How Long Does Skunk Smell Last?

Posted on March 23, 2020

Female skunks have their litter mid-spring (April to May) so they’re starting to come out of their dens to find a mate! Unfortunately, skunks don’t care that they’ve wandered into your backyard, so when it’s time to let the dog out and the skunk becomes startled, you’re left dealing with the horrid skunk odour that just doesn’t seem to be disappearing.

So, how long does skunk odour last? And how do you get rid of skunk spray smell from your furniture and clothes? Does tomato juice really work? The short answer is anywhere from 14 days to three weeks, but there’s a lot more to it than that. 

Here’s everything you need to know if you or your pet have been sprayed.

What Is Skunk Spray?

Skunks have sacs that are connected to the outside of their anus by a small duct that opens to spray a yellow oil-like substance when they become alarmed or threatened. The glands inside the sacs are what produce the foul-smelling skunk odour that contains seven different compounds that are sulphur and thioacetate-based. Thioacetate, when mixed with water and humidity, can make the smell stick around for a longer period of time. 

Skunk spray can reach from three to several meters (approximately anywhere from ten to 22 feet), but there are warning signs to look out for before they actually spray. If you see a skunk and they start lifting their tail above their head, start stomping their feet, or hiss, it’s time to back off seeing as they don’t actually want to spray you or your dog. It can actually take up to ten days for them to regenerate their glands completely, meaning he’ll be a lot more vulnerable to other predators.

Where Do Skunks Live?

Skunks can be found in many different habitats including open farmland, valleys and grassland, as well as wooded areas. They can find a home in practically anything they can fit themselves into and hide beneath throughout the day like under rocks, in abandoned dens, under decks and porches, etc. They don’t hibernate, but you’re less likely to see them wandering around in the winter. Come February though, it’s time to find a mate.

Skunks also eat a wide variety of foods that will change per season – from mice and insects to the garbage at the end of your driveway on garbage day.

Nervous skunk walking through sunny Burlington yard

Were You Or Your Pet Skunked?

For You:

If you weren’t able to get away from the skunk in time, hop in the bath or shower immediately. Just water won’t get rid of skunk smell, so you should mix approximately a quart of hydrogen peroxide, half a cup of baking soda and dish soap with the hot water and clean your body and hair. Important note: do not leave your hair soaking in the solution for more than a couple of minutes as it can bleach your hair. Just wash and rinse immediately and then wash with your regular shampoo and conditioner. It’s more effective if it’s for “oily” hair. Also note that if you have sensitive skin, it may not be the best option to use hydrogen peroxide.

You’ve probably heard of having to soak in tomato juice or vinegar after being sprayed by a skunk, but this solution is not as effective. Though it does mask the scent, that’s essentially all it does. It does not get rid of the smell on you or your pet’s fur whereas a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixture will neutralize the odor and dish soap or laundry detergent can get rid of the smelly oils. So no, tomato juice does not, in fact, work to remove skunk spray smell.

Remember, as you’re making your way to the shower, try not to touch anything as the oils from their glands will stick to everything, making your cleanup a lot harder than it needed to be. Wear rubber gloves you don’t mind throwing out afterwards or use plastic wrap on your hands to grab things.

For your pet:

You let your dog out in the backyard and all of a sudden, you hear helping instantly followed by a strong skunk odour. Not only are you worried about getting rid of the scent, but you’re immediately concerned about where your dog was sprayed.

If your dog was sprayed in the face, it can cause temporary blindness and it will definitely sting their eyes, but it should not cause any permanent damage. What you do have to look out for is if they start scratching their eyes or biting their skin to relieve irritation. But in the meantime, after your dog has been skunked, the first thing you should do is put on rubber gloves and put together the same mixture as above. 

Instead of dish soap, you could also try baby shampoo as this may be more gentle on their fur. If you’re wary about using peroxide, white vinegar can do the trick too. Make sure the mixture doesn’t come in contact with their eyes and never let the mixture sit on their fur for more than a few minutes. After rinsing, use normal shampoo and conditioner and give them another wash.

How Long Will The Skunk Odor Last?

Skunk smell can last anywhere from two weeks 14 to 21 days. The best ways to remove the smell from your clothes, furniture, hair or dog’s fur is using a mix of baking soda and vinegar or peroxide. There are many skunk shampoo products you can buy in-store, but washing with the mix above can help neutralize the strong smell, even more, followed by a rinse with regular shampoo and conditioner.

For reliable skunk removal, contact our office today!