A skunk smell in basement could be due to various reasons. But the first thing that comes to your mind would be a skunk itself. So, check for any signs of a skunk inside the house, especially if you get a skunk smell in the house at night. It can even be an emergency if your house smells like a skunk or rotten eggs. So, you should diagnose the issue right away to eliminate any risks.
What Does a Skunk Smell Like?
The skunk is an omnivorous animal with a unique black and white body, most often found in the countryside. It feeds mostly on small insects and sprays a very unpleasant odor. The anal glands of the skunk produce a smelly liquid. Once the skunk sprays, it takes up to 10 days for these glands to refill. The oily yellow spray from a skunk consists of thiols and organic sulfur compounds. It also contains mercaptans, a substance used as a gas odorant. Rotten eggs and sour cabbage have the same chemical composition. So, you can figure out that a skunk smell is quite similar to that of a rotten egg or a spoiled cabbage.
Are Skunk Fumes Harmful?
In addition to being very unpleasant, skunk fumes cause various other discomforts. It can even make you sick in extreme cases. Usually, it may cause burning eyes, tearing, itching, or breathing difficulty due to the odor.
Burning Eyes and Tearing
Skunk spray can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, causing stinging, redness, and tearing up of the eyes. You will find that it’s difficult to open your eyes for several minutes. If skunk spray gets into the eyes, immediately wash your eyes with water. You can also use 2% vinegar or apply a solution of tomato juice and water. Then rinse the eyes and face with clean water.
Breathing Difficulty/ Vomiting
The heavy odor of sunk spray causes breathing difficulty for some people. It irritates the lungs and triggers symptoms of asthma. You may even feel nauseous or dizzy depending on the reaction of the body. The sulfurous compounds in the composition make it hard to breathe. The skunk smell can cause vomiting due to its extremely pungent odor.
Redness on Skin
Although skunk spray may not be toxic to humans, it causes a significant effect on your pets. It bleaches the pets’ hair and skin. If you get skunk spray on the skin wash the affected area with deodorizing soap or dish detergent. If it gets on your pet, wash the fur coat thoroughly with soap. If you still cannot get the skunk smell out from your skin, you can soak it in a baking soda bath for about 15 minutes. Pour 4 cups of baking soda into a bathtub full of hot water to make your bath.
How to Drive Away a Skunk?
If you find a skunk in your house, you must never provoke it. Skunks usually turn their behind toward the threat before they spray. Skunks give the following signs before they spray:
- Stamping their feet
- Forward charging
- Raising their tail
If there is a skunk inside your house, you should call a skunk removal company immediately. But if you are quite confident that you can easily drive it away, you can try it carefully. You should first close the doors to other rooms so that it cannot get into other parts of the house. Then drive away the skunk by making loud noises or shining a bright light at it. If this fails, you can catch the skunk in a live trap and release it to a suitable reserve away from the house.
How Long Does It Take for the Smell to Dissipate?
It takes a longer time than you expect for a skunk smell to dissipate. Usually, it takes around 2 – 3 weeks for the smell to go away completely. It depends on the intensity of the spray and the air circulation. Ventilate the area and clean all surfaces with a soap solution with baking soda. Soak any clothing items in a solution of vinegar and water. Then wash them using hot water with laundry detergent. These procedures will help increase the rate at which the skunk smell dissipates.
What Do You Do if Your House Smells Like Skunk?
In addition to venting the house, you can try the following steps to remove skunk smell from your house regardless of whether the skunk has sprayed or not.
- Wipe down all the surfaces to disinfect and deodorize everything. Prepare a solution with bleach and water in a ratio of 1:9. When applying this on ceramic or wood, check it over a small area to make sure that it doesn’t bleach the color. You can also prepare this solution using distilled white vinegar in the same ratio instead of bleach.
- Place a bowl of vinegar and baking soda in each room to absorb any odors. It will remove the odor in a day or two as both vinegar and baking soda are natural deodorizers. Placing an air purifier along with these two elements makes the process more efficient.
- Change the filters in your air conditioner, furnace, and heaters, to keep the smell out. This prevents the old odors remaining in the filters from coming back into the house.
House Smells Like Skunk but There Are No Skunks in the House?
The most common assumption if you smell a skink is that there is really a skunk in the house. But it may not be the case always, as skunk smells are often caused by various other things. Sewer gas trapped in the pipelines can cause this unpleasant odor. The decomposition of organic components in the sewage system causes this strong odor. This smell is quite similar to rotten food or animal waste. These gases sometimes seep out from the drains or tiny cracks in pipes.
Can a Skunk Smell in Basement Be Anything Else?
Skunks are usually active at night since they are nocturnal. So, if you get the smell at night, then it is more likely to be a skunk as they spray at night. But if the smell occurs suddenly during the day, it is more likely to be due to a different issue.
A gas leak usually smells like rotten eggs due to the gas odorants. It is quite dangerous as it can cause health issues due to the toxicity of the gas. Moreover, it can even cause explosions simply with a spark. You might even find that the smell is coming from the gas line inside the house. Open all your doors and windows to allow air circulation. Do not light any match sticks or lighters and do not attempt to turn on any switches. Evacuate everyone out of the house including your pets. Call the respective local authority to get help in fixing the gas leak.
This can be the reason for the skunk smell in basement of your house. Methane mixed with other gases creates a smell similar to skunk spray. If you find that the bad odor is coming due to sewer gas escaping the house, look for dry traps and add some water to fill them. This should eliminate the bad odor. If it doesn’t solve the problem, there could be a broken sewer line or a vent that is not plugged in. Improper venting can also cause your house to smell bad. If you have trouble fixing this issue, call the municipal sewer waste company. The professionals will fix the sewer gas leak and clear the air for you.
Another possible reason for the skunk smell in the house could be skunk cabbage. As the name gives away, it is a certain plant that produces a foul odor similar to a skunk. You will find your house smelling bad if this plant is particularly close to your basement windows. Pulling out the plant or resealing the windows will solve this problem.
Clogged Sewer Vents
If you find a skunk smell in house at night, but still there is no skunk, then it may be due to a clogged sewer vent. In addition to the bad odor, clogged sewer vents cause various safety risks. Use a drain snake and a garden hose to clean the sewer vent on the roof. But it is quite risky due to the height. So, always have a helper or hire a professional for cleaning sewer vents.
Poor Plumbing and Venting
Bad plumbing or premature wear and tear leads to sewage gas leaks. Poor assembly of the following components causes skunk smells. Although most of these issues can be fixed on your own, it might be a difficult task to deal with sewage. It is better to call a professional plumber as it involves the poor assembly of plumbing and venting. The following are these possible issues so that you can identify what you have to deal with, before calling a professional.
- A loose toilet ring is a case in most basement bathrooms. The bad odor could be due to a toilet that is not fixed firmly to the ground.
- Clogged vents will also block the sewer gas from escaping to the outside. So, the gas will move back into the basement, causing the pungent skunk odor.
- Burst sewer lines or any cracks could cause leaks. This mostly happens on the walls, under the floor, or outside in the open. If so, you need to fix the line and even replace the belongings around the leakage.
- A foul ejector pit could be the reason if you have an overhead sewer line. Improper sealing and ventilation of this pit can cause sewage gas leaks. Check this for insecure lids, loose parts, or clogs and attend to them.
You may not think that mold really smells like a skunk. But there are a few types of molds that can cause a pungent smell like skunk spray. Check for any brown or green residues in your basement in the moldy area. This could mostly be the reason behind the odor in your basement. You can fix this by spraying the area with a bleach solution. Always remove dampness and keep your basement dry to prevent the growth of unhealthy mold and mildew.
Is a Skunk Smell in the Basement Dangerous?
Most people consider the skunk smell in house dangerous as it could be a sign of some other issue. Even if it is just a skunk, it is quite dangerous to contact the skunk spray. They could even have rabies which is contagious to humans. Sewage gas leakage may not be toxic but could damage your property with spillage. Mold formation can cause breathing difficulties to people over time. A natural gas leak has the highest risk out of all the possibilities. It could explode the house and cause a fire if something goes wrong. So, it is very important to be attentive if you sense a skunk smell in basement.
Whom Should I Contact?
Getting professional help is the best way to fix the issue. But it depends on the reason behind the skunk odor. You should contact different authorities depending on the situation.
- If there is a skunk in your home, you should call animal control. This is because it is most likely to cause public health issues as you don’t know whether the animal is infected with rabies or other diseases.
- If the odor is due to a gas leak, you should evacuate everyone as soon as possible and call 911.
- If there is a sewer leak under the basement floor, you need to call a public works company. You can check with your plumber first to see whether they can fix it. If the sewage line is outside the house or near, then you need to get public works professionals to fix it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Tell if You Have a Gas Leak or a Skunk?
Sometimes you may wonder what the pungent odor in your house exactly is. It may be due to a skunk wandering near the house or caused by a certain gas. Try to identify where the smell comes from inside the house. You can identify the smell of natural gas since it’s quite similar to rotten eggs. If the smell comes from around a specific appliance in your house, then it is more likely to be a gas leak. Evacuate as soon as possible and contact the respective authorities to assist you in fixing the problem.
If the smell is present throughout the house and has a very strong odor, then it is more likely to be a skunk. You can also confirm this by checking the ventilation of your house. Skunks are not usually found in places with less ventilation. They can creep into the house only if you leave a door or a window open. If your doors and windows are closed, it could be a gas build-up inside the house, which can be very dangerous.
The bad odor may not always be a skunk or a gas leak. It can even be a decaying body of a dead animal, garbage, or decomposing plants. Whatever it is, you need to find it to get rid of the smell.
Why Does My Bathroom Smell Like Skunk?
If your bathroom smells bad, it is similar to a gas leak. This is mostly due to a dry P-trap which is the U-shaped pipe under the sinks and bathtub. These P-taps usually have some water inside, which acts as a barrier for the sewer gas or the gas from the septic tank. Once this water evaporates, these gases containing sulfur will cause a skunky smell in your bathroom. You simply need to run the water in all sinks, showers, and tubs so that there is always water in the P-traps.
Does Boiling Vinegar Get Rid of Skunk Smell?
Instead of placing bowls of vinegar in each room, you can also boil vinegar. First, close all doors and windows to seal off the house and turn off the fans. Put some vinegar in a saucepan and boil it lightly on the stove. Reduce it to a simmer for about 2 hours until only about ¼ of the liquid is left in the pan. Then open all the doors and windows, and turn on the fans to restore the ventilation of your house. The vinegar smell will dissipate after 2 – 3 hours, and the unpleasant skunk odor will also be gone from the whole house. But your house might slightly smell like vinegar for a few days, which is better than having a lingering skunk smell.
You should call a professional for help if you cannot figure out the reason for the skunk smell in basement. In most cases, it will be a sewer line break, improper venting, or inadequate ventilation. Even if you figure out the reason behind the smell, it may not be easy to fix things on your own. So, get help to figure out the problem within a few minutes and solve it effectively. If you attempt any procedures, always follow the necessary safety precautions to prevent any injuries.