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How to Eliminate Skunk Smell From Your Home, Your Pet and Yourself: Pros Weigh In

Surprise! The answer is NOT tomato juice!

It’s one of those scents you can’t mistake and can’t ignore. If a skunk sprays on or near your home — or on you or one of your pets — it can mean a stinky future for the next few days, but you can get that awful smell out, insist experts. Knowing what to use for skunk smell removal and how to do it is key! Just follow these simple strategies to restore a skunk-sprayed anything to fresh and fragrant

Why skunk spray is so potent

Skunks are fairly unique in the mammal world for depending on scent glands not only to mark their territory, but also as one of their main defense mechanisms against predators — in fact, they can direct their spray up to 15 feet away when frightened (which is why it’s best to always give these furry guys a wide berth).

Their spray is made of an organic compound called “thiol,” which basically means an oily substance that contains sulfur compounds. “The sulfur part is what you smell — it has an almost rotten eggs component to it. The oil is what makes it so tricky to remove from surfaces that have been sprayed,” explains Karina Toner of Spekless Cleaning.  “Once sprayed, these compounds will penetrate and cling to fabrics, upholstery, skin and porous surfaces like wood or the walls of your home and are resistant to water-based cleansing methods.”  This can make skunk smell removal a chore — but it’s not an impossible one.

Related: 5 Fast Fixes for Stubborn Household Odors

Skunk smell removal if it’s in or around your home

If a skunk drops by to check out your digs, not only can their general funky odor permeate your home, but if anything startles them, they can release their spray right on your house, resulting in an eye-watering level of stink.

“If this happens, the first thing you’ll want to do is get air circulating in your house by turning on the air conditioner,” says Peter Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore bio recovery company. “If your home doesn’t have AC, try turning on ceiling fans in a counterclockwise direction to push air down and open windows or doors. If you have floor fans, face them toward open windows and set them to the highest settings. And last, if you have an attic fan, get that going too.”

In one nightmare scenario, home rehabber and Sacramento resident Robert Taylor had a skunk break into his house itself: “We have a pet door that allows our cats to go in and out of the house. One night when my son got up to go to the bathroom, he discovered a skunk had come through the door, which then went running through the house, spraying as he went.”

Taylor’s family wound up having to replace entire walls — not to mention carpets, lots of furniture and even their clothes — to finally remove the smell.  

“At the time, we were unable to find a product to effectively remove the scent, but we’ve since discovered a product called Anti-Icky Poo that works by neutralizing enzymes in things like urine, feces and even skunk oils to eliminate the smell, which is what I now use in professional cleanups.”

Other enzyme-base cleaners you can use to eliminate skunk smell in your home include Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, $12.75 at Chewy, and OdoBan Professional Cleaning Ready-to-Use BioOdor Digester, $15.49 at Amazon.

“I have also found success cleaning affected areas with a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and water. Vinegar is very effective at neutralizing odors, including skunk, and can penetrate its oily surface,” says Toner.

If you’re not sure where the skunk actually sprayed, wait until dark and use a blacklight, which will light up the stained surface and make it glow, adds Taylor.

Related: How to Clean Cat Pee From a Carpet + Why Scrubbing Makes the Odor Worse

Skunk smell removal if a skunk sprays you

If you accidentally get doused, first don’t panic — their spray is not toxic and won’t harm you. Simply try this:

“It’s important to act quickly,” emphasizes Toner. “Remove and wash any affected clothing as soon as possible. Use a laundry detergent that contains enzymes, as these can help break down the skunk oils. You can also add a cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to help neutralize odors. Hang the clothes outside to dry in the sun, as sunlight can help further dissipate any odors.”

Skunk Smell Removal: Woman hanging up laundry in her garden at sunset
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty

Two laundry detergents to try: Bio Enzyme Laundry Booster, $18 at Dirty Labs, or Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Additive Laundry Boost, $10.99 at Chewy.

As for your skin, the best method is to take a bath that’s a 10-to-90 solution of bleach and water, which will neutralize the odors. (And don’t worry, bathing in bleach is much like swimming in chlorine.) You can also swap out the bleach for hydrogen peroxide or ¼ cup baking soda for a similar effect.

Related: Taking a Bath With This Laundry Staple Can Help Relieve Eczema, According to MDs

Skunk smell removal if a skunk sprays your pet

dog and skunk looking at each other

Dog owners know this fear well, since pups seem irresistibly drawn to skunks like a bad Pepe Le Pew cartoon. “There are several methods you can try to remove the smell. Begin by washing your pet with a skunk odor removal shampoo,” suggests veterinarian Dr. Sabrina Kong of WeLoveDoodles.

Two to try: PetHonesty Chlorhexidine Antibacterial Cleansing & Odor Remover Dog Shampoo, $25.99 at Chewy, or De-Skunk Odor Destroying Shampoo for Dogs, $10.10 at Amazon.

Don’t have any specialty shampoo on hand? “You can also use a mixture of 4 cups hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 Tbs. dish soap,” adds Dr. Kong. “Apply the mixture to the dog while dry — it’s essential to wear gloves and work the solution through your pet’s fur, avoiding the eyes, nose and mouth. Rinse thoroughly afterward.”

You can watch a video to demonstrate this here:

What about tomato juice?

“Contrary to popular belief, tomato juice is more of a myth and is generally ineffective at neutralizing skunk odor,” Dr. Kong adds.  

How to keep skunks away from your home

Making sure these smelly furballs stay far from your home is the best way to prevent you, your pets and your home from getting sprayed.

First, do a perimeter check and shore up any entry points skunks can use to burrow under your home. “Skunks can sometimes be found hiding out under porches, decks, foundations and in crawl spaces,” explains Bill Swank of “These areas often harbor insects that skunks search out for food. So make sure they are inaccessible by closing up any entryways, whether you use wood, fencing material or chicken wire. Skunks can fit into seriously tight spaces, so any hole 4 inches in diameter or larger should be closed up. If you use pet doors, make sure they have a locking mechanism on them that’s triggered by your pets’ collar.”

Skunks are notorious scavengers, and can also be lured in via human food sources, so keep garbage and pet food secured, as well. Keep in mind that skunks are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. Motion-activated lights and sprinklers installed around your yard’s perimeter can help deter them from trespassing while you sleep.

Learn more with this video:

Last, skunks ironically dislike certain smells, particularly castor oil, which also helps deter moles. You can buy commercial skunk repellent containing castor oil at any hardware or garden center, or simply make your own by mixing three parts castor oil to one part dish soap. Add ¼ cup of that to a gallon of water, then add to a spray attachment on your garden hose and soak the perimeter of your property.

Related: Keep Skunks Out of Your Backyard With Something You Usually Throw Away

For more pest-related hacks, click through the links below!

10 Easy Ways To Keep Deer Away From Your Garden Without A Fence

The One *Food* That Will Keep Raccoons Away From Your Trash Can – Plus 9 Other Things They Detest

The Best Bird Feeders that Keep Sneaky Squirrels Away

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