Toolbox Essentials: Q1 2022 Catalog
How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell: A Complete De-Skunking Guide

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell: A Complete De-Skunking Guide

Few odors on earth are as abhorrent as skunk spray, an ungodly and acrid concoction that smells like a blend of burnt rubber and rotten eggs.

And should even a drop of the wretched liquid land on your person, pet, clothes, or car, then you could suffer through the nauseating stench for weeks.

The good news? If you act fast to implement the correct cleaning technique, you can get rid of the skunk smell for good. The ideal solution depends on what and where you need to clean. Below, we’ll cover the five most common spray zones in this handy de-skunking guide.

Why Does Skunk Spray Smell So Bad?

To protect themselves from predators, skunks have evolved to excrete an excruciatingly unpleasant odor from their anal glands when they feel threatened.

The spray contains pungent sulfuric compounds called thiols, which give it the trademark eggy smell. To make matters worse, skunk spray also contains long-lasting thioacetates, which transform into thiols upon contact with moisture. Consequently, the acrid stench of skunk spray can remain for several weeks after the excretion. That’s part of the function: skunks want to make sure you never mess with them again.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to cleansing skunk spray—the most effective method depends on the affected area.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell on People

Although coming into direct contact with skunk spray sounds like the worst possible outcome, the good news is the stuff is relatively easy to remove from human skin.

The first thing you need to do is ditch your clothes outside and jump in the shower. Give your whole body a thorough scrub down in steamy water, smothering yourself with a generous dose of deodorizing soap. Wash your hair rigorously with a shampoo that specializes in oily hair; this will help get the oily skunk substances out.

If you suffered an extensive squirt or the smell is still lingering around, try adding a dash of dishwashing detergent to the mix. Another heavy-duty spray removal option is to bathe in a hot bath with four cups of baking soda, but be sure to rinse yourself off after you’re done as it can sometimes dry out your skin.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell on Pets

Pets have a habit of running around and rubbing themselves on everything, so it’s imperative you get them cleaned up ASAP to stop the smell from spreading.

This homemade anti-skunk recipe from the Humane Society is especially effective at neutralizing the pong:

  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • One teaspoon of dishwashing detergent or baby shampoo
  • One quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (substitute with vinegar if unavailable)

Thoroughly rub the mixture through your pet’s fur and let it rest for five minutes to work its magic. Hydrogen peroxide will irritate the mouth and eyes, so take extra care to keep the mixture away from your pet’s face. It’ll also turn their fur blonde if you leave it on too long—so keep a close eye on the clock.

Rinse the fur clean and rewash your pet, this time with a typical pet shampoo. If possible, use a product specially designed to remove the skunk smell.

If you decide to keep the solution for later use, avoid storing it in an airtight container. Without adequate oxygen, the mixture will create an explosive reaction, and you’ll end up with an awful mess.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell on Clothing

If a skunk has sprayed your finest threads with its awful excretion, you’ll need to act fast to get rid of the smell. Clothes and fabrics become especially susceptible to skunk spray if not treated immediately.

  1. Soak the soiled clothes in a solution of one part vinegar and four parts water for 30 minutes.
  2. Add half a cup of baking soda to your regular dose of laundry detergent.
  3. Put the soiled clothes into the washing machine (don’t add non-skunked up clothing as you could contaminate them).
  4. Run a normal cycle with hot water.
  5. Air dry outside on the line.
  6. Repeat the process until your clothes don’t smell.

If you need to clean delicate clothes that aren’t machine washable, follow the same process except substitute the washing machine for a manual scrub in the tub.

You might have to repeat the entire process several times to get rid of the smell, depending on how badly the skunk sprayed you and how long it took you to get to the washing machine. If you weren’t particularly fond of those clothes, you could always bin them instead.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell on Cars

If you leave the window open and a skunk finds its way into your car, then you’ll have one heck of a smelly mess to deal with. A more likely scenario is you could transfer skunk spray from your clothes or your pet onto the upholstery. This is the most difficult skunk-based scenario.

Either way, you’ll need to take the following steps to eliminate the smell from your ride.

  1. Open all the windows and park your car in direct sunlight.
  2. Mix together the same solution as with pets (1/4 cup of baking soda, one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide).
  3. Use the solution to clean the interior of your car with a sponge. Before you clean the carpet and upholstery, do a spot test on a hidden section to see whether it affects the color.
  4. Hose down the outside of your car and follow your usual car washing routine.
  5. If the smell still lingers, try placing a bowl of charcoal by the dashboard. The black carbon residue is exceptionally porous and works wonders at absorbing unwanted odors. Another option is white vinegar (use an old takeaway container and puncture a hole in the top).

If the stinky smell persists, you could try cleaning your car with a de-skunk shampoo degreaser.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell in the House

A skunk on the porch of a home

While it’s pretty unlikely a skunk would make its way inside, it’s easy to contaminate your home interior through a skunk-affected pet or clothes.

As always, the best solution is prevention. Wash your pet outside the home and ditch your skunk soiled clothes in the laundry (or the trash can) to avoid bringing traces of the smelly spray inside.

Take the following steps to remove skunk smell from your home:

  • Open your windows and turn on your fans to create as much ventilation as possible.
  • Set the fan on your HVAC system to run non-stop until the smell has gone.
  • Open your curtains to bring in as much natural light as possible. Direct sunlight can help oxidize the odor, thus diminish the smell.
  • Put big bowls of vinegar or charcoal in every room of the house. Let them sit there until you can no longer notice the skunk’s stench. Be aware that your nose adapts over time, so make sure you’re sure that the smell is gone before wrapping up your efforts.
  • Heat a pan full of white vinegar on your stovetop.
  • Change the filters on your HVAC system once the smell has dissipated. Otherwise, the soiled filters could continue re-introducing the scent into your home.

Clean hard surfaces—such as the floor and furniture—with a solution of 90% water and 10% bleach. Bleach can cause discoloration on some surfaces, so remember to patch test the mixture on a small hidden spot first. If discoloration does occur, switch to a solution of 90% water and 10% vinegar instead.

To clean carpet and upholstery, you could try the aforementioned mix of 1/4 cup of baking soda, one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent, and one quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Remember to spot-test it first to ensure it doesn’t alter the shade. Another good option is to use a commercial-grade de-skunk shampoo.

Top De-Skunking Tips

A woman holding a skunk

Keep the following tips in mind to minimize that awful skunky smell.

  • Get to work on cleaning the skunk spray as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be to eliminate the odor.
  • Clean outside, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of bringing the odorous oil inside your house. Use a hose, a bristle brush, and a bucket to help you out.
  • Take a long hot shower after cleaning up skunk spray to get rid of the residual skunk smell that got on you.
  • Consider ditching soiled fabrics and clothes. It’s hard to get the smell out of clothing entirely, and the process can prove more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Be persistent. You won’t necessarily eradicate the smell on your first cleaning attempt.
  • When cleaning with our recommended hydrogen peroxide solution, patch test a small, obscure area to see whether it alters the surface color. Wait several minutes for it to dry before assuming the solution is safe to use.

How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell

Skunks excrete the vilest smelling spray on earth, and the repulsive odor will stick around for several weeks if left untreated.

However, the longer you let it linger, the harder it is to neutralize. So act fast, and use the info in our handy de-skunking how-to guide to cleanse the stench straight away.