Renter, realtors, home buyers, and home owners often miss the signs of a meth lab, which may appear to look “odd” but not so odd that it sends up a red flag. A word of advice: If you think something is odd, weird, or unusual, you should listen to what your gut is telling you. Ask questions and investigate the history of the home before you buy or rent it. Talk to the local health department, the local and state police departments, and the neighbors may help you to learn more about whether the previous occupants may have been meth users, meth cooks, or if a meth lab bust occurred at that address.
What you see inside and outside of a home may help you to identify a meth lab home, but you should keep in mind that many former meth lab homes have been “cleaned up” by their owners. Does the home appear as if it’s undergone a total rehab? Does it have new flooring, new rugs, new kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and new paint? Ask yourself “why is that”? Looking “new” is not a guarantee that a home is not contaminated by meth or meth lab chemicals. The only sure way to find out if a home is contaminated by meth is to have the home professionally tested.
*According to estimates by law enforcement agencies and meth lab cleanup contractors, only one out of ten homes where meth has been manufactured, have ever been discovered by the police. Buyer and renters beware!
Chemical stains on flooring
Chemical staining on walls and floors often result when chemicals spill during the meth cook. Floors and carpets are often stained or damaged by meth chemicals that can include liquids such as hydrochloric acid. A former meth lab may also have brand new flooring and carpets, which can signal that the previous flooring was damaged because of meth lab chemical spills.
Fixer-upper buyers beware! Also, keep in mind that meth lab homes may look brand new and not show any of the damages you see in the pictures listed here. Unscrupulous sellers who buy meth lab homes at rock bottom prices often cover stains with carpeting and new flooring and paint walls to minimize any questions or concerns about the home from prospective buyers or renters.
Burned grass or vegetation
Meth lab cooks may cook meth outdoors or burn empty pseudoephedrine packages or blister packaging for cold, allergy, and sinus medicines, to avoid raising the suspicion of anyone seeing the tell-tale meth signs in their trash. Cooking outdoors is remote locations in another way to avoid being detected by neighbors who may smell the chemicals they’re cooking. Cooking outdoors also keeps their homes from getting contaminated or exposing their children to the hazardous chemicals they’re cooking with. If you see burn pits, stained soil or dead vegetation it may indicate areas where meth lab chemicals have been dumped.
Kitty Litter is often used by meth lab cooks to soak up spilled chemicals. In the first picture, a meth lab cook uses this kitty litter container as part of their meth manufacturing process. Tubing is commonly found at meth labs, where it is often connected to a variety of containers.
Do you see kitty litter in unusual locations? It could indicate that someone used it to absorb a chemical spill.
When someone is addicted to meth, meth is ALL THAT MATTERS. The effect of meth on users makes it difficult for them to get organized and keep the kind of focus it would take to keep their house neat and tidy.
Renters who are using meth and/or making meth will try to avoid having their landlord come in to inspect their home, due to its condition and to prevent the landlord from seeing anything that might evoke questions. Neighbors and other visitors are also avoided by meth lab cooks, for the same reasons.
Windows are often covered or blacked-out to keep prying eyes from seeing inside.
Strange plumbing, vent systems, and/or electrical connections in a house should make you question why someone would have a plumbing, wiring, or electrical system like that in their house, basement, attic, or garage. Could the plumbing be installed to make it easier to dump chemicals without being detected by anyone outside of the house?
Could venting systems be installed in basements to vent out meth lab fumes? Are electrical outlets or wiring found in weird places?
BASEMENTS AND GARAGES
The windows on basements and garages made be covered or painted to keep others from seeing what’s “cooking”. Exhaust fans are common, as well.
Police often find different types of glassware in meth labs, including glass bottles, jugs, and glass cooking containers.
Meth cooks who use the “shake and bake” method, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, typically use commonly found plastic bottles to make meth. Water bottles, soda bottles, sports drinks bottles, juice bottles and other plastic bottles of all shapes and sizes are being used to make meth. Meth made in these bottles frequently explode causing fires and burn injuries to people in their vicinity.
This post was originally published on July 16, 2009.