Spotting a Meth Lab

How to Spot a Meth Lab

The manufacturing of methamphetamine became a problem in the tri-state area around 1998. Since then numerous methamphetamine laboratories have been located and seized in the City and County of Dubuque.

If you are trying to determine if someone is manufacturing methamphetamine in your neighborhood there are some indicators that you can look for:

  • Unusual chemical odors (solvents or ammonia) When manufacturing methamphetamine different chemicals are used. Each has a very strong and distinctive odor associated with it.
  • Windows covered or blacked out. Often people who manufacture meth will cover the windows with black cloth or tin foil to prevent anyone from seeing what is happening in the residence.
  • Video surveillance cameras on or around the property or a specific building or garage. Some meth cooks will want to see if anyone is approaching their residence.
  • Unusual amount of visitors. Often persons who are manufacturing meth have someone bringing them supplies to manufacture the meth. They will come at all hours of the day and night and appear as if they do not want to be seen entering the residence.
  • People who manufacture meth will usually be paranoid. They will always be looking up and down the street for police. They will think that all of the neighbors are watching them or working with the police.
  • Meth manufacturing can produce a large amount of trash. The containers that the chemicals and solvents come in have to be disposed of. Meth cooks will often burn the trash associated with cooking meth. Others will haul their trash away and throw it in the ditch or take it directly to the landfill when they have curbside trash service.

Remember that just because there are some indicators does not automatically mean that someone is manufacturing methamphetamine.


This is a list of some of the chemicals and items commonly used in manufacturing methamphetamine. The amount and type of chemical as well as the items associated with meth manufacturing varies from cook to cook depending on what they prefer to use.

  • 2-liter bottles 
  • 20-pound propane cylinders 
  • Acetone 
  • Alcohol (Isopropyl)
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Anhydrous Ammonia 
  • Blenders 
  • Buckets
  • Camping fuel 
  • Cat Litter
  • Cheesecloth 
  • Coffee filters
  • Coffee pots
  • Cold packs 
  • Drain opener 
  • Ephedrine
  • Ether (engine starter)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Funnels
  • Gas cans 
  • Glass Pyrex or Corning dishes 
  • Hotplates 
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Iodine (Tincture)
  • Iodized salt 
  • Jugs/bottles 
  • Laboratory beakers/glassware 
  • Lithium (batteries)
  • Matches (striker plates) 
  • Measuring cups
  • MSM (cutting agent)
  • Muriatic Acid
  • Paper Plates
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Pop Bottles (20 ounce)
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Red Phosphorus (matches) 
  • Rubber spatulas
  • Rubber tubing/gloves 
  • Salt
  • Sodium Metal
  • Sodium Hydroxide (lye) 
  • Starter fluid 
  • Sulfuric Acid (drain cleaner) 
  • Tape/clamps 
  • Thermometer 
  • Toluene (brake cleaner) 
  • Towels/bed sheets 
  • Trichloroethane-gun scrubber
  • Turkey Baster 
  • Wire Whisks

Numerous other items can be used