How long can you store a urine sample?

Alright folks, let’s talk about pee. Specifically, how long can you store your little golden ticket before it goes bad?

First and foremost, let’s establish why someone would even want to store their bodily fluids in the first place. Maybe you’re doing some kind of medical testing (no judgement here), maybe your significant other has a kink for it (hey, we don’t judge people’s fetishes), or perhaps you just want to keep a sample on hand in case anyone ever accuses you of being an alien imposter. Whatever your reason may be, the question remains: how long is too long?

The rules of storing

Before diving into specifics about urine storage lengthiness (yes, that’s now a word), we need to talk about proper storage methods. Just like anything else that comes out of our body (and many things that don’t…I’m looking at you Cheetos), urine has bacteria and microbes present that can contaminate the sample if not stored correctly.

To ensure accurate results and avoid any funky smells emerging from your storage container (because nobody wants house guests sniffing around asking what that peculiar odor is again), follow these rules:

  • Use an air-tight container with minimal headspace
  • Store at 4°C-8°C (that means fridge temperature)
    • Do not freeze or subject to extreme temperatures
  • Label clearly with name/date/time/any pertinent information

If all steps are followed properly, then congratulations! Your piss should last as expected! But alas, life doesn’t always go according to plan…

Short term storage

Let’s say you’re leaving on a vacation tomorrow but really wanted to get started on this urine-based art project tonight (okay I lied earlier, I will judge this one). Can shorter term storage be done?

The answer is yes! If stored properly, urine can last up to 24 hours outside of the fridge. Keep it at room temperature in a sealed container and check on it every few hours to make sure there hasn’t been any obvious microbial growth or contamination.

Medium term storage

Alright, now we’re venturing into more extended periods of time. Maybe you have this pesky issue with your bladder but only see your doctor once a month (or like me, you simply don’t trust yourself not to forget about it). How long can urine be stored for that still guarantees accurate results?

In this case, we’re looking at storing for approximately two weeks tops. Stored correctly as previously mentioned (hint hint go back and read if you skimmed over those earlier parts) and being checked periodically in case an unforeseen bacterial party starts up will keep your sample usable within that time frame.

Long term storage

You know what they say: always save some pee for a rainy day…or something along those lines. But how many days are too many? Can we store urine indefinitely? (Note: please do not take the word “indefinitely” here literally as I’m pretty sure nobody wants gallon jugs filled with yellow liquid stockpiled next to their canned goods).

The general consensus is that any urine samples kept longer than six months risk inaccuracies due to bacteria growth (also, let’s be real here people- hoarding pee bottles isn’t exactly normal behavior). If you absolutely must hang onto these samples longer than half a year (I won’t ask why), then freezing them may prolong their shelf life further-but definitely still monitor them closely even then (and maybe consider seeking help from professionals who specialize in illicit bodily fluid hoarding tendencies).

So there you have it! Properly refrigerated urine has longevity ranging between 24 hours (short-term) and two weeks (medium-term), while long-term storage should be avoided unless a longer shelf life is of utmost importance for your intended use.

Remember, when it comes to bodily samples and proper handling, there’s no shame in seeking advice from knowledgeable people. In the meantime, let us all raise our glasses…filled with water preferably (hydration is key folks)…to not encountering any strange yellow liquids that have been stored incorrectly! Cheers!