What Really Works to Get Rid of Skunk Odor

Myth versus Fact

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) adult. Captive animal
Striped Skunk. Don Johnston/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk? Or had your dog get into a fight with a skunk ... and come out on the stinky end of it? Stories abound about how to get rid of skunk smell - from tomato juice to beer to liquid detergent. What really works? Read on to find out ...

This is the third of a three-part series on skunks: providing an overview of skunks, how to prevent or control skunks, and how to get rid of the odor and what to do if you or your pet gets sprayed by a skunk.

Myth: Tomato Juice Gets Rid of Skunk Odor

If you ask most people how to get rid of skunk smell, the answer you'll probably receive most often is: Take a bath in tomato juice! Unfortunately, it doesn't really work.

According to Chemistry of Skunk Spray, by William F. Wood (Department of Chemistry, Humboldt State University, Arcata, Calif.), Tomato juice "seems to work because at high doses of skunk spray the human nose quits smelling the odor, and the tomato juice odor is instead detected. (olfactory fatigue). When this happens, the odor of tomato juice can easily be detected.

A person suffering olfactory fatigue to skunk spray will swear that the skunk odor is gone and was neutralized by the tomato juice. [BUT] another person coming on the scene at this point will readily confirm that the skunk spray has not been neutralized by the tomato juice."

Fact: A Home Recipe to Get Rid of Skunk Odor

What has been proven to work, according to a variety of sources, is a home concoction developed by Paul Krebaum and published Chemical & Engineering News back in 1993:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent

Mix in a large, open container and use immediately. According to Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, it can be safely used on people, pets, clothing, and furniture.

But the mix cannot be covered or stored because it can explode a closed container.

To get rid of the leftover solution, dilute it heavily with water, and pour down the drain.

Retail Products That Work

Experts from Cornell University, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other universities and government agencies also recommend over-the-counter products that contain neutroleum alpha to get rid of skunk smells on pets. These products are available at many pet stores.

Getting Rid of Skunk Smells In the Home

If people or pets come into the house before being de-skunked, you may find that the smell lingers in the air. To get rid of it, boil vinegar in a pan. The home will now smell like vinegar, but once that smell is gone, the skunk odor should also be gone.

Cleaning Buildings and Decks

To get skunk smells out of buildings, wooden decks and porches, etc., mix 1 cup of liquid bleach in a gallon of water. But be careful because it can bleach surfaces. Try it on a small spot first, if there is concern about discoloration.

De-skunking Tips

  • Try to remove the smell from people, pets, and items as quickly and thoroughly as possible. The longer the odor is on anything, the more difficult it will be to remove.
  • If you can, work outside so you don't bring the smell into the house or get the oil on the carpet, furniture or other household items.
  • Shower thoroughly in hot water after using any de-skunking solution.
  • If clothing or other items have been heavily sprayed by the skunk, you may want to simply discard them, as the fabric can hold skunk odor for a very long time.

The Final Word About Skunk Smells

It is unlikely that any solution will completely eliminate the smell the first time. It may take several times or a length of time for the smell to completely dissipate.

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