January 5, 2017

How to Clean Your Pipe or Bong

January 5, 2017
You really need to clean out your marijuana smoking pipe every so often

While the aesthetic of artisanal, locally-blown bubblers and pipes brings whimsy to your smoking experience, the initial sparkle and gleam can quickly fade. What was once a glittering, toking apparatus can quickly deteriorate to a grimy resin trap that greets your inhales with an increasingly bitter taste.

Do I Really Need to Clean Smoking Pipes and Bowls?

Your preference is your preference, but I dare say you deserve a crisp and palatable smoke sesh every time. Whether you’re a medical user, a recreational consumer, or just a regular cannabis enthusiast, you’ll be sure to benefit from learning the top tricks for keeping your favorite pipe or bong crystal clear.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Bong or Pipe?

The best way to clean a bong or pipe is simple. Using a few household items, you can scrape the excess resin and clean each piece to perfection without too much hassle. These step-by-step cleaning instructions are a great place to start. Depending on your situation, the process may need to be repeated.

How to Clean a Weed Pipe: Step-by-Step

My method is a classic, tried and true. 

You’ll need just a few household items:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (91%–not the diluted stuff!)
  • Salt (Sea salt or coarse kosher is preferred)
  • Ziplock bag or Tupperware container (large enough to fit your pipe)
  • Scraper (You can use a metal dabber)
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Pipe cleaner

1) Clean the Excess Resin in Your Pipe

These steps also apply to bong bowls and sliders. 

You may be able to skip this step depending on how severely the resin has built up inside your bowl. If it’s really caked on there, it will behoove you to (GENTLY) scrape at the bowl to shave off a layer or two of gunk. If facing a clogged slider, you’ll want to use a spindly dabber or a metal pokey of sorts to push out the gooey plug from the opposite end. If it’s not too terribly sticky or clogged, skip ahead to Step 2. 

2) Cover Marijuana Pipe With Salt and Alcohol

clean your bong
Morton coarse kosher salt for cleaning the inside of your marijuana pipe or bong

You’ll need a good deal of Isopropyl Alcohol. The 16 oz. bottles you can find at any pharmacy are cheap enough to justify always having at least a couple on hand.

Place your piece in a Ziplock baggie and pour in enough alcohol to submerge completely, followed by pouring in a good deal (about an 1/8 – 1/4 cup) of salt. The reason I recommend coarse kosher or sea salt for cleaning is the shape and heft chisel away at the grime more effectively than the iodized stuff. Any salt will do, though.

3) Shake, Shake, Shake It

Always separate your pieces into their own containers if there are multiple. If you’re using a Ziplock, proceed with the caution here so you don’t accidentally burst the seal. That would be no good. I tend to prefer a Tupperware container, because I feel I can shake more vigorously.

And I recommend shaking with as much passion as a muscle bro does his protein shakes.

Almost immediately, you will see your pipe’s insides begin shedding the gunky flakes, and the clear alcohol will begin to look like scorched coffee. 

How long this step takes is really going to depend on the state of the pipe. In the past, I’ve had to repeat this step a good ten times over the course of a few hours. It can sometimes be so extensive that you will need to replace with fresh alcohol. In some instances, it may be in your interest to just shake and let the container sit overnight to stew in its salty, acidic filth bath. 

4) Rinse and Buff Your Glass Piece

For good measure, you should next submerge your pipe in hot, soapy water and scrub the inside with a pipe cleaner. This will dislodge any unsavory remnants that somehow stuck around.

It’s possible you still might not have gotten the residue removed from the inside of your bowl, in which case, I recommend covering the end of a Q-tip in alcohol and detailing the rest like so.

Give it a couple hours for alcohol to evaporate.

Voila! A shiny, clean weed pipe. 

How to Clean a Water Pipe or Bong: Step-by-Step

Cleaning a bong involves a variation of the same steps used to clean a pipe.

You’ll need most of the same items:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (91%–not the diluted stuff!)
  • Salt (Sea salt or coarse kosher is preferred)
  • Ziplock bag(s) or Tupperware container(s) large enough to fit your bowl and slider 
  • Scraper (You can use a metal dabber)
  • Cotton balls
  • Q-tips
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Long bottle brush 

Image of a bowl brush, perfect for scrubbing the built up resin from the inside of your bong.

1) Empty and Disassemble Your Bong

Pour any leftover bong water out.

To clean your downstem and bowl, see steps listed above for Pipe Deep Clean

2) Fill Your Bong With Salt and Alcohol

You’ll want to fill up your water chamber up until the point where the furthest stain reaches, taking care not to overfill.

Pour in a handful of salt.

3) Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture

After plugging the base hole with your finger (or a cotton ball) and the mouthpiece with your palm, shake your bong just as vigorously as directed in the instructions for deep cleaning a pipe. Shake it for as long as you can stand.

Just as with cleaning a pipe, this step may require a few repetitions, so you may expect to set the bong aside for a half hour and come back at it again with newfound determination.

4) Brush Your Bong

If you’ve still got hard to reach stains inside the base of your bong, you can use a well-sized bottle brush to scrub away the layers of filth. 

5) Rinse Out and Dry

Fill your water chamber up with hot, soapy water and repeat Step 3. Empty bong and fill with water, shake, and empty to rinse out all the suds.

Wipe down the outside of your bong and the inside of your mouthpiece with a washcloth and you are ready to go.

Tips For Keeping Up Proper Maintenance

It’s definitely a satisfying experience to complete a deluxe deep-clean of your prized glass pieces, but it’s not necessarily a task we all have time to complete on a daily basis. Follow the protocol listed below to slow the buildup of resin and water stains in your favorite pipe or bong.

1) Empty the Bowl Every Time

It’s so easy to leave behind your charred bowl for future you to scrape out the next time you’re inclined to blaze, but, if we’re being honest, it’s a much nicer experience to find a clear bowl waiting for you versus a blackened, often sticky mess. For added cleanliness, gently scrape away any fresh resin (I like to use a metal dabber) before it congeals to the inside of your bowl. 

2) Lemon Juice in the Bong

Lemons are magical, and every household should keep a few on hand. Aside from zesting up dishes, you can also try squeezing a couple juice droplets from a  lemon wedge into the base of your bong. This tactic slows down the buildup of resin and carries the added benefit of giving your hits just the faintest note of citrus! 

3) Store Your Bong Empty

I don’t know about you, but used bong water is not the most appealing to return to. Beside contributing to a more rapid accumulation of water stains, leftover bong water can contribute to bacteria growth, which is not the sort of chronic you’re hoping to welcome into your lungs. Do your future self a simple favor and rinse out your bong after each use. You’ll be glad you did.

Is It More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

One recurring reason given by those who fancy joints or blunts is that there is little to no cleanup and maintenance involved with rolling and blazing. They pose a good point: the idea of scrubbing out all that tarry mess is daunting enough to have people consider chucking out their dirty pipe rather than seeking to revive it. But, I treasure the experience of using my bong and have employed some regular upkeep methods to ensure each time I torch the bowl, my hits are clean and dank.

As with any satisfying routine like washing your face, once you get in the groove and start seeing the results, you’ll never go back your old ways.


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