Urine Color, Clarity, and Smell – All You Need to Know

Parang Mehta
Parang Mehta
February 7, 2023
min read
Technically reviewed by: 
Taylor Steed
Urine Color, Clarity, and Smell – All You Need to Know

You pass urine several times a day, relieving your bladder and getting rid of your body's waste products. The appearance and odor of your urine can give you clues about several health disorders. Urine is produced by the kidneys, which participate in several functions related to excretion and metabolism. Knowing your own urine's normal appearance is important. as it will help you know when something is wrong.

Urine Color

Normal urine is a pale yellow, but the color varies with many factors, including the time of day. The first urine you pass in the morning is usually the most concentrated and is likely to be dark urine. The urine you pass after drinking a lot of liquids will be pale yellow or clear.

Is clear pee bad?

The kidneys vary urine production based on your body's fluid intake. If you don't eat and drink for a long time (such as at night), your kidneys should produce concentrated, dark urine.

If your urine is always colorless, your kidneys may be unable to concentrate the urine. Diabetes insipidus and other conditions that cause your kidneys to produce large volumes of urine (polyuria) could be responsible.

Yellow urine

Deep yellow urine usually indicates you're not drinking enough water. It's a matter of concern if you have diarrhea, vomiting, or another disorder that could dehydrate you. Dark yellow and scanty concentrated urine shows you are significantly dehydrated and need oral or intravenous rehydration therapy.

Bilirubin is a pigment that turns urine yellow. Excessive bilirubin in the blood happens in liver diseases, such as hepatitis, liver duct obstruction, and some metabolic disorders. Learn about Bilirubin in urine in this blog.

Neon yellow urine

If your urine is a bright yellow color, it can be alarming but is usually harmless. The most common reason for neon yellow pee is the vitamin supplements you're eating. Riboflavin, also called vitamin B2, gives urine a neon yellow color. This vitamin is water-soluble, and if you're consuming more than you need, your body flushes it out in the urine.

Red urine

This is the most common abnormal urine color. Your urine may be red during your period because of mixing in of menstrual flow.1

Other reasons for red urine include:

  • Hematuria. The presence of blood in the urine. Hematuria can originate in the kidneys, ureters, or bladder, and can be caused by injury, stones, or other influences.
  • Myoglobinuria. This substance is released from injured muscles and gives urine a red color.
  • Hemoglobinuria. Hemoglobin is essential; it carries oxygen to every cell of your body. However, it's always inside red blood cells. If red blood cells are being destroyed in the bloodstream, hemoglobin appears in the urine, making it red.
  • Porphyria. This is a serious metabolic disorder. It gives urine a red, brown, or yellow color.
  • Food and drink. Some food, like beets, and food colors can cause red urine. It only happens when you eat these foods. Though it's harmless, it can be scary.
  • Drugs and dyes. Dyes, such as phenolsulfonphthalein, are used for testing kidney function and give a red color to urine. Some drugs like chlorzoxazone, rifampicin, phenolphthalein, and deferoxamine mesylate also give a red color to urine.

Read more about blood in urine in this blog.

Green or blue-green urine

This is often caused by chlorophyll in mouthwashes, but green urine can signify a urinary tract infection with Pseudomonas bacteria. Food additives, dyes, and some medications can also give a green color to your urine. Rarely, green urine may be a sign of an inherited metabolic disorder.

Black or dark brown urine

Urine with blood in it will turn brown if left for a while. Cola-colored urine is seen with the destruction of muscle cells (rhabdomyolysis).

Cloudy urine

Cloudy pee is often caused by the mixing of semen or prostatic fluid but could be a disorder that needs medical attention. It can result from:

  • Phosphates and carbonates in the urine
  • Leukocytes (white blood cells), generally a sign of urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Bacteria and yeasts (bacterial and fungal UTIs)
  • Fats, which can be caused by kidney injuries, or high levels of fats in the blood
  • Sperm, when urine gets mixed with semen
  • Prostatic fluid

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Early Pregnancy Urine

Pregnancy is often associated with dehydration because of morning sickness and poor appetite. Your urine early in pregnancy may look dark yellow, and you should make sure you take enough fluids throughout the day.

A bad urine smell during pregnancy is more ominous. It might be a symptom of a urinary tract infection, especially if you also have other symptoms, such as:2

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Need to go to the bathroom often
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine
  • Shivering and chills
  • Back pain
  • Nausea

Urinary tract infections are more common during pregnancy; about one in six women have one.3 They can cause pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, premature birth, death, and birth defects.

Learn more about UTIs during pregnancy in this blog.

Urine Smell

Your urine will usually have a faint, aromatic odor. Odorless urine is seen with some types of acute renal failure. A very foul or ammonia-like smell is suggestive of bacterial infection. A fruity smell of the urine should alert you to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), especially if you know you have diabetes.1

Many metabolic disorders give distinctive odors to the urine. Some of them are cystinuria, maple syrup urine disease, phenylketonuria, and tyrosinemia. These are usually present since birth and diagnosed in childhood.

Eating asparagus or garlic, taking vitamin B6, drinking too much coffee and not enough fluids, and some medications can also cause smelly urine. Drinking enough water (or other liquids) often gets rid of smelly urine.

Foamy Urine

Some foam is normal if your bladder is full and you pee with pressure. However, if your pee is always foamy, it could be a sign of protein in your urine (proteinuria). Your kidneys normally conserve protein and don't let it into the urine. Losing protein in the urine can be a sign of kidney disease.

If your urine is regularly foamy, you should talk to your doctor. They'll get your urine tested to check if you're passing protein in the urine and then perform more tests to find the disorder causing it.

You can also check protein in urine at home with urine protein test strips. This quick and easy test provides results in a minute from the comfort of your home. It is the same kind of test used by healthcare professionals.

Foamy urine keto

A ketogenic diet by itself doesn't cause foamy urine. It could signify that your diet has too much protein. This could damage your kidneys, and you should consult your dietician or doctor about it.

Ketone levels in urine can be checked with over-the-counter urine ketone test strips. Ketonox ketone test strips are clinical-grade urine strips that check ketone levels in the urine at six different levels. These easy-to-use strips can be used for general health/wellness awareness, monitoring a keto diet, and managing diabetes.

Ketonox Urine Ketone Test Strips from Diagnox.
  1. McPherson R., Pincus, M. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. Elsevier, 2021.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy Complications.
  3. Journal of Women's Health. Characteristics of Women with Urinary Tract Infection in Pregnancy.
About the Author
Parang Mehta

Parang Mehta is a freelance writer specializing in medicine, health, and health care. He writes engaging, trustworthy content that helps clients establish their expertise. Having worked in various healthcare settings for 30 years, Parang uses his own knowledge, the client's brief, and focused research to create authoritative, optimized content. Each piece is tailored to the intended readership, making complex subjects accessible to readers.

About the Reviewer
This blog was
Technically reviewed by: 
Taylor Steed

Taylor Steed played a crucial role in ensuring the quality of this blog by serving as its editor and proofreader.

The blog was also reviewed by the Diagnox content team. Diagnox Staff consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists, content writers, and healthcare professionals with an expertise to create and review high-quality, informative, accurate, and easy-to-understand content for both professionals and everyday readers. Our staff follows strict guidelines to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the information, reviewing them independently and verifying them by various scientific and technical sources to ensure accuracy. Our review team believes in delivering knowledge free from bias to improve public health and well-being.

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