How to Remove Skunk Odor from Clothes and Camping Equipment

How to Remove Skunk Odors from Clothes
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An encounter with a skunk, or polecat as they are called in the South, is a memorable experience. While skunks always exhibit a musky odor that you'll often smell before you see them, a skunk spraying experience you never forget! You'll have no doubt when someone in your family comes home after confronting a skunk. Humans can detect skunk musk in parts as small as one part per billion.

How to Remove Skunk Odor 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. Even then, they give ample warning that should be heeded—stamping front feet, a raised tail, hissing, short forward charges, and, especially, twisting the hind end around in your direction. 

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 save a bit of money and still speed up the process, just use household products.

  • Household Ammonia

Begin by mixing 1 part household ammonia to six parts water. Mix enough of the solution to completely cover the sprayed fabric. Soak washable clothing and camping equipment in the solution of ammonia and warm water for at least 30 minutes. Then, wash as usual using a heavy duty detergent.

DO NOT USE WITH CHLORINE BLEACH. Ammonia and bleach combined produce toxic fumes. If odor remains, repeat the process.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used. However, you must be careful because it can cause bleaching and color removal if poured directly on fabrics. Mix the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and water solution well - one part peroxide and one part baking soda with six parts water, Completely submerge the stinky items and soak clothes 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 care label.

  • Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is not as effective as ammonia but 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

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.

How to Remove Skunk Odor from 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 encounter (but they will probably guess from the aroma) and a good professional should be able to help you.

How to Remove Skunk Odor 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 then take shelter on your favorite chair or take a good roll on the carpet. If the contamination is limited to a small area, you can use one of the same cleaning solutions for washable clothes to treat the area. 

Be sure to sponge the area thoroughly with the ammonia or white distilled vinegar solution and then blot repeatedly to remove the solution. Finish with a rinse with plain water to remove residue. Try not to leave the carpet or upholstery excessively wet. Allow the carpet or upholstery to air dry away from direct heat.

Vacuum well when dry to lift any crushed carpet 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 any air filters in vents and vacuums to get rid of any lingering odor molecules.