Smelling Skunk While Sleeping At Night: Explained!

smelling skunk while sleeping
Skunks are nocturnal animals that can be found anywhere across the United States. Although their smell is enough to alert anyone of its presence miles away, they’re timid creatures. They usually don’t bother humans and would rather enjoy a diet of bugs, rodents, and grasshoppers in peace.

Picture this: it’s an ordinary night, and the arms of slumber begin to envelop you in a warm embrace. But suddenly, a foul odor taints the air. You can’t place the scent’s origin, but it’s undeniably skunk-like. And it’s not just a faint whiff⁠—this is a full-blown assault on the nose! What gives?

A skunk’s spray is one of the most potent smelling substances in the animal kingdom and is a self-defense mechanism to ward off predators. When a skunk feels threatened, it will turn its hindquarters towards the attacker and release a noxious-smelling liquid from its anal glands.

If a skunk’s odor has victimized your household, read on to learn how to deal with this stinky situation.

skunk with a surprised look on its face

Why does your house smell like skunk?

If you’re smelling skunk while sleeping in the middle of the night, there’s a high likelihood that a skunk or two has taken residence in your home or the vicinity surrounding it.

According to National Geographic, skunk spray can travel up to ten feet from the skunk’s anal glands. But that’s just the liquid. The stench can linger and travel even further. Some say that the smell can reach as far as 4 miles away from the point of expulsion.

And considering that a skunk’s spray is composed of sulfur-containing chemicals like thiols, it’s not only incredibly foul-smelling but also very difficult to get rid of.

If you don’t do anything to address the foul scent, like using a hydrogen peroxide solution, expect the odor to dissipate two to three weeks after first smelling it. Skunk spray seeping into things around the household like clothing, wooden furniture, or carpeting may also cause it to linger for longer.

skunk crawling over rocks and dirt

What does it mean when you smell a skunk while sleeping?

When you smell skunk while sleeping, it’s most likely because a skunk has sprayed or died nearby. Consequentially, their scent infiltrated your home, making its unwanted entrance through an open window or openings around the house.

The stronger the smell, the closer the skunk is to your residence.

Since skunks are nocturnal creatures, they tend to run about and find critters and grubs to feed on during nightfall. That’s why it’s more likely to sense their presence during bedtime.

If you live in a rural place with wild coyotes and foxes around, the skunks may naturally use their sole defense mechanism as a last resort to deal with these predators. This predator-prey interaction naturally exposes you to the skunk’s signature odor every once in a while, even if they’re miles away.

skunk in a den nestled on hay and beneath rocks

How can you tell if you have a gas leak or a skunk?

One way to tell apart skunk odor and a gas leak is by detecting the readings of a carbon monoxide detector. If it detects abnormal ranges of noxious gas emissions, then you know there’s a gas leak.

Another way to tell the difference is if you’re coming down with sudden symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Skunk spray may be offensive, but it’s not deadly. And it certainly won’t give you a headache or make you feel dizzy and confused.

striped skunk walking across dead grass

Often, people mistake the smell of a gas leak for that of a skunk (and vice versa). And surprisingly, this isn’t a coincidence—they both have that rotten egg-like quality to them because of a shared compound known as mercaptan.

Mercaptan is a chemical added to natural gas and propane because they’re otherwise odorless and colorless. This makes it easier for people to detect a gas leak before it causes any explosion or fire hazards.

If you suspect a gas leak at home, immediately evacuate the premises and contact your local gas company. Don’t try to find the source of the leak yourself, as mercaptan is highly combustible.

striped skunk walking on green leafy grass

What to do if you smell a skunk at night inside your house?

A skunk smell can be overwhelming, lasting for weeks if nothing’s done. If you smell skunk at home, here are ways to properly address the odor:

Open all windows and doors

Open all windows are doors to air out the house. If you have a fan, keep it running to let out the air.

Use Vinegar

Pour 2-3 cups of vinegar into bowls and place them around your home where skunk odor permeates. Vinegar can neutralize a skunk’s scent.

Use Bleach

Deodorize outdoor structures and hard furniture by mixing a 1:9 bleach and water solution and wiping it onto the structure.

Wash fabrics

For soft materials like clothing and carpeting, put them in the washer at the hottest settings. Then, mix a quarter cup of baking soda and detergent. Dry the laundry outside.

two baby skunks in a grass field

If you come across a dead skunk near your property, place it in a disposable trash bag and tie it up tightly to seal the smell. Wear gloves and a face mask when handling the carcass. Spray the affected area with vinegar to get rid of the foul odor.

Alternatively, you may call animal control to have them deal with the issue.

Joshua Munoz

Most people’s first instinct when they see a wild skunk is to back away, but not Joshua. He holds a near-obsessive fascination with skunks and their behavior. Although Joshua has never been closer than five feet to a skunk, he has spent countless hours researching them. He knows almost everything there is to know about skunks, from their diet and habitat, to how to humanely trap them. Joshua’s interest in skunks is rooted in his love of animal biology. He fondly remembers topping his finals in biology class while in university. Now, as a writer, he fuses passion and expertise into one by sharing his knowledge about the animal kingdom with others.

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