How to Remove Skunk Odor From Clothes and Camping Equipment

How to Remove Skunk Smell from Clothes

Jeff Mitchell/ Getty Images

A skunk gives off a musky odor that you often smell before you see them. Human noses are extremely sensitive to a skunk, and can detect skunk musk in parts as small as one part per billion.

Skunk musk is an oily, yellowish liquid that is stored in sacks on either side of the skunk's anus. It's the oil contained in the spray the makes the odor linger long.

Usually, after a week, skunk odor dissipates from fabric with outdoor airing. But, if that is too long for you to wait, you can use common household products to easily speed up the odor removal process and are safe for use on fabrics, pets, and humans.

Odor type Animal protein
Detergent type Heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water temperature Warm

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 hours

Before You Begin

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

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

  • Soaking basin or sink
  • Washing machine (optional)
  • Clothesline (optional)

How to Remove Skunk Odor From Clothes

You have a few options for removing skunk odor with household products. No matter the soaking solution you choose (ammonia, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar), follow up with a complete washing cycle. It usually takes at least one week for the sulfur molecules in the musk to dissipate completely.

  1. Soak in Diluted Ammonia Solution

    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 which contains enzymes to break down the oil of the musk. If the skunk smell remains, repeat the process.

    Warning

    Do not use with ammonia with chlorine bleach. When combined, ammonia and bleach produce toxic fumes.

  2. Soak in 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.

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

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

  3. Soak in 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 a heavy-duty detergent.

  4. Line Dry Outside, If Possible

The affected fabrics should be line-dried, preferably outside. Do not use the dryer. If the odor molecules have not been completely removed, the high heat of the dryer may infuse the odor deeper into the fibers.

Power of the Sun

Ultra-violet rays from sunlight will help neutralize the odor. 

How to Remove Skunk Odor From Carpet, Upholstery or Camping Equipment

Hopefully, 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, you can use one of the same cleaning solutions for clothes to treat the area. 

If you have a skunk encounter in your house or you or your pet come home covered in skunk spray, 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 with one of the cleaning solutions.

  1. Sponge and Rinse With Cleaning Solution

    Sponge the smelly area thoroughly with the solution (ammonia, peroxide/baking soda or vinegar) 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.

  2. Air-Dry and Vacuum

Allow the area to air-dry away from direct heat. Vacuum carpet well when it is dry to lift any crushed fibers.

One Last Step

Once the house starts to smell like it is back to normal, change the air filters in vents and vacuum filters to get rid of any lingering odor molecules.

If the odor does not come out of clothes, carpet, or upholstery the first time, then repeat the process as necessary. However, if a skunk got in your house and the stinky area is too large for you to clean, then reach out to a professional upholstery or carpet cleaner for odor removal assistance.