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How to Get That Skunk Smell Out of Your Car (Interior and Exterior)

How to Get That Skunk Smell Out of Your Car (Interior and Exterior)

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Skunks may be cute to look at, but they tend to be one of the scariest creatures that anyone will see in their neighborhood. But how could this be? They are fluffy and have a white stripe going down the middle of their backs and certainly don’t look scary.

When you have smelled the spray of a skunk, however, you know immediately why people try to avoid them at all costs. That smell is so strong and overpowering that it can overwhelm whatever it hits.

Even something that has caught a peripheral spray from a skunk can wind up smelling for a good, long while.

This smell is their defense mechanism against predators. When they get scared, they spray an oily liquid from their backside that is meant to drive away predators with its unpleasantness. It certainly works against humans as even the sight of a skunk can send a grown man running.

The vast majority of those of us who have dealt with the stench of a skunk know it from having an animal sprayed or from being sprayed ourselves. It is an awful feeling to deal with and getting rid of that smell can take hours and hours of work to finally get rid of.

The same case is true for our cars and trucks. It might seem like something that big could avoid the wrath of a skunk but sometimes the skunk just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whether hitting a skunk directly or running over one that has been killed in the middle of the road, skunks that become roadkill become another obstacle and hazard for travelers to have to avoid or deal with.

Driving on Country Road

If you have had the misfortune of running over a skunk on the road, it can leave your car with that nasty stench permeating the outside of your car. When you go to open the doors, the stench will be there, souring your nose and your day.

In the worst of cases, that stench can even make its way into the inside of the car as well. This is an extreme scenario, but it has happened enough that it is something to definitely be aware of.

When this happens, it can make it difficult to keep focus while driving as the smell will be the only thing that you can focus on.

So, what should you do when the smell covers your car or begins to permeate the inside of your vehicle? There are a few steps that you can take to get your car clean again and get rid of that foul, nasty smell that can seem like it will never, ever go away.

The Exterior

Pouring White Vinegar in Bowl

Since skunks tend not to directly spray into your car, starting with the exterior is the best idea.

The bad thing here is that the soap and water that you would typically use to wash the outside of your car won’t be anywhere near as effective when it comes to getting that skunk smell out of the exterior of your car.

Start by filling a sprayer of some sort with liquid dish detergent and distilled vinegar, mixing it thoroughly to create your solution. When you have done this, it is time to wash the tires as these are typically the main point of contact with the dead skunk. Make sure to scrub vigorously.

The more contact your car had with the skunk, the more of the solution you will want to use on your car. It isn’t necessary to cover the entirety of the vehicle, but the more the skunk has touched your car, the more you will have to cover.

When you have successfully covered the car’s exterior, hose it off with water and then dry it thoroughly with a towel. If the smell continues to linger after an hour or so following the wash, keep applying the solution and repeating the rinsing/drying steps.

The Undercarriage


Because the smell typically comes from running over a skunk, it makes sense that in addition to the tires of your car, the smell would be strongest on the underside of the car, too. Since getting under the vehicle can be a bit difficult, there are a few things worth trying.

If you don’t use this car all that often, you can try to layer charcoal over a tarp and then place that tarp underneath your car. There is no set time frame for this, but the charcoal is meant to absorb the smell from the car.

Cleaning the underside of the car is generally the same as cleaning the tires and the exterior. Combine distilled vinegar and liquid dish soap into a sprayer and make sure that you vigorously coat the underside of your car.

Since you can’t really reach it with the same effect as you would the rest of the car, it is a good idea to spray it at least twice.

If the smell continues to remain even after your spray, keep doing it until the smell finally goes away. That skunk smell is very strong and can remain for a long time if you don’t do anything about it, so it should come as no surprise that it takes a great effort to get rid of it.

Cleaning the Interior

Front Interior of SUV

When the smell becomes bad enough, it can begin to become strong enough that it can be smelled inside of the car. It is bad enough when the outside smells, but having it smell on the inside can make driving that car nearly unbearable.

The depth of the smell is also another factor. Sometimes it can be a general smell that lingers within the interior of the car, an unpleasant reminder of a recent run-in with a local skunk.

But there are times when the smell can be so strong that it eventually begins to seep into the carpets and upholstery of your car, making it seem like the skunk sprayed directly inside the car itself.

Since not all cars have the same type of upholstery, there are different remedies to be used based on what your seats are made of. If you have cloth seats, for instance, you will want to mix vinegar and water together in a spray bottle.

When you have created your concoction, lightly spray (a mist, usually) onto the upholstery and onto the carpet, too. Give the solution a few minutes to sit so that it can do its job against the smell of the skunk.

Finally, use a cloth or towel to wipe up the mixture. It is advisable that with cloth seats you use a dabbing method. Rubbing with the towel can essentially push the mixture further into the seats and now you’ll have a car that smells like vinegar instead of skunk.

Linseed Oil Bottle

For those with vinyl or leather seats, your solution should be one part vinegar and one part linseed oil instead of water. Instead of spraying directly onto the material itself, you will want to use a towel to rub your mixture into the seats and dash.

Much like the exterior of your car, there may be a need to repeat the process. This all depends on how strong the smell of skunk is on the interior of your car. Doing it once or twice is the most likely requirement for getting that skunk smell gone for good.

Another thing to try is a carpet deodorizer. There are many different brands of carpet deodorizers out there to choose from, so the selection is up to you.

This can be used in the carpets of your car as well as on any cloth upholstery. It might take a couple of times to fully pull out the skunk smell from the interior of your car.

Final Thoughts

Skunk in Weeds on Side of Road

There is a reason why people tend to turn the other way and run when they see a skunk. The smell is no joke and can take serious work to get rid of, whether it be from clothing, skin, car seats, or the exterior of a car.

Ideally, you will be able to avoid any interactions with a skunk so that you can avoid having to perform these vigorous cleaning steps. But accidents happen, especially when it comes to driving on the highway and not seeing roadkill on the road.

So instead of worrying about what to do in the event that you have run over a skunk, use these helpful tips to get your car smelling normally once again. It will take quite a bit of work if the smell is particularly strong, but it is possible to get it out in a few hours at the most.

Don’t let that strong, nasty skunk smell permeate your car and become overbearing as you drive. It can hinder your focus on the road at worst and be a huge discomfort at best. Don’t settle for either.

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