Skunks might help gardeners out by feeding on rodents and pest insects, but they also secrete a horrible odor when startled or feeling threatened. The stench is in a class of its own, mainly because skunk spray consists of six sulfuric-based thiols and is secreted as an oily liquid that sticks to and penetrates everything it touches. Fortunately, you can take several steps to break down the odor-causing chemicals in skunk spray and remove the smell from your home.
No matter what cleaning remedy you choose to use, you need to ventilate your house with plenty of fresh air. Open the windows and doors, turn your ceiling fan onto the highest setting and set up portable fans to circulate clean air through the house.
Enzyme-Based Odor Remover
Enzyme-based pet odor and stain eliminators effectively get rid of the skunk smell on various materials because the enzymes break down the odor-causing thiols. You can use these cleaners on hard surfaces, carpets, clothing and upholstery, but carefully read and follow the instructions on your specific product's label. One product recommends doing the following for non-machine-washable fabrics, flooring and hard surfaces:
Put on disposable rubber gloves and wipe up excess skunk spray with paper towels or rags you're willing to throw away.
Test undiluted solution on a small, unnoticeable area and wipe off with a clean cloth. Don't use the product on a surface if the color fades or the finish comes off.
Use a clean rag to thoroughly saturate the skunk-sprayed area with undiluted enzyme-based product. Don't rinse the area, because the enzymes work most effectively if you allow the treated material to air dry.
Repeat treatments, as necessary, until you no longer notice skunk odor.
Baking Soda and Peroxide Solution
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a chemist named Paul Krebaum created a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution that chemically neutralizes skunk odor. The dish soap helps get rid of the oil, while the baking soda and peroxide combine to help neutralize the smell by bonding to the thiols. You can use this solution on hard surfaces, upholstery, carpeting, clothing and even people and pets, but take care to avoid contact with the mouth and eyes.
Combine the ingredients in a container large enough to contain the foam it produces. Dip an old rag into the solution, rub it on the problem area and rinse clean with water. If you can still smell skunk odor once the treated material dries, repeat the process.
Folks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln note that simply running machine-washable clothes twice through a normal cycle can remove skunk odor from fabrics. Adding 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse water speeds along the odor removing process, but run the clothes through an extra rinse cycle to take out the depleted vinegar.
A vinegar soak works well for delicate fabrics that can't be washed in hot water. Simply combine 1 part distilled white vinegar and 4 parts of water in a large plastic container. Soak fabric item for up to three hours before running it through the delicate cycle using the normal amount of laundry detergent plus 1/2 cup baking soda. Allow the washed fabric to air dry.
Pour distilled white vinegar into open bowls and set them into the corners of smelly rooms and next to skunk-sprayed furniture, rugs or curtains. The vinegar usually absorbs the skunk smell in just 24 to 48 hours.