The Curious Incident of the Skunk in the Nighttime

I can tell you with great certainty that the best way to kick off your week-long vacation is NOT arriving home after spending a lovely evening out at a bar, watching a live band, to find that your house smells mysteriously like skunk.

Luke and I went out with friends the first Friday of our vacation to find some live music. We landed at a bar called The Stonewall in Eagleville where we met a wonderful waitress named Christina who told us that on a date once, the guy called her Sally the whole night and rather than correct him, she became Sally and had a great time. So of course, we called her Sally all night. A band played, I’m sorry Band, I wish I could remember your name but it was loud and late and I’m getting old. They were quite good and played everything from Phish-sounding songs to Beastie Boys covers.

We left there late and when we got out of the car in our driveway someone said, “uh-oh, it smells like skunk”. I smugly said, “oh that’s fine, Molly’s in the house”.

(Insert impending doom-type music here.)

We stepped in the house to find Molly in her spot on the couch and the overwhelming scent of skunk in the air. The smell was worse in the house than it was outside, but Molly didn’t really smell like she had been skunked. And besides, she was inside! We searched the house for the source of the skunk and when Luke went cautiously into the basement, he saw that he had left the garage door on the back of the house open. Oh lord. This could be bad. We looked around to see if a skunk had wandered in the house but didn’t spot one. We looked in the corners, we peeked under the furniture, we turned on the fans and, because we were too tired to care anymore, we climbed into our smelly, skunk-scented bed and fell asleep.

The next morning our friends from Ohio were due to arrive and the house reeked of skunk. We were still puzzled as to where the heck the smell came from and how in the world to get rid of it.

Google “get skunk smell out of house” and you’ll find a million and five combinations of tomato juice/baking soda/peroxide/dish washing detergent to shampoo your dog with, but no straightforward solutions for removing a mysterious all around in the air stink.

I finally settled on a combination of cures after combing through various message boards and websites. I washed all of my sheets, blankets, bedding, etc., then Febreezed the hell out of couch. I set out bowls of vinegar everywhere (odd, but I think this worked the best) and then, desperate to smell anything other than skunk and vinegar, I burned a smudge stick and ran it around the house. The house smelled like a big pot salad with skunk on top.

I went out to work in the garden and try to forget that guests were arriving soon and, oh, right, WHAT THE HECK CAUSED THIS SMELL?? After about an hour, the smudge smoke settled and the breezes blew through the windows, and the house actually did start to smell better. The basement and our bedroom still had an aroma, but for the most part, the house smelled normal. Now a week later, our bedding still smells mysteriously like skunk, and we still don’t know what happened, but we have a theory.

We think that the garage door being open was a red herring. Molly could have easily gotten out (scary!) and a skunk could have easily waddled in (equally as scary!) but we don’t think that either of these things happened. We think that Molly was in her usual spot, patrolling the front of the house from the living room window and saw a skunk. We think she may have barked at the skunk and scared it and the skunk may have sprayed the side of the house and into the window where Barky was sitting. This area of the house seemed to be the skunkiest, and Molly did have a faint skunk smell to her. We think that, after her indirect skunking, she did her usual routine of rolling on the couch, rolling on our bed, and then for good measure, rolling on the downstairs couch, these three areas being the worst-smelling of the whole house.

Molly got another couple of baths, her collar got washed and soaked in vinegar, and now, a week later, she smells like a pickled skunk. I think I’ll have to give up on that collar and toss it. I’m still worried that I’m going to find a scared little skunk somewhere in the basement, but I think we’re safe. Our friends we went to the bar with that night told us that their car smelled like skunk the next day. The whole house smelled so bad that night, we all came in and sat on the couch where the alleged skunking occurred before we made the connection and realized that it might be covered in stink. Ug.

So, for any unlucky person who may find this long sob story of the mysterious skunk smell while searching for a way to get the skunk smell out of their own house, let me advise you:

  1. Wash your dog and throw away her collar no matter how brand-freakin-new or cute it is.
  2. Wash any soft material you have around: bedding, blankets, throw rugs, etc.
  3. Febreeze anything that won’t fit in the washing machine. (Ever since college when Febreeze was new and the college students in my dorm who were out of laundry money would Febreeze their dirty clothes rather than wash them, I’ve hated the smell of Febreeze. But dirty college student is a better smell than skunk, I promise you.)
  4. Set out small bowls of vinegar all over the house. The vinegar absorbs the odor like baking soda in the refrigerator. The skunk smell will be replaced with a vinegar smell and that fades quickly. I left the vinegar out for about 4 hours and it made a world of difference.

We’ll never know exactly what happened – although Luke pointed out that if I had let him install the paranoid video surveillance cameras he wanted to install on the house, we might have more clues – but it certainly was one of the more memorable ways to kick off a week of vacation.

Is it just me, or do I smell skunk?



  1. This stinks (sorry for the pun.) I have memories of hanging out at my friends’ house when I was younger, and their dog got sprayed ALL THE TIME. Their dad had to wash the poor dog down in tomato juice about once a week.


  2. Yup, this is me. Googles indirect skunk spray and up popped your story. Took my daughter and her dog home last night. Dog jumps out of my car, around the side of the yard, gets skunked. I never saw the skunk. Didn’t touch the dog. Went to my house and the smell was on my clothes. This morning my car, which was not sprayed, smelled like skunk. Can’t even imagine what her house smells like today. It was strange because outside her house it didn’t smell so bad but inside it reeked and the dog was still outside! So to answer the question Do I Smell Like Skunk Or Is It Just Me? You do.


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