A family in southern Iowa is living in a motel, and cleaning every square inch of their home, after a bizarre incident over the weekend. Mary Johnston says her husband spotted a skunk under their home Saturday night. She says the black and white pest was "huge", a male, about a foot and a half in length.

The skunk sprayed several times and the foul odor filled the home through the air conditioning system. Johnston says the first step in cleaning up is removing absolutely everything from the home and cleaning the walls…the stench penetrates plaster.

Experts, who clean up after skunks for a living, told the family to wash the walls with a mixture of peroxide, baking soda, and Dawn dish soap. "Then we have to put an odor resistant sealer on the walls before we repaint them," Johnston says, "that’s the only way that we can be sure it won’t come back through the walls." Johnston is worried that most of their furniture is ruined.

"Nobody can tell me how to get this smell out of my upholstery on my couch. They say it gets into the foam stuffing and there’s no guarantee it won’t come back," Johnston says. She compares the situation to a flood or tornado, but notes those disasters are often covered by insurance.

The Johnston’s home insurance policy doesn’t cover damage done by skunks, raccoons, or squirrels. Mary is frustrated with the situation, and is encouraging other rural Iowans to review their insurance policies.

"It’s nature, it’s a natural disaster, it’s not something a dog did," Johnston says, "and you assume it’s going to be covered, but it’s not. People need to look at what they bought."

A fund has been established at the People’s State Bank in Albia to help the Johnston family pay for the clean-up and possibly purchase new clothes and furniture.

Audio: Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis reports. :62 MP3