It’s a pleasure to use something brand-new. Sometimes it’s even a joy.
A car right off the dealer’s lot. A gorgeous new stove that’s replaced your old, broken-down one. A pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing for six months.
But when the car’s engine starts making noises, or a pizza flips over and leaves cheese baked onto the oven floor, or the shoes get scuffed and worn — that’s when aggravation sets in. Maybe even buyer’s remorse.
A weed grinder isn’t as big an investment as a car, a stove, or a pair of stylish shoes. The first time it gets gunked up with plant pieces, kief, and gooey resin, though, you’ll definitely get aggravated. You might be tempted to just toss the thing and buy a new one.
Bad move. Cleaning the tool isn’t that hard, and you don’t want to lose that valuable kief, either.
Here’s how to clean a grinder the right way.
Types of Grinders
That last sentence should really have said “the right ways” because the proper way to clean a grinder depends on the material it’s made from.
These tools all work the same way, of course. Teeth (or rotating blades) built into the grinder’s lid shred the weed that’s placed inside without pulverizing it. Some models have extra chambers, one to collect the ground weed and another where kief that falls from the weed is collected separately.
That means grinders can have two, three, four, or even five separate parts when you include the screens that are often used between chambers. That’s not what matters most, though.
Simple, two-piece grinders are usually made from either plastic or acrylic, and they’re well-known for quickly getting clogged by resin buildup. The more intricate ones are normally made from metal. They may work longer before they need to be cleaned, and the cleaning process is slightly more difficult.
Most importantly, plastic and metal grinders have to be cleaned in different ways. You can also choose between a more sensible deep clean or a fast-and-dirty method that can get your grinder back into action quickly.
Let’s look at all of the possibilities.
Deep Cleaning a Metal Grinder
Warning: don’t follow these instructions if your grinder is made from plastic or acrylic. This method uses isopropyl alcohol, which can weaken the material and the grinder’s structural integrity.
1. Disassemble the Grinder
Carefully take the grinder apart over a bowl or plate. That will allow you to catch all of the falling kief, resin, and other plant material that’s inside the unit or lightly attached to its sides.
You can shake the pieces to dislodge as much as possible, but don’t go crazy. You’ll get more kief later on.
2. Freeze the Grinder Parts
This step is optional.
Place each part of the grinder onto a paper towel, and put the towel into the freezer for an hour. This freezes the residue, making it easier to scrape off in the next step.
Some people believe this step is counterproductive. They warn that the residue will just quickly thaw out once you remove the grinder parts from the freezer. They also say that the caked-on resin loses some important moisture when it’s frozen.
We think it’s easier to work with frozen plant material, but your mileage may vary.
3. Collect the Resin and Kief
Use a small brush with soft bristles (a toothbrush or paintbrush will work) to remove as much of the plant material on the grinder parts as possible. Use a toothpick to clean out holes or crevices.
All of this material is potent stuff, so get as much as you can. Don’t forget the places where kief can hide or stick, like the sides of the grinder teeth and around the edges of the chambers and lid.
If you’ve frozen your grinder parts, remove one piece at a time from the freezer and work on it before taking out the next one. That way, the frozen resin, and kief don’t have a chance to “defrost” and become gooey again.
4. Soak the Grinder
Place all of the parts into a sealable jar or freezer bag, and then pour in enough isopropyl alcohol to ensure they’re completely submerged. Let them soak for 15-20 minutes, shaking every five or ten minutes to help dislodge any stubborn material.
5. Clean off the Grinder
Take the parts out of their alcohol bath and scrub them again with your brush. If you have a stiffer brush available for this step, even better. Get off all of the residual plant material and resin; it should be nice and loose after its time in the alcohol. Just do this over a different bowl or plate that you used in steps 1 and 3.
Some people take the residual material, let the alcohol evaporate, and smoke it. They call it hash; we call it sort of nasty. It’s up to you.
6. Rinse and Dry the Grinder
Now that you have a clean grinder rinse all the parts thoroughly in hot water and dry them with a clean towel. If you want to be sure that no alcohol is left, you can wash the parts in dish soap and hot water first, followed by the hot water rinse and dry. Reassemble the grinder, and you’re done.
Fast Clean for a Metal Grinder
This process essentially follows the same steps as a deep clean.
The only differences:
- Skip step 2 and forget about the freezer.
- Cut step 3 short. Only do a fast brush on the grinder’s inside parts to dislodge what you can before putting them into the alcohol.
This method won’t yield as much kief and resin for later use, but it will save as much as a couple of hours. Carefully scraping down the grinder before the alcohol bath can seemingly take forever.
Cleaning a Plastic or Acrylic Grinder
This process is also similar to the deep clean for a metal grinder, but with one very important difference.
Instead of using the alcohol bath, place all of the grinder pieces into gently boiling water. (Too hot, and you’ll melt your grinder instead of cleaning it). Leave the grinder in the hot water for 60 seconds, remove it (don’t use your hands, use some tongs or a fork) and let the pieces dry before reassembling them.
How to Clean a Grinder: FAQ
Q: How often should I clean my grinder?
A: It really depends on how often you use it. Those who only use their grinder occasionally should deep clean it monthly. People who use it almost every day may need to clean it once a week. And if it’s gunky and grinding your weed becomes difficult, guess what? It should have already been cleaned.
Q: What can I do with the kief and resin that I collect during cleaning?
A: Where should we start? If you have enough, you could smoke it, but it’s extremely potent, and that could be a waste. Try topping a bowl with this “fairy dust,” roll a little of it together with flower into a joint or blunt (or roll the joint or blunt in the kief before smoking), or decarb it and use it to make strong edibles. If you have a lot to work with, you might also want to use it to press rosin or make hash.