Skunks are adorable! Their little noses, cute eyes, distinctive white stripe, soft fur… They’d make such adorable pets!
…If only they didn’t stink.
Today I went to Trader Joe’s with my sister. Driving home eating (bizarre, organic, and very tasty) raspberry chocolates, the familiar, acrid stench of skunk spray rudely interrupted my experience.
Check out these cool illustrations of the chemicals in skunk spray from “Chemistry of Skunk Spray” by William F. Wood, Department of Chemistry at Humboldt State University.
The first two “thiols”, (E )-2-butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, are the compounds mostly responsible for striped skunk secretions’ repulsive odor.
Thioacetates are derived from thiols and are easily converted to the more potent thiols with water. This can explain why your dog still smells like skunk on damp evenings.
Finally, the compound alkaloid 2-methylquinoline is clearly related to 2-quinolinemethanethiol and S-2-quinolinemethyl thioacetate, and is perhaps a product in the biosynthesis of these two compounds.
While you’re at it, here’s an interesting article WordPress suggested as related:
Woman Lives with 50 Skunks on Purpose (neatorama.com)
I love how the author feels the need to specify that she lives with these skunks on PURPOSE. (And I thought crazy cat ladies were weird.)
She must use a lot of deodorizing spray. Wood writes that deodorizing the thiols in skunk spray “can easily be done by oxidizing the thiols to sulfonic acids.”
I’m sure you’ve heard of tomato juice baths, but Wood gives this advice, “Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are mild enough to be used on pets although it may change their hair color. For inanimate objects sodium hypochlorite solutions (liquid laundry bleach) are cheap and effective.”
Yup, drinking and/or bathing in tomato juice will have no effect, although your nose may eventually get tired of the stench in the process and cause you to stop smelling it. Your friends will likely disagree.
They may stink up the highway, but, hey, they’re still really cute.