We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
Skunk spray has been compared to tear gas, and with good reason. Skunk spray and tear gas are both lachrymators — chemical substances designed to irritate the eyes and nose, causing redness, mucus production, and tears. In some instances, the scent of skunk spray may even cause nausea.
Thankfully, skunks don’t go around looking to spray people and pets. Skunks are nocturnal, and tend to avoid humans and other animals.
However, if they sense danger, they’ll discharge an oily, yellow spray from their anal glands to protect themselves. This spray can reach a distance of over three feet. It also vaporizes quickly, permeating practically everything it touches.
Getting rid of skunk odor takes quick action and the right products. The sooner and more efficiently you act, the better your chances of eliminating the skunk gunk completely and quickly.
There are several internet myths for getting rid of skunk smell that may lead you astray. In this article, we’ll tell you the truth about what works and what doesn’t.
The noxious scent of skunk spray can be long-lasting and overpowering. Skunk spray contains sulfur-based organic compounds called thiols. These compounds let off an immediate blast of acrid scent, reminiscent of rotten eggs.
Skunk spray also contains thioacetates. Thioacetates remain dormant at first, but can morph into smell-producing thiols when they come into contact with water or humidity. This can happen days or longer after the skunking occurred. It’s the thioacetates in skunk spray that give it its staying power.
Compounding this stinky situation is the sensitivity of the human nose, which can pick up skunk smell in tiny quantities — as low as 1 part per 10 billion.
If you get “skunked,” an immediate bath or shower should be your first step for removing the smell. In scientific terms, this means you’ll be attempting to oxidize the thiols into sulfonic acids, which have little-to-no skunk smell left in them.
Wash your entire body with deodorant soap or a grease-cutting dish detergent. Wash your hair with a shampoo made for oily hair.
You can also soak in a baking-soda bath for 15 to 20 minutes:
- Pour 2 to 4 cups of baking soda into hot water.
- Rinse to remove the residue from your skin.
If your pet gets sprayed, create a homemade mixture of:
- 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
- 1 teaspoon baby shampoo or grease-cutting dish detergent
- 1/4 cup baking soda
Lather this mixture onto your pet’s fur and let it sit for five minutes. Make sure not to get it into their eyes. Then rinse and wash your pet with their regular shampoo. Repeat if necessary.
Keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide may lighten your pet’s fur, so don’t leave the lather on for more than five minutes at a time
Note: Do not store the leftover mixture in a sealed container or bottle, since there is a risk it could explode. Also, if you don’t have hydrogen peroxide on hand, you can try white vinegar.
You can also use a store-bought product, such as Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover on your pet. Make sure to rinse thoroughly and air dry their fur.
You can find this product at most pet supply stores or order online.
Debunking the tomato juice myth
Contrary to urban legend and online myth, tomato products, such as tomato juice and sauce, do not eliminate skunk smell. These products may help mask odor, but they do not oxidize or destroy the thiols or thioacetates that cause them. This is also true for beer and oatmeal.
You can remove skunk smell from most clothing and fabrics by washing them with a regular laundry detergent mixed with 1/2 cup baking soda in hot water. Then air dry the clothes.
Air drying may be more effective than machine drying. A dryer may bake in the smell, if it’s not removed completely during washing.
Repeat this process until the skunk smell is completely gone.
Delicate fabrics may not survive vigorous washing in the machine. Try soaking delicate fabrics in the laundry detergent and baking soda solution for up to 30 minutes in the sink, instead. Rinse and air dry. Repeat if needed.
Soft surfaces that cannot be washed by hand or in a machine, such as carpets and couches, can be steam cleaned.
You can also try products designed for this purpose, such as Skunk Off Liquid Soaker.
Commercial products may also be your best bet for removing skunk smell from mattresses.
You can purchase Skunk Off Liquid Soaker online.
Skunk smell can permeate an entire home, including hard and soft surfaces. If your pet has been skunked outside, bathe them outdoors if possible so they cannot bring the smell in with them.
If this cannot be avoided, or if a skunk sprays inside, near, or under your home, try the following:
- Ventilate your home by opening all windows and running fans on high.
- If your home is temperature controlled with an HVAC system, let the fan run continuously until the smell is gone.
- Let sunlight in, as this will help oxidize the odor.
- Place bowls of vinegar in each room of the house and leave them in place for 24 to 48 hours, or until the scent is gone. Make sure the bowls are out of reach of pets and children.
- Once the smell is gone, change the filters on your air conditioners, heaters, and furnace to avoid reintroducing it into your home.
- Hard surfaces, such as floors and furniture, can be treated with a solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water. Patch test this solution first, to make sure it does not take the color out of wood and ceramics. You can also try a 10 to 90 mixture of white vinegar and water.
- Commercially prepared cleaning sprays and solutions can also help remove skunk smell from flooring, carpets, upholstery, and walls.
- If your car has been skunked, open the windows and let the sun shine on the upholstery.
- Use a 10 to 90 solution of bleach and water, or a solution of hydrogen peroxide, water, and baby shampoo to wash down the car’s interior, including the carpet and the seats. Do a patch test first to make sure it doesn’t lighten the fabric.
- If necessary, place bowls of vinegar in the front and back seats for several days. You can also use charcoal for this purpose.
- Hose down the car’s tires and exterior.
- If the smell persists, use a commercial product in your car’s interior.
Skunk smell can cause a physical reaction including a runny nose, watering eyes, and nausea. It can last for days or longer if not removed.
There are several at-home techniques and commercial products that can help remove skunk smell from people, pets, homes, and cars. Using the right products and acting quickly are key.