Stinky Situations: How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

An unfortunate encounter with a skunk can mean weeks of lingering reek. But the right combination of cleaners can neutralize the odor on your body, your clothes, and inside your home before the day's over.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

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The stench of a skunk is strong and unmistakable, even when you’re in a car with the windows closed, driving through an area sprayed hours prior. So a skunk smell in your backyard or, worse, inside your home or on your loved ones must be addressed immediately—ideally within an hour or two of the spray. If neglected, that foul odor could linger for months on household textiles, everything from bed linens to furniture upholstery. It can even wind up on your own skin! Fortunately there are effective ways to neutralize the nastiness, using common items you may already have at home. Read on for how to get rid of skunk odor for good.

5 DIY Solutions for Getting Rid of Skunk Odor That Actually Work

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell Solutions

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The rotten egg reek that is the skunks’ prime mode of defense comes from an organic compound called a thiol. It’s produced in the critters’ anal glands and has sulfur as its chief component. These nocturnal animals don’t spray unless they’re in danger, but when they do, whew! The odor is strong and the substance is oily, which is why it’s tough to banish. However, with the one-two punch of a detergent to cut the oil and a chemical to absorb and neutralize, you can de-skunk. Consider these five home remedies for how to get rid of skunk smell in various situation.

Scenario 1: How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell From Clothing

TOOLS & MATERIALS
– 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
– Distilled white vinegar
– Large bucket
– Laundry detergent
– Baking soda

Hydrogen peroxide ranks as perhaps the best weapon against the scourge of the skunk. This chemical compound can damage the fibers of clothing, however, so it must be diluted prior to application. Start the de-skunking process by mixing one part hydrogen peroxide to six parts water in a large bucket. Then soak the smelly clothing in the solution for an hour or so.

If the affected piece of clothing is delicate or dry clean only, skip the peroxide, opting instead for a common pantry staple: vinegar. Though somewhat less effective hydrogen peroxide, it’s much less harsh. Prepare a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water and let the garment soak about 3 hours.

Once the recommended soaking time has elapsed, place the clothing into the washing machine, adding ½ cup of baking soda to your usual cycle. Baking soda is alkaline, and so able to absorb the acid present in many strong odors. Rather than pop garments in the dryer, turn them inside out and line dry on a sunny day, if possible. The sun’s ultraviolet rays work to further break down any remaining reek.

How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell From Within The House

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Scenario 2: How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell From Within The House

TOOLS & MATERIALS
– Distilled white vinegar
– Bowls
– Bucket
– Chlorine bleach
– Ammonia
– Gloves
– Sponge or rags

If a person or a pet has a run-in with a skunk, it’s common for them to unwittingly track some of the offensive odor into the house with them. Start by placing open containers or bowls of vinegar in the corners of the room and adjacent to any affected furniture. The vinegar will work to absorb odors over the next few days.

Next, begin a targeted attack on specific surfaces, ventilating the rooms before using chemical products and wearing gloves during use. Scrub tile with diluted chlorine bleach (following the instructions on the bleach container). For wood, use a solution of one part ammonia to four parts water. Wet the sponge or rag, and wring it out (soaking wood can be damaging), then scrub. For heavy fabric curtains or wall-to-wall carpeting, consider hiring a steam cleaning service or renting a steam cleaner to do the job yourself.

How to Get Rid of a Skunk Smell Under Your House

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Scenario 3: How to Get Rid of a Skunk Smell Under Your House

TOOLS & MATERIALS
– Wire mesh, bricks, and/or large stones
– Peanut butter
– Moth balls

A skunk may find an ideal nesting spot under your house, porch, deck, or even in your crawlspace. If skunks move in, they can become pesky, rooting in your garbage and raising their young. While it’s unlikely that the creature will spray if unprovoked, trying to dislodge it with a broom or even a bright light could result in some serious P-U. So this is one of those best-defense-is-a-good-offense situations!

The solution is to employ a stink of your own. First, block all but one area that the skunk could use to escape, ideally with wire mesh dug about a foot into the ground (which will deter future uninvited guests), but bricks, stones, or other impediments may suffice in a pinch. Then apply a large scoop of peanut butter in and around the sole opening that a skunk could fit through. Next, toss a small handful of mothballs into the confined area where the critter is hiding out.

Mothballs are a solid chemical pesticide, usually made of naphthalene or, more commonly nowadays, para-dichlorobenzene—a turn-off to skunks. They’ll be driven out, and attracted toward the peanut butter, but chances are they’ll waddle off rather than stick around to snack. Of course, you may not be crazy about the mothball smell, which can take several months to dissipate, so use baking soda and vinegar in the area to help hasten its departure.

Scenario 4: How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell in and Around the Car

TOOLS & MATERIALS
– Dish or laundry detergent
– Rags, sponges, or a scrub brush
– Distilled white vinegar
– Murphy’s Oil Soap
– Activated charcoal

If a skunk sprays near your vehicle, the odor can linger and possibly even penetrate the tires. So mix a solution of dish or laundry detergent, water, and vinegar, and scrub the stinky areas well, using rags, sponges, or a brush, then rinse.

Should the smell somehow be inside the car, pre-wash leather or faux-leather seats with a rag and diluted dish/laundry detergent, then wipe with a clean damp rag. Next, use water and some Murphy’s Oil Soap, which contains lauramidopropylamine oxide and sodium tallate—cleaning agents that may counteract the oiliness in skunk spray.

Still stinky? It may be challenging to leave bowls of vinegar or baking soda in your car, but you can tuck pieces of activated charcoal in various corners. Activated charcoal is a porous filtering agent that can absorb odors floating in the air. It may remove the skunk odor in as little as 24 hours.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell From Yourself and Your Pets

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Scenario 5: How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell From Yourself and Your Pets

TOOLS & MATERIALS
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Baking soda
– Dishwashing detergent
– Bucket

If you or your pet has been sprayed, grab the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing detergent. (Send a family member indoors to retrieve the supplies so you won’t bring the stink indoors.) Mix a quart of three-percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter- to half-cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. Dip a rag into the solution and rub yourself or your pet down. Don’t wet the skin (or fur) first, as the solution may not absorb well if wet. Avoid the eyes and any other sensitive areas. When you’re finished, dump the mixture; it shouldn’t be stored (this potent brew can actually destroy its container).

No matter the game plan, do your best to air out the house by opening windows, using fans, and changing your HVAC filters. Most of all, remember that addressing the skunk smell immediately can save you days of multiple showers and endless household cleanings. This, too, shall pass!

How do you get skunk smell off a dog without peroxide?

If your pooch comes home reeking of a run-in with a skunk, you may not wish to use hydrogen peroxide. After all, it could be challenging to keep the stinging stuff out of the eyes of an agitated animal during a de-skunking rubdown. Swap in distilled white vinegar for the peroxide, which is slightly less effective but less stinging, still taking care to be extra gentle around sensitive spots.

Don’t bother trying tomato juice. This old-timey skunk odor remedy may briefly mask the smell but it doesn’t have the goods to get rid of it.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell - Skunk

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How hard is it to get rid of skunk spray smell?

Skunk spray is not only redolent, it’s oily, due to the organic compound thiol that the creatures naturally produce. The smell is foul, and the oiliness allows it to adhere to the skunk’s enemy—so it can be hard to remove with plain soap and water. However, using a combination of a degreaser and an odor absorbing/neutralizing agent can effectively get rid of skunk smell.

How long does it take for skunk smell to go away?

Left untreated, skunk odor can settle into surfaces, especially textiles, and the odor can take months to fully dissipate. That’s why it’s important to get to work de-skunking clothing, furnishings, and other surfaces immediately—ideally within an hour of being sprayed. It’s simply not enough to open the windows, hold your nose and hope for the best! Use the targeted technique described above that best suits your skunky scenario ASAP.