Skunk odor is notoriously difficult to get rid of, and for good reason — skunk spray is a lethal combination of sulfurous chemical oils meant to protect the skunk from predators like bears, dogs, and people. On the plus side, until the smell is gone, you’ll have lots of alone time to contemplate things.
When a skunk finds itself in your shed, garage, workshop, or other outbuilding, you have a problem. Even if the skunk doesn’t spray, it carries that scent with it and you will know if it is living nearby. If it sprays inside your garage or shed, you have another problem altogether.
What creates Skunk Smell?
The odor of skunk spray is the offensive (to put it nicely) result of the sulfurous chemicals, methyl and butyl thiols, contained within the skunk’s anal glands. These chemicals are the skunk’s ultimate defense against predators and danger, and can be sprayed as far as 15 feet with accuracy, covering the target with the smelly oils so hard to get rid of.
Skunks only spray as a last resort, since they have a finite supply of these oils (it can take up to 10 days for a skunk to replenish it’s spray), so the best way to avoid skunk smell is simply to be aware of how close you (and your pets) are to skunk territory and make an effort to keep your behavior as gentle and quiet as possible (don’t act like a predator).
Best Ways to Get Rid of Skunk Smell
Wash all sprayed fabrics, materials, and surfaces as soon as possible.
The faster you get those smelly things cleaned, the better the chance that the skunk odor will actually wash off. Using your regular laundry detergent is fine, although treating the fabrics with an additional cleaner beforehand may help too. For the interior of a shed, you will want to remove all things inside (preferably into the sun where they can disinfect a bit) and spray the interior down with soapy water.
If you were personally hit by the spray, shower as soon as you can, and bathe any sprayed animals as quickly as possible, too. Use extra soap and shampoo, and any person- and animal-friendly skunk-specific cleansers (see below).
White Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide counteracts the natural oil in skunk spray.
You will probably need something stronger than soapy water to get rid of skunk oils — a solution of vinegar or peroxide will dissolve and remove the odor-causing oils instead of just spreading them around. Try this mixture:
- 1 liter (or quart) white vinegar OR 3% hydrogen peroxide (peroxide may cause bleaching)
- 1/4 c. Baking soda.
- 1 tsp. dish detergent
Use commercial sprays designed to deodorize and neutralize smells to eliminate skunk odor.
Household cleaning sprays and products such as Febreeze or Simple Green (a good organic alternative) can be effective against skunk smell on fabrics and furniture. “Skunk Off” is a highly effective spray designed specifically for treating skunk-sprayed pets. You can get Skunk Off from Amazon.
Use bleach to clean skunk spray and odor from sheds, porches, or shops.
Use a mixture of 10% bleach and 90% water (or detergent and water) to clean sprayed areas (such as a porch) that aren’t in danger in staining from the bleach. Because chlorine bleach is highly toxic, don’t use it to clean people, animals, furniture, or colored clothing.
To tomato juice or not to tomato juice?
Everyone’s heard of the old foolproof skunk standby: tomato juice. And of course, eveyone has a different opinion about how well it does, or doesn’t, work to get rid of skunk odor. The basic premise, of course, is that the acids in the tomato juice will dissolve and counteract the oils in the skunk spray.
The problem with using it on your building is that it stains. There are probably better alternatives.
If your pet got sprayed, it could be worth a try to use tomato juice. We can’t guarantee that it will work, but if you want to try it, add a can (or two or three) or tomato paste to the dog’s bath, or your own. Using tomato juice on any fabrics is probably a bad idea, unless you don’t mind the inevitable stains.
Skunks Living In or Under Your Shed
Skunks make the area around their homes stink
Skunks are unable to not smell bad, if they have their scent glands intact, so you know if they are in the area.
Skunks like to make their homes anywhere where they have access to food, water, and shelter, and are unbothered. Skunks are generally not picky about where they live and can be found in both rural and urban areas. In populated areas, skunks may take up residence under buildings, sheds, or decks, or in abandoned burrows.
If you find a skunk living in or under your shed, garage, or workshop, you absolutely need to get rid of it. I do not recommend livetrapping skunks for obvious reason. Not only will they spray upon being trapped and again when they see you, but if you get bitten by one, they are one of the most common carriers of rabies.
Instead, unfortunately for animal lovers, the best solution is to exterminate them. This can be done either with poison (it is pretty predictable that they will eat it) or with a gun, if that is legal in your municipality and the person using it is safe and experienced.
Professional Skunk Smell Removal
If home remedies aren’t working to get rid of your skunk odor problem, then find a professional treatment for your specific smelly problem.
Use a power washer for outside structures like your porch or siding. You may want to rent a professional-quality washer, or hire one of the abundant power washing companies to do this for you.
Avoiding Skunk Odor
Skunks spray in defense of a perceived threat
As soon as you see a skunk (or if you know skunks are nearby) lower your voice and try to remain still and quiet or move in the opposite direction, giving the skunk a chance to get away without spraying.
Remove Available Food
Skunks, like many other pests, are attracted to available food (such as pet food or scraps in the garbage) and possible nesting places (such as sheds, wood piles, or crawl spaces around the house and yard), so keep your garbage tightly closed and your home and yard clean and sealed against unwanted furry visitors.