Have you ever wished that there was something more productive you could do with your urine than flushing it? For some reason, the inner five-year-old in me thinks about things like this every so often. But whether you share my juvenile tendencies or not, there actually are other uses for pee! Some of them are thousands of years old. So, before you flush next time, you may want to consider recycling your pee.
First of all, it is important to have several things in mind when discussing our golden byproduct. One is that urine is 95–98 percent water. It also contains a mix of proteins, salts and other chemicals, as well as excess hormones. The color of urine can vary drastically. In fact, the color of urine leads me right into the first use.
Urine is a health indicator
The color of urine can be a great indicator of the health of a person and can even point toward the source of an illness. For instance, lighter yellow can mean that you are well hydrated, while a darker yellow can mean that you are dehydrated. Reddish or pink urine can mean that there is blood in the urine, which can be indicative of several issues: a UTI, enlarged prostate, tumors, cysts, or kidney problems. Orange urine can result from liver problems. The list goes on. Make sure to pay attention to your urine! It could be a tip-off that something is out of balance in your body.
Let’s move on to some uses that are a little more light-hearted. Some of them are on the gross side while some are just plain fun!
That’s right! We all wish we could have had a way to pass a note back in high school without the teacher being able to read it to the whole class when she intercepted it. Just write the note using urine and heat it up over a low heat to read the message. I don’t recommend peeing on your pen right in the middle of a class however.
Over time, urea, which is an organic compound found in urine, will decay and turn into ammonia. Ancient Romans would use aged urine as a tanning agent to soften leather. I’m not sure what they did about the smell!
Make stronger metal engines for race cars
In the early 1980s engineers from BMW would put their engine blocks for Formula 1 race cars out in the cold and pee on them. Evidently the process made the metal stronger, an important factor when racing at high speeds.
Don’t try this at home kids, but urine — along with a couple of other ingredients which I will purposefully leave out — can be used to create potassium nitrate. It just so happens that potassium nitrate makes up about three-quarters of the ingredients needed for making gunpowder. My inner five-year-old is getting excited again!
Fabric dye sealer
The Romans would often use urine as a mordant. A mordant is an agent used to help seal colors into fabric after it has been dyed.
Territory marking and critter repellant
You probably have seen how dogs and wolves will mark their territory by peeing on random things. Their urine leaves a bit of their scent as a warning to other animals. It tells them that the area is already claimed. If you do the same thing around the perimeter of a home or garden sometimes it can be enough to warn animals to stay away. Most animals are scared away just by the scent of humans. Some, however, will need a more forceful method depending on how hungry or desensitized to humans they are.
Compost booster or fertilizer
Urine can help to break down other compostable materials and enhance their ability to fertilize soil. But be careful how you use it. Take a look at the next use!
If you let urine mature and decay into ammonia, you can use it in concentrated amounts to kill weeds. Some weeds may obviously need a stronger dose than others.
Treating skin conditions
Urine can be used to clear up pimples or conditions like eczema.
Yes. Urine used to be utilized as a form of mouthwash. I think that is all I need to say about this one!
When urine first leaves the body, it is actually sterile. As long as it was produced by strong healthy kidneys, it will contain no living organisms and therefore no bacteria.
And last but not least, you can drink your own pee. You can either distill it to remove all other materials from the water, or you can drink it straight. Many sailors lost at sea have survived by drinking their own urine. But they had to be careful not to do it too many times because eventually it would become poisonous.
So the next time you go to the bathroom, stop! Take a moment and think about all the useful things you can do with your pee. If you are into recycling, or just plain curious, this might be just the thing for you.
Remember to always think before you flush!
Kyle is an outdoor enthusiast with a passion for nature and sustainability. When he is not writing, you will find him in his workshop crafting with local wood, hiking in the Arizona mountains, fly fishing, horseback riding or putting together a healthy meal in the kitchen.