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Removing Skunk Spray from Yourself and Your Pets

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Skunks don't usually spray, but when they do it is very unpleasant.  Here's what to do if you or a pet get sprayed by a skunk. 

If the skunk sprayed you:

First, wash all areas of your body that came in contact with the musk.  If any got in your eyes, flush them out immediately with water.  If blindness occurs, seek medical help promptly.  Throw out any clothing that was sprayed.

Next, you will need to get the smell off.  The following recipe was developed by the chemist William Wood at Humboldt State University (source). Mix up the following ingredients in a plastic bucket:

1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

1/4 cup of baking soda

1 to 2 teaspoons liquid dish soap

1 quart tap water

Wash yourself with this mixture in all areas where the musk touched.  You may need to repeat this process if the smell does not come off the first time.  Make sure to rinse the solution off your skin, since dish soap can be irritating if left on.  Pour the excess solution down the drain- do not store it for later, since it doesn't last, and if you store it in an airtight container it will explode.

Don't touch anything in your house if you can avoid it.  The smell will transfer to whatever you handle.

If the skunk sprayed a dog or cat:

Wearing rubber gloves and old clothes, rinse your pet's whole body in an outdoor faucet or with a hose.  If your pet shows any signs of blindness or other medical conditions, call your veterinarian immediately.   Mix up the solution specified above and wash your pet with it.  Don't let your pet into any area of the house that is not necessary.  You may want to keep your pet in the garage until the smell is gone.  Many veterinarians, pet stores, and feed stores sell skunk spray removal soap, in case the hydrogen peroxide remedy doesn't work.

What About Tomato Juice?

Tomato juice has long been suggested as a remedy for skunk spray, but more recently, science has shown that it isn't really effective.  It does contain certain compounds that could theoretically bind with compounds in the musk and neutralize them, except that these compounds aren't concentrated enough in tomato juice to actually work.  What really happens is a phenomenon called olfactory fatigue.  After smelling the skunk spray for too long while trying to clean it up with tomato juice, your senses will adapt to the smell and stop registering it.  So even though you may think the tomato juice worked, that's not the reason you've stopped noticing the smell.  As opposed to tomato juice, the recipe above actually does react chemically with skunk spray to neutralize the smell.

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