Our Punk Got Skunked: The Many Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

What with the house remodel and all, my bed has been set up on the lawn, quaintly made up in full form. At approximately 9:45 p.m. last night, my mother and I were repositioning it to my preferred location. A rustle in the bushes; a barking dog; a raised tail. Is there any other ending possible? But hark! Before you entertain visions of a tub full of tomato juice (who has more than 16 oz. of tomato juice on hand, anyway?), let me explain the many merits of hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen Peroxide and You

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is produced industrially to do all sorts of things, from making glow sticks glow to breaking down smelly stuff to propelling rockets.

But more importantly, H2O2 is probably the most useful household chemical other than the classic mixture of soap and elbow grease that you’ll ever have in your house. You can grab 16- and 32- oz bottles for under $2 at your local grocery or drug store. In addition to the uses listed on the appropriately-chemically-looking keep out of sunlight brown bottle of “mild antiseptic” and “oral rinse”, you can use this solution (3% in water) to do the following:

  • remove fresh blood stains from clothing (rinse with cold water, not hot!)
  • bleach your hair (if mixed with ammonium hydroxide)
  • get your pet to throw up (if it has swallowed poison)
  • make toothpaste (if mixed with baking soda and salt)

But, the most important and valuable use of hydrogen peroxide you will ever find is as a de-skunker.

Tomato-Free Deodorizer

The first thing my mother did after last night’s incident was to yank open her filing cabinet and pull out the torn-off page 25 from August 1995’s Popular Science, on which is written a priceless piece by one Steve Nadis. This ¼-page article is a lifesaver, and I paraphrase it for you:

A way-cool chemist named Paul Krebaum has a job that specializes in studying “thiols” – the chemicals that impart the gag-inducing stenches in skunk spray, decaying feces, and decomposing flesh. His job is to find anti-thiols, and Krebaum knows that if you can get the thiols to combine with oxygen, they go away. And what chemical is super-excellent at breaking down into oxygen and water? You guessed it: hydrogen peroxide.

Mr. Krebaum developed the “skunk antidote” with the following simple formula:

  • 1 quart hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap

Mix and apply to pet. Rinse. Voilá.

With great credit to Mr. Krebaum, he freely offered this formula to the public without being able to capitalize on his discovery: if you close up the mixture in a bottle, it will explode. So, you can’t keep the mixture on hand, but you can keep the formula and ingredients in a useful place.

Epilogue

Thanks to Mr. Krebaum, Mr. Nadis, the folks at Popular Science, and my mother for her good eyes and excellent organizational system, last night’s odor was neutralized (for the most part) in under 50 minutes (we have a big dog, so I had to dash to the store 10 minutes before it closed for more peroxide) without a drop of tomato juice in sight.

Has our little hunter learned anything about skunks? Most likely not. We’re not holding our breath−until it happens again.

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