Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk or had your dog get into a fight with a skunk? Stories abound about how to control and prevent skunks and the concoctions for getting rid of their odor range from tomato juice to beer to liquid detergent. What really works for skunk smell?
Myths vs. Facts
If you ask most people how to get rid of skunk spray, the answer you'll probably receive most often is to 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."
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
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon liquid detergent
Mix in a large, open container and use immediately. According to the Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, it can be safely used on people, pets, clothing, and furniture.
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.
Experts from Cornell University, the 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.
- 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 with 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.
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. Be careful because it can bleach surfaces. Try it on a small spot first, if there is concern about discoloration.
The Final Word
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.
Skunks management guidelines. Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California