The smell of a skunk is an absolutely singular scent. The moment the smell hits your nose, there is no question of what it could be. If you have ever been the unfortunate recipient of a skunk spray, you know just how long the odor can linger no matter what you do. Luckily enough, there are steps you can take to make the smell fade faster, or disappear completely.
Why Skunks Smell So Bad
What makes a skunk's spray so noxious is the complex combination of sulfuric chemicals called thiols. The human nose is extremely sensitive to thiols, and can detect these chemicals in minute quantities of just a few parts per billion. In fact, our nose is so sensitive to thiols that they are added to natural gas so we can detect when it leaks.
How Long the Odor Lasts
How long the smell of a skunk can linger after it has sprayed is not necessarily a black and white answer. Generally, if left untreated, the smell of a skunk lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month. If a skunk has died under or near your home, however, this smell will linger far longer as it will get worse as the skunk decomposes.
An Illinois chemist developed a formula that neutralizes the skunk odor by changing the chemical composition of the thiols it contains. You can create this formula by combining 1 qt. of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with one tablespoon of detergent, and 1/4 cup of baking soda. This can be applied to most surfaces; however, the peroxide can bleach some fabrics. This formula can also be applied to a dog's fur that has been sprayed by a skunk.
This peroxide mixture works by oxidizing the thiols and changing their chemical composition. Because the mixture releases oxygen, it will decompose quickly and cannot be stored. All of the mixture must be used when needed and then discarded.
Other Helpful Tips
The common folk remedy of tomato juice to rid the smell of a skunk does not actually work. This remedy will only mask the skunk odor temporarily until the smell of the tomato juice wears off. If the skunk smell is lingering in the air of your home or car, the only way to get rid of it is to let it air out and run its course. Running fans in your home and the heater in your car will increase air circulation, which will help the smell to dissipate faster.