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Skunk odor lingers - in our mail.

I have been reading with amusement all the "cures" for skunk stink. I have not seen one I haven't tried, and I also have not seen even one which is more than about 75% effective. Believe me, I have probably dealt with a hundred times more skunks than most of the correspondents submitting recipes, both on a personal and professional basis.

The culprit is mercaptan

Mercaptan is the substance which causes the stink. It is very strongly alkaline, and this is why acidic substances like tomato juice or coffee are used. It is oily in character, and this is why white gasoline has been recommended, and also the various surfactants, such as trisodium phosphate, several detergents, etc. But none of these is effective at completely removing the stink. Why?

The reason lies in the non-volatility of all these substances, and in the limited ability to permeate the substance which has already bonded with the organic material which has been skunk-sprayed.

There is a simple remedy which doesn't patronize any of those chemical companies, which costs nothing or nearly nothing, and which does not waste good food. This remedy is smoke.

Creosote to the rescue

Yes, wood smoke absolutely removes all traces of skunk odor in a matter of two-to-three agreeable minutes. Woodsmoke's principal is creosote, a very strongly acidic compound. Everyone has had woodsmoke in their eyes at one time or another, and the burning is acute. This is due to its powerful acidity, which even diluted by tears stiff strongly unites itself with organic matter. Incidentally, this is the reason for its preservative qualities in meat curing.

Because of the extreme volatility of the smoke, the rapidly dissolved mercaptan is whisked away in the wind, never to trouble you again. I have even held a dead skunk, which had previously frozen and was now thawing-and dripped steadily-over the smoke from a smudge fire, and within two minutes, no smell was perceptible from the skunk's own rear end!

Open the window

In order to remove the stink from clothing then, merely smoke the clothing over a smoky fire. Old-timers here in the Southern Appalachians used to throw cornmeal on their woodstoves, and hang their clothes in the resulting smoke. This might best be done with a window open, however.

There are other places where the skunk smell is not conveniently smoked off, such as building walls, vehicles, and live animals. To smoke these, all one needs is a beekeeper's "smoker." This is a combustion chamber with a bellows attached. Smoke can be directed at the location, usually on a dog's head or shoulder area, and gently smoked for a couple of minutes.

In case the stink is around the eyes, hold the eyes closed with your thumb or fingers while smoking the animal's head. You may want rubber gloves, but be forewarned that rubber is rapidly and permanently infiltrated by mercaptan and the gloves will have to be discarded when finished.

Hope all this helps those who don't like fleeing back to urban solutions to rural problems.

COUNTRYSIDE: Thanks to all who replied to our question of how to get rid of the skunk smell on our dogs.

The most common suggestion was to bathe the animals with Dawn dish soap, or a baking soda paste followed with a vinegar douche rinse, and to let the fur dry or dry it with a blow dryer. It was noted that the liquid douche does not work as well, so use the powder.

Nearly everyone said not to use tomato juice: it doesn't work. We hope no one else needs to use this information, but here it is.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:eliminating skunk odor
Author:Griffith, Nathan
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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