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Skunked! How to Remedy a Sprayed HVAC Unit

Imagine- you’re minding your own business in the comfort of your home, when all of a sudden you’re surrounded by a horrible smell that follows you wherever you go. Worst of all, it’s getting stronger by the minute. You try to find the source of the odor when you realize the smell is coming from inside the house. It’s skunk spray!


Hopefully you will never have to experience the terrible ordeal of a skunk spraying your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, but here are a few tips on how to deal with the odorous ordeal. 


Turn Off the Air Conditioning (AC)


When you first realize that your house smells of skunk spray, turn off your AC. This temporary pause in home comfort may prevent more bad odor from entering your house. You may attempt to turn on any exhaust fans inside your home, but be aware- this will pull air through your house and may spread the smell further. If possible, you can open windows on the side of the house farthest from the AC unit to try and get some fresh air in and smelly air out. Placing a box fan or other fan at the window can help to push bad air out. 

SEE ALSO: How Long Should My Air Conditioner Run in a Cycle?


Know Thy Enemy


What is it that makes skunk spray smell so awful? The Smithsonian Magazine explains that skunk spray contains several organic compounds including thiols, which lend that signature sulfur smell to the mix. It’s an incredibly effective deterrent to predators and can be smelled at distance. As your eyes water in pain, take comfort in the knowledge that you are experiencing a miracle of nature right in your home. Then, work on getting rid of the smell.


Toss the Sauce


Despite the wisdom of sitcoms and Saturday morning comics, tomato juice is not a good solution for getting rid of skunk scent. The main reason tomato juice was considered the antidote to stinky smells is because it also had a strong smell. Bathing people or pets in tomato juice only serves to mask the smell temporarily, providing temporary relief until the skunk stink is back and all you have to show for your efforts are some empty tin cans and a stained bathtub. To remove the unwanted scent from your home you will have to ditch the old wives tales in favor of modern solutions.


DIY Deodorizer


To get rid of skunk smell on people and pets, offers the following recipe: 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 tsp. dish detergent. Use your washing machine as normal, and rinse clean with water. Wash clothing, bedding, and other washable fabric items with ½ cup of baking soda in hot water so long as the items can tolerate a normal wash cycle. Repeat this process until the odor is removed and then air-dry them, if possible. It might take multiple cycles, so be persistent. 

SEE ALSO: Cleaning Air Naturally with Cold Air Plasma Filtration Systems


Store Bought Solutions


There are a variety of modern, scent-removing solutions available at pet and home supply stores. Look for scent removers that are explicitly for skunk spray, as normal cleaners may not cut it with its particular chemical makeup. Enzymatic cleaners can target the odor and break it down so that it can be removed from household items. Do not reach for scented room sprays either, as those only mask skunk scent. 


Get your HVAC Unit Cleaned


Contact your local HVAC service and schedule a cleaning of your home’s HVAC unit. A licensed and insured technician can safely clean a HVAC unit and remove any lingering scent that might be pumped into your home when the AC is turned on again. 

You may also want to consider hiring a pest removal technician to make sure that the skunk was only a passerby. A skunk may have made a nest somewhere near your home, like the crawlspace, and they will be able to humanely remove the skunk, clear out any nests the skunk might have made, and seal any entrances that pests were using to get into your property.


Change Your AC Filters


While you are busy with the task of bathing pets, washing bedding, and steam-cleaning curtains, you may overlook an important step in removing skunk stink from your home: your AC filters. The filters in your home will need to be replaced as they most likely have absorbed the odor and will recirculate skunk smell through the house when the AC turns on.


Remove the Welcome Mat for Skunks


After you are able to breathe again, you will want to make sure that your property does not invite any more unwanted guests. Skunks will scavenge from trash receptacles, so make sure your outdoor garbage cans are secure. If trash is stored near your HVAC unit, you may want to relocate it so that wildlife is not drawn to that location. Skunk deterrent is available, which can be applied to the borders of your property to keep skunks from visiting. 


Remember to Breathe Easy


A skunk deciding to spray your HVAC unit, or anywhere near your home, is never a pleasant experience. However, you can fight back and reclaim your home’s healthy, clean air with a few simple steps and with the aid of your AC service provider. Remind yourself that the skunk was only acting in self-defense, although you might wish you could talk to animals just to explain that an HVAC unit turning on is not, in fact, a predator sneaking up behind it. Perhaps the poor skunk thought it was in a horror movie all its own. Regardless of the skunk’s motives, keep a clear head when dealing with skunk spray. You’ll find yourself breathing easy sooner than you think is possible. 

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