Skunk smell is one of the most memorable stenches you are likely to encounter. It serves the small mammals well in avoiding predatory attention of even coyotes. Companion dogs and cats often lack the street smarts to avoid the animals, and sooner or later the pet owner must learn how to get rid of skunk smell on a pet.
Getting Up Close and Personal with Skunk Smell
The skunk smell containing substance stems from the animal’s anal glands. Scientists explain that the secretion is a mix of two oils, with one being heavier than the other. While alcohol and sulphuric acid dissolve the secretion, they do not alter the odor.
Removal of the skunk smell with water – in which it is actually insoluble – is just as impossible. Earlier researchers found that a 50-50 mix of potassium hydroxide or sodium counteracts the smell.
Skunk Smell Removal Tips and Tricks that don’t Work (usually)
Tomato juice is a favorite home remedy and it has a slightly dulling effect on the skunk smell. More outlandish suggestions – the annotated MythBusters site mentions beer and douche – do not pan out, in spite of the lore that has built up around them.
It is interesting to note that the commercially available odor removal washes, shampoos and solutions do a so-so job but don’t get rid of skunk smell all the way. What’s left?
How to Get Rid of Skunk Smell (successfully)
The only concoction that worked on the oily anal gland secretion of the skunk spray is a mix of baking soda, liquid dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. Paul Krebaum offers a simple recipe that is as effective for skunk smell removal as it is cheap and easy to make.
He suggests mixing a quart of hydrogen peroxide with a quarter cup of baking soda and two teaspoons of liquid soap in a plastic bucket. Wash the dog or cat with the solution right away – for obvious reasons, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide do not store well – but be aware that injuries to the skin that come in contact with the mix will sting quite a bit. Rinse and repeat as often as needed to get rid of the oily secretions.
It is a good idea to wear some surgical gloves while washing the skunk smell out of the animal’s fur to avoid having it transfer to your hands and clothes in the process.
What about the Skunk?
Do not go after the skunk. Even though it is true that a squirt of skunk smell producing anal gland liquid takes a week or so to regenerate, the animal most likely has a few more squirts left.
Johns Hopkins University: “Chemical Study of the Secretion of the Anal Glands of Mephitis Mephitica (Common Skunk)”
Annotated MythBusters: “Episode 16 – Ancient Death Ray, Skunks, What is Bulletproof”
Paul Krebaum: “Recipe and Directions”