Dealing with Striped Skunks

How to Clean and Deodorize Skunk Scent

glass vial of orange skunk oil
Pure Skunk Oil

Getting sprayed by a skunk is a truly unpleasant experience but there are a lot of misconceptions about how to get rid of the odor. First, we need to understand a bit about the chemistry. The stinky part of skunk oil (which is orange or yellowish in color) is made up of three sulfur-containing compounds called thiols. The popular remedy of using tomato juice to get rid of the stench is a myth. It simply makes YOU smell tomato and not smell the skunk, but the stinky thiols and the skunk odor are still there. You need to "oxidize" the thiols into compounds called sulfonic acids, which are odorless! We can do that with some basic household ingredients that you should always have on hand if you have pets that venture outside.

This remedy is one developed by chemist Dr. William Wood. Do NOT try to wash the oil off with water as it will just spread the oil. Mix the following items each time you need to use it:

  • 1 quart of Hydrogen Peroxide (available from any drug or grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup of Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp of Liquid Dish Soap

hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dish soap, and baking soda

Mix these up and use the solution to bathe your pet or clean surfaces. Then rinse with water and repeat as needed. It works great (as I can personally attest after being sprayed), but it may lighten your pet's fur. Also, this solution must be made fresh each time; it won't stay effective when stored, and the oxygen gas it releases can cause a sealed container to burst. For surfaces like a deck or exterior wall, you can clean up skunk spray with a liquid bleach solution; just don't use bleach on any living creature. For your clothes, you can use a bleach solution as well, but that can damage the color too. I've had good success using OxyClean powder in the laundry to get out mild skunk odors without bleaching the garment.

How to Keep a Skunk Out of Your Yard

striped skunk
To discourage skunks from coming into your yard and digging up your lawn, keep pet food inside, seal your garbage cans, and clear fallen fruit off of the ground. Skunks are omnivores and love to eat fruit, insects, worms, seeds, garbage, rodents, eggs, and pet food. Keeping your property clear of food will minimize skunk interest. Your lawn will have worms and bugs living in and under it, so it will be impossible to deter them entirely. If you find yourself a frequent target of skunks, mechanical barriers on the ground to keep skunks out of the property are your best bet.

If you find you have skunks denning under your home or deck, there are a few ways to discourage them to leave. Skunks are nocturnal, so wait until the middle of the night when they are most likely to be out and about and away from the point of entry. Then level out the dirt just inside the entry point and then block it off securely. The next day, open the barrier and see if the dirt near the inside of the entry is disturbed. If it's undisturbed, you've likely blocked out the skunk and you can just reseal the hole. If it's dug up, the skunk is likely still under your home and you need to try again until you are able to block it out while it is out for the evening.

But overall skunks can be quite beneficial to you. They can eat mice, bugs, and flies, and keep your yard clear of garbage. So if you don't have a dog that's apt to attack and get sprayed at night, give the little skunks a chance to coexist with you!