Life Science

My dogs were sprayed by a skunk, and I’ve washed them in hydrogen peroxide and baking soda — but how do I rid my house of the odor?

- asks Frank DeMayo

March 19, 2007
A baby skunk looking for a playmate. [CREDIT: KANKLEBORG.NET]
A baby skunk looking for a playmate. [CREDIT: KANKLEBORG.NET]

With spring just around the corner, there are several things to look forward to in the coming weeks. Warmer weather. Blossoming flowers. Lush trees. And skunks awakening from their wintertime slumber.

Skunks are known for using their natural defenses to stink up anywhere and anything nearby. Skunk musk, the liquid that harbors that smelly odor, comes from the skunk’s anal glands, where only little bit – about one tablespoon – is held in the glands at a time. This meager amount of liquid is so potent, it can protect the skunk against five or six enemies and is detectable to the nose as far as twenty miles away. For years, people have had their own homemade remedies for dealing with “skunk smell,” but what makes it so bothersome in the first place?

There are seven chemical compounds that make up skunk smell, and they can be divided into two groups: thiols, which are compounds that have a sulfur and hydrogen atom attached, and their acetate derivatives, which have an acetyl group attached. The attached hydrogen/sulfur compound, called a functional group, gives musk it’s pungent odor. The acetyl group (what gives vinegar it’s acidy smell) also contributes to a skunk’s perfume, but it only becomes as pungent as thiols when it reacts with water. This is why animals sprayed by a skunk tend to smell even worse when they are damp.

Chemistry is not only part of what makes skunk musk so smelly, but also it is used to help get rid of the odor. William F. Wood of Humboldt State University in California, who studies the chemistry behind skunk odors, recommends scrubbing pets that have been sprayed in a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide bath. According to his research, these two agents oxidize thiol, adding oxygen onto the sulfur and changing the functional group into sulfonic acid. Such acids do not trigger olfactory receptors in the brain to sense a “bad” smell, but there is a risk that the chemical reaction may bleach a pet’s fur.

While the urban legend of using tomato juice to treat skunk smells won’t bleach your animal, it also won’t rid it permanently of the pungent fumes. Tomato juice does nothing at the chemical level to oxidize, and therefore nullify, the effects of thiols, however it does mask the musk odor temporarily. Other commercial deodorizers include Neutroleum Alpha, which has a minty smell, and Freshwave, which smells like tea leaves and is actually used to deodorize oil tankers, can also be used as a musky cover-up.

For a smelly house, the hydrogen peroxide or baking soda approach won’t work: the mixture only works for a short time after being combined, making it ideal for pets (because it’s not caustic), but not for homes. The solution to eliminating the smell from a sprayed house is bleach. If it is known precisely where the skunk secretion occurred, liquid bleach used exactly where the spray occurred will eliminate the odor. If the smell has drifted throughout the house, the only remedy, unfortunately, is ventilation and time.

Of course, the best way to deal with skunk smell is to avoid skunks altogether! The College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky recommends keeping yards clean and storing trash in sealed containers (as opposed to garbage bags), because the scent of garbage attracts skunks. The same should be done on farms, where grain storage areas also lure skunks. Proper fencing will keep the striped-creature from crossing into a backyard, but don’t depend on a guard dog: the varmint will probably spray it in self defense, and the guard dog will bring the skunk musk right into the home!

Using these techniques, and keeping baking soda and hydrogen peroxide on hand, will help you enjoy a pleasant, odor-free springtime as the snow melts away and the skunks come out to play.

About the Author

Ben Leach

“You’ll find I’m full of surprises.” Through Scienceline, Ben Leach hopes that you will discover a side of him that is passionate about reporting on science, especially health and medicine, and interest that stems from his academic, professional, and personal experience. Now that he’s done the obligatory serious stuff, he can mention that he’s also an aspiring playwright, a pop culture addict, and an extremely serious collector of all things, especially toys, related to the 1980’s.



Don Damschen says:

Our company has been successful with skunk odor by using BioWorld Odor Neutralizer in a fogger or fine mist sprayer. Please contact us for more information.

Becky Mundt says:

While I completely agree with your pet wash system
and have used it and included it in my ebook, I do not go along with your suggestion to use bleach for removing the odor from the home.
Dry hydrogen peroxide (sodium percarbonate) as well as several biological odor control and mineral products work very effectively by removing specific chemicals from surfaces, fabrics and carpeting.

While bleach has been a mainstay for generations, the extensive spread of organochlorines including dioxins and other carcenogenic compounds; as well as NIH studies showing conclusive long term exposure and increased cancer risks make it not a best practice, but a practice of last resort. (IMHO)


Becky Mundt
101 Home Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

Tony says:

Think about it. Wouldnt i be cool to be a 6 foot tall skunk? When people make you mad you could just fart and people would be gasping for air trying to escape your thick cloud of noxious deadly skunk fumes. Or if you wanted to get revenge on somebody you could knock them over and sit on their face, shoving it into your skunk ass and then just fart and let out gallons of thick noxious skunk fumes directly into his face. Is it possible to die from inhaling too much from a skunk? Because i know if you get sprayed in the face the simple after shock from that can leave you puking, feeling dizzy or light headed so technically if you inhaled enough (lets say from this 6 foot tall skunks ass) you could possibly die.

Jess says:

I got a terrible aroma, I’ll put you in a coma. I’ll peel the paint, off your car (P.U!). The worst smell you’ve ever seen, your face is turning green, you hope I don’t pass gas right in your face (Phew!). My farts are really thick, inhaling them will make you sick. Pick up my tail and smell my butt, smell that stinky funk, hold your nose and say P.U!!!, you smelt a skunk! You want to be one of me, I’ll lock you in a room, I’ll sit right on your lap and emit horrible skunk fumes! Now you have a stinky stripe and a big tail of your own, you better fart noxious clouds of gas, all the way home. Now that your a giant skunk, release some gas and skunky fumes, and be sure to get someone skunked.

Beck Beck says:

We had a skunk in our backyard once. Little stinker did nothing but smell up the place. I love watching them because there so cute and the tails are so fluffy, but once the tail goes up, that smell is just awful.

Matt says:

It’s no fun to walk into your backyard and have your dog run up to you for a hug, but then smell that awful smell.

Jill says:

I was half asleep last night when my fiancee brought up on of our dogs. That dog wasn’t in the room for 10 seconds and I woke up..out of my sleep, and said, “what is that smell?” He couldn’t smell anything because he was sick. I dont see how anyone couldn’t smell this, no matter how sick they were. Anyway, I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was so overpowering, and potent, every hair on my body was on end, my poors felt as if they were streching open, my teeth were gritting, and I felt like I was shrinking. It was a very scary, upsetting smell. One you will NEVER forget. It was my dog. I didn’t think that it could be a skunk… it smelled a lot like burnt rubber. Not how you would imagine a skunk to smell. Anyway, I’ve bathed him in peroxide, dawn, and baking soda. It hasn’t helped a bit. Any hints before I pay big bucks to get this dog to a vet??

Debbie says:

In the middle of the night, my dog was sprayed by a skunk. When I got up to see what was going on, my dog ran into my house,ran through the house and under my bed! Uhhhh…the smell was terrible! I washed and washed and washed that night but was not able to get rid of the odors. In the morning I found some information on the internet from a company called BioWorld Products. The link I found:

I spoke with some knowlegdeable people there who recommended their product and gave me application instructions specifically for getting rid of skunk odors. I was a little skeptical, but I was desperate and couldn’t take the odor any longer! I had the BioWorld Odor Neutralizer shipped to me overnight. As soon as I received the odor neutralizer I used it as the directions stated. I bathed my dog in it and used a fogger to spray it inside my home. I was also instructed to spray it under my bed (or I could have shampooed my carpets with it). I did both so I could get rid of that sickening smell! I am happy to say the BioWorld’s odor neutralizer worked fantastic! It got rid of all the skunk odors in my house and on my dog! I was so relieved! The product I used is called BioWorld Odor Neutralizer BON-CC-41 concentrate. I also purchased the F8026 Fogger to spray inside the house! Great product for skunk and lots of other types of odors! I highly recommend it to any one!

steve says:

Wow Debbie, an unbiased and totally independent review of BioWorld odor neut. I’m sure you have no involvement in the company. mmmm hmmm.

And the fogger you mention (thanks for conveniently providing the model number) costs $304. A bit pricey occasional residential use, don’t you think? But the employee discount probably helps.

Sammy says:

I actually just ordered the product that Debbie was talking about because of this site. My dog got skunked this weekend and I had it overnighted to my house and received it yesterday morning. I don’t really care if she worked for the company or not, she SAVED my life!

I didn’t buy a fogger, that does seem pricey, but I got the BON-CC-41. After I added a little to my lab Rusty’s bath water and shampoo and shampooed my carpets with the product, I can honestly say that there is no odor left! The skunk smell made me feel like I was going to puke. I had tried EVERYTHING that sunday night, when it happened. The tomato juice made my dog look like a pizza and did not work at all. The peroixde solution only reduced the odor but I didn’t really want to use that solution since it can be danagerous. They also say it can bleach your dog’s coat but I wasn’t to concerned with that since my dog in light anyways! But the BON-CC-41 is completey safe to use which helped a lot, considering Rusty got sprayed in the face. I wasn’t worried about the product getting in his eyes. They say it is safer than shampoo! So thanks Debbie!

Kathy D says:

I was dog-sitting my friend’s Sheltie and tonight she got sprayed by a skunk. She couldn’t open her eyes and she was foaming and drooling at the mouth. Fortunately, a friend that was over had saline drops and we quickly doused her eyes with the saline. Then we got Skunk-Off shampoo from the emergency vet and bathed her. She smells wonderful now. I was really amazed at how good it worked. I would definately recommend it. It’s made by Thornell Corporation.

Chris H says:

The only products you need to get rid of skunk smell are peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing liquid as described above. Then follow it up with a good cheap pet shampoo. My dogs have been skunked five times and I’ve never needed anything else. Ever. YOU DO NOT NEED A “SKUNK ODOR FIGHTING PRODUCT!” Save your money!

Skunk Spray says:

The article is very well written and the information is accurate. One other thing I would add is the use of saline to flush the eyes of anyone who is sprayed.

Not a Skunk Fan! says:

I tried the hydrogen peroxide method that everyone keeps raving about and I’m not impressed. First of all, it is all fizzy and scared my dog. She didn’t want anything to do with it. It did help to reduce to skunk odor, but it didn’t get rid of it. It would come back even worse everytime she got wet (it just happened to rain the night after she was sprayed.) I followed the directions to the T.

I was desperate so I tried to product mentioned above, BON-CC-41. OMG what a lifesaver! It really did eliminate the odor. I mixed the solution with my Dawn Dish Soap (degreaser) and it worked! It was money well spent in my opinion considering that is the worst smell ever and you can use it around the house as well. I am even recommending it to all my friends and neighbors!

I’m only mentioning it because I know how aweful it is to try to get rid of the smell, and if I had just tried this to begin with, I would have saved a lot of time and money!

Eliza Olson says:

Has anyone used Crest toothpaste and how lond do you leave it on?

SkunkyLiars! says:

Set your dog on fire, it is the only way!!!

not a shill says:

Man, there are a lot of shills for that company posting on this article.

Sarah says:

We used liquid Level 2000 on our dogs when they got skunked. It worked great. Thanks to our vet.

you should take it to a pet shop and ask them if they have anything to get rid of the order

scrub it with tomato suase for a long time

deb says:

my dog has had 10 baths with peroxide/dawn/ baking soda made paste left in him for 10 minutes rubbing continually (bonus: our dog is hairless)every time he goes out and plays and gets bot he stinks all over again! I am about to lose my mind! I wish he had hai- i would shave him. i even tried vinegar. poor dog.

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