Skunks are so widespread that you’ve probably had the heart-racing experience of seeing one at a nearer distance than you’d like. Fortunately, skunks are predictable and avoidable, and if you do end up in their stinky crossfire, we’ll walk you through how to de-odorize yourself!
Skunks spray up to 15 feet or more depending on if the wind is in their favor. If you happen to see one, it’s good to keep in mind their range as you slowly, quietly, and calmly back away. Skunks only spray when threatened, so make yourself unthreatening and maintain your distance.
Keep reading for some easy and accessible steps you can take to avoid a skunk in the first place (and de-skunk your home and pets in the worst case)!
Skunks Can Spray Up To 15 Feet!
Whether or not an individual skunk happens to be a sharpshooter with its defensive spray, the odor is intense. If you happen to find yourself downwind of an upset skunk, that spray can reach up to 18 feet!
Skunk spray is full of volatile compounds, but, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources the two main ones (thiols and thioacetates) are full of sulfur.
That nasty odor is ready to work its way into your clothes, gear, car, or even pet fur! As far as skunks might be able to spray, they only use their stinkiest defense mechanism against perceived threats.
Fortunately, a skunk will give you plenty of signs to get lost before they spray—if you know what to look for.
Scared Skunk Behavior
Skunks aren’t exactly eager to spray. It can take up to a full week for a skunk to replenish its spray and research suggests that adult skunks don’t care for the smell much more than we do.
The surest sign a skunk is ready to spray is the upright tail. They are also known to stomp run, hide, hiss, and charge.
If you’re worried a skunk will chase you, don’t sweat it! We’ve got you covered!
What To Do If You See A Skunk
Remember, skunks only spray if they feel threatened. And if you know what to look for, you can gauge how a skunk feels about you.
If you see any of the defensive behaviors from above (stomping, upright tail, running, hiding, hissing, or charging), you can be sure that the skunk feels threatened.
When you come across a skunk, don’t make any sudden movements or loud noise— just back away slowly. The last thing you want to do is startle a skunk into spraying its musk at you.
If you’d like to learn a bit more as to WHY you’re seeing skunks, take a look at our piece on what it means when you see a skunk!
1. Keep Your Pets Away From Them
Skunk musk can linger for quite a long time on your body, in your clothes, furniture, and, of course, in your pet’s fur.
Skunks aren’t very big. Between 3 and 10 pounds, skunks are about the size of house cats. As friendly as your cat or dog might be, a skunk is likely to perceive them as a threat.
If you know skunks live near your house, one of the best things you can do to keep your pets stink-free is to keep them in at night.
Skunks are nocturnal, which means they’re most active in during the night. If your pets are indoors at night, they’re far less likely to startle an unsuspecting skunk going about its nighttime routine.
If you have a dog who does need to make an evening trip to the old fire hydrant, it’s best to accompany them and keep them on a leash to prevent any misunderstandings should they run into a skunk.
Relatedly, keeping your pet’s food securely inside, especially at night, will keep skunks and your pet at a desirable distance. If you do feed your pet outdoors, make sure to clean up and securely dispose of any uneaten food.
2. Avoid Driving Or Walking Near Skunks
It’s not just fibrous or cellular materials that skunk spray can taint. That nasty rotten egg smell can cling to any number of surfaces and cause a nuisance.
In a twist of tragic irony, skunks are not only nocturnal, but they have terrible eyesight.
If you’re driving through skunk country at night, you’ll have a hard time seeing a skunk, and the skunk isn’t likely to see you coming. In such unfortunate encounters, you won’t even get the chance to ask why the skunk crossed the road.
In all seriousness, hitting a skunk with your car can result in the entire undercarriage of your vehicle being coated in that waterproof musk. Even though the spray isn’t inside your car, that smell is sure to work its way into the cabin.
How Long Does The Smell From Skunk Spray Last?
Untreated, the skunk smell can linger for weeks or even months.
One of the chemicals in skunk spray makes it basically waterproof, so treating and getting rid of that skunk odor can be a real challenge. Fortunately, with the right products, you can beat the stink!
One of our the best products to treat skunk spray is Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover Odor Neutralizing Formula. The enzymatic formula works on multiple surfaces and is safe. They even offer a money-back guarantee!
6 Ways To Get Rid Of Skunk Spray Smell!
Dealing with skunk spray tends to feel pretty urgent. Fortunately, you don’t need to fill up your online cart and wait for delivery to eliminate skunk smell. Your home is likely already stocked up with quite a few of the products you can use to get rid of skunk smell.
Of course, the three most important things to do to eliminate odor are:
- Remove the source of the odor
- Air out the area and affected items
- Get affected items into direct sunlight
What Should I Do First When Getting Rid Of Skunk Smell?
Your goal is to keep the air in your home breathable and get rid of the oil. Basically, make sure whatever you’re treating is outside.
If the source of odor happens to be a pet who came back into your home, get your furry companion safely outside ASAP. Fresh air and sunlight are the best first steps toward odor elimination.
Remember, skunk spray is an oil that is really, really good at staying stuck to objects, fabrics, hair, and fur. As long as the oil is stays stuck to an object (or person, or pet), the air around it is going to stay stinky.
1. Getting Skunk Smell Out of Clothes and Gear
The four best household products you can use to fight skunk odor are:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Baking soda
- Liquid detergent
- Distilled white vinegar
2. Getting Rid Of Skunk Smell With Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda
Hydrogen peroxide is an all-around great household cleaner. You may already have used it to clean soap scum, treat stains on laundry, or disinfect surfaces.
It also does a great job of breaking down the oils in skunk spray to completely eliminate odor. However, it can bleach fabrics and even hair, so always spot-test before going all-in.
If you’re treating clothes or gear, make a solution that’s 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 6 parts water.
- Soak the affected items and gently shake or agitate them so that they’re completely soaked.
- Let everything sit for about an hour.
- Drain everything and run any clothes through a wash cycle on cold with an added half-cup of baking soda to soak up any lingering odor.
- Hang dry everything outside! The dryer can bake the oil into fabrics.
Vinegar Can Help Too!
If you’re working with clothes that are delicate or labeled dry clean only, and can’t use hydrogen peroxide, distilled white vinegar can also do the trick.
Make a solution that’s 1 part vinegar to four parts water and let soak for about three hours. Drain, rinse with cold water, and hang dry.
3. Getting Skunk Smell Out of Your House
Sometimes the worst really does happen and you’re dealing with skunk odor inside your home. Maybe a skunk found its way inside, or maybe your pet took a hit and came inside to hide. Whatever the case, you can eliminate that odor!
This is where that white vinegar steps up to the plate in a big way.
Of course, first things first: open every door and window that you can to get fresh air flowing through the space.
Fill several large bowls with vinegar and place them around the house. Yes, vinegar is a little stinky, but those large bowls will actually work to absorb and eliminate odor.
4. Getting the Skunk Smell Out of Your Car
The first step is (you guessed it) open all the doors and windows of your vehicle to get air flowing through!
Next, roll up your sleeves and get to work with a commercial product or a 1:1 solution of water and vinegar plus a few drops of liquid detergent.
Spray down affected areas, scrub, scrub, scrub, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Treat your car’s exterior (tires, paneling, and undercarriage) the same way, but instead of wiping clean, rinse with cool water.
5. Getting Rid of Skunk Smell on Your Pet
Your pets, with their ultra-sensitive sense of smell, will be as displeased as you’d be if they get sprayed by a skunk. Worse, they won’t know where the smell is coming from or why you keep running away from them!
If you need to wash the skunk smell off of your pet, you can use a product we mentioned above.
However, if you don’t have time to wait (you probably don’t), you’re likely to have all the household products you need to give your pet a deodorizing bath at home with this formula from the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension.
In a large bucket mix:
- ¼ cup of baking soda
- 1 or 2 teaspoons of a mild liquid detergent
- 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
Use the solution immediately and work it into your critter’s fur. Let the lather sit for five minutes before rinsing clean. Just remember to be careful of your pet’s eyes and mouth as you wash.
6. Skip the Tomato Juice!
Tomato juice is a popular folk remedy for skunk spray, and we can’t really say why.
One explanation is that, for users of the tomato juice method, the tomato smell replaces the skunk smell. After smelling skunk odor for long enough, the human brain stops smelling it through a process called “olfactory fatigue.”
After using tomato juice, users suddenly smell the juice and think it’s beaten out the skunk smell.
Save the tomato juice for a bloody mary after you’ve successfully vanquished skunk odor with the solutions we outlined above!
That’s A Wrap!
Skunk odor can fade on it’s own, but it can take weeks or months depending on the situation. Skunks can spray up to 15 feet, so do your best to avoid them!
If you do happen upon a skunk, remember that they’ll only spray when feeling threatened, so be alert to their behavior and leave the scene slowly and quietly.,
If you’d like, you can take a look at our guide on the scents that skunks hate to help repel them from your property for good!
Cuyler, K.W. (1924). Observations on the Habits of the Striped Skunk (Mephitis mesomelas varians). Journal of Mammology, 5(3), 180-189.
Medill, S.A., Renard, A., & Larivière, S. (2013). Ontogeny of antipredator behaviour in striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis). Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 41-48.
Vantassel, S.M., Hygnstrom, S.E., & Ferraro, D.M. (2011). Removing Skunk Odor. NebGuide.
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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