I have never smelled a skunk before...

Is it true that if you get sprayed the smell never washes out of your clothes? I heard that somewhere …

I like the catbox analogy. It is a hard scent to describe all right for someone unfamiliar with it. It carries, too. If you pass an area where a skunk has let fly you can tell it. And the skunk could be miles away.

LolaCocaCola, if you’ve ever been in the countryside with the windows down, especially at night, and suddenly had this godawful stink come along, you have probably smelled a skunk and not known it. The tendency to attribute the stink to roadkill might have been there, since there’s not a huge difference, especially if the roadkill is ripe from several hours to days rotting time. If it’s skunk roadkill, chances are you couldn’t get that window up fast enough and the stink may have lasted for a long time.

I don’t know the range of skunks in the USA. Anybody?

Methyl Mercaptan. That is what skunk odor smells like. The substance has an extremely narrow peak and is used to calibrate gas chromatographs. Fortunately (or not), unless you are working in a chemical analysis lab, you have a better chance of running across a polecat than getting a whiff of methyl mercaptan.

[Yakoff Smirnoff]

In Soviet Union, skunk smells you!

[/Yakoff Smirnoff]

I actually like the smell of skunks a lot.

I think they’re fairly common in more rural parts of the US. I know I’ve smelled them any number of times driving around northern Arizona and seen them a couple of times. The smell, while moderately unpleasant, is not unbearable. However, I’ve never smelled the results of a spraying. From what I’ve heard, that’s a whole new level of horrible stink.

When I was in college, a skunk got into to the courtyard at my dorm. How they got it out, I’ll never know. I made sure I made myself scarce for the evening.

It’s possible to remove skunk odor, preferably with large quantities of tomato juice. It neutralizes the odor.

One of my favorite family stories os of my grandpappy as a boy, along about 1910 or so, riding his horse across the plains of Texas one cold winter night with his hands in his pockets, had his horse spook and he landed right on top of the skunk. I understand he had to live in the barn for several days till he was fit to rejoin human society.

Vancouver is seething with skunks. I see them at night all the time. I could have something to do with all the parks everywhere.

I won’t bother to try and describe the smell as other have done it more justice than I could, but I must say that they’re kinda cute little critters when they don’t have their tail lifted.


Well I think the smell is putrid. Words just can’t capture the smell if you will. Good little skunk story. I work in a restaurant. Just 3 nights ago our manager was opening the patio door at 1am. Thought she seen a cat, but it was dark and she couldn’t tell until it hissed at her and sprayed her with that god awful scent. Stunk up the entire restaurant (let’s just say that febreeze and a fan does not work on everything). She was half naked by the time she got to the car and had to throw her clothes away. Brand new pants. So her other half comes home hammered. Comes into the bathroom and opens the shower curtain only to find her bathing in tomatoe paste. She told him she had to do away with an employee that was being a pain in the ass that night. His eyes got big!:eek:

I know they have them in New Hampshire, Florida, and Arizona, which is three of the corners of the continental US. I think they’re pretty much everywhere. Dunno about Hawaii or Alaska.

Yup, skunks are pretty much everywhere (scroll down the page a bit to see the distribution map).

Skunk smell is something like dead-body smell, it’s a smell that you never really get used to, it’s a smell that hurts.

Not really. The tomato juice thing doesn’t work that well at all. It’s better than water but not by much.

What does work well is the following concoction. A quarter cup of baking soda, one quart of hydrogen peroxide and a squirt of dishwashing soap. It can’t be mixed in advance, you have to make it when the accident happens. If you have a dog that is prone to playing with skunks, it would behoove you to have the ingredients on hand (or you can do what I do and get the ingredients from 7-11 at 2am.) Even this will not totally neutralize the odor but it will get rid of 80-90% of the stink.



Ever sniffed really good pot? There’s a hint of the skunk smell in it. When a skunk gets flattened on the road and you drive by four or five days later, you can really tell the similarity.

That’s the closest I can get to what it smells like. As far as fresh skunk goes, it’s like it doesn’t smell like anything. It’s almost as if it doesn’t really smell that bad (i.e. it has a very strong odor, but not “naturally” noxious like sewage, rotting food, or death), but it short-circuits yer wiring and makes you gack anyway. Maybe you should google for skunk and “scratch and sniff”.

A co-worker says she had a pet skunk when she was a kid. (The odour glands had been removed.) Baby skunks are cute! It’s cute when the mother skunk is leading them. They waddle in a line with their tails sticking straight up in the air. Baby skunks are cuter than kittens.

The acrid bitterness of the smell is what gets to me. I think the best you can do in describing skunk musk is an approximate mix of other odors. I think of the components in this order:

  1. burning coffee residue in the bottom of the pot
  2. melting electronics
  3. gas leak in a musty old house (the chemical used to scent natural gas is related to the mercaptan compound Zenster mentioned, IIRC)
  4. smouldering tires
  5. tomcat spray
  6. old cat feces
  7. damp earth
  8. new car smell

For a first-order approximation, I suppose you could set fire to a junked car and try to extinguish it with week-old coffee. As you may guess, I am not in the crowd that finds the odor bearable.

When I was a kid, a couple friends and I were spending the night in one of my tiny trapping cabins out in the woods. We heard funny noises under it, and I looked under to see a skunk. I was still looking when one of my friends poked it with a stick. I saw, in near slow motion by the flashlight, the stream fly out right at me and hit me in the face. I have no sense of smell, but I can tell you that that stuff burns the living hell out of the eyes. It was worse than CS gas. Washed off in the river, and they helped me home. I opened the door and took two steps inside when I heard my dad yell out from the other room “JEEEEEEZUSSSSSSS CHRISSSSSSSST What the HELLLLLLL happened to you GET OUT of the house!!!”

I slept outside that night and the next day mom whipped up some stuff in a bucket for me to wash up with, which apparently took care of it, although I was often told I was a seriously smelly SOB for some weeks afterwards. Not the best way to pick up the chicks in school I was to learn.

When I was even younger we had a pet skunk, a baby that my mom found on the side of the road that we had descented. I still say those are the coolest pets in the world. Best qualities of cats and dogs, and little of the worst, wrapped up in a bitchin fur.

Yes, skunks are wonderfully cute. And even wild ones tend to come across kind of tame, because they aren’t used to ANYTHING screwing around with them.

This was bad for me once. I worked at a home for mentally retarded adults, and one day, they all decided to nut out at once for some weird reason, and while we, the staff, were keeping the more unpleasant ones from murdering each other, one of our charges wandered out into a field and found a “kitty cat.”

Wasn’t a kitty cat. Was a POLEcat. And the fact that it was out in daylight would seem to mark it as possibly rabid. It did not bite her, though. It allowed her to pick it up and pet it, before it unloaded its scent glands all over her at pointblank range.

She freaked nine ways from Sunday, dropped the polecat, and came screaming into the main building, smelling like a junked car on fire that someone tried to put out with week-old coffee mixed with urine that someone had been marinating really good marijuana in.

We wound up having to physically restrain her. This was lots of fun because the smell was so incredibly intense that she’d vomited a time or two before we even got to her. Now, since she was running full speed forward, when she’d vomited, it had, well, not really had time to reach the ground before she’d actually run INTO it, collided with it in midair, and kept going.

This, of course, added wonderfully to the aroma. She’d had macaroni and cheese and some brownies for lunch, by the way.

So we physically restrained her, and … and… um… then what?

This was quite a while back. We didn’t know of any trick with peroxide. We also did not know of a commercially available chemical you can buy at your veterinarian’s that will neutralize skunk spray.

We fell back on a trick I’d used on my dog a time or two, which involved bathing the victim in tomato juice.

Our victim, a severely retarded woman in her thirties, was not having a good day. She was very upset about having been hosed by the naughty kitty cat, she wasn’t happy about having thrown up on herself, twice, and she was NOT going to deal with being stripped down and bathed in tomato juice by several strapping young men. This just did not plug into her fantasy factory, you know?

So we waited for her doctor’s orders. He was the final authority. We’d let him make the call. Meanwhile, we had to keep her contained. Outdoors, so the stench didn’t contaminate any of the buildings. Meanwhile, this poor woman is quite miserable. She can’t go indoors. She can’t watch TV. All she can do is sit there and stink and occasionally throw up a little. None of us wanted to really deal with her or talk to her, because even being within ten FEET of her was an ordeal in itself. One of our number, Big Rollo, had already had to go and puke once, and the rest of us weren’t far off.

Finally, around eight that evening, the word came down from the doc: she needs to be bathed in tomato juice until the stench is down to a bare minimum, and put to bed. By any means necessary.

We wound up going out to the gym, since it was a fairly large building, easy to air out afterwards, and filling a kid’s wading pool with all the tomato juice the cafeteria had. We then leavened the mix with every bottle of ketchup they had, and a case of V-8.

And she flat-out refused to undress and bathe in the stuff. Uh-uh. No way. We wound up having to strip her and scrub her against her will. It felt like gang rape, frankly, because the whole time she was screaming like a ruptured cow. Can’t say I blame her. I felt sorry for her, the whole time. I also felt sorry for me. She stank like nothing I had ever encountered, before or since.

After a while, we realized we couldn’t tell if she still stank or not. We ALL stank, the air stank, the whole gym stank. None of us could count on our noses. Snorky wound up running back to the main building to get one of the staffers there to come out and smell her and see if we could hose her down and let her go to bed. The fact that one of the staff got ill when Snorky showed up at the main building should have told us something.

She didn’t really smell any more, though, the night staff reported. We hosed the poor woman down, wrapped her in a blanket, and let her go to bed, cursing us roundly the whole time.

By this time, it was well after ten o’clock. I went home. My girlfriend, with whom I lived at the time, nearly heaved when I walked into the living room.

I wound up waiting in the back yard, while she ducked out to an all-night grocery to get a case of tomato juice, with which I shampooed my hair and beard, and scrubbed my entire body. Got to do it to the car seats the next day, too.

The clothes I wore that day were unsalvageable, and were burned. The neighbors complained about the stink when we did that, too.

To this day, I am freakin’ TERRIFIED of skunks…

No discussion of skunks is complete without a tribute to Loudon Wainwait III.

*Take a whiff on me, that ain’t no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose
You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
The blood and the guts they’re gonna make you swoon!
You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!*

lainaf got there first, this is what I first thought of for the OP.
There is usually one laying in the road right around here pretty often.

Ran over a skunk once in my brand new truck (Toyota Tacoma). The smell got in my truck.

Kind of an ass/sulfer smell. hard to describe.