How to Remove Skunk Odor from Clothes and Camping Equipment

How to Remove Skunk Smell from Clothes

Jeff Mitchell/ Getty Images

An encounter with a skunk is a memorable experience. While skunks always exhibit a musky odor that you often smell before you see them, a skunk spraying experience is one you never forget! Humans can detect skunk musk in parts as small as one part per billion.

How to Remove Skunk Smell from Washable Clothes and Camping Equipment 

Skunk musk is an oily, slightly yellow liquid that is stored in sacks on either side of the skunk's anus. Skunks use their powerful defense, spraying up to twenty feet, only when they or their young are threatened and cannot escape. 

In time, skunk odor will dissipate from fabric with outdoor airing. And, there are commercial skunk odor removers for fabrics, pets, and humans. But if you don't have access to a commercial product and want to speed up the process, just use household products.

  • Household Ammonia

Begin by mixing one part household ammonia to six parts water. Mix enough of the solution to completely submerge the sprayed fabric. Soak washable clothing and camping equipment in the ammonia and warm water for at least 30 minutes. Then, wash as usual using a heavy duty detergent like Tide or Persil with enzymes to break down the oil of the musk. DO NOT USE WITH CHLORINE BLEACH. When combined, ammonia and bleach produce toxic fumes. If the skunk smell remains, repeat the process.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to remove the smell. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide, one part baking soda, and six parts water. Mix well because hydrogen peroxide can cause bleaching and color removal if poured directly on fabrics. Completely submerge the stinky items and soak at least one hour.

Use this solution right away because hydrogen peroxide loses its potency rather quickly. Do not mix in advance or store in a closed container. This works well because the oxygen molecules in the hydrogen peroxide neutralized the skunk scent by bonding to the odor-producing thiols. By altering those molecules, the smell disappears.

After soaking, wash the items as recommended on the fabric care label.

  • Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is not as effective as ammonia but it will work,  it just takes longer. Mix one part vinegar to four parts water. Submerge clothes and soak at least three hours. Wash as usual with heavy-duty detergent.

No matter what you use as a soaking solution, follow up with a complete washing cycle.

Drying Skunk Exposed Fabrics. Skip the Clothes Dryer.

The affected fabrics should be line-dried, preferably outside. Ultra-violet rays from sunlight will help neutralize the odor. If the odor molecules have not been completely removed, using the high heat of the dryer may infuse the odor deeper into the fibers.

If you can still smell the skunk odor after drying, repeat the soaking steps. It usually takes at least one week for the sulfur molecules in the musk to dissipate completely.

Skunk Odor and Dry Clean Only Clothes and Equipment

For non-washable clothing, air thoroughly out of direct sunlight and then take the garments to a professional dry-cleaner. Share your problem (they will probably guess from the aroma) and a good professional should be able to help you.

How to Remove Skunk Smell from Carpet and Upholstery

I hope you never encounter a skunk in your home or car, but it is not unusual for a dog to tangle with a skunk and take a good roll on the carpet or sofa. If the contamination is limited to a small area, use one of the same cleaning solutions for washable clothes to treat the area. 

Be sure to sponge the area thoroughly with the solution and then blot repeatedly to remove the solution. Finish with a rinse with plain water trying not to leave the carpet or upholstery excessively wet. Allow the area to air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum carpets well when dry to lift any crushed fibers. If the stinky area is large, rely on a professional upholstery/carpet cleaner to treat the problem.

To air out the house, open all the windows and use circulation and venting fans. Place bowls of distilled white vinegar around the room to absorb odors. Wipe down any hard surfaces that may have come in contact with your pet or yourself.

Once the house smells back to normal, change air filters in vents and vacuum filters to get rid of any lingering odor molecules.