Skunk odor can be difficult to remove, but it can be done provided a few principles are kept in mind.
1. Whenever possible, treat the source of the odor.
2. Avoid unnecessary movement of contaminated materials to reduce spreading odors to new areas. A key exception to this principle is when contaminated materials are being removed from the site to a less inhabited area.
3. Ventilate with fresh air, as much as possible.
4. Understand that skunk odor may “reactivate” during periods of high humidity.
5. If the odor doesn’t seem to decline in strength after a week or two, then perhaps the skunk has re-sprayed or has died on the property.
6. Use air fresheners as needed to mask any residual odor.
An odor can be effectively controlled at its source by chemically changing the odorous compound into a less offensive-smelling one. In the case of skunk musk, relief can be achieved by oxidizing the thiols. Odors can also be controlled by covering the unpleasant odor with a preferable one. Ultimately, both strategies have their role in gaining success over skunk musk. For the purposes of this question, we will use the term “neutralize” for those products that chemically interact with skunk musk. The term “scent” will be used to describe those products that simply mask the skunk musk odor. Deodorizing will be a neutral term to describe all products that mitigate the skunk odor regardless of the mechanism.
1. Deodorant products may cause adverse reactions in people sensitive to the ingredients. Individuals don’t always know what substances will cause an allergic reaction within them. Also, some deodorants contain toxic materials. Thus, all chemicals, whether natural or man-made, should be used in a manner that reduces exposure levels. Special care should be taken to avoid exposing children, pets, and plants to chemicals unnecessarily. Remove or secure foodstuffs and food preparation areas before applying deodorants, whenever possible.
2. Read and follow all product label directions and warnings. It is preferable to use deodorants in well-ventilated areas. Some products may discolor fabrics and other materials. Always test the product on a less noticeable area prior to treating more visible areas to evaluate its effect on the material.
3. Whenever odors penetrate porous surfaces like sheet rock, unpainted wood, etc., multiple deodorant treatments may need to be applied. Sometimes removal of contaminated materials will be the only solution. Try to lower expectations to avoid disappointment.
Home Remedies/Over the Counter
Paul Krebaum discovered a formula that has proven its ability to chemically neutralize the odorous thiols. His formula is 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and a teaspoon of liquid detergent. Ingredients must be mixed in an open container and used immediately. Never mix the ingredients in advance as the oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide may be released, causing the container to explode. This formula can be used on people or pets. Avoid splashing the product in the eyes or mouth. Allow the solution to remain in hair for five minutes before rinsing with water. Repeat as needed.
For inanimate objects only, mix one cup of liquid laundry bleach (sodium hypochlorite) into one gallon of water. Be careful as bleach has corrosive and staining properties!! It is unclear if “color safe” bleach will be an effective deodorizer for skunk essence.
There are a variety of odor-control products available in stores. They include names such as Skunk-Off®, Odor-Mute®, etc. Homeowners may find these products helpful in deodorizing their property. Consumers have mixed reviews of their effectiveness.
Never overlook just plain old-fashioned washing of one’s body and clothes. Even using plain water helps to mitigate the smell.
(no endorsements implied)
Neutroleum Alpha® is a scent product that has been used to control skunk odor in a variety of settings, including medical facilities. It deodorizes by masking the odor with a smell described as “minty.” Use it directly on surfaces. It can also be used as an air deodorizer by dabbing on napkins and hanging them up. Generally one application is sufficient.
Neutroleum Alpha® has toxic and irritating properties. Applicators should use the product in well-ventilated areas and avoid direct contact with skin or mucous membranes. Wear rubber gloves (vinyl if allergic to latex) when mixing the solution. The product dissolves best in warm water. Use when freshly made. Dispose of any leftover solution. Unmixed Neutroleum Alpha® must be stored in a cool, dark environment to prevent explosion hazards. Neutroleum Alpha® can be ordered from http://store.yahoo.net/debon-aire/index.html or at the Pocatello Supply Depot (a quasi-government agency) in Idaho at 208-236-6920.
Freshwave® is the retail name of the industrial product known as Ecosorb®. It neutralizes odors by using Van Der Waal forces. The product captures the malodorous compounds and then chemically modifies them. Freshwave® may be sprayed on affected surfaces and repeated as needed. Freshwave® does have a slight smell that has been described as “tea tree” in nature. For lingering odors, pour product in a wide-mouthed jar and allow it to spread into the air. To hasten the process, place jar in front of a fan. The gel version can also be used for slow dispersal. Freshwave® is also sold in candle form. Use appropriate fire precautions with candles. Because Freshwave® is manufactured from plant oils, it has few safety warnings, except to avoid splashing product in the eyes. It is available at the company’s Web site http://www.fresh-wave.com and Pocatello Supply Depot in Idaho 208-236-6920.
Epoleon N100® has had good reviews in its ability to neutralize skunk odor. The manufacturer states that Epoleon® is a water-based organic odor neutralizer. Although the chemical has an odor, it is so slight that it can almost be classified as an odorless product. Epoleon® is sold as a concentrate and must be diluted in water before use. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not specifically give mixing instructions for skunk odor. One professional, who has used the product on multiple occasions, suggests a 1 to 20 ratio up to a 1 to 5 ratio, depending on need. The diluted chemical can then be sprayed or atomized. The product will leave a slight residue as the water evaporates. Simply wipe down surfaces with a wet towel to gather up any remaining product. Epoleon® may be used in a variety of settings except where food is prepared. Epoleon® can be obtained through the company at its Web site: http://www.epoleon.com.
Bioshield® is another manufactured product that is actually anti-microbial (EPA Registration No. 70871). It deodorizes by actually killing odor-causing bacteria. It has been successfully used by NWCOs. But given its toxicity and warnings regarding use, it is perhaps advisable that homeowners not use this particular product. It has a slight alcohol scent, but is otherwise neutral in odor.
Electric Atomist Sprayers/Foggers
Sometimes the skunk odor is so dispersed that fogging a deodorant is necessary. Atomizers, by converting the deodorant solution into fine mists, provide two key advantages for odor control over hand pump sprayers. First, small droplets stay airborne longer, thereby circulating throughout the treatment area. The tiny nooks and crannies present in crawl spaces and attics can be completely treated by exploiting natural air movements. Second, smaller droplet sizes allow less product to be used because they have greater surface area to volume than larger droplets. As a rule of thumb, 16 ounces of neutralizing deodorant solution, atomized with a droplet size of 15 microns, can deodorize a 1,500 square foot residence.