How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car: The Best Techniques

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car: The Best Techniques

The skunk is an animal that gives the perfect example for the saying “Appearances can be deceiving”. This small black-and-white mammal has an innocent appearance. However, when it feels threatened, it releases spray that has been compared to be as strong as tear gas. On top of that, it gives off one of the foulest smells you’ll ever find. If you run over a skunk on the road or one gets into your interior, your vehicle can also get covered with this unbearable stench. Luckily, today we will tell you exactly how to get skunk smell out of car.

Skunk smell can affect all parts of a vehicle including the interior, exterior, and even the undercarriage. You’ll have to act quickly if you want to permanently get rid of this horrid smell. After reading this article, you’ll know exactly what to do if you are faced with this unfortunate situation.

Skunk Spray

As it is a small animal, the skunk comes across many predators out in nature. It uses its spray to defend against these much bigger animals and scare them away. The spray is stored as an oily substance, and the skunk sprays it only when necessary.

The skunk spray is made up of two components named thioacetates and thiols. Thioacetates are what make the skunk smell linger around longer while thiols give it the infamous rotten egg smell due to the sulfur contained within.

The mixture of these two components results in a greasy solution. It is also important to note that the skunk smell can cause eye and nose irritations. Typically, it takes a long time for this smell to go away on its own. So, knowing how to skunk smell out of car is especially useful if you live in an area inhabited by these creatures.

Skunk Smell

The human nose is highly sensitive to skunk smell. In fact, humans can detect minute quantities of skunk smell like 1 part per 10 billion. The smell is so overwhelming that it can bring even the toughest of adults to their knees.

Skunk smell can enter your vehicle in several ways. The most obvious way is by accidentally hitting a skunk or running over one that has been killed on the road. The smell will spread around the exterior of your vehicle first and even make its way to the inside. It doesn’t take an expert to understand that the skunk smell in the interior is both hazardous and distracting.

These mischievous animals sometimes spray parked vehicles without provocation too. This is mainly due to their poor eyesight. As these animals cannot see very well, they mistake vehicles for predators and spray them.

Skunk Smell Removal

As we mentioned earlier, the smell of skunks can affect all parts of the vehicle, including the,

  • Undercarriage
  • Interior
  • Exterior

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car #1 – Undercarriage

how to get skunk smell out of car

If you run over a skunk with a vehicle, you can count on the tires and underbody of your car to house the strongest smell. On top of having the strongest smell, accessing this area is also tricky, so you will have to either hoist the car up or crawl under it to try some cleaning methods.

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car #2 – Interior

If the skunk smell is really strong, it can even leak into the inside of the vehicle. The smell can be light and somewhat bearable, or so strong that it makes sitting inside the vehicle nearly impossible.

When trying to get the skunk smell out of the interior, the materials used for the upholstery should be considered. We say this because different cars come upholstered in different materials, and the cleaning methods used should be changed accordingly.

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car #3 – Exterior

The exterior of your vehicle is the area that is most likely to get sprayed by a skunk. The power of the smell depends on the amount of skunk spray that has come into contact with the body. Generally, the stronger the smell, the more you’ll have to work to get rid of it.

Frequently washing the vehicle with a cleaning solution is one of the best ways to remove the skunk smell from the exterior of a vehicle. Taking the affected vehicle to an automatic car wash may also seem like a great idea to you. However, this won’t have a major impact and the skunk oils will still remain on the exterior surfaces.

Remove Smell From Car

There are some home remedies to try and get rid of the skunk smell from cars. The first one is to let sunlight fall on the upholstery. The light and heat help in removing the smell.

Placing bowls of vinegar or charcoal on the interior or using a bleach solution to clean the inside are some other methods you can try to remove the smell from the interior of a car.

How Long Will The Skunk Smell Last

Typically, it takes 2 to 3 weeks for the skunk smell to go away on its own. The smell will dissipate faster if the vehicle is exposed to the outside. On the other hand, the smell will remain longer inside garage-kept vehicles.

It should also be stated that the skunk smell gets harder to remove with time. In other words, a vehicle that was exposed to skunk smell days ago is harder to clean than one that was just hit with a skunk spray. So, it is important that you attend to this issue as soon as possible after exposure.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how to get skunk smell out of car, let’s take a look at the steps you can take to remove this putrid scent from the undercarriage.

Cleaning The Undercarriage

The tires and undercarriage of the car are the first points of contact when you run over a skunk. If the vehicle in question is not used all that often, one of the best remedies is to place a tarp of charcoal under it. Charcoal is a good absorbent and will help to minimize the effect of the smell. You can leave the charcoal under the car as long as you deem necessary.

Washing the underbody and tires with a cleaning solution made of distilled vinegar and soap liquid is another cleaning method you can try. Using a sprayer, cover the underside with this solution for maximum results. Then, rinse the area thoroughly using fresh water. However, you’ll have to keep spraying this solution until the skunk smell goes away.

How To Clean The Exterior

To get rid of the skunk smell from the exterior of your vehicle, you’ll have to use much more than the typical soap and water solution. Instead, what you need is a strong cleaning solution. Luckily, you can make your own using household products. Mix some distilled vinegar with some liquid dish detergent and you are good to go.

After preparing the cleaning solution, spray it all over the exterior. If you ran over a skunk with your car, pay special attention to the tires. Spray the solution on other areas that came into contact with the skunk as well.

When you are done with spraying, wash it off with a hose or a pressure washer. Then, dry the exterior using a microfiber cloth. Remember not to apply too much force when scrubbing, as it can leave marks on the exterior paint. If the skunk smell remains, repeat the process several times until you get rid of it.

How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell From The Interior

You’ll definitely agree with us when we say that no one wants their car’s interior to reek of the skunk smell. Sometimes, the smell can even get into the upholstery and carpets too.

If you own a vehicle with cloth seats, we recommend you use a solution of water and vinegar to clean the interior. Lightly spray a mist of the solution onto the carpets and seats and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, wipe it off using a towel or a piece of cloth.

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car

On the other hand, if the vehicle has a leather or vinyl interior, the cleaning solution should be composed of vinegar and linseed oil. Use a towel to rub the mixture into the seats and other interior elements. Additionally, a carpet deodorizer can be used to get the skunk smell out of the vehicle’s carpets.

Skunk Spray Remedy

Having a vehicle that is free of unpleasant odors has a number of benefits. Increasing the resale value and having a stress-free driving experience are some of them. There are a number of products that serve as skunk spray remedies. These include the likes of,

  • Car Shampoo
  • Dashboard Cleaner
  • Air Deodorizer
  • Skunk Odor Remover
  • Baking Soda
  • Charcoal
  • Vinegar

1. Car Shampoo

Car shampoo and tire cleaner are two products that can be used to clean the exterior of a vehicle and get rid of the skunk smell. Tire cleaner can be used for an even better result on the tires.

2. Dashboard Cleaner

As the name suggests, a dashboard cleaner is used to remove the smell from the vehicle’s dashboard. Simply spray the cleaner on the dashboard and wipe it off with a sponge. However, you should be careful when wiping off the steering wheel with this solution.

3. Air Deodorizer

Spraying an air deodorizer is another great method to get rid of skunk smell from the interior of a car. Keeping the windows open overnight as well as placing bowls full of active charcoal in the interior are other methods you can try to get rid of the putrid skunk smell.

4. Skunk Odor Remover

There are products out on the market specially designed to remove skunk odor. These products need to be applied according to the instructions that come with them. Skunk odor remover can be used on all parts of the interior, including the carpets, dashboard, center console, and armrests.

5. Baking Soda

Sodium Carbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is a product that has many uses. It is an alkaline and abrasive powder that can absorb foul odors. Not only that, baking soda can be used to remove stains from the interior as well.

How To Get Skunk Smell Out Of Car

Using baking soda to clean a vehicle is relatively straightforward. First, make the smelly area clean and wet. Then spray the baking soda onto it, and let it dry. Wait for a few hours and then remove the dried powder using a vacuum cleaner (and you could also use that to learn how to remove dog hair from car). Additionally, you can use baking soda as a natural deodorizer by keeping it inside a sealed container with a few holes on the top.

6. Charcoal

We mentioned the use of charcoal several times during the previous sections. In the old days, charcoal was used as a natural toxin absorber. Not only that, charcoal is used in water filters to purify water as well. The same cleaning properties of charcoal can be used to filter the air inside your vehicle as well.

To remove car odors using charcoal, all you have to do is simply put some charcoal briquettes in an open bag and then place it inside the vehicle. This absorbs the toxins in the air, giving the cabin a fresh smell.

7. Vinegar

The final skunk spray remedy we will be talking about is vinegar. The harsh odor of vinegar acts as a perfect antidote for the rancid smell of skunk spray. Leaving a bowl of vinegar overnight will have a great effect on reducing the foul smells.

Spraying a mixture of vinegar and water on the areas that stink the most is another great skunk spray remedy. However, never pour pure vinegar onto any surface, as it can damage the upholstery materials.

Neutralize Car Odor

Apart from the skunk smell, there are many car odors that owners come across in their day-to-day life. Some of the most common car odors include,

  • Syrup Smell
  • Rotten Egg Odor
  • Exhaust Fumes
  • Burnt Oil Smell
  • Burnt Toast Scent
  • Gasoline
  • Burnt Carpet Smell

Now, let’s take a look at the possible sources of these smells.

1. Syrup Smell

If your vehicle is giving off a sweet smell similar to that of syrup, your vehicle might be affected by a coolant leak. The leak can come from a loose hose clamp, head gasket, radiator cap, intake manifold, thermostat gasket, or even the radiator itself.

If the syrup smell is more prominent inside the vehicle’s cabin, a faulty heater core is the most probable culprit. Additionally, if either the check engine, temperature or coolant level warning lights accompany the smell, your vehicle might be overheating.

If this is the case, you should immediately pull over to the side of the road and let the vehicle cool down before continuing on your journey. And, while you’re there, make sure you know how much coolant does a car take.

Steam coming from the engine along with a metallic smell is another indication of an overheating engine. Letting the engine run while it is overheating can have severe consequences, including catastrophic engine damage. Ultimately, if your vehicle is giving off a syrup smell, your best bet is to take it to a mechanic as soon as possible and get the issues fixed up.

2. Rotten Egg Odor

If you are experiencing the appalling smell of rotten eggs when the engine is running, there is an issue with the catalytic converter. The rotten egg smell is the result of the catalytic converter failing to transform the hydrogen sulfide gas in the exhaust to sulfur dioxide as intended.

The catalytic converter being overloaded by a badly running engine or a fuel-injection problem can also result in the release of a rotten egg smell from the vehicle. Generally, replacing the catalytic converter with a new one permanently gets rid of this smell.

3. Exhaust Fumes

A leak in the exhaust system of the vehicle can cause harmful fumes to rise through the floorboards and into the passenger compartment. This is harmful to the health of all passengers, especially due to the presence of carbon monoxide gas. If you ever smell exhaust fumes in the cabin, keep the windows open and get the leak fixed as soon as possible.

4. Burnt Oil Smell

An engine that is running low on oil gives off the smell of hot or burning oil. The best way to confirm whether the engine is actually low on oil is by checking the dipstick. Additionally, you should check underneath your car and see whether there is an oil leak.

Smoke coming from the exhaust (for more insight, check out our guide on how to get rid of smoke smell in car and how to get smoke smell out of car) indicates that there is an oil leak in the internals of the engine. This causes the oil to burn and be sent out through the tail pipe. In any case, your best bet is to get the issue checked out and fixed by a professional mechanic.

5. Burnt Toast Scent

The light and bitter smell of burnt toast indicate that there is an issue with the electrical system of the vehicle. We don’t recommend driving the vehicle in this condition, as this indicates either an electric short or burning insulation.

6. Gasoline

Depending on the situation, the smell of gasoline coming from the vehicle can either be deadly serious or no issue at all. If you recently visited a gas station, the smell might be coming from some fuel vapors or simply your hands. Just wash your hands and leave the windows rolled down and the smell will dissipate on its own.

On the other hand, the gasoline smell might be caused due to an active fuel leak or a fuel vapor leak. You should try to get this issue fixed soon, as fuel leaks are dangerous fire hazards.

7. Burnt Carpet Smell

Hard use of the brakes can make the brake pads overheat and give off a smell that is comparable to burning carpets. Downshifting when going down steep mountains instead of riding the brakes is the best way to avoid this issue. Leaving the handbrake on while driving or a dragging brake can also be the source of this burnt carpet smell.


Having a vehicle that reeks of skunk smell is a horrible experience that no one wishes to have. However, this is a reality some vehicle owners have to face. There are several great methods that can be used to rid your car of this smell once and for all.

remove smell

However, keep in mind to act quickly. The sooner you take action against the skunk smell, the faster it’ll go away.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Get Rid Of Skunks

Skunks are nocturnal animals, meaning that they become active at night time. Being cautious while driving at night is the best way to avoid hitting one of these animals and getting their stinky smell all over your vehicle.

How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell

Getting rid of the skunk smell takes a lot of work. You can use products like baking soda, charcoal, or vinegar to remove skunk spray naturally. In contrast, artificial products like car shampoo, air deodorizer, dashboard cleaner, and skunk odor remover also do a great job of getting rid of the overpowering skunk smell.

How Far Can A Skunk Spray

A skunk can spray its stink nearly 15 feet. What’s worse is that these animals are known to spray on parked cars even when un-provoked. Other than being sprayed, hitting a skunk on the road or running over the carcass of one is all that it takes to have a vehicle covered with the horrible skunk smell.

How Long Does Skunk Smell Last

The skunk spray usually takes between 14 to 21 days to go away on its own. You can speed up this process by applying some cleaning methods like spraying a vinegar solution, placing some charcoal, or using baking soda.

What Does Skunk Smell Like

Skunk smell is something that you never want to come across in your life. People have described it as being similar to the smell of rotten eggs.

Can Baby Skunks Spray

Baby skunks get the ability to spray as soon as they are born. However, they only gain the ability to spray accurately once they reach four months of age.

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