I knew it was going to happen eventually. My dog's curious nose has turned up enough unsuspecting wildlife already, and he would surely like to get his paws on one of the many raccoons and possums that live in the trees in our neighborhood. Heck, he'd even be happy to get up close and personal with one of the squirrels. What he finally did catch up with, however, is enough to put fear in the heart of anyone who has come face-to-face with one. His amazing find was a striped skunk.
A fresh spray from a skunk is nothing like the lingering odor on the highway from a dead skunk. Pungent and nauseating, the musk is enough to bring tears to one's eyes. My pup was lucky - he turned before being sprayed and avoided getting the musk in his eyes or nose.
This was my first up-close encounter with skunk spray, and I immediately wanted to know how to get rid of it. A simple Web search for "removing skunk odor" returned about 33,000 hits. Who has time to sort through that? The thought was less than appealing to me, but I remembered reading something recently in a publication from another state. I located the article which included a recipe for a deodorizing solution.
There are several hundred recipes and suggestions for neutralizing skunk odor out there and I am sure that some of them work. However, I wanted one that I was absolutely sure was going to work the first time - leave the experimenting to someone else. So I double checked the recipe on the K-State Research and Extension Web site, and they agreed. Several other state Extension programs also list this remedy.
The recipe for the deodorizing solution is:
¢ 1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide
¢ 1/4 cup baking soda
¢ 1 teaspoon liquid soap (preferably liquid laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent)
Leave the solution on for 5 minutes before rinsing with plain water. Ingredients should be mixed in an open container and used immediately. If you try to store the mixture, it will expand and burst the container. Even though this recipe is widely suggested for use, remember that you use it at your own risk (just like you would if you were using tomato juice, vinegar, smoke from a citronella candle, etc.)
This solution worked on my pet. I still catch a hint of the musk if I get up close, but I am amazed at how well the mixture neutralized the smell.
Masking skunk odor inside a structure, or removing it from clothing, furniture and carpeting is another issue. For non-pet use, your best bet is a commercial product called Neutroleum Alpha. It is available from some pest-control operators and here at the Extension office. There are also some newer products - Epoleon N100 and Freshwaver which may also be available from pest-control operators. Remember to read and follow all label instructions if you choose to use one of these products.
If you encounter a skunk, do not approach it - it is unlikely to spray unless it feels threatened. Skunks are nocturnal, so if the meeting occurs during the day, use extra caution - skunks are the primary carrier of rabies in Kansas.
If you have questions about skunks or other wildlife, call the Garden Hotline at 843-7058, staffed by Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.