Skunks are certainly the cutest biochemical warfare factories on the planet. They’ve evolved a remarkable defense system in the form of a noxious oily secretion that they shoot from their anal glands at distances up to 20 feet. Yum.
The volatile mix comprises sulfur-containing organic compounds called thiols, which combine with thioacetate to create a “lachrymator” similar to tear gas and lasts for days.
What’s the first thing you’d turn to remove the smell, should you or a pet get doused in the fine, fine stench of a skunk?
Most people will turn to tomato juice or even canned tomatoes. Oatmeal and beer are popular choices too. But according to the chemists at the American Chemical Society (ACS), these items might mask the smell, but they don’t neutralize it.
To neutralize the chemical reaction, you need oxidation, which changes the thiols into sulfonic acid—which has little to no odor.
With that in mind, ACS recommends this formula:
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon baby shampoo
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
Mix it together, apply and lather, and let sit for five minutes. Repeat if necessary, but be warned that the hydrogen peroxide could lighten hair or fur. In fact, for humans, they recommend a hot shower with plenty of soap and shampoo.
Note: This should not be made ahead and stored.
Avoid Getting Sprayed
Not to state the obvious, but not getting sprayed in the first place is your best bet. Skunks are nocturnal and somewhat shy—but will spray if they feel threatened. That said, it takes a while—up to a week—for a skunk to replenish its supply of spray, meaning that it will try to reserve it for when it’s necessary.
To help a skunk hold on to its best defense for when they need it, look for the signs and back off before it’s too late! They will stamp their feet, hiss, and raise their tails. Eastern spotted skunks will get downright acrobatic before spraying
It may be more challenging to keep dogs away from skunks, but you can keep skunks away from your dogs by making sure they aren’t attracted to your property. Keep garbage cans closed tightly, don’t leave pet food bowls outside, etc.