How to Get Skunk Smell Out of Dog: Effective Cleaning Methods for Odor Removal

How to Get Skunk Smell Out of Dog
Emily Young
Written by Emily Young

Skunk oil has one of the worst odors on the planet that many people will never smell in their lives. It is so bad that it actually feels like it burns one’s nose when it is freshly sprayed. If you have ever smelled it before, you know the feeling and probably the last thing you need is for your dog to be soaked in skunk smell as well.

However, in order to be prepared, you must know how to get skunk smell out of dog fur. You can use home remedies or one of the skunk odor removal products available on the market as sprays or shampoos. If you are caught by surprise, you will most probably have to use a mix of products that you already have around the house.

If skunk smell gets on your dog, then it will probably get on you as well. One method to prevent the spread of skunk smell all over your place is by not touching anything and not letting your dog back into the house until you are ready to wash it.

Skunk and dog

You should carry out the removal process in the shortest possible time. Keep in mind that the longer the skunk odor is kept on your dog or on yourself, the harder it gets to be removed and the entire process of odor elimination will last longer too. Skunk odor removal is never easy, so you should know a few tips and techniques on how to prevent its spread and how to effectively and immediately remove it.

Generalities about skunks and skunk oil

As cute as they are, skunks have one well-known, unattractive feature, which is an odor that can be smelled for miles. Feeding on insects, vegetables and small eggs birds, these highly adaptable creatures are about the size of a domestic cat. In search for food, shelter or both, these animals often get close to people’ houses and have encounters with dogs. If a skunk happens to get scared because of any reason, it sprays a type of oil that is very hard to remove from any surface.

Dogs are famous for ignoring the signs that a skunk is getting ready to spray. Next thing you know, your dog got sprayed by skunk. This happens because dogs follow skunks, curious to see what they are up to and to express their territoriality. It’s therefore important to employ off leash training techniques, as we’ve written in our article, especially when you and your dog will spend a lot of time outdoors.

The signs that clearly show a skunk is about to release its stinky oil are when it arches its back, turns around and comes back again, is cornered and has nowhere to go and finally, lifts up its tail and sprays the oil. In case you notice your dog in the presence of such animal that does all of the above, tell your dog to come to you without approaching it and the skunk. It will spray for sure if it also sees a person going too close to it because it will feel threatened and will not know what else to do.

Get rid of bad smell

Skunk spray contains 2 important compounds, called thiols and thioacetates. Our noses are very sensitive to thiols. In fact, because thiols contain sulfurs, their smell is horribly noxious for people. The other compounds, the thioacetates are known for decomposing very slow and transforming in thiols.

Therefore, the odor of skunk oil lasts so long, because there is an ongoing process of decomposition. All the thioacetates must change into thiols and then fade away slowly. The natural process would take a really long time, so man has to intervene. There are dog owners who stated that their dog smelled like skunk oil for years.

You can find a dog skunk remedy at home, using things at hand, or you can purchase a professional one if you know for sure that skunk encounter is very possible in the area where you live. There is no single solution that is 100% effective after the first application. Skunks are much more active at night and since they have cute black and white stripes they may be easily mistaken to some other animal. Their smell is indeed unmistakable, but you would have to be very careful to keep your dog away especially if you do not use a leash on it as a precaution.

Effective cleaning solutions for skunk oil

Tomato juice #1

A solution that has 100% effectiveness against skunk oil is really hard to find. For example, many people use tomato juice to remove it. Although it is not considered effective, there are multiple persons who apply it.

The only explanation is that not all the cases are similar and that tomato juice might really work for some dogs. You may have heard that tomato juice is the magic potion that can help you get rid of skunk odor, but, scientifically it is not considered magic. It is considered more like an illusion because strong odors such as the one released by the skunk oil tend to cause something called “olfactory fatigue” in humans.

Dog skunk tomato juice

Olfactory fatigue occurs when an odor binds strongly to the smell receptors in one’s nose. For example, olfactory fatigue can occur if someone is using a strong perfume and you are in the same room with him or her for an extended period of time. The smell receptors from your nose become fatigued and they stop noticing the smell for a while. However, if you leave the room for a few minutes and then come back, you will notice the smell of that perfume again. The same thing happens with many other odors.

So, when you use tomato juice, perfume or different deodorant sprays to get rid of skunk odor, you might only trick yourself. A strong odor is replacing another and deceives your odor receptors. Therefore, if you use tomato juice or a deodorizer on your dog, chances are you will think your problem is solved when in fact it is not. Ask a friend or a member of the family if they smell skunk oil if you think you have reached the state of olfactory fatigue.

Although many people claim that this method of removal is not effective and the explanation about the olfactory fatigue makes sense, tomato juice has been shown to break down odor-causing molecules. More specifically, it is believed that it helps the thioacetates break into thiols and fade away quicker.

However, expect your dog’s fur color to change if you bathe it in tomato juice. If your pooch has a white fur, it will most probably become orange or even pink and it will stay like that for a couple of weeks. The usage of tomato juice is recommended in cases when the skunk oil got really close to a dog’s eyes, nose or ears. Those are areas that cannot be treated with other solutions because they are very sensitive, so tomato juice is worth a try.

Paul Krebaum’s remedy #2

Paul Krebaum is a chemist, who has invented a solution that was proven to be effective by many people, including by the ones who produce the Myth Busters show. You need hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and a little dish soap. Grab a bucket and mix 1 liter of hydrogen peroxide 3%, ¼ cup of baking soda and a dash or two of dishwashing soap that fights against grease. It should fizz and make bubbles as you mix it due to the chemical reactions with baking soda.

If you have a large sized dog, you may need to add a little hot water to the mix for more volume. Once mixed, take a cloth or sponge, soak it in and rub your dog all over, except its eyes, nose and ears. Cover the entire affected areas and wash it as best as you can. When you are finished with the first round, rinse with water and repeat. Keep repeating until the odor is completely gone, up to 5 times.

It would be ideal for you to wash your dog somewhere outdoors in a yard or a garden to avoid contaminating your home. Also, it would be best to change into some clothes that you can throw away after you clean your dog without having to get the smell out of them too.

Remember to protect your hands with rubber gloves while you scrub your dog. These ingredients used in this solution might get your skin dry and your dog’s skin too, so after the odor is gone, you can use a little conditioner especially made for dogs in order to moisturize its skin a little. That should not interfere with removing the skunk smell.

In addition, some people also use 1 bottle of apple cider vinegar to rinse their dog’s fur after finishing washing it with the solution mentioned above. The main idea is to soak the dog’s fur with apple cider vinegar and leave it for 10 minutes, then rinse with plenty of warm water. Next comes a normal wash with the dog’s regular shampoo and then conditioner may also be applied. This step is not necessary, but if you feel safer, you can go through it as well. Nothing wrong can come out of it, so you might as well give it a try.

Since hydrogen peroxide is not at all eye friendly, you need to protect your dog’s eyes. 1-2 drops of mineral oil will protect your best friend’s eyes from the harmful solution while you wash it. This is the only step you need to take before applying Krebaum’s remedy.

Typically, there is no need for you to soak your dog’s fur in water before applying the remedy. What you could do, is to use paper towels and try to remove the skunk oil off it if it is visible and located more on one area. Otherwise, prepare a towel that you are ready to throw away and proceed with all the above instructions.

Skunked dog

As said, this remedy is not recommended for washing a dog’s eyes. Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog gets sprayed directly in its eyes by a skunk. You will know the skunk oil got in its eyes because they will be very red, irritated and probably watery. This oil makes a dog’s eyes very itch and it might have the same effect on you, so avoid contact. Your pooch will not get blind, but it will have to manage a great deal of pain until the situation is resolved. There is nothing you can do at home for it.

Paul Krebaum’s remedy solution should be mixed in a wide open container, like a bucket. This is because it will make bubbles or fizz profusely, so it needs space to react. If you mix the ingredients in a closed contained or a bottle, the container will explode because of the pressure. This mixture must be used immediately after preparation and it should not be stored. Throw away all the remains in order to avoid unwanted chemical reactions. In addition, the solution becomes useless anyway, so there is no need to keep it. Its effectiveness is at its maximum when it is freshly mixed.

Commercial sprays and solutions #3

Finally, there are many different types of commercial sprays and solutions that claim to work when it comes to removing skunk odor. Many of them can be bought directly from veterinarians, especially if they are intended to clean a dog’s skin and fur. Others can be purchased from pet shops, hypermarkets and online. These cleaning agents are specifically designed to remove skunk oil and odor from dogs, but some of them are also recommended for cleaning carpets, clothes, different other fabrics.

Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover

They are extremely easy to use and affordable as well. Some of the most popular and effective solutions are:

After doing research, make sure to choose a product that can neutralize the unpleasant odor, not just mask it.

Natures miracle

Also, pick a product that is safe for you and your pet. There are plenty of products containing chemicals that can only harm your dog, so be careful.

Other skunk oil removal tips

Often skunk oil ends up all over your clothes and inside your house thanks to your dog that feels like spreading the joy of its distraction all over. Bleach is known to be very effective, but you cannot use that on your clothes and probably not on half of you furniture either. Areas where it would be safe for you to use a combination of bleach and water are open air decks or concrete. The right proportions for the mixture are one cup of bleach per gallon of water. Be extra careful when you do this because bleach is harmful for any dog.

One very interesting tip is to place a few bowls full of baking soda in your home. This is because baking soda helps absorb odors. However, your dog should not have access to these bowls. Think of spots that your dog cannot reach. Ingesting baking soda is a really bad idea even for a smelly dog. In addition, if it happens for a skunk to spray in an enclosed area, you can place a piece of coal there and burn it. Coal also absorbs the pungent smell emanated by a skunk, but it is also effective in case of similar smells.

Baking soda or vinegar

Using the Krebaum remedy on furniture and clothes is not really recommended. The hydrogen peroxide has the annoying habit of reacting like bleach. It is not as strong as bleach, but it may have unpleasant effects on fabrics. In this regard, you may try to use regular detergents and repeat the washing process if the odor persists. Do not combine smelly clothes with other dirty laundry because the smell might transfer to the other ones. The best option would be to just throw away a shirt instead of investing too much money in special cleaning products available on the market.

Odorless conclusions for skunk spray

The truth is that not many people have gallons of tomato juice or hydrogen peroxide in their homes at any given moment, so the solutions described above might not be effective for everyone. Acting fast is among the best advices you can follow, but you have to sometimes be prepared for unpleasant situations like these. Of course, purchasing special solutions would be ideal, but in case you want to rely on homemade remedies, you can count on Paul Krebaum’s recipe. We’ve prepared a list of top dog products to try after Buster has been washed and cleaned. Check it out.

Best case scenario, skunks will avoid you and your dog, and your dog will never be tempted to follow one trying to be friends. Worst case scenario, your dog will pass some of the skunk oil it received to you and you will both have to bathe together in order to get rid of the pungent smell and be prepared to get close to other people again. Either way, it would be best to be safe than sorry!

It is important that your pet learns basic obedience techniques that can help prevent any untoward events when you’re both out in the woods. Check out our piece on the topic.

About the author
Emily Young
Emily Young

Emily is originally from China where she graduated from The University of Hong Kong with high distinction learning about fashion and design. During university she opened her own magazine about Dog Fashion as dogs were always in her heart. She was surprised, when she moved to a beautiful British Columbia 10 years ago, to see many great Boutiques with dog's designer clothing and desire of pet owners to make their babies look nice.