It's a common belief that you should use tomato juice to remove the smell after you get sprayed by a skunk. Does it work?

  • 1
    Claim source please (as a link)?
    – user5341
    Jun 7, 2011 at 17:23
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    I've only heard "tomato juice" rather than "tomato sauce". Jun 7, 2011 at 20:07
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    I have heard this belief quite often. In New England (where we have quite a few skunks) I hear this all the time. I changed the question to reflect juice as opposed to sauce, and changed knowledge to belief to keep in line with the skeptical claim. Jun 7, 2011 at 21:01
  • Given that the smelliest components are a variety of sulphur-containing compounds the best agents for smell removal would be oxidising agents such as hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite ("bleach"). See this note on the chemistry of skunk odor I don't think tomato based foodstuffs will hack it.
    – matt_black
    Oct 15, 2012 at 16:30
  • I have read claims that milk is good for this. Jul 16, 2018 at 11:39

1 Answer 1


Short answer: I can't find a conclusive answer! At best it's "maybe", but I suspect it's actually "not really". There are no scholarly studies on the subject in evidence.

You need only google for "skunk" and "tomato" to find a lot of vague, poorly-if-at-all cited discussions on the subject, but they tend to come down on the side of "even if it works, there's a better way". One page attributes the perceived effect to "olfactory fatigue", which sounds plausible, but again there's no clear evidence of a careful scientific examination.

Oddly enough, a rather stubby Wikibooks page is the most information-dense I've found, and points to a fellow named Paul Krebaum, who apparently has an academic and professional background in chemistry, who worked out a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mix that breaks down the thiols in the spray quite effectively.

This was tested in a MythBusters episode, where apparently they labelled tomato juice as "plausible" (I haven't seen that particular episode, though, so I don't know how careful they were to avoid the possible "olfactory fatigue" effect"), a couple others "busted", and the Paul Krebaum-style mixture as "confirmed".

In any case, I'd go for the peroxide/soda/soap mix. I mean really, who actually wants the mess of tomato juice?

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    I can say that tomato juice worked wonders for removing/maskign the skunk smell when our Boxer would "Catch" one. We tried several of the scientifically effective ones but none seemed as effective as good old tomato juice, followed by a good shampoo.
    – Chad
    Jun 7, 2011 at 17:47
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    As someone who has received a direct hit from a skunk, I can clearly state that tomato juice and tomato sauce do NOT remove the smell, and perhaps only affect it slightly. Frequent washing, time, cheap perfume and shampoo work better, at least for partially masking the smell. Hydrogen perioxide is a better choice, which I unfortunately did not know at the time. This is not a sourced answer, but I know that tomato juice does not remove the odor. I'm guessing the 'followed by a good shampoo' part, which includes time, is the more useful ingredient. Jun 8, 2011 at 20:59
  • Worked wonders on my black lab. He got the smell by playing with a dog who was skunked so it was much less of a smell. A quart of tomato juice left on for about two minutes followed by a shampoo reduced the smell to almost nothing. We tried just the shampoo at first with almost no reduction in smell.
    – Joe
    Jul 16, 2018 at 19:23

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