Home Remedies

Home Remedies

A spray bottle containing a strong brew of black tea.

Last year I blogged about the snake in the bedroom. This year’s critter story is in reference to the skunk in the backyard.

A Deleterious Evening

I came home from hanging curtains at my elderly parent’s house to an overwhelming stench. I could not see the nefarious creature but the putrid and foul smell was inescapable. The nauseating and rank smell permeated everything. I could smell the foul and odorous skunk spray in the garage, in my car, in the yard and on the side of the house. As I turned the car off and braced myself for the stinky dash into the house, I had an incorrect sense of gratefulness that at least the smell was only outside. What an erroneous assumption! The minute I opened the door from the garage into the house, the caustic fumes knocked me over. The smell hit me similarly to burnt popcorn, with the stench hanging in the air, saturating exposed surfaces to the toxic smell.

There was a split second that I froze, wondering where to begin to attack and eliminate the odors. My mind was numb, or stunned by the intense smell. The dogs came up to greet me and I nearly dropped the items that I carried in from the garage. My own little grey and black “skunks'' smelled horrible! I was brought back to full consciousness with one whiff of my dog-skunks. Yes, they got sprayed! I knew what the first area of clean up was going to be; the dog skunks.

Dog Wash

A spray bottle filled with black tea, sitting atop a trash can with a green lid.

Steeped black tea has been used as a home remedy clarifying hair rinse for years. I have used a black tea rinse myself after spraying festive colors on my hair for special events. The final rinse with cooled black tea appeared to cleanse my hair, leaving it feeling clean. As I washed the dogs in tomato juice, then baby shampoo to get the skunk smell off of the dogs, I pondered if a cold tea rinse could be a remedy. I wondered if this rinse would eliminate the skunk smell on the dogs. The veterinarian’s office was closed for the evening. I wanted to check with my doggies’ veterinarian before I rinsed them off using steeped black tea. I decided to wash the dogs in the obligatory tomato juice bath, followed up with a sudsing of a baby shampoo wash.

The next day I called my veterinarian to discuss the possibility of using cooled black tea as a final rinse on the dogs to get the noxious smell out of their hair. The veterinary technician explained to use decaffeinated black tea in order that no caffeine would possibly be absorbed into their skin. The veterinary technician also informed me that next time the dogs get sprayed, to put tomato juice on the dogs prior to wetting their fur with water. Wetting the dogs with water prior to placing tomato juice on the dogs evidently traps in the oil of the skunk spray, rendering the tomato juice ineptly useless as a solvent. The order of washing the dogs included tomato juice smeared on a dry skunk sprayed dog, next the addition of water and baby shampoo, finally lathering well and rinsing off completely. The veterinary technician then stated the final rinse could be a cool decaffeinated black tea rinse on the dogs.

Skunks and Tea

The cover of the children's book 'Me, A Skunk, and Tea' written by Jenetta Penner. The illustration shows a girl and a skunk seated at a table with tea, bread, and jam.

Image source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23366624-me-a-skunk-and-tea

Let me be very clear on a couple of points. I would NEVER invite a skunk to tea, nor do I know if skunks enjoy drinking tea (my attempt at humor). What I do know is that the tannins in black tea, in particular, make natural grease cutting agents. A cooled black tea solution can be used to soak dirty pans in the sink to loosen debris and cut through grease. A cooled black tea and water spray can be used to make windows sparkle and shine; eliminating oily fingerprint residue. I applied some logic and thought that if the tannins in black tea could cut through grease on counters and windows, and a black tea rinse was used as a clarifying rinse on hair, then maybe it could cut through the grease on dogs hair. I did not try the cooled decaffeinated black tea rinse on the dogs however. The tomato rinse did the trick this time. I am ready for the next time a skunk decides to spray the dogs and will employ the tea rinse.

A skunk uses the foul smelling spray as a defense mechanism when it feels cornered, trapped, and threatened. Personally I have found it best not to anger, upset, or scare a skunk. The best method of defense for me is to walk away from a skunk. My dogs, however, do not subscribe to that rationale. They feel it is their duty to chase a skunk out of the yard, thus getting sprayed in the interim. A skunk can spray up to 10 feet away from its body. The skunk smell can linger and last up to 3 weeks. According to Tom Scalisi from This Old House, porous items need to be washed or wiped down immediately, to get rid of the oily and stinky spray residue.

Home Remedies

A large pot of tea simmering on the stove.

Now that the dogs were smelling much more fresh and exponentially less like skunks, I was prepared to tackle the house smell. I placed the towels I used to dry the dogs off with into the washer, along with pillows from the couch they were resting on. I placed a pan of boiling water and black tea leaves on the stove to boil for an hour, to freshen up the kitchen area. Tea leaves are hygroscopic. The tea leaves act as sponges, soaking up, or absorbing odors along with moisture. I placed bowls of tea up high, out of my dogs reach, in several rooms, to hopefully absorb the disgusting smell. I even placed used tea bags, and used tea leaves in containers, then strategically placed them around the house to aid in absorbing the odor. I am happy to report that the inside of the house doesn’t smell like a skunk anymore. The outside area where the dogs cornered the skunk still has a slight residual smell. I have sprayed the trash cans with white vinegar to neutralize the odor, and a black tea spray to help break down the oily, greasy stench. In addition, I sprayed the trash cans, the brick on the side of the house, the garage floor, and the wood fence. It will take some time for the smell to dissipate from the exterior of the house. But at least now, the garage does not have the foul odor, and I do not have to run from the garage to the house, holding my nose and my breath, because of the noxious fumes.

Tea To The Rescue

A fairness cup filled with an amber brew of black tea.

I have found tea to be so much more than just a beverage quickly consumed during the morning rush out the door, the afternoon wind down, or the relaxing bedtime ritual. The liquid elixir has steeled my nerves, calmed my mind, and relaxed my soul. Tea has been a welcoming and comforting drink for friends and family alike. Now I can add tea as an emergency air freshener, eliminating untoward odors. I know my dogs will root out another skunk from behind the trash cans again; it is a matter of “when”, not “if”. When that day comes, I will steep 2 cups of tea. One cup for me and one decaffeinated black cup of tea, cooled, for the final rinse on my skunk smelling dogs! Please check with your own veterinary office before using a cooled decaffeinated black tea rinse on your skunk smelling pet. Please make sure that the tea is decaffeinated and cooled to room temperature before use on any pet.

Tea freshened up my life this week,



Gibbs, Karen B. Tea Is Not Just For Sipping! 54 Surprising Ways To Use It At Home. June 16, 2016, Today. www.today.com

Scalisi, Tom. How To Get Rid Of Skunk Smell. April 16, 2021, This Old House. www.thisoldhouse.com

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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