense of smell). Domestic dogs will also kill skunks.Does Coca Cola get rid of skunk smell? ›
Kill skunk odors
Though tomato juice works better, Coke is an effective skunk odor remover. Rub the soda into your hair and skin and let sit for a few minutes. Then rinse off with soap and water. This will also work well for any skunked animals.
In the case of skunk spray, when this happens, the smell of tomato juice is easily detected and it appears that the skunk odor is gone.