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Skunk Smell Removal: A Step-By-Step Guide

Person wearing glove sprays air freshener in living room
New Africa / Shutterstock

For most of us, the smell of skunks is unmistakable. You know the smell as soon as it hits your nostrils — that sharp, sulfuric scent that just won’t dissipate. If you are unlucky enough to have to deal with skunk smell removal in your home or yard, you need to act fast to eliminate the smell.

This article will explore the most effective methods to neutralize skunk odor, from home remedies to commercial cleaners.

7 steps to getting rid of skunk smell

While it is rare that a skunk would be in the house, its scent can linger if a person or pet who was sprayed comes indoors. The quicker you act the easier it will be to get rid of that smell.

Step 1: Open windows and turn on a fan

Ventilate your home by opening all windows and running fans on high. If you can, bring affected furniture out into your yard to clean and air it out. Letting sunlight into your home will also help to oxidize the odor.

Step 2: Wash yourself and/or your pet

If you or your pet gets sprayed by a skunk, you need to shower or bathe immediately. Make sure you wash your body with deodorizing soap or grease-cutting dish detergent. Wash your hair thoroughly using lots of shampoo. You can also soak in a baking soda bath for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this by pouring 4 cups of baking soda into hot water and rinse your body thoroughly.

If your pet is sprayed, keep them from roaming the house. Then create a homemade mixture of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon grease-cutting dish detergent, and 1/4 cup of baking soda. Lather this mixture into your pet’s fur and let it sit for five minutes — don’t leave it for longer than this as it may begin to lighten their fur. Rinse thoroughly and wash your pet with their normal shampoo. Repeat the steps as often as necessary until the smell has disappeared.

Step 3: Wash any clothes or affected fabrics

If the skunk has heavily sprayed clothing or other items, you may want to simply discard them, as fabric can hold skunk odor for a very long time. Or you can soak fabrics in a bathtub with baking soda and then put it in a high-temperature wash with laundry detergent, preferably one with antibacterial qualities. Air-dry the clothes or fabrics — machine drying can potentially bake in the smell. Repeat this process until the smell is gone.

For any soft surfaces that cannot be washed by hand or in a machine, such as carpets, steam them and scrub them down with a baking soda solution until the odor is removed.

Step 5: Wipe down surfaces

Hard surfaces, such as floors and furniture, can be treated with a solution of household bleach and water —mix one part bleach to nine parts water. Make sure you do a patch test first to ensure the color does not come out of the wood or ceramic. You can also try this ratio with distilled white vinegar and water instead if you prefer not to use bleach.

Step 6: Place bowls of vinegar in each room

Place bowls of white vinegar in each room of the house and leave them in place for 24 to 48 hours, or until the scent is gone.

Step 7: Change your filters

Once the smell has gone, you need to ensure it stays gone. Change the filters on your air conditioners, heaters, and furnace to avoid reintroducing odors into your home.

Products and tools you’ll need to get rid of skunk smell

  • Hydrogen peroxide: This is used as an oxidizer or antiseptic and is effective for skunk smell removal from your fabrics and surfaces.
  • Vinegar: If you prefer not to use hydrogen peroxide or bleach for your home or pets, white vinegar is a decent alternative. It is ideal for cleaning, laundry, and eliminating nasty smells.
  • Laundry detergent: Laundry detergent containing antibacterial ingredients will help eliminate odor and penetrate tight-knit fabrics to remove smells and dirt.
  • Baking soda: This is perfect for cleaning and deodorizing and is a good alternative if you don’t want to use harmful chemicals in your home.
  • Grease-cutting dish detergent: Detergent is great for washing yourself or your dog as it will cut through the skunk smell and break down the odor.
  • Household bleach: Use on hard surfaces to get rid of skunk smell. Make sure you dilute it with water and use it only on appropriate hard floors and surfaces — do not use on soft fabrics or more delicate surfaces as it can cause discoloration.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get rid of skunk smell naturally

If you don’t want to use harsh chemicals or bleach, try replacing them with white vinegar. It may not be as effective, so you might need a few more applications to finish the job. Using warm water and baking soda is another tried-and-true way to get rid of the smell. The soda crystals are deodorizing and break down foul-smelling particles.

An ozone generator is another way to help get rid of skunk smell in your home. While pricey, these devices can help by destroying the molecules responsible for the smell.

You may have heard that tomato juice is effective for getting rid of skunk smells, however, this is not enough on its own to get rid of the smell. Rather than eliminate the stench, you may just be masking it, making it more challenging to eliminate in the long term.

The bottom line on getting rid of skunk smell

When it comes to how to get rid of skunk smell in house and yard areas, the best thing to do first is air out the house by opening windows and using fans. Most of all, remember that addressing skunk smell removal immediately can save you days of multiple showers and endless house cleaning. It’s unlikely that any single solution will eliminate skunk smell the first time. It may take several methods over some time for the smell to dissipate completely.

Frequently asked questions

How long does skunk smell removal take?

The longevity of skunk smell depends on how much of the smell has invaded your home and clothing. The quicker you act, the faster the smell will be gone. If left untreated and unventilated, the smell could last for days or weeks.

How do I get skunk smell out of my pet’s fur?

You can create a homemade mixture of 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon grease-cutting dish detergent, and 1/4 cup of baking soda. Lather this mixture into your pet’s fur and let it sit for five minutes. Remember: Don’t leave it for longer than this or their fur may begin to lighten in color. Rinse thoroughly and wash your pet with their regular shampoo. Repeat until the smell has disappeared.

Can I get a professional to clean the smell away?

If the skunk smell is particularly bad or covers a large surface, it may be wise to hire a professional skunk odor removal specialist. Reliable companies specializing in skunk odor or deep cleans can use proven technologies for deodorizing and eliminating stubborn odors. Although costly, this is a much quicker way of removing the smell.

Can I spray my pet with white vinegar?

As white vinegar is a natural ingredient, it is safe to spray onto pet fur. Dilute 1 cup of white vinegar into 2 gallons of water to make a pet-safe solution. But be sure to avoid their eyes and wash it off thoroughly afterward. Most animals, especially dogs, dislike the smell of vinegar.

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