From popular myths to conversations between friends and family, skunks are often portrayed as highly unlikeable animals. However, skunks in general are quite as docile as the cartoon characters in movies portray – but that still doesn’t mean we want them around our property.
Skunks have a strong sense of smell; You can take advantage of this trait to repel skunks by using scents they hate, such as putrescent whole egg solids, ammonia, black pepper, capsaicin, vinegar, citrus, peppermint oil, vegetable oil, predator urine, chili pepper, coffee grounds, and lavender.
The following tips will help provide you with proven methods of warding off skunks from your gardens, yards, homes, and personal spaces—no need to worry any longer about that pesky skunk who has found its way into your yard!
Why Do Skunks Smell Actually Smell?
Skunks do not like emitting their spray just as much as we do not like getting sprayed by it. Their glands take over a week to refill, so they’d rather not waste it if they don’t need to. Baby skunks can spray as young as one month old but only do so if scared or threatened.
Basically, a skunk is not going to spray you unless it really feels threatened.
Skunks are more competent and far more intelligent than you may think. They themselves do not smell horrible. In reality, the pungent smell they emit can be attributed to the spray released by two of their internal glands located on their backside.
The smell of a skunk’s spray is so powerful that it can be picked up from a mile away! However, you don’t have to be concerned about the smell if you maintain distance from the skunk. If the skunk feels like it or its babies are in danger, it will most likely spray you or your garden and home.
Skunks don’t spray all willy-nilly. The animal will give you signals that it needs space. You should move further away when it hisses or raises its tail, as this will be a sign that it feels threatened. The skunk may also stamp its feet to alert others to stay away from it.
If you see these signs, the best thing you can do is back away and leave the skunk alone. Be mindful that a skunk can release their pungent scent from anywhere between ten to twenty feet away.
Why You Need To Repel a Skunks
Now we know when to stay away from a skunk and why their spray smells, but just why the heck is there a skunk in your yard in the first place?
The most likely reason a skunk is skulking about is it’s either looking for food or looking for protection from cold weather.
Skunks will use their claws to dig for grubs or snatch an easy meal from a fruit or vegetable garden. Or, they’ll burrow beneath your porch or outbuildings for warmth.
Just like raccoons, skunks are opportunistic. They’ll rummage through garbage, eat garden crops, or gobble up pet food that’s been left out.
In short, you need to repel skunks from your yard because:
- They will be likely to spray if you accidentally get close to one
- Skunks can eat your vegetables
- They’ll rummage through your garbage
- Skunks may spray your curious pets
- They can nest underneath your porch or deck
That last point is a big one. If you see a skunk wandering near the outskirts of your property, it isn’t a HUGE deal. However, once they start to nest underneath your deck or porch, then it’s all the more likely that they’re here to stay.
Skunks have a very strong sense of smell and are sensitive to certain scents. So, if you do notice a skunk meandering around your garden, there are scents you can use to deter them from coming around. Let’s get to it!
By the way, I recommend bookmarking our guide on the best skunk repellents for specific product information once you’re done reading this piece.
Using Scents to Deter Skunks
Now to the good stuff!
Let’s say a skunk or a family of skunks have found their way into your yard. Yikes! They love the cozy feel of the space beneath your porch, or maybe they rummage through your trash and eat all the cat food you’ve left out for strays. No need to fret!
There are plenty of options to get rid of them. The first line of defense is scents that skunks dislike.
PLEASE NOTE: scents are not as reliable as physical deterrents for deterring skunks. Frequent reapplication will be required for the scents to get the job done.
If you have a family of skunks on your property, or they’ve managed to burrow underneath your porch or outbuildings, leave it to a professional to handle. Check out our nationwide pest control finder to get connected with a wildlife pro near you in seconds.
Similar to black pepper, have you ever taken a sharp whiff of vinegar only to have your eyes water? The extremely strong scent of vinegar, specifically white vinegar, will deter skunks by irritating their sinus cavities.
Apple cider vinegar has notes of sweetness, which won’t do as well to repel skunks. Instead, you want to use white vinegar around your home and garden where skunks are entering or occupying your property.
You’re more than welcome to use your household vinegar to repel skunks. However, you can buy vinegar online that comes super concentrated (which you’ll then dilute after purchasing) and save a good bit of coin by purchasing this way.
Take a peek at Calyptus 45% Pure Super Concentrated Vinegar if you’re interested in using a vinegar concentrate!
To repel skunks, you’ll want to spray vinegar around your property line and hard surfaces, such as your patio, deck, and house siding. Don’t spray vinegar directly on your plants.
Additionally, make sure your grass is still green afterward if you do end up spraying vinegar on your greenery.
Instead of spraying directly, you can also soak rags or cotton balls in vinegar, as well!
If you’d like some more detailed tips on this one, take a look at our guide on using vinegar to repel skunks!
Yes, spent coffee grounds can actually repel skunks! Similar to how coffee grounds repel deer, the bitter scent of coffee grounds may inform skunks that humans are nearby and thus, keep them away from your property.
Coffee grounds to repel skunks are a bit of a mixed bag. Using scents like pepper will be MUCH better and actually irritate the sinuses of skunks, but spent coffee grounds are great for your garden and are worth a try if you’re already a coffee drinker.
For an in-depth guide, take a look at our full article on using coffee grounds to repel skunks!
Putrescent Whole Egg Solids
Back to the good stuff.
Putrescent whole egg solids are one of the most old-school tried and true animal repellents out there. They were first registered by the EPA in the late 1900s for use as animal repellent.
In essence, putrescent whole egg solids are cracked and rotten eggs that stink of sulfur. Specifically, they’re meant to repel white-tailed deer and rodents. You can read New York State Integrated Pest Management & Cornell University’s combined breakdown on putrescent whole egg solids here if you’d like.
While skunks aren’t rodents, they absolutely hate the smell of the stuff.
Many homemade remedies can be made to repel skunks which will be outlined further in this post, and you can even create your own, stinky egg recipe to repel skunks.
However, if you do not have the time, energy, or smell capacity to create your own formula, Bonide’s Repels-All Animal Repellent is a good way to go. Bonide is a reputable company that has been around since 1926. They have had a great deal of experience dealing with wild animals and how to keep them at bay.
This spray is biodegradable, and it will not hurt the skunk or your garden and plants. It has a base scent of putrescent whole egg solids, cloves, and garlic oil (all smells that skunks hate.)
To use Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellent, follow the mixing instructions on the product, and simply spray the formula around areas where skunks are entering or have been seen around your property! Patios, decks, near swimming pools, sheds, etc. Once the formula dries, Bonide claims that it will last around 2 months.
You may think that ammonia is used only for deep cleaning your house. Believe it or not, ammonia can also be used to repel skunks. You can place ammonia-soaked rags or cotton balls around your yard, and the smell will make the skunk flee as it is another unpleasant scent for their sensitive nose.
Keep in mind that you will have to replace the cotton balls or rags as the scent of the ammonia wears off. According to the Wildlife Center of Virginia, other household deodorant liquids will work similarly.
Black Pepper and Capsaicin
We all know black pepper and that getting a heavy whiff of it freshly ground is enough to make your sinus feel it. Skunks have an EXTREMELY strong sense of smell, to the point where black pepper is enough to infuriate and irritate their sinus cavities.
Another ingredient similar to black pepper is capsaicin, which is the main active spice component in chili peppers.
So, you can get create your own mixture of black pepper and capsaicin by obtaining the raw ingredients and spreading them around your lawn or use pre-formulated products with these base ingredients already in them.
The Havahart Critter Ridder is a popular tool to use in your garden, consisting of black pepper oil, peperine, and capsaicin of granules that you can spread around your yard and personal property.
Peperine, to add, is the main component responsible for the pungency in black pepper itself, similar to capsaicin. Essentially, Havahart’s Critter Ridder is a spicy blend that creates a scent that will offend the skunk and prevent it from coming any closer.
Citrus Scent Keeps Skunks Away
If the products you bought online and from the store are not working effectively, don’t get discouraged. Believe it or not, common household fruit can do the trick! The scent of lemons and oranges may be wonderful and pleasing to you, but for skunks, not so much.
The acid produced from citrus fruits repels skunks because it is a scent that they do not find pleasant. It makes for a fantastic natural deterrent. You can make your own remedy which consists of using fruits such as lemons and oranges to ward away skunks.
The easiest way to use oranges and lemons is to take their rinds and spread them throughout your yard.
You can place them around your porch, in your crawl spaces, under your decks, and around your personal property. The skunks will pick up the scent and not come any closer.
However, keep in mind that as the scent of the rind fades, you’ll need to replace them with fresh ones so the scent can still waft through the air and reach the sensitive olfactories of skunks.
If you enjoy gardening and have a green thumb, you can also plant citrus trees because the scent of their fruit will dominate the yard and keep away the skunks.
You can even map out a plan to plant the citrus trees along the perimeter or outskirts of your yard so the skunks will not enter at all. Not to mention you are going to have one heck of a gorgeous backyard with wonderful aromas and fresh fruit to consume every year!
Simply put, skunks hate peppermint oil.
Many animals, most notably raccoons, absolutely HATE the smell of peppermint.,
Similar to other pungent types of scents on this list, peppermint does a wonderful job of irritating the sinus cavities of a skunk, causing them to hate the scent of anything peppermint and stay away.
You can use your own essential oil blend, or you can use a product like Natural Armor Animal & Rodent Repellent Spray, which has a main active ingredient of peppermint oil, is formulated for both indoor and outdoor use, and lists skunks as one of the animals the product repels.
Apply peppermint oil nearby where skunks are approaching your property, and make sure you reapply it often as peppermint oil is a very natural scent that can fade easily. You could most likely apply the product every week and repel skunks, but it depends on how heavy your peppermint oil application is.
If you decide to make your own peppermint oil skunk repellent mixture, make sure you dilute the peppermint oil with a carrier oil and water so you aren’t using a heavy concentrate directly AND so you can spread the mixture over a wider and larger area without wasting a small bottle of essential oils.
Vegetable and Castor Oil
Skunks take pride in their beautiful white and black fur. They do not like to get it oily, so another effective scent is to spray your grass with vegetable oil. Both the scent of the oils and its texture will ward away any skunks who want to keep their fur silky and smooth.
Castor oil is also another effective repellent and can be sprayed around your yard safely and efficiently.
These simple oils will most likely be found in your home or, if not, at your local grocery store. Just put them in a spray bottle and get to work!
Predators like foxes and wolves need to urinate, of course. But did you know the smell of their urine is quite foul to a skunk? Skunks hate the smell of predator urine, and it will likely make them skedaddle away.
Simply put, predator urine makes the skunk think that a predator is in the area. Since a skunk’s main form of defense against a predator is its spray (which needs time to recharge), it will do anything and everything to keep away from predators in most situations.
You can use predator urine such as American Heritage Industries Red Fox Urine and spread it around your garden. This will help scare away skunks. These products, as strange as they may sound, are easily available online or in wildlife stores!
However, you need to make sure that you actually have the urine of a predator that is local to your area. If you don’t have foxes nearby, then don’t use fox urine.
A few more options for predatory urine are:
- Wolf urine
- Bobcat urine
- Coyote urine
Coyotes, for instance, are native to every US state except for Hawaii. Keep in mind that when using a predator spray, it may attract the animal whose urine you’re using by signaling that there are more of its type in the area (more likely for pack animals such as coyote and wolf.
Chili and Cayenne Pepper
Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a five-star cook for this next form of deterrent.
Skunks are NOT fans of the scent of spices like chili and cayenne (as discussed earlier with black pepper.) Take a look in your pantry to see what repellents you can create right from your kitchen.
The scent of spices like chili and cayenne both smell bad to skunks and bothers their sensitive noses too. The capsaicin in these peppers is the main component that infuriates a skunk’s senses, but you DON’T have to use just base stripped capsaicin. You can use the actual powders!
For application, you can sprinkle cayenne pepper on areas where you don’t want skunks to be: your garden fence, fruit trees, or around the bottom of your porch.
If you don’t have cayenne pepper in your house, you can also use chili powder. Mix it with water, pour it into a spray bottle (glass works best), and spray it around the areas where you want to repel skunks. This should be just as effective as cayenne pepper.
If you choose to go down this route, be sure to reapply the mixture every few days. The scent of the chili powder and cayenne powder will eventually wear off.
As a general rule, due to its pungent aroma, lavender can repel skunks! Lavender doesn’t irritate the sinus cavities of skunks like pepper, chili and cayenne pepper, or even peppermint oil, but rather, it’s believed that skunks just don’t like the scent of lavender.
Since lavender plants are often quite pungent in themselves, you can plant a beautiful bed of lavender to repel skunks. Out of all the scents on this list, lavender would not be my preferred skunks repellent – but it can deter other critters and insects besides skunks as well!
You can also spray a lavender essential oil mixture, but I would be in favor of just planting lavender in my garden, as it provides a beautiful smell and looks. Additionally, it’s quite easy to grow as well.
Irish Spring Soap
Did you know Irish Spring Soap can repel skunks? While there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim, the smell of Irish Spring Soap is believed to signal to skunks that the object they are smelling is unedible, and thus, they steer clear.
I mean, really, would you expect there to be grant money provided for this?
In order to use Irish Spring Soap to repel skunks, you’ll need a mesh bag and, of course, some bar soap! You can read more on how to use it to repel skunks in our guide to repelling raccoons with Irish Spring Soap here.
Good Riddance, Skunks!
Now you know a variety of scents that skunks hate, why they hate them, and how to use them.
There are a number of both homemade and store-bought remedies you can use to get rid of those unwanted skunks from your gardens and homes.
If one doesn’t seem to be working, try another to keep that stubborn critter out of your yard.
As a reminder, skunks would much rather keep to themselves and go about their daily business. Skunks only resort to their famously awful spray when they feel threatened and are put on the defense.
If you like to make your own products or solutions and like to have control of the ingredients being used, then creating your own deterrent would be the way to go.
This may take a bit of time, but it will be well worth it. Options are:
- Natural oils like castor oil and vegetable oil. These will affect a skunk’s fur, which they do not like to get oil on.
- Chilli and cayenne pepper. Mix either with water and spray or simply sprinkle powder flakes in areas you want to keep skunks away from. This irritates a skunk’s sense of smell.
- Citrus fruits like lemon and orange peels. Skunks do NOT like the smell of acidic citrus fruits like lemons and oranges. Bonus: your garden and house will smell super fresh!
If you feel that your time and energy are limited, buying a ready-made product that organically repels skunks will be a perfectly good way to solve the problem!
Be sure to remain patient and let the various methods do their work! Remember, in the wild, skunks are prey and are pretty shy animals. Their only real defense is their spray; that’s it! They want to avoid altercation as much as possible.
The scents listed above can help deter skunks from your yard. Be sure to reapply scents often, as they will fade over time and will stop deterring these pesky critters.
Hopefully, these will help you maintain a skunk-free yard, and you’ll never have to worry about getting sprayed!
Baker, B. P., & Grant, J. A. (2018). Putrescent Whole Egg Solids Profile.
Fergus, C. (2010). Striped Skunk (Vol. 175, No. 23). Bureau of Information and Education, Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Cool things you should know about skunks (yes, skunks).
Wildlife Hotline. Coexisting with Skunks.
Mspca Angell. Kindness and Care for Animals. About Skunks.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia. Skunks as Neighbors.
City of Oak Forest, Illinois. Skunks and Raccoons.
University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources. Neb Guide.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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