*************** IFAQ's ************* (infrequently asked questions)

Q1) Can I buy this stuff ?

A) It's already free. As mentioned earlier, mixed product can not be stored.

Q2) Can I buy a stable, more convenient form of this stuff ?

A) Maybe. Over the past year I've developed such a formula, but I'm not going to make the $10,000 investment needed to produce it unless I'm certain there is sufficient demand. A package with enough to handle 2 or 3 de-skunkings would cost about $20. If you would like to buy such a product then send me an e-mail. skunkremedy@earthlink.net If I get enough requests.....I'll think about it. It's not exactly what I consider an R&D technology dream business. A politically correct version of the American Dream ??? Sure, how else could one get "un-stinking rich" ? ho ho ho !

Q3) How does peroxide, baking soda, and soap get rid of skunk smell ?

A) To get one ingredient out of the way, the soap's just there to help wet the fur and get the oily skunk spray into solution where it can react with the baking soda and peroxide. What happens next is all chemistry, but I'll try to keep it very simple.

First we need a basic understanding of skunk spray. It is mostly composed of compounds called thiols, and acetate derivatives of same. Chemists represent thiols (or mercaptans as they used to be called) with the letters R-S-H. "R" represents the rest of the carbon and hydrogen atoms in the molecule, "S" is a sulfur atom, and "H" is hydrogen. I've put in dashes to show the bonds between them.

The human nose is very sensitive to low molecular weight thiols, a few parts per billion in some cases. Thiols are often found in wastes, and in food which is contaminated or spoiled. Your nose is right above your mouth. So if something you're about to eat doesn't "smell right", little alarm bells should be going off in your brain saying "whoa ! don't eat that or you'll get sick !".

This ability to sense/warn us of very trace amounts of thiols has been exploited by your local natural gas utility. Natural gas is naturally odorless after refining. Just imagine what would happen if you couldn't smell a natural gas leak. A lot of explosions, not to mention the gas that would be wasted. So they put thiols in the gas to make it stink. On purpose. Methane thiol is the simplest organic thiol. The simplest thiol of all is hydrogen sulfide, which is inorganic. Hydrogen sulfide gives rotten eggs their smell.

Methane thiol has one carbon atom and three hydrogens in the "R". Ethane thiol has two carbons and five hydrogens in the "R". Skunk spray has (mostly) 4-6 carbons in the "R".

H3C-CH2-S-H Ethane thiol

H3C-CH2-S-O-C(=O)-CH3 Ethane thioacetate

"Notepad" really isn't good for showing chemical structures, and Deltapoint's HTML editor butchers Notepad even further, so the more complex ones in skunk spray won't be shown here. Actually, all we're concerned about is the S-H part of the molecule, nothing happens to the "R" group ! Don't let the thioacetate confuse you, it's really a thiol in disguise. If you add water to a thioacetate, it splits into a thiol and acetic acid. Many theorize that this explains the observed mysterious "return to stinkiness" of a rain-soaked pet after the traditional tomato juice treatment.

Now that you know all this, let's move on to the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. The baking soda is there to raise the pH of the brew, that is, to make it more alkaline. I should say "just alkaline enough". Baking soda is a very mild alkali and won't eat holes in your skin like a strong alkali (e.g. lye) would. Raising the pH does three things: 1) It rapidly splits thioacetates into thiols and acetate. 2) It accelerates the reaction between thiol and peroxide. 3) It neutalizes the sulfonic acid produced by 2), above.

Peroxide reacts with thiols in a number of steps, gradually going through the multiple oxidation states of sulfur chemistry until the end product, a sulfonic acid, is produced. This is neutralized to the sodium salt by baking soda. I'm not going to go through all of them in Notepad, but will try to illustrate with a few well- known compounds, using methane thiol (R=CH3) as an example.

The first step in the oxidation is actually a coupling of the thiol to a disulfide.

2 { RSH } + 1/2 O2 ----} RSSR + H2O (notepad does not do arrows, subscripts, etc...)

Whether the S-S bond is broken next or one of the sulfur atoms is further directly oxidized is unclear.

It is known that if one gets to a sulfenic acid RSOH that these are extremely unstable and rapidly oxidize to a sulfinic acid, R-S(=O)-OH

and these are stable enough to be isolated. The oxidation then

progresses to the sulfonic acid R-S(=O)(=O)-O-H, and these are very stable indeed. The only reaction after that is a simple neutralization of the acid with the baking soda to form the sodium salt.

Some other simple sulfur compounds in various oxidation states:

H3C-S(=O)-CH3 dimethyl sulfoxide (topical analgesic)

H3C-S(=O)(=O)-CH3 Dimethyl sulfone (in brocolli)

H3C-O-S(=O)(=O)-O-CH3 Dimethyl sulfate (toxic alkylating agent)

CH2=CH-CH2S(=O)-S-CH2CH=CH2 Allicin (in garlic), antibacterial

CH3SO3H Methanesulfonic acid (catalyst, electroplating chemical)

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Last Update: 10/08/02
Web Author: Paulkrebaum
Copyright 2002 by Paul Krebaum - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED