Skunk odor is caused by a highly odorous oily secretion that the skunk uses as a defense mechanism. The odor comes from sulfur compounds know as thiols (formerly call mercaptans) and thioacetate derivatives of these thiols. Different species of skunk produce slightly different variations of these compounds. The odor of thiols can be detected in concentrations as low as 10 – 20 parts per trillion!
In order to neutralize the odor of skunk spray, the chemicals in the secretion must be changed to a different type of molecule that does not produce an odor. Oxidizing the thiols forms odorless sulfonic acid. Hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach can be used. There is no single remedy for skunk odor. Depending on the surfaces affected, it may require a variety of methods and several steps to remove the odor completely.