Professional cleaners share their secrets for getting rid of skunk smell

Making your home smell nice is one thing, getting rid of a bad odor is another. Here’s what the pros recommend when it comes to skunks

A skunk in the grass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Skunk smells are some of the worst you can encounter in your home and yard, whether you yourself have been sprayed, or your pet has been the unfortunate victim of a disgruntled skunk in your yard. But how do you get rid of the skunk smell? 

The answer, unfortunately, is not simple, especially given that water can make the horrid smell even worse – water and oil, after all, do not mix. Especially skunk oil. 

Here, professionals have shared a range of ways to get rid of the skunk smell from your home, with tricks to remove the nasty-smelling oil and keep lingering odors at bay – no matter if you are dealing with skin, fur, clothing, or furniture. 

How to get rid of skunk smell

One of the best ways to get rid of skunk smells, particularly those outside, is to get rid of skunks from your property entirely. This may mean removing sources of shelter and food or using natural deterrents. 

If one has sprayed, however, or the smell has made its way inside, then time can be of the essence when it comes to removal. Here are five easy cleaning tips to eliminate odors for good.

Two skunks in green grass

(Image credit: Alamy)

1. Treat the area immediately

Skunk spray is essentially a strongly scented oil, designed to fling to animal skin and fur to dissuade them from further attacking or sniffing around the skunk. As a result, it is essential to treat the sprayed area as soon as possible, says Muffetta Krueger, cleaning advisor and owner of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants

‘If the skunk spray has come into direct contact with any fabrics, such as curtains, upholstery, or rugs, remove them from the affected area immediately. Promptly wash or dry-clean these items, following the care instructions, to prevent the odor from setting in.

‘These horrid odors can last up to three weeks, and the longer it sits, the harder it is to remove,’ she warns.

Muffetta Krueger

Muffetta Krueger is a driving force in the domestic service business, with over 15 years of operational management experience in the industry.

2. Clean with white vinegar

Vinegar is one of the best natural deodorizers and is great for breaking down oils, so cleaning with vinegar is the best way to get rid of the skunk smell in your house and yard.

‘For particularly bad odors, you can spray the affected area with equal parts water and white vinegar and leave it for at least 15 minutes before wiping away,' recommends Mark Melton, founder of Queens Carpet Cleaning. ‘This is generally usable on all surfaces, but be sure to test it on an inconspicuous area first when treating fabrics or carpets,’ he adds.

Of course, vinegar itself has a strong odor, but it is arguably far better than that of skunk and is easily washed away with a scented product afterward.

If there is a lingering odor, even after cleaning, then Kevin Geick, manager and cleaning expert at Bio Recovery suggests placing bowls of white vinegar down around the affected area. Just like keeping a bowl of vinegar next to a stove, the solution will absorb odors from the air, neutralizing them with ease. 

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Walmart

6% Distilled White Cleaning Vinegar | $11.99 at Walmart
This specially formulated white vinegar with cleaning strength at 6% acidity is perfect for household cleaning and bug battling, earning its place in any home's cleaning cabinet.  

3. Ensure the space is well ventilated

If the smell is in your home, then good ventilation can help to remove some of the persistent odors left behind after cleaning away the scented oil itself, recommends cleaning expert, Kevin Geick. 

‘Skunk smells can be quite persistent,’ he explains, ‘but once you have cleared away the foul-smelling oil, it can be a case of waiting for the remaining smell to simply blow away – this can be made easier if you have some fans to direct air out of your home’s doors and windows too.’

Using an air purifier with a filter for gas filtration is also a good approach to take if you want to improve air circulation and have a persistently bad smell you are looking to clear away. 

4. Use a commercial skunk odor cleaner

If natural cleaners haven't quite cut it, then you can try a dedicated skunk odor cleaner, such as Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, available at Walmart, Nathaly Vieria, cleaning expert and founder of InspireClean recommends.

‘This product is specifically designed to eliminate skunk odors and can be used on both indoor and outdoor surfaces, furniture, and carpets,’ he explains, ‘but it may not be great for skin or pet fur, so it is best left to home cleaning,’ he warns. ‘For this, maybe stick with shampoo, such as Nature's Miracle Odor Control Shampoo, from Amazon or vinegar.’ 

5. Light scented candles to finish the job

One of the many ways to make your home smell nice is, of course, to light scented candles, use air fresheners, or light incense, adds Nathaly Viera, cleaning expert. This won't help clean away the source of the odor, but it will help to make your home or yard smell fresher after an unfortunate run-in with these black-and-white friends.

When outside, consider using a citronella candle. These are very strongly scented, making them good for outdoor spaces, and can even help to get rid of flies too – it’s a win-win!

Citronella and Blue Lavender Candle | $10.98 at Walmart

Citronella and Blue Lavender Candle | $10.98 at Walmart
This large, three-wick citronella-based candle is great for fragrancing outdoor air on your patio or porch, perfect for getting rid of lingering smells and keeping bugs at bay. 


Does tomato juice get rid of the skunk smell?

A common wives' tale, tomato juice does not get rid of a skunk smell – it is also incredibly messy and less than ideal when already dealing with a tricky situation such as a skunk odor. Instead, it is best to stick with traditional cleaning methods suggested by experts. 

What makes skunk smell worse?

Skunk odor is oil-based, so it can be made worse by trying to wash it away with water. This is the case whether you are washing clothing, skin, animals, or home/yard furnishings. As a result, washing with vinegar is preferred to help lift the oil without reacting.

If you have noticed a distinct smell of rotting eggs, so strong that your eyes water, then it is likely that a skunk has sprayed in your vicinity – but these odors can easily travel up to half a mile away, so it is best to try to work out where the scent is coming from before starting to treat your whole home. 

The smell is likely to be coming from your property if: you have animals that freely roam the yard and may scare a skunk (your pet will likely be looking very sorry for itself if it has been sprayed, as well as smelling awful), have seen skunks in the area, the smell is particularly potent, or there is a large wet area where a bad aroma is coming from.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.