Can You Describe the Smell of Ammonia to Me?

In summary: I don't know what kind of animal it is, but it does have an ammonia smell to it.In summary, the mouse or rat urine would smell like ammonia.
  • #1
kyphysics
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I am not sure what it smells like and am wondering if someone can describe it to me.

The reason I ask is I am wondering if I have a mouse or rat in the home that is urinating on my clothes. I have read that the mouse/rat urine would smell like ammonia.

So what does ammonia smell like?

Thanks!
 
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  • #2
Ammonia smell is like an acid attack on the mucus membranes in your nose. It is an irritant that overwhelms the normal sensation of smell and is very distinctive. Human urine CAN smell like ammonia but doesn't always. I don't know about rats/mice.
 
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  • #3
Here you can buy it in bottles of a liter for very little. (Less than 50 cents.) Maybe there too? Opening the bottle is usually enough to get your own idea of the unpleasant smell. (Do not actively sniff it.) I find it useful as a grease remover, for example before re-painting I tend to think like it smell"soft" wood in the house.
 
  • #4
Tell me how the red looks like. The question of "what does ammonia smell like" is vague.
 
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  • #5
Cat pee. Probably most urine will smell like ammonia after a while, as urination is many animals’ principal method of secreting nitrogenous waste. If you don’t know what animal urine smells like and you’ve never come into contact with any ammonia cleaner, it’ll be difficult to describe what it smells like.
 
  • #6
Smelling salts
 
  • #7
You're going at it the hard way.

Health inspectors use cheap UV flashlights to spot mouse urine. Mice leave sort of an intermittent pee trail (with pheromones) to help find their way back home. Mouse pee fluoresces under UV light. If you have mice there will be pee trails along your baseboards. And on your kitchen counter back wall.

A coworker of mine worked as an exterminator to get through grad school. He used the '8-to-1' rule: if you see a mouse there are 8 more wandering around. He used UV to see where to put traps - which turns out to be a reasonably efficient method to find problem areas.

https://www.copesan.com/technical-updates/tech-talk-using-black-light-detect-rodent-evidence/

Amazon sells UV 365nm flashlights. Don't know if this link will work:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075GWKN83/?tag=pfamazon01-20
 
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  • #8
There are distinctive differences in animal urines... I can tell the difference between human, cat and mouse pee... this wasn't one of my life goals, but whatever.

Bear in mind that fresh urine rarely contains much ammonia : that takes awhile to appear as the uric acid breaks down in solution.

If you want to know what ammonia smells like, pee in a bottle, wait a few days, uncork, sniff. That sharp odour that cleared your sinuses and made you jerk your head back and widen your eyes a bit ? that's ammonia.

Or, go to the store and look for a bottle marked "Ammonia". Or, take a whiff of glass cleaner.

Best for your application - if you have a few bucks to spare - get/borrow a UV flashlight.
 
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  • #9
When I visited Iceland, I had a chance to try a real treat: fermented shark. It hangs in sheds all "summer." Smells & tastes like ammonia.
 
  • #10
If memory serves me well horse urine smells of ammonia, they have a bit different biochemistry/physiology behind nitrogen excretion.
 
  • #11
The odor or smell of ammonia is a brutal very minty characteristic one.

When trying to describe a small, best reference is to use the true source and check the sample very carefully.. But in this case, be sure to NOT put your nose near the sample. Best to very gently almost with no effort make the most shallow nasal inhale as gently as possible. The vapor or fumes or gas of ammonia is very irritating and , not knowing the actual concentration of any sample you may have, very toxic and corrosive.(or should I say caustic?)
 
  • #12
TeethWhitener said:
Cat pee. Probably most urine will smell like ammonia after a while, as urination is many animals’ principal method of secreting nitrogenous waste. If you don’t know what animal urine smells like and you’ve never come into contact with any ammonia cleaner, it’ll be difficult to describe what it smells like.
Don't own pets and never have, so, yeah, I don't know what cat/dog pee smells like. :)

I'm not really sure what human pee smells like either. I mean, often mine is odorless. It may have a "spoiled" smell to it at times when it is yellow-ish or left to sit in an unflushed toilet.
 
  • #13
hmmm27 said:
If you want to know what ammonia smells like, pee in a bottle, wait a few days, uncork, sniff. That sharp odour that cleared your sinuses and made you jerk your head back and widen your eyes a bit ? that's ammonia.
Oh, that sounds awful!

And speaking of which, I do have pee in a bottle from a while back that is not thrown out. *don't ask* However, there is no way I'm going to open it. I worry it's got so much bacteria that I'd die from just taking a whiff. lol.

Just the thought sounds awful, though, which makes me believe I did not smell rat/mouse urine (which has been described as ammonia-like).
 
  • #15
jim mcnamara said:
Health inspectors use cheap UV flashlights to spot mouse urine. Mice leave sort of an intermittent pee trail (with pheromones) to help find their way back home.
I thought this was the case - the pee being a scattered trail. This continues to cast doubt on my rat/mouse urine theory, as it's not a trail, but instead a concentrated round "puddle" (but, I digress, as that's the concern of my other thread).
 
  • #16
phinds said:
The sensation you get w/ ammonia is like an acid attack on the mucus membranes in your nose. It is an irritant that overwhelms the normal sensation of smell and is very distinctive. Human urine CAN smell like ammonia but doesn't always. I don't know about rats/mice.
So, it's not just unpleasant, but "strong" is that right?

Or, do you have to have your nose near it to be "strong"?
 
  • #17
kyphysics said:
So, it's not just unpleasant, but "strong" is that right?
It is not a "strong smell" it is a caustic that can damage the mucus membranes in your nose and even worse, it undergoes a toxic reaction when it reacts to the moisture in your lungs. A nice deep breath of strong amonia might not kill you but you'd likely wish your were dead for a while. Mouse piss is not likely to be anywhere nearly strong enough to have that effect, I'm talking about deeply inhaling from a bottle of ammonia. Don't.
 
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  • #18
kyphysics said:
And speaking of which, I do have pee in a bottle from a while back that is not thrown out. *don't ask* However, there is no way I'm going to open it. I worry it's got so much bacteria that I'd die from just taking a whiff. lol.
Perfectly normal... well, maybe not "perfectly" ; I had one for a week... wanted to see if a thin layer of oil would trap the smell (it did, and now one of my many backburner projects is a non-smelling urinal for the garage). Urine doesn't contain live bacteria, btw.
Just the thought sounds awful, though, which makes me believe I did not smell rat/mouse urine (which has been described as ammonia-like).
Yeah, well the day is coming when we'll have smell-over-IP ; woohoo. Meanwhile ammonia doesn't smell bad, per se, but it will knock your nose out of joint : what everybody else said about "wafting".

IIRC (human) urine is probably 0.4-0.5% ammonia once the dust has settled ; from the store maybe 3-4%.
 
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  • #19
I once got a dose of Ammonia from a Blueprint machine. The Ammonia used in those machines is several times the concentration of the stuff you can buy in the grocery store.

Before the days of large plotters and photocopiers, copies of technical drawings on Vellum (somewhat translucent paper made from cotton) were contact printed on photo sensitive blueprint paper. Exposure was with a strong UV light that decomposed the photo sensitive surface.

Developing was done by passing the exposed copy thru an Ammonia atmosphere. The areas not exposed to UV (where the pencil or ink lines were on the original) turned Blue; hence the name Blueprint.

Anyhow, I got a nose full of Ammonia. The respiratory tract said "No Way"! I could not inhale, only exhale. An inhalation attempt had my bronchial tubes spasm closed to avoid getting that Ammonia any deeper into my lungs. Clearing that Ammonia, I think was the emptiest my lungs have ever been!

Not recommended.

Cheers,
Tom

p.s. No known after effects; but rather scary at the time.
 
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  • #20
Tom.G said:
I once got a dose of Ammonia from a Blueprint machine.
I well remember those Ozalid machines. I had to use them a lot and it was awful. We all hated them but it was the only way back then to duplicate large engineering drawings.
 
  • #21
Ammonia smells much like monoethanolamine.

The next question is, what does monoethanolamine smell like?
 
  • #22
A jug of ammonia - which has 10,000x as much as you need - is $1.14 at Walmart.
 
  • #23
hmmm27 said:
IIRC (human) urine is probably 0.4-0.5% ammonia once the dust has settled ; from the store maybe 3-4%.
You buy your urine in a store? I usually make mine from scratch.
 
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  • #24
TeethWhitener said:
You buy your urine in a store? I usually make mine from scratch.
no, no, no.; he makes a comparison.
Difficult to smell ammonia in freshly dispensed urine, but buy a quart bottle of whatever grocery-store level concentration of ammonia (ammonia water) and much more smell of ammonia is present. He did not mean to say you could buy urine from the grocery store.
 
  • #25
symbolipoint said:
no, no, no.; he makes a comparison.
Difficult to smell ammonia in freshly dispensed urine, but buy a quart bottle of whatever grocery-store level concentration of ammonia (ammonia water) and much more smell of ammonia is present. He did not mean to say you could buy urine from the grocery store.
A quart bottle of urine would be pretty difficult to produce on demand. You’re right; it’s better to buy it from a store.
 
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  • #26
Tom.G said:
Anyhow, I got a nose full of Ammonia. The respiratory tract said "No Way"! I could not inhale, only exhale. An inhalation attempt had my bronchial tubes spasm closed to avoid getting that Ammonia any deeper into my lungs. Clearing that Ammonia, I think was the emptiest my lungs have ever been!

Not recommended.
Yeah, that pretty much seals it for me. I don't need to know what it smells like (I'm guessing it'll be unmistakable if I'm ever unfortunate to take a whiff?). :smile:
 
  • #27
kyphysics said:
Yeah, that pretty much seals it for me. I don't need to know what it smells like (I'm guessing it'll be unmistakable if I'm ever unfortunate to take a whiff?). :smile:

It's not that bad in SMALL doses. You may have heard of "Smelling Salts." Here in the US most (all?) Doctors offices keep some on hand.

I understand that a century or so ago they were commonly available, and stocked, by the general public. The use was when someone was fainting (that was supposedly something delicate females did on occassion), they would be waved under their nose. This was, and is, enough stimulus to keep them conscious.

A Google search of Amazon.com finds 230 000 hits:
https://www.google.com/search?&q=smelling+salts+site:amazon.com
(but it's probably cheaper at your local store)

It is also a very good cleaner for some things. I've used the common grocery store stuff at 25% mix with water to clean smoke off of glossy-painted walls and other hard surfaces.

It is also a solvent for the ink used in inkjet printers. You can use it on a rag to clean the ink off your hands. Probably want to use soap and water afterwards.

Cheers,
Tom
 
  • #28
CA9219CA-1655-43B6-9444-EBCBDC74C364.jpeg
 
  • #29
Here you go. . . . :wink:

1604008459150.png


.
 
  • #30
I has to clean up some fresh cat pee yesterday. Very fresh: I watched the cat do it. I was surprised that it was so much like water in terms of a lack of aroma.

Just go to the store and buy some glass cleaner and take a whiff. Then go clean your windows and mirrors.
 
  • #31
JT Smith said:
Just go to the store and buy some glass cleaner and take a whiff. Then go clean your windows and mirrors.
That depends on the formulation. Some glass cleaners have ammonia. Some glass cleaners have isopropanol. some glass cleaners have both ammonia and isopropanol. A few glass cleaners have neither but instead something else. Often enough the product label has an ingredients list. If what is shown is what you are looking for, decide if this sampling would be the choice.
 
  • #32
kyphysics said:
I am not sure what it smells like and am wondering if someone can describe it to me.

The reason I ask is I am wondering if I have a mouse or rat in the home that is urinating on my clothes. I have read that the mouse/rat urine would smell like ammonia. Thanks!
Ammonia smells like urine. I've known this for decades. You don't need a black light, and in any case how would you tell the difference between different biological traces left around the house? Mostly food traces, I imagine.
 
  • #33
thetrellan said:
Ammonia smells like urine. I've known this for decades. You don't need a black light, and in any case how would you tell the difference between different biological traces left around the house? Mostly food traces, I imagine.
Fresh urine doesn't usually particularly smell of ammonia. A decent UV flashlight can save you weeks of putting your nose right up to the wall to find out exactly where the cat peed a couple of weeks ago.
 
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  • #34
The 146 "perceptual descriptors" in Andrew Dravnieks' 1985 "Atlas of Odor Character Profiles" are listed in the paper The structure of human olfactory space by Alexei A. Koulakov, Armen G. Enikolopov, and Dmitry Rinberg. Ammonia is descriptor #108 (an interesting number: ##108=1^1 \times 2^2 \times 3^3##).

As @hmmm27 pointed out, it smells like glass cleaner ##-## that's because glass cleaner is (usually) diluted ammonia ##-## it evaporates completely without residue.

Undiluted ammonia is very noxious, and strongly insults the respiratory tract if inhaled ##-## if you want to smell it, open a bottle, and wave your hand laterally above the top to waft a little of it.
 

Related to Can You Describe the Smell of Ammonia to Me?

1. What does ammonia smell like?

Ammonia has a pungent, sharp, and unpleasant odor similar to that of household cleaning products.

2. Is the smell of ammonia harmful?

In high concentrations, the smell of ammonia can be irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat. However, in small amounts, it is not harmful.

3. What causes the smell of ammonia?

The smell of ammonia is caused by the chemical compound ammonia (NH3) which is released when organic matter breaks down.

4. Can you describe the intensity of the smell of ammonia?

The intensity of the smell of ammonia can vary depending on the concentration of the chemical. In high concentrations, it can be overpowering and in low concentrations, it may be barely noticeable.

5. How can you get rid of the smell of ammonia?

The best way to get rid of the smell of ammonia is to thoroughly clean the area with a mixture of water and vinegar. You can also use activated charcoal or baking soda to absorb the odor.

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