Recognizing a Meth Lab

Use Extreme Caution

If you think you have found a clandestine meth lab, do not touch or sniff anything!  The ingredients are often household products that are basically harmless alone, but can have serious toxic and explosive consequences when combined. Follow these recommended guidelines. (Information on how to recognize a meth lab are further down the page.)

  • It is best to not even approach a suspected meth lab.
  • Don’t touch anything, or your own clothing and body will be contaminated.
  • Don’t eat, drink or smoke nearby.
  • Don’t turn on any power switches, move any containers or touch the garbage.
  • Contact local authorities.
  • Call Traumatic Cleanup & Restoration for testing and professional decontamination if the meth lab is on your property.  Cleaning up after a meth lab is a dangerous and complicated process which should be handled by trained professionals.

Signs of a Meth Lab in Your Neighborhood

Any single activity is not proof of a clandestine methamphetamine lab in your area, but multiple factors could be a signal to contact your local authorities. DO NOT CONFRONT ANY SUSPICIOUS PEOPLE OR ENTER A SUSPECTED METH LAB.  Some common habits of drug makers and dealers are:

  •     Frequent visitors at all times of the day or night
  •     Occupants appear unemployed, yet seem to have plenty of money and pay bills with cash.
  •     Secrecy, paranoia and suspicion of others.
  •     Extensive security or signs, landscaping that blocks the view of the structure.
  •     Windows blackened or curtains always drawn.
  •     Occupants go outside the house to smoke cigarettes.
  •     Occupants set garbage in someone else’s collection area.

Some indicators to watch for, as listed by The Drug Enforcement Administration, are as follows:

  • Propane tanks that have fittings that have become blue
  • Strong and unusual chemical smells or the smell of urine
  • Glass cookware that contains a powdery residue
  • Jars or bottles to which tubing is attached
  • Jars that contain a red or white solid at the bottom of a clear liquid
  • Jars that contain a dark purple or red powder
  • Jars that contain metallic dark purple crystals that are shiny
  • Bottles of muriatic, sulphuric, or hydrochloric acid
  • A large number of cold medication bottles that list pseudoephedrine or ephedrine as an ingredient
  • Large numbers of lithium batteries, particularly if they have been stripped
  • Large numbers of cans of acetone, starter fluid, camp fuel, drain cleaner, and/or lye
  • Coffee filters that contain shiny white crystals, a white pasty residue, or a dark red slurry
  • Oil or kerosene in which is stored soft gray or silver metallic ribbon

Signs of a Meth Lab on Your Property

Landlords who make unannounced inspections of their property (within the provisions of the law) may recognize equipment and supplies commonly used in meth production.  Remember, do not  confront the tenant or enter the suspected lab, but contact local law enforcement immediately.  Some common ingredients in meth that could be suspicious if found together are:

  • signs of a meth lab contaminationAcetone
  • Drain cleaner (sodium hydroxide)
  • Battery acid
  • Paint thinner
  • Brake cleaner (toluene)
  • Iodine crystals
  • Starter fluid (ether)
  • Cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine/ephedrine
  • Freon
  • Red phosphorus
  • Either sodium or lithium
  • Anhydrous ammonia

Other hints you might see are

  • Unusual quantity of bottles, containers, and materials such as those above in the garbage.
  • Material, sheets or coffee filters stained from filtering red phosphorus or other chemicals.
  • Evidence of dumping chemicals or waste in the yard.

Once Again

Please don’t handle these materials or suspects yourself.  Contact law enforcement for dealing with the crime and then call Traumatic Cleanup & Restoration for professional cleanup.