Throwing a dinner party can be exciting — unless you’re the one who has to clean the house beforehand.
Enjoying a fabulous gourmet dinner can be fabulous — unless you’re the one stuck doing the dishes.
And enjoying some primo bud can be the perfect ending to the evening — unless you’ll be smoking out of a dirty piece.
Cleaning out a pipe can be a time-consuming, annoying chore. However, we all know what’s worse: hitting a pipe that’s caked with old resin and ash. If you can even get any smoke out of it, it will most certainly taste like the crud that’s built up over time and not the top-shelf flower you just bought.
Here’s the good news: once you get used to regularly cleaning your pipe, the task won’t seem so arduous.
Let’s figure out how to clean a marijuana pipe with as little frustration and angst as possible.
A Quick Warning
The methods we’ll be discussing are for cleaning glass or ceramic pipes, the ones that most of us own.
If you have a wooden pipe, you’ll have to use pipe cleaners, a pipe tool, and/or a pipe knife. If it’s a metal pipe, you’ll first have to disassemble it and soak it in a bag filled with rubbing alcohol, and then clean all of the parts out with Q-tips.
And if you’re cleaning a bong with these methods, you’ll have to take it apart and clean the parts separately.
Time to get started.
The Best Way to Clean a Marijuana Pipe
We consider this the “best” way to clean a pipe because it’s the easiest and least expensive.
This approach only requires two “ingredients,” table salt and isopropyl alcohol (that’s rubbing alcohol, not the stuff you drink). You can use Epsom salts instead of table salts; if your pipe is particularly gunky, use coarse sea salt instead. You’ll also need a Ziploc bag that’s larger than your pipe.
- Remove any loose pieces of weed or ash from the pipe by shaking it or tapping it gently on a hard surface.
- Put the pipe into the Ziploc bag, and add isopropyl alcohol until the pipe is fully submerged.
- Add a teaspoon of salt, trying to get as much salt into the bowl and mouthpiece as possible. (The salt will be doing the actual scrubbing during the cleaning process.)
- Seal the bag and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Shake the bag forcefully. That will loosen any gunk that’s still inside.
- Wash the pipe with hot water. If it still seems dirty or sticky, use unscented dish soap (we prefer Ivory soap) along with the water. Just be sure to wash the soap out with clean water afterward.
- If there’s any dirt or resin still inside, try carefully removing it with a pipe cleaner or paper clip. Then let the pipe dry completely.
Unless you’ve really gone a while without cleaning your piece, that should do it. If not, you may need to repeat the process once or twice more, this time with coarse sea salt and ultra-concentrated (91%) isopropyl alcohol.
If your pipe is too large for a Ziploc bag or you don’t have time to let it sit, here’s a shortcut.
- Cover the bowl (and carb, if there is one) with electrical tape.
- Pour enough salt into the pipe to fill it with about 20%, and then fill it most of the way with alcohol.
- Cover the mouthpiece with tape and shake the pipe for 2-3 minutes.
- Empty the pipe and wash it out thoroughly.
There’s another good alternative, but it requires spending a little money.
Cleaning a Marijuana Pipe with Commercial Cleaner
There are now a number of pipe cleaning liquids for sale at smoke shops, head shops, and online for $10-20 per bottle. Reputable brands include Formula 420, Green Piece Cleaner, and Smoke Soap.
They’ll each come with instructions for their use, but you can always use the method we’ve already described, substituting the cleaning liquid for the salt and alcohol.
Cleaning a Marijuana Pipe with Boiling Water
This is a less-desirable approach, particularly if you have a thin or fragile pipe that could break easily.
- Put your pipe into a pot and add enough cold water, so it’s completely submerged.
- Heat the water in the pot, but slowly; a quick surge in heat (or dropping the pipe into hot water) can cause the pipe to crack.
- Boil the pipe in the water for 20-30 minutes, making sure that the water level doesn’t drop too far.
- Drain the water and let the pipe cool all the way down on its own; don’t run it under cold water, or it could break.
The boiling water won’t have removed the resin and tar but will have loosened it. Use a pipe cleaner or Q-tip to clean out the residue, and then rinse with cold water (and soap if desired).
Less Desirable Ways to Clean a Marijuana Pipe
Some people put a mixture of half-vinegar, half-water instead of alcohol, and salt into the Zip-loc bag. That can help loosen some of the gunk inside the pipe, but the cleaning won’t be as thorough because salt is a superior abrasive.
The old-school approach of simply scraping out the piece with a sharp tool is the least-effective way to clean a pipe. The accumulated resin and tar have essentially been baked onto the inside of the bowl, and it’s difficult to get the gunk out of the stem, even with a pipe cleaner.
If you choose to scrape instead of soak, you’ll have the best results if you first boil the pipe. That will at least loosen some of the cruds first.
We’ve left the “worst” for last. Never heat your pipe in the microwave, whether you’ve placed it in a bowl of water or are using the “stoner’s secret method” of putting the piece in heated vodka. (That method doesn’t work particularly well, by the way.) Here’s why you should avoid the microwave: many glass and ceramic pipes have been decorated with metal paint, which will create sparks — causing your pipe to explode.
How to Clean a Marijuana Pipe: FAQ
Q: Can’t you just clean it out by hand after you smoke?
A: That’s always a good start, but it won’t do much about getting rid of the resin and ash that’s been cooked inside. At best, the smoke will taste progressively worse each time you toke up. At worst, the gunk will block your airflow, and you won’t get any smoke at all.
Q: Can you put the pipe into a plastic container with alcohol and salt instead of putting it in a Ziploc bag?
A: Yes, but you’ll have to let it soak for 24 hours or longer since you can’t easily shake the container without taking the chance that you’ll break your piece.
Q: How do you clean a bubbler?
A: You can use the Ziploc bag/alcohol/salt method, but shake the bag every hour — and be very careful since bubblers are usually more fragile than pipes.