Anyone who has ever startled a skunk knows the result: burning watering eyes, a brain penetrating stench and difficulty breathing- even if it doesn’t get on you.
Skunk smell can get into your house by a variety of sources. For instance, you or your pet might be sprayed, or a skunk could spray something else directly outside of your house.
So how long does skunk smell last?
Mild skunk smells can usually be removed by simply airing out your home, but stronger skunk smells that have worked their way into fur, clothes, or carpeting can linger for several months to several years if immediate action is not taken. If a skunk has died near or under your home, skunk scent will linger far longer.
Why is a skunk’s pungent spray so hard to get rid of?
First of all, it’s meant as a protective measure. Mother Nature gives the skunk that smell for a reason; to keep predators away.
You can smell skunk spray from miles away if the wind conditions are right. When another animal gets a whiff they scram (As they should!), but if you are from 10 to 18 feet away, you could have a big stinky problem.
Secondly, a skunk’s spray is oily and difficult to remove completely. It permeates clothes, skin and fur, making it last for weeks. Research shows that a skunk’s odor will last 14-21 days if left untreated. And the longer you wait to wash it off, the harder it will to be free of that nasty odor.
The stink of skunk spray is caused by thiols which are made from sulfur. Other components in the spray cause the smell to stick to skin, clothing, fur, and basically anything and everything it comes into contact with.
Avoid Skunk Spray
The best way to get avoid that awful skunk smell is to avoid getting yourself, your pets or your children sprayed in the first place. If you take away the den site on your property the odds of your dog coming into contact with a skunk are diminished.
Skunks cannot climb so they make their dens at ground level. Skunks tend to burrow out their dens in cavities below structures on properties, such as concrete front steps, wooden porches, decks, sheds, and home additions that do not have foundations.
Signs you may have skunks
It is more likely you ill smell a skunk than see one. Persistent, faint musk smells under a building or woodpile may suggest that a skunk has taken up residence. You may find small, shallow holes in the lawn, similar to those made by squirrels, which are a result of a skunk foraging for grubs and insect larva.
The key to getting the animals out from under these steps permanently is to block access. A Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control technician will be able to tell you what work might be required to get the animals out and to keep them out, and to make you aware of potential issues that may be unseen behind the steps. Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control digs a trench and uses heavy-gauge screening to prevent skunks from gaining entry under porches, sheds, and any place without a solid foundation.
If you do indeed get sprayed by a skunk and you need to get skunk smell out of your house, here are a few different methods to try:
- Take a bath or shower immediately. The spray easily soaks into your skin, giving you a body odor no deodorant can tackle.
- Use liberal amounts of soap. If you can, use dawn dishwashing soap (or equivalent) which is the best grease cutter available
- Sulfur is neutralized by chlorine bleach. Chlorine is used in small quantities in swimming pools and hot tubs. If you have access to the powder or chlorine tablets that are used in pools or hot tub, get your bathtub set up with the proper (adjusted to the small amount of water in the tub) and have a bath for a good 15 minutes or so.
- Shower thoroughly to rinse after your bath.
- Note: Please don’t think of using the chlorine bleach we use in the laundry. It’s very concentrated, highly alkaline, not to mention NOT SAFE to bathe in, or get on your skin. It will completely dissolve hair. Chlorine bleach is caustic and toxic.
- The next best thing is baking soda. It is also alkaline, but not caustic or toxic. Baking soda is also a great deodorizer because it is alkaline. Run your bath and toss in 4 cups of baking soda. Make sure the baking soda has dissolved completely.
- Have a good soak for 15 minutes. It won’t hurt NOT to rinse after the baking soda bath. As long as you don’t feel itchy or uncomfortable, the baking soda will still be deodorizing.
- You should be feeling and smelling better.
- You can repeat this process if needed the next day.
Run fans. Turn on electric ceiling fans and desk fans to keep the air circulating in your home.
- If you allow the air to remain still and stagnant, the skunk smell will only sink deeper into your fabrics. Turning on all the fans in your home as soon as possible helps to keep the air in your house moving, thereby preventing the odor from settling into anything too deeply.
- This works especially well when used in conjunction with opened windows.
Change out your filters
- Change out your air conditioner and heater filters before and after you treat the rest of your home for skunk odor.
- The skunk smell can cling to these filters, and as a result, you may end up smelling skunk through your air vents for months. The only way to remedy this is by changing out your air filters.
- Changing the air filters before treating the rest of your home minimizes the amount of stink coming through your vents and re-contaminating the rest of your home.
- Do sniff tests after you clean the rest of your home. Smell the air filters. If they do not smell like skunk, you may not need to change them again. If they do smell like skunk, however, you should replace them once more to prevent the filters from re-contaminating the rest of your home.
Place bowls of vinegar around the house
If you cannot pinpoint the exact source of the smell, fill small bowls with a little white vinegar and place them around the house.
- Focus on the worst smelling rooms of the house, since the source of the stench most likely originates there.
- If you have pets or small children, you may want to consider putting the vinegar high up on shelves to prevent them from ingesting it.
- The vinegar should absorb much of the smell after 24 hours. In most cases, the smell of vinegar should not be too potent, either.
Removing the smell from your clothes
Skunk spray has the tendency to soak into the fibers of clothing, lasting for a very long time. Unless the clothing is a cherished piece- toss it, because the smell is hard to get rid of. If the oily part of the skunk spray is not removed from the clothing, the stink will remain.
- If you want to try to clean it, washing with your regular detergent may not get the smell completely. Hot water, liberal amounts of detergent and 4 cups of vinegar in the wash water. Otherwise the scent will soak into the fabric permanently.
- You can try adding some baking soda alternating with vinegar is the wash on alternate loads to get that entire stink out.
One note here: be sure to smell your clothes before putting them in the dryer. If the odor remains, try washing them again. If you put them in the dryer before the entire odor is gone, you will actually seal it into the fabric.
Removing the smell from pets
Get yourself and the pet outside before bathing it. The pet is going to want to shake the cleaner off and it’s going to go flying everywhere, including on you.
- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (from drug store)
- 1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent
- Mix thoroughly
Rub this solution into your pet’s dry coat, being careful not to get the cleaning solution in the pet’s eyes. Let the cleaner/deodorizer sit on the poor thing for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water and then shampoo as normal. Repeat all steps if necessary.
Extra Heavy Duty Deodorizing For Your Pets
If your pet has been sprayed hard and the skunk smell is lingering, As long as the pet does not have any open sores, you can try this after you have given it a baking soda bath.
Vinegar stings on sensitive spots so avoid getting this into the pets eyes:
- Use a 1:4 ratio of vinegar and water, so 1 quart vinegar to 1 gallon of water
- Rub into the fur
- Let sit on the fur for 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly.
Removing Skunk Spray Odor from Your Outdoor Furniture
Not every skunk attacks a person or animal, sometimes your outdoor furniture becomes the victim of a spooked skunk. When this is the case, try mixing 10 percent Clorox Bleach with 90 percent water for a refreshing and safe odor removing cleanser.
Simply spraying your outdoor furniture with the mixture may be enough to relive those noxious fumes, or in more severe cases, you may need to actually scrub the furniture down with it
- Treating the odor as soon as possible will yield the best results. It will be much more difficult to remove the odor once the skunk spray has dried
- Dunk contaminated fabrics into the solution. Dip your contaminated clothes and other fabrics into the diluted vinegar. Let them soak for two to three hours.
- For best results, use your hands to gently scrub the fabric for several minutes after dipping it into the vinegar solution. Doing so works the vinegar in between the fibers of the fabric, allowing it to penetrate further and deodorize more of the smell.
- This treatment is most effective when performed within one or two hours of contamination.
Consider using a commercial product for eliminating skunk odor. There are plenty of cleaning sprays and solutions designed specifically for eliminating skunk odor from furniture, clothes and pets.
- These products are not always necessary, but if you have already tried a do-it-yourself cleaning method that didn’t work, you can either wait for the odor to go away on its own or invest in a commercial cleaning product to speed up the process.
Anyone who has ever come in contact with a skunk knows how hard it can be to get rid of that smell once and for all. By using some of the tips above, you should be able to free yourself and your pets from the stinky remains.
If you think you have a skunk problem, call Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control today. 1-888-592-0387. Proudly serving: Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Sudbury, St. Catharine’s, Cambridge and the Niagara Region.