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20 Things to Do With Urine Besides Flushing It

January 9, 2014 | By Karsten Piper | 1 comment

I’ve done two things with pee — flushed it and pushed it across the counter in a cup for a lab tech to tell me what was the matter with me. I bet your list is about the same. So if urine is “waste,” we’re the ones who are wasting it.

Check out these 20 ways humans have put their micturation to better use…

Make your race car more durable

In the early 1980s, BMW engineers stored their Formula 1 engine blocks out in the cold and peed on them to help harden the metal so that they could withstand the force of turbocharged racing.

Urine - 1983 BMW

Grow new teeth

“Tooth is vital not only for a good smile, but also good health,” reads the abstract of a recent Chinese study

Yet, we lose tooth regularly due to accidents or diseases. An ideal solution to this problem is to regenerate tooth with patients’ own cells. Here we describe the generation of tooth-like structures from…human urine.

Soften leather

Over time, the urea in urine decays into ammonia, and Roman tanners soaked hides in it to help loosen and remove pieces of hair and flesh and to soften it for tanning. There’s no reason this wouldn’t work today on those cool-but-crusty kicks you found on the thrift store rack.

Fashion a makeshift gas mask

A sudden mustard gas attack might make anyone wet themselves, especially if they were caught without a gas mask. This may very well be why soldiers in World War 1 sometimes breathed through urine-soaked cloths while attempting to survive the clouds of gas.

Launder stains and keep the brights bright

Roman laundries used large quantities of pee to bleach fabrics and remove stains. They set containers around the city, and people relieved themselves into these. Then, back at the fullonica, the urine was diluted and dumped over the clothing as workers stomped on them.

Roman dyers also used urine as a mordant to seal dyed colors into the fabric. Other cultures have done the same thing: In the 16th century, English families had special pots for collecting urine, that was then exported by the cask-full to London for dyers there.

Urine - Pots

Sterilize lopped-off body parts

In the 1500s, barber-surgeon Leonardo Fioravanti saw a man’s nose sliced off during an argument. He immediately took a leak on the nose before stitching it back on the poor fellow who had lost it.

Over the centuries, urine has often been effectively used to wash battle wounds. While it’s not completely sterile because of bacteria it picks up leaving the body, urine is undoubtedly cleaner than the water that would have been available in most of those situations.

Clean your teeth

Romans used urine as a tooth-whitening mouthwash, again because of the ammonia. Listurine, anyone?

Drink it, treated

NASA’s Forward Osmosis Bag renders “dirty water” drinkable using a special membrane and sugar solution. Double check which end of that bag you’re swigging from before you wash down your astronaut ice cream!

Urine - Forward Osmosis Bag

Improve your garden

It turns out pee is an excellent booster ingredient for manure and other composts. Nepalese researchers grew sweet peppers in a variety of fertilizers, and the plants grown in soil with a combination of human urine and compost grew the tallest and yielded the most peppers.

Make a batch of gunpowder

Gunpowder is 3/4 potassium nitrate which isn’t too common in nature. It can be manufactured using urine, though, along with manure and water. Pleasant stuff, gunpowder.

Charge your phone

Bacteria feeding on urine produce enough electricity to power a cell phone. Within 2-3 years researchers at the University of the West of England expect to market a “smart toilet.” Use it by day, charge your phone with it by night.

Drink it, untreated

In 2006, British hiker Paul Beck was stranded for a week in the mountains of Spain and survived by eating chocolate powder and drinking his pee. Other stranded boaters and hikers have done the same thing, though it’s worth noting that the US Army Field Manual advises against this because of the salt levels often found in urine.

Instead, Uncle Sam recommends cooling off by soaking a cloth in urine and wrapping it around your head.

Urine - urine therapy cup

Boost your immune system

“Urine therapy” advocates point out that your wastewater is more water than waste, 95% in fact, that it contains many nutrients your body needs, and that the toxins in it are not enough to harm you. In fact, they say, consuming those toxins actually strengthens the body’s immune system. If you’re going to drink your urine, use the first flow of the day, taking a few ounces from the middle of the stream. Sip it slowly instead of chugging it. Make sure you also drink plenty of water that day. Cheers!

Promote meditation

Drinking one’s morning urine is also an ancient yogic practice, said to increase tranquility and heighten visualization. Whatever calming effect the urine has may come from the melatonin filtered from the blood during the night.

Fuel a generator

Four teenage girls in Nigeria have created an electrical generator that runs using urine for fuel. 1 liter of urine results in 6 hours of electricity.

Cool your machine gun

Early machine guns, like the WW1-era Vickers, needed a full “waterjacket” to keep them cool enough to operate continuously. When battles got heated and water ran low, soldiers whizzed into the gun so that it would continue firing.

Urine - Vickers Machine Gun

Cure impotence

Drinking urine has been offered as an impotence cure–but only if it’s mixed with a couple of truly disgusting ingredients, bran and pig’s liver.

Generate taxes

As you can tell, the Romans used and valued urine a lot. In the 1st century, Emperor Vespasian turned this into (wait for it!) a revenue stream, levying a sales tax on buyers of urine.

Urine - Vespasian Coins

When his son complained that this was disgusting, Vespasian answered, “Pecunia non olet.” Money does not stink.

Treat infertility

At least two infertility medications have been developed from the pee of menopausal nuns. In the 1960s, Dr. Bruno Lunenfeld realized that the urine of women going through menopause contains high amounts of the hormones that stimulate ovulation. He found a regular source of exactly such urine in convent restrooms, and proceeded to invent Menopur and Pergonal.

Save money on batting gloves

Longtime major-leaguer Moisés Alou was one of few baseball players to bat without any gloves. His secret? Urinating on his hands before games to toughen them up.

Urine - Alou

And there you have it. Now, folks, “urine” the know.

Karsten Piper

Karsten Piper teaches writing at a southern Minnesota community college, the best job he's had. The worst was his time as a Mountain Dew mascot. No one feels bad abusing a man in a foam can, green tights, and a pop-top baseball cap.

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