Is it true that tomato sauce will get rid of the smell of a skunk?
-asks Travis Harr-Connole from Loveland, CO.
Nothing is quite as jarring as the smell of a skunk, especially if you’re the one who’s been sprayed. But contrary to folklore, bathing in tomato sauce or juice won’t wash away the stench.
Tomato juice simply masks the skunk smell. It does not eliminate it. People are very sensitive to the sulfur compounds in skunk spray, called thiols, and we can detect them at very low concentrations (10 parts per billion). Anyone who is sprayed by a skunk eventually gets used to the smell because of olfactory fatigue, which is when your nose is bombarded with a scent for so long that it stops detecting it.
If you are sprayed, a shower is your best first defense. If your pet was sprayed, a better solution is to mix a quart of three percent hydrogen peroxide with a quarter cup of baking soda and a teaspoon or two of liquid detergent, according William Wood, a chemistry professor at Humboldt State University. This will neutralize the smell, Wood says, which is much better than masking it. Don’t store this magic potion, however, because the oxygen buildup could blow off the top of the container, and it could also bleach your dog’s fur.
In days gone by, people believed that tomato juice could neutralize skunk stink. But since then, chemists have found that in order to deodorize you or your dog, you must change the chemical composition of the malodorous compound.
Skunk spray, which is also known as skunk musk, can be harmful to an animal or person at high concentrations. People who are sprayed may experience burning eyes or nausea.
If you weren’t sprayed, but find that after washing a sprayed pet, the clothes you wore absorbed some of the smell, a regular wash with a dash of ammonia should get rid of any lingering odors. Until, that is, your dog pursues his curiosity again. Maybe you should remind him of what killed the cat.
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