The Chemistry Behind the Skunk Smell Remedy

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, Reptiles, General Care

Paul Krebaum developed a skunk spray remedy from common household items through his knowledge of chemistry. Routinely used in the treatment of pets, his recipe is as follows:

  • 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap (usually Dawn detergent is suggested)

Receptors in your nose are very sensitive to sulfur in a low oxidation state. These same receptors are not sensitive to sulfur in a high oxidation state.

Skunk spray contains mercaptans. Mercaptans are sulfur containing compounds that are in a low oxidation state. Hydrogen peroxide oxidizes the sulfur compounds in skunk spray while baking soda reduces the acidity of the mixture. Soap helps to wash out the greasy skunk spray residue. Do not get the mixture in or around the eyes.

2 NaOH + 4 H2O2 + H2S yields Na2SO4 + 6 H2O

The skunk remedy must be mixed just prior to usage because it breaks down quickly and the mixture releases oxygen. Do not place in a sealed container because it will build up pressure and could blow the top off of the container. The mixture should be left on for a few minutes before rinsing with tap water to allow the chemical reaction to occur.

An alternative home formula is one part household white vinegar with three parts warm water. Vinegar is the key to the use of tomato juice for skunk spray and is considerably cheaper than tomato juice. Again, please avoid your pet’s eyes. Vinegar will burn delicate areas, such as the eyes.

Various products are available commercially to eliminate skunk spray. Most of these do not require mixing and may be quite effective. One such product is “Odornix”, manufactured by Centennial Developments Inc. Odornix was developed as an odor eliminator for use in human autopsy examinations because it does not adversely affect any of the tissue samples. This product is available as a spray and is virtually nontoxic. Odornix may be ordered directly online at www.odornix.us.pets/index/hdml

Most dogs approach a skunk with their nose first. When sprayed, the heaviest concentration of mercaptans is sprayed on the facial area. Having a product that is not irritating to delicate tissues can be quite an advantage when eliminating skunk residue from around the eyes and nasal passages.

Reference:

Grayson, Mark Editor “Modern Chemistry”: Holt, Rinehart and Winston p. 596.

Topics: skunks

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