De-Skunking: Best Ways to Get Rid of Skunk Odor
If your dog was sprayed by a skunk, you'll readily agree that it's one of the most painful and smelly experiences a dog owner can endure. I have a friend who just went through this within the last few days which brought back vivid memories of the time my two Malamutes ran off unleashed and, while coming home, got on the wrong side of a skunk.
They were gone overnight, which was worrisome enough. To say that the experience was devastating would be putting it mildly. Kodi seemed to have taken the brunt of the spray, in the face and chest, whereas Denaya got a mild dosing on her back. Kodi was sick for three solid days while Denaya bounced back immediately.
Aside from the mess it created on the dogs, the smell also permeated our home, their crates, the garage, and even their collars and dog tags.
Let's take a look at some sure-fire methods of dealing with skunk odor and how to get rid of it both on your dog and in your home.
Why Does Skunk Smell So Bad?
Skunk spray a form of sulfur. When the skunk sprays, it comes out in an oily form. That's why it sticks to surfaces so well and permeates everything it touches. However, it doesn't have to hit a surface to give off skunk odor. It can do that just by being within a certain radius.
Once released, the skunk smell seems to travel everywhere and into everything. Closing doors can help but it can still permeate through the doors. It can even permeate your skin and your body. Is it any wonder that, if not treated properly, a dog can carry the smell for up to two years?
Common locations where skunks feel cornered and spray:
- Bird feeders. They come for the seeds that are dropped beneath the feeder.
- Garbage cans that are not secured.
- Fruit trees with fruit left on the ground.
- Wherever pet food is left out.
Did you know?
- Skunks rarely travel outside a two-mile radius from their homes.
- Skunks can only spray five or six times in a 10-day period.
- Skunks only spray to warn or when they have no other way to defend themselves.
Formula to Remove Skunk Odor
Use this mixture as needed on your dog, but discard when done. It is combustible!
- 1 quart or liter of 3% hydrogen peroxide (fresh/unopened only).
- 1/4 cup baking soda (no substitutes).
- 1-2 teaspoons of liquid dishwashing soap such as Dawn.
- Pair of plastic or latex gloves, if desired.
Preparation and Use
Combine ingredients in an open container such as a large bucket. Use on dry dog. Leave on for five to ten minutes, rinse, and repeat if necessary. Depending on the size of the dog, or if you have multiple dogs, you may need several batches. The trick is to put the formula on the dog when it is foaming. Do not use a covered container or attempt to store this formula or you risk combustion. Lather the foaming formula wherever the dog was sprayed and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water. Repeat the process if necessary until the odor has begun to dissipate.
Other Common Methods (or Myths) for Removing Skunk Odor
- Tomato juice: People swear by straight tomato juice baths, followed by shampoo-bathing, but I've read that this method it doesn't work and that it can stain fur on white or light-colored dogs.
- Mouthwash: Some people douse their dog in mouthwash, such as Listerine, and claim that this cuts the smell. Other people claim that this method doesn't hold much water, so to speak, and is ineffective.
- White vinegar: Again, there is some doubt that this treatment truly works to get rid of skunk odor on the dog itself.
- Coca Cola: This is the only soft drink that reportedly works—not Pepsi or any other cola product, but straight Coca Cola.
- Paul Krebaum's formula of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dishwashing liquid. This came out in the late 1990s and seems to be the treatment of choice among people trying to get rid of skunk odor on their dogs. Note the formula above.
WARNING: It's important to note that this formula is extremely dangerous, if covered. It can result in an explosion. It should only be made up for the circumstance at hand, then discarded. The combination of the ingredients causes a foaming action that actually loosens the skunk oil from the dog's coat. This is the formula that we used on our dogs, bathing them outside several times with it and it truly did work, instantly!
There are some things you should do immediately if you suspect your dog's been hit by skunk spray.
- Check for bites or scratches as skunks can be rabid. A rabies vaccine should protect your dog, but it won't protect you!
- Check the dog's eyes for redness or watering. If the dog has been sprayed in the eyes, contact your vet and ask for advice. A dog can actually be blinded for several days if the spraying is extreme.
- If the dog's face was sprayed, do not use the chemical formula solution above unless you use it carefully and cautiously with a washcloth and then rinse well. Otherwise, use a product like Tricotine Liquid Douche Concentration or an over-the-counter feminine douche product to clean the dog's face.
- Do not get the solution in your dog's eyes, ears, or mouth!
- We used a shea butter body cream with vanilla scent on Kodi's facial fur because he had received such a strong dose to the face.
- Plan on throwing out your dog's collars and tags, as they are pretty well ruined by skunk spray. You can try the formula on them but most likely they will be saturated with the smell.
- It's recommended that you get rid of any rags or towels you use for drying because it's next to impossible to get the skunk odor out of them. Simply put them in trash bags, seal, and throw away.
- Clean other surfaces or destroy if they have skunk odor, such as dog crates or dog beds.
Getting Rid of the Odor in Your Home
In my case, when the dogs came running up onto the deck at the back door, I knew instantly that they were sprayed. However, since there was a gaping hole in the fence, I couldn't leave them in the backyard and without thinking, I brought them into the house so I could summon help.
I put them into their dog crates and closed the door but that didn't stop the inevitable. The skunk smell permeated the room, their crates, the entire downstairs, the upstairs, and even the garage as I had opened the door to assess the possibility of putting them in there!
In short, skunk odor will go everywhere in your house. You may find yourself even having to dump food from your cupboards and refrigerator or freezer. It is that powerful. In our case, we were able to get the dogs out into the backyard and begin removing the smell right away, so the household damage was relatively minor. However, we could smell it for a good 2-3 weeks afterward, even employing some of the methods listed below:
- It's a given that any clothes you are wearing will need to be thrown out, so wear old clothes if you need to wash your pet or handle anything that has been hit with skunk spray
- Try Fabreze or a similar spray to spray down crates or surfaces, although this didn't work particularly well on our dogs' crates. Cleaning with the formula finally got the smell out.
- Spray white vinegar liberally, in the air and on surfaces.
- Potpourri pots with cinnamon and cloves or candles with the same spice scent can minimize skunk odor.
- Boiling cinnamon or cloves on the stove in a pan of water can also help reduce skunk smell.
- Fabric softener or dryer sheets have proven useful to some people in reducing odor on clothing, towels, and bedding
- Oxy-Clean products or adding Coca Cola to the wash can help.
- Only use cold water for washing anything tainted by skunk odor.
- Throw out any porous foods in cupboards, fridge, and freezer if they pick up the odor. This means things like food in boxes if they smell and includes anything that is not canned or in a tight lidded jar.
- Get rid of the ice in the freezer and start over.
- Use dishes of white vinegar, coal, or baking soda to draw the odor away.
- Wipe down surfaces as appropriate with bleach and water solution. Add a little white vinegar or lemon juice.
- For severe skunk odor damage, call your insurance company as you may qualify for homeowner's help from a professional cleaning company.
- Ozone machines run about $500 but are well worth the investment if needed.
- Ozone attachments to your central heating and air conditioning system can also work.
- Vick's Vapo-Rub in your nostrils can help reduce the smell for you.
- Store-bought products to have on hand for your dog: Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover or Earth Friendly Skunk Odor Remover
- The chemical formula above can be tried on fabrics and other surfaces, but some bleach-out may occur.
- Heating apple cider vinegar on the stove is said to help rid the air of skunk smell.
- Prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Preventing a Skunk Spray
- Bird feeders attract skunks to your yard.
- Fallen tree fruit left on the ground attracts skunks to your yard.
- Garbage cans can be an invitation for a skunk to have dinner at your house.
- No way out of your yard for a skunk means trouble.
- Some people swear that by placing moth balls or ammonia-soaked rags at the edges of property deters skunks from visiting.
- Keeping your dog where you can see him or her will prevent skunk spray attacks. Dogs running free are more apt to be sprayed than dogs kept in the yard under the owner's watchful eye.
- Motion detection sprinklers such as Scarecrow Sprinklers can be a great deterrent for keeping skunks away from your yard.
Obviously, the best way to not have to deal with skunk smell and skunk odor is to avoid exposure! However, these encounters do happen. Once the spraying has occurred, there are some effective treatments as noted above for both your home and your dog.
Since our episode of the dogs versus the skunk, we always have the ingredients for the de-skunking formula on hand. It's important to note as well that the hydrogen peroxide should be unopened and fresh. Once opened, hydrogen peroxide begins to deteriorate and becomes the equivalent of plain old water. You need fresh peroxide to do the job of bubbling when mixed with the baking soda.
Lastly, consider some of the deterrents listed above to keep skunks at bay and away from your home. As much as I loved bird feeders, after this incident we took ours down. Most likely, the skunk that sprayed our dogs was behind the fence eating seeds.