How to spot a meth lab

How to spot a Meth Lab

The (un)definitive guide to spotting a meth lab in your neighborhood

Because the process in which meth is made changes as new methods are developed I couldn’t call this the “definitive guide to spotting a meth lab in your neighborhood”. However, this should be a good start if you suspect your neighbors are making meth.

First off, meth has a strange odor, and the smell of meth is not easily masked. Depending on the size and scale of the operation, the odor may be strong. Some people mistake the smell of meth being made as a gas leak – however if you smell an odd smell repeatedly you can always contact your fire department (or police dept.) and ask them to investigate.

There will also likely be people coming and going at all hours. This is typical, not just of a meth lab, but of a meth house in general. Meth addicts can typically stay up for days at a time and don’t exactly use discretion when it comes to what would be considered “normal”  in a neighborhood.

Secondly, depending on how much meth is being made there will likely be containers used in the meth making process laying around. This would be tough to spot if it’s a small scale meth lab or they are using the shake and bake method to make meth because they might not have a large volume of discarded containers lying around. The shake and bake (or one pot) method makes small amounts at a time so if your neighbor is making more than just a small amount they would likely make meth using a combination of items (and some recipes call for some of these items and not others):

  • Glass Pyrex or Corning dishes
  • Jugs/bottles
  • Paper towels
  • Coffee filters
  • Thermometer
  • Cheesecloth
  • Funnels
  • Blenders
  • Rubber tubing/gloves
  • Buckets
  • Gas cans
  • Tape/clamps
  • Aluminum foil
  • 20lb. Propane cylinders
  • 2 liter bottles
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Hotplates
  • Plastic storage containers/ice chests
  • Measuring cups
  • Towels/bed sheets
  • Laboratory beakers/glassware
  • Lye (Red Devil brand possibly)
  • Starter fluid
  • Iodized salt
  • Drain opener (Liquid Fire brand possibly)
  • Matches (alot of them)
  • Camping fuel

So if you happen to glimpse through a kitchen window or into a garage where there are oddities like this laying around out of place and in conjunction with one another it might be time to get suspicious. For instance a hot plate and a blender plugged in out in the garage might be a little odd, especially if it there is a film or chemical residue on them. Also keep in mind that these are common household items, some of which could also be used in making homemade beer which is totally legal.

Lastly, the many materials needed to make meth. With the exception of anhydrous ammonia, many of these are items that can be bought at local stores, typically in small quantity (especially pseudoephedrine pills). You would likely see the empty containers for these products laying around or in the trash. The materials needed to make meth include:

  • Alcohol (Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol)
  • Toluene (brake cleaner)
  • Ether (engine starter)
  • Sulfuric Acid (drain cleaner)
  • Red Phosphorus (matches/road flares)
  • Salt (table/rock), Iodine (teat dip or flakes/crystal)
  • Lithium (batteries)
  • Trichloroethane (gun scrubber)
  • MSM (cutting agent)
  • Sodium Metal, Methanol/Alcohol (gasoline additives)
  • Muriatic Acid
  • Anhydrous Ammonia (farm fertilizer)
  • Sodium Hydroxide (lye)
  • Pseudoephedrine (cold tablets)
  • Ephedrine (cold tablets)
  • Acetone
  • Cat Litter

Now before you go crazy on me about listing everything needed to make meth, believe me when I say that this information is all over the place online and any resourceful tweaker has found the actual recipe long before finding this list. I am listing the common items needed so that if you happen to see alot of empty containers for the listed items you can maybe make a more educated guess as to whether or not your neighbor or someone else has a meth lab going on.

I am not saying you should become some sort of secret agent here, but if there are a combination of things that make you suspicious, it may be time to contact the authorities to investigate. It’s far better to be safe than sorry when it comes to meth labs. These homemade meth labs are very dangerous and explosions caused by making meth can, and do happen all the time.

  • R

    I have a new neighbor and i’ve smelled meth and crack coming out of my walls. Today they burned or cooked something that made my upper lungs feel like they were burning. I have c.o.p.d. can it make me feel like my lungs are burning?

  • Tortfeazor

    “By law”

    No. Just no. I always know when someone has not even gone to law school because they use terms like “by law,” “against the law,” or “break the law.” People with any legal knowledge do not talk this way.

    Assuming arguendo that this poster is discussing the sale or title transfer of real property in the US, then they should know that this is an area covered by the states and therefore is different.

    For instance:

    There is no universal “law” requiring that someone use a specific service to clean up real property contaminated by meth. Maybe in some states there is–but it cannot be said that all states require such–because they don’t.

    Nor is there a universal law that prohibits someone from transferring title on a property where meth might have been manufactured. Whether a warranty of habitability is offered under common law also varies from state to state–also a “disclosure” is not a universal requirement. In fact not all real property transactions even require a writing.

    Different states treat all of these issues differently. Most of these items are codified in state statutes, other–like transfer of real property–will blend common law with statute.

    If you have a real property question, it is best to contact a local attorney. Most run less than $300 an hour–which is a real bargain considering the horrible legs advice people seem to believe on the Internet.

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  • Jan Honeycutt

    I’m very concerned my 9 yr old and I bake and bring baked goods to our neighbors. We recently got a new neighbor and when we came by he barely cracked the door and it smelled really weird. I’m kind of scared could my daughter and I be exposed that quickly

  • George T Coggins

    aside from some of the ingredients listed here thats basicly any hobby chemist’s layout. make sure you know how to REALLY
    know how to identify before ruining some youtube chemists or essential oil distiller’s day by reporting him as a meth dealer.

  • ngla

    The shame of that is some people see it as easy money, especially if its Section 8, who are supposed to go do regular house checks but there is a drug house across from me and no one has ever gone check on it. And it is true, people who want to live like decent people have to suffer and worry about crazed out meth heads breaking in their homes, not only to steal but maybe killing them in a drug-fueled paranoid craze.

  • ngla

    Look up the chemicals used in making that stuff. Their minds are fried from using it and then some go on to making it to supply themselves and make money selling it. Meth houses are moving into nice, quiet neighborhoods and destroying them. I know that from personal experience and reporting to the local and county police has proven to be of no use even though they have said people going there are well known to them. They even told one neighbor to set up their own surveillance on them…what are the police for then? It has become a joke. We all figure if we keep calling the police they will eventually get fed up and have to do something about it, right? Seems garbage who rents a home like that has more rights than the people who have worked hard to afford and take care of their own homes. When you can’t even go out in your own yard without having people who sit in a carport all day long, yelling at you or making loud aggressive noise or actions to try and scare you, it is a sad situation. They are drugged out but know enough to know what they can be arrested for and what is just considered a neighborhood dispute where at most, the police come around way after the fact and basically say don’t do that, then they go away and it gets ten times worse. Add to that, those built in thieves can see when you leave your house because there is someone sitting in that carport pretty much 24/7.

  • Steven Stewart

    I know, right? I don’t know how many of these comments are trolling but there are a distressing number of people asking if they should call the cops because someone has some incredibly common chemicals and items. My favorite was the pharmacy tech asking if the customer who keeps buying 91% isopropyl alcohol is using it to make speed.

    Think it through before you call the police on your neighbors because they have a cat and a cold guys, please.

  • Steven Stewart

    egredgous [*sic] amounts of mountain dew bottles

    Call the 4chan party van!