Keep it clean

Pipe or bong clogged? SN&R’s writer offers helpful tips using household products for cleaner hits and a better smoke session

Photo caption TK

Photo caption TK

illustration by sarah hansel

It doesn’t matter whether you’re smoking from a pipe, pulling from a bong or taking a drag from a vaporizer: You need to keep your pieces clean.

Sure, cleaning your piece is probably the least interesting thing you can do during any given day, but by taking a few moments to eliminate all of that excess tar and build-up from your favorite pipe, you’re optimizing your smoking sessions with cleaner, less harsh hits. Smoke is undoubtedly easier to pull from a pipe that isn’t clogged.

While everyone has a preferred cleaning method, it doesn’t need to be so difficult, time consuming or expensive. Most commercial cannabis cleaning products include acetone, which is found in nail polish remover––a liquid that can be used by itself as a glass cleaner. Nail polish remover certainly isn’t the only item you can use at home to clean; you can clean a pipe with many simple household items.

Easy Cleaning

For glass pipes, slides, glass screens or bowls, vinegar and baking soda will do the trick. If your pipe isn’t too dirty, and you clean your pieces regularly, this is recommended for an easy cleansing.

Grab a container that’s deep enough to fit every piece and accessory you intend to clean. Liberally cover everything with baking soda, making sure to coat the powder inside of every crevice––the carburetor, bowl, mouthpiece, etc.––and then lay your piece(s) at the bottom of the container. Grab a bottle of white vinegar and slowly pour the liquid over your pipes and watch a chain reaction of cleanliness unfold. Like a seltzer volcano, the vinegar will dissolve the baking soda and gush out resin from every hole. Allow the pieces to sit in vinegar and soak for at least 15 minutes before rinsing them with warm water, and letting them air dry. Hot water can crack cheap or worn glass, so be mindful of temperature.

Deep Cleaning

Haven’t cleaned your piece in a while? Give it a bath. Pouring an equal mixture of warm water and rubbing alcohol (70-90% isopropyl) into a sandwich bag with a liberal amount of sea salt can also help get all of that tough gunk out of your piece. The bigger the bag, the more pieces you can cram and clean. The alcohol loosens the grime inside of the pipes, while the sea salt works as a non-abrasive agitator to help break up resin. For super dirty pipes, gently swish your bag of liquid around while being careful not to clang together glass, and let it sit for a few hours before pouring out the smelly mixture and rinsing the pipes with warm water. The gunk will fall right out with no pressure to scrub. This method can be done overnight, or while you’re at the office. Again, ensure your piece is properly rinsed with warm water and completely dry to prevent an alcohol taste.

Larger Pieces

For a glass or acrylic bong, you can use a combination of baking soda and vinegar, much like you would clean a hand pipe, but in a bathtub, large sink or shower. Pour baking soda into the chamber of the bong and slowly pour vinegar into the piece. Allow the baking soda and vinegar to overflow if you like, but be mindful of how messy this can be. Grab a bottle brush and scrub away before rinsing with warm water and letting the bong air dry. No vinegar on hand? Denture tabs or even a few tablets of Alka-Seltzer can be used for a fizzy clean.

Metal & Silicon

For metal pipes and one-hitters, a simple bath in boiling hot water will do. Place your metal pieces into a pot of water and let it boil for 20 minutes or so. After dumping the hot water out, let the pipes cool a little before clanging them against something hard to bang the resin out. A pipe cleaner or a Q-tip dipped in alcohol can also be used to scrape excess resin out.

Silicon devices should never be cleaned in alcohol or any harsh chemicals, as it can damage color and coating. With silicon pipes, bongs and mouth pieces, soap and water works just fine. Another method: freeze the piece and clang it against something hard to scrape off resin.

Maintaining a consistent cleaning routine for your pieces ensures that they’re always ready to be used, and won’t slow down any of your sessions with clogged resin or foul-tasting smoke. A cleaner piece means a happier and more fulfilling smoke session. Happy smoking!