Many houses in the USA are illegally used as meth labs to produce methamphetamines, which can cause many negative health effects in their inhabitants, even after the house is sold to the next unwitting owner.

The Denver Post estimates that 7% of single family and 11% of multi-family units that are foreclosed have traces of meth residue.

With these risks, many commercial test kits for meth lab residue have appeared. However, many of them are intentionally vague about their chemical mechanisms.

What chemical mechanisms do meth lab test kits use to detect the presence of a meth lab?

  • $\begingroup$ It seems rather sketchy to me. Cannot really imagine that there is a "significant" health hazard associated with being in a room in which meth has been smoked on some occasions. Especially if it has been cleaned up properly. But I might be wrong. Interesting question +1 $\endgroup$
    – Jori
    Sep 7, 2015 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


Simple self-made or commercially available tests use the Marquis reagent, which is a mixture of sulfuric acid and formaldehyde. For example, Marquis reagent can be prepared by adding 100 ml of concentrated sulfuric acid to 5 ml of a saturated aqueous solution of formaldehyde (40 % formaldehyde by volume or 37 % by mass).[reference]

Marquis reagent reacts with methamphetamine

The Marquis reagent reacts with many alkaloid drugs to form a variety of colours. Methamphetamine creates an orange dye (deep reddish orange to dark reddish brown).

deep reddish orange dark reddish brown

  • $\begingroup$ After reading the paper, it seems that Simon's Reagent (A12) is more specific towards methamphetamines. $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Sep 8, 2015 at 15:01

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