At some point in every smoker’s life, there comes a moment when you get home from a long day at work or class, throw your bag and body onto the couch, grind up some weed, and prepare to reach that sweet nirvana. But right as you go to pack a beautiful bowl of kush you take a quick glance at your pipe and think “holy shit, this thing is disgusting.”
A dirty pipe should never stand between a person and their cannabis-induced state of bliss. So here are some tips on how to upgrade your dirty pipe from appalling, to appealing.
Cleaning your pipe with rubbing alcohol and salt is an age-old method guaranteed to make your bruised and battered old pipe look brand new. It’s also one of the simplest methods, requiring only common household materials, and a just a little bit of vigor.
1. Turn the pipe upside down and blow out any excess bits and pieces of herbs that may be stuck inside the pipe. Use a pipe cleaner and/or cotton swab to clean out any remaining big chunks or surface-level dirt and grime.
2. Add rubbing alcohol and salt to a plastic baggy. This will make up the basis of your cleaning solution. Use the strongest concentration of alcohol you can find (90% is preferred), and the largest grains of salt (try kosher salt).
3. Place the pipe in the bag, and shake vigorously. Don’t be scared to put on a Richard Simmons workout tape or do some jazzercise with the bag in your hand. The more you shake the bag, the more the alcohol and salt can work their magic and clean the pipe.
4. Leave the pipe to soak in the bag. How long you leave the pipe in the bag is up to you, but after shaking the bag, you should have a good idea of how dirty the pipe still is by how much resin is floating around the bag compared to how much is still attached to the bowl. For pipes that just need a little touch-up, proceed to step 5. For pipes that have been long neglected and need a full makeover, keep soaking overnight, and go back to step 1. It’ll be worth it, trust us.
5. Fill a bowl with boiling water and just a drop or two of dish soap, and place your pipe into the bowl. The heat of the water combined with the dirt removing abilities of the soap will be the final finishing touch needed to rinse out your pipe. Keep your pipe submerged in the mixture for up to 30 minutes, depending on the grime level of the pipe, but for the pipes that don’t need as much tender love and care, even a minute will be fine. Think of this as the final coat of varnish on your beautifully hand-crafted instrument.
6. Use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab to give it a final touch up, and pour some boiling water over the pipe to remove the last of the soap residue. Be sure not to douse the hot pipe with cold water unless you plan on making some stained glass art out of the shattered fragments of what used to be your pipe. And voila, you have a good-as-new-, beautifully cleaned pipe.
Wooden pipes are the older, slightly classier sibling to their glass brothers. They require a little more maintenance, but a dirty wooden pipe can still be brought back to its former glory by following these steps.
1. Turn the pipe upside down, and gently shake it to remove any loose ashes and piece of debris. Feel free to give a gentle blow through the top.
2. Twist at the center to disassemble the pipe into its two pieces. Once the pieces are separated, shake and gently blow again to dislodge any remaining pieces of resin trapped inside the pipe.
3. Place your pipe cleaner in a solution of half water and half rubbing alcohol (isopropyl), and let it soak for about a minute. Thread the pipe cleaner through the shank of the pipe, gently twist and scraping off the layers of resin. Thread the pipe cleaner through the steam of the pipe and repeat. Wrap the paper towel around the outside of the pipe to ensure none of the isopropyl leaks on to the varnish of the pipe.
4. Grab a new pipe cleaner and soak it in the water & isopropyl solution. Fold the pipe cleaner in half, and gently rub it around the sides and bottom of the bowl. Be careful not to completely remove the buildup of ‘cake’ at the bottom of the bowl. The cake adds character to your smoking experience, and many pipe enthusiasts consider it to be an essential part of a wooden pipe.
5. Coat the outside of your pipe in a thin layer of olive oil. Some pipe users are strongly opposed to this step, while some swear in favor of it so treat it as optional. It adds a nice shine and can help to preserve the appearance of the pipe, but in no way is it mandatory.
Whether cleaning a glass pipe or a wooden pipe, the most important part of cleanliness is constant maintenance. Neglecting a pipe for weeks or months on end only to give it an occasional deep clean is a sure way to ensure a harsh, bitter smoke. Keeping a pipe clean involves every aspect the smoking process, starting with making sure the outside of the bowl doesn’t get charred when lighting the bowl, and ending with quickly tapping out all of the residue after smoking the bowl. Constant maintenance adds a bit of extra effort to the smoking process, but it’s all worth it for a consistently smooth, cool smoking experience.