January 5, 2017

How to Clean Your Pipe or Bong

January 5, 2017
Learning how to clean a bong is important for any stoner.

While the aesthetic of artisanal, locally blown bongs and pipes bring a sense of whimsy to your smoke sessions, the glass’s initial sparkle and sheen can quickly fade. What once was a shiny toking apparatus can quickly deteriorate into a grimy resin trap that greets your puffs with a bitter taste and a harsh sting. Keep reading to find out the best way to clean your bongs and bowls, and return your sessions to gleaming wonders they once were!

Is it Bad to Smoke Out of a Dirty Pipe?

That depends on your definition of bad, but it’s certainly not good! Starting with the least worrisome aspect of the decision, cleaning your bong or bowl improves the aesthetics of the smoking experience beyond measure. Many stoners cherish their pieces and the artistry embedded in their construction. Having a clean glass pipe helps you appreciate the sculptural finesse that would otherwise be caked in ash and resin.

From a health-based approach, the detractors of dirty bowls and bongs are obvious. Less resin and ash means less damage on each inhale, in addition to vastly improving the flavor of each puff. On top of that, think of any other daily use item you trust on your lips. How long would you go without washing your coffee tumbler? If the answer is three days, but you haven’t cleaned the resin out of your pipe in eight months. . . maybe it’s time to reevaluate your smoking hygiene!

Cleaning Routine: Should You Clean Your Pipe or Bong After Every Smoke Session?

A stoner’s cleaning routine is wholly dependent on said stoner’s usage. But maintaining a healthy habit of keeping your smokeware shining is a huge aspect of how to clean your bongs and bowls. 

There are a few quick cleanups that should occur at the end of every smoke session to improve upkeep. If you just smoked a bowl, simply turn the piece over and knock out any leftover ash or grime into an ashtray. Then, take a small pick or pipe cleaner and gently clear the pipe’s pathways. Making a habit out of these simple acts can help limit ‘cake’ buildup and help to clean resin out of pipe. 

If you prefer a water pipe, do the same with your bowl and slide, in addition to giving your glassware a good rinse and water swap after each use. This will not only make your bong cleaner, but it will make your life easier when you’re looking for the best way to deep clean your bong later on. 

When it comes to those thorough deep cleans – that schedule is more up in the air. The general rule of thumb is to treat your piece to a cleaning whenever the taste begins to turn muddied and bitter. For some smokers, that’s after just a few sessions – for others, glass may go even a month or two without a thorough wash. Just know that cleaning your bong or bowl only leads to good things: Smoother hits, tastier puffs, and better looking paraphernalia. 

Cleaning Materials: What Can I Use to Clean My Pipes and Water Pipes?

If you’re asking yourself, “What do I use to clean my bong) and bowl?” – here are a few household items you can gather to get your glass glistening:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Coarse Salt
  • Ziplock Bag(s)/Tupperware Storage
  • Scraping Tool
  • Cotton Balls
  • Q-tips
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Long Bottle Brush if Cleaning Bong

Alcohol or Vinegar: – What is the Best Cleaner for Pipes and Bongs?

There’s a heated debate in the stoner community over the best cleaner for bongs and pipes. The majority of smokers – as well as the writer of this article – swear by isopropyl alcohol’s potent cleansing abilities. However, there’s a vocal minority that argues the best way to clean a bowl or bong is with the help of some white vinegar. 

This isn’t due to vinegar’s efficacy or ease. In fact, this method takes a bit more effort and elbow grease than its isopropyl alcohol (ISO) counterpart. But there have been concerns brought up surrounding ISO’s environmental exposure, with it possibly depleting oxygen for aquatic life and killing essential bacteria and algae when rinsed into the sewer system. Also, COVID-19 has made isopropyl alcohol a bit difficult to find on shelves nowadays! Still, if you prefer the punch isopropyl alcohol packs and are able to get a hold of it, there are easy, environmentally conscious ways to handle the product’s disposal.

How Do You Clean a Glass Pipe without Alcohol – with Vinegar?

Vinegar, along with coarse salt or baking powder, has shown to be an effective and safe way to clean a glass pipe or bong. However, it isn’t nearly as potent as methods using isopropyl alcohol, which leads to more time dedicated and more effort applied to the brushing and scrubbing steps of the process. Different directions on how to clean a bowl or bong without isopropyl alcohol that others have found success with include denture cleaning tablets, grain alcohol, epsom salts, and more. If you want to know how to clean a glass pipe or water pipe with vinegar or any of these other options, just replace ‘isopropyl alcohol’ with your cleaner of choice in the next section . . .

How to Clean a Pipe/Bowl: Step-by-Step

  1. CLEAR ANY BUILDUP: 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 in there, it will behoove you to gently scrape at the bowl to shave off a layer or two of gunk. 
  1. COAT THE BOWL: Place your piece in a ziplock or tupperware and pour in enough isopropyl alcohol to completely submerge it. Then pour in a good deal (about 1/8 – 1/4 cup) of salt. While any old tabletop salt will do, sea salt or coarse kosher salt carry the shape and heft to more effectively chisel away at the gunk and grime. 
  1. SHAKE, SHAKE, & SIT: Be sure to securely seal the ziplock or tupperware lid! We have a glass pipe to clean, and we’re about to shake with some passion and vigor to do so. Once you do, you’ll immediately begin to see your pipe’s insides shedding ashy flakes, and the clear alcohol will begin to look like scorched coffee. The time spent on this step is dependent on the state of your pipe. If your bowl is in particularly bad shape, you may have to soak it for a couple hours with some shake breaks in between.
  1.  RINSE AND BUFF THE BOWL: After removing the pipe from its salt bath and properly disposing of the isopropyl alcohol, submerge the pipe in hot, soapy water and scrub the inside with a pipe cleaner. This will dislodge any unsavory remnants that somehow stuck around. Then, use your Q-tips to buff and detail your beautiful bowl, and voila! A shiny, clean glass pipe. Just be sure to allow any remaining water and alcohol to fully evaporate before use!

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

  1. EMPTY AND DISASSEMBLE: Pour out any leftover bong water. Remove the bowl/downstem from the bong’s body. To clean the bowl and downstem, follow the same steps listed for the pipe deep clean up above. 
  2. FILL THE BONG: Plug the base hole of the bong with cotton balls, and fill the chamber with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the alcohol to reach every nook, cranny, and stain, but be sure to not overfill. Then, toss in a handful of your finest coarse salt. 
  1. SHAKE, SHAKE, & SIT: Reinforce your cotton ball blockade and plug the mouthpiece with paper towels or your palm, and vigorously shake. 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 or two before returning with newfound determination.
  1. BRUSH THE BONG: After the majority of the gunk and resin has been dislodged, dispose of the sullied alcohol mixture. If you’ve still got hard to reach stains inside the base of your bong, you can use an appropriately-sized bottle brush to scrub the leftover filth.
  1. RINSE & DRY: Fill the chamber with hot, soapy water and repeat step three. Once thoroughly shaken, rinsed, and shining, wipe down the outside of the bong. Time to pack a bowl and let pot clouds roll!

DIY Tips to Keep Your Bong Cleaner:

There are a couple simple, home remedies that help maintain and clean your bong. The first being: LEMONS! Aside from zesting up dishes and adding a kick to Applebee’s tap water, lemons are great for slowing the buildup of resin. So squeeze a couple drops of lemon juice into your bong, and see for yourself. Plus, you’ll get an added note of citrus in every inhale!

Other than that, the final best practice to keep your bong cleaner is to simply store your bong empty. Leftover bong water can contribute to bacteria growth, and that’s not the sort of chronic you want to welcome into your lungs.

How to Clean a Pipe or Bong FAQ’s:

What is the fastest way to clean a glass pipe?

If you don’t have the time for a deep clean but need a quick fix to some gunk build-up, the process is simple. First, overturn the bowl and knock out any remaining ashes. Then, use a scraping tool or pick to clean the piece more thoroughly, removing any excess resin. Then, use a pipe cleaner to clear the pipe’s airways. Most importantly, don’t get your pipe wet unless you plan on committing to the full deep clean. Otherwise, the smell can be wretched.

How do I get resin out of my glass pipe to smoke?

There are a couple methods to clean resin out of a glass pipe. You can rinse your pipe with isopropyl alcohol. Then, filter the resin-laden alcohol with a straining cloth and let the remaining liquid evaporate. Just like that – a gold mine of resin for the taking!

If you’re wondering how to clean resin out of a glass pipe without alcohol, the method is simple: gently scrape the resin off with a pick or dab tool.

Is it safe to clean a pipe with rubbing alcohol?

Yes. Isopropyl alcohol, commonly referred to as rubbing alcohol, is by far the most commonly used cleaning substance for pipes and bongs. However, there have been some concerns raised regarding the substance’s effect on the environment if rinsed into sewer streams. As long as users properly dispose of the isopropyl alcohol after cleaning and thoroughly rinse pieces to prevent ingestion, there shouldn’t be any issues. 

Where can I buy 99% isopropyl alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol is available for purchase at a plethora of retailers, including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target, etc. However, if you’re hoping to avoid the crowd, you can find the bowl and bong cleaner on Amazon.

Is 70% alcohol a better disinfectant than 91%, 95%, or 99% alcohol?

There have been arguments made that the presence of water in 70% isopropyl alcohol is a major factor in destroying microorganisms. Water allows the alcohol solution to better permeate pathogenic cell membranes and kill the potentially harmful organisms. Whereas isopropyl alcohol concentrations higher than 91% cause cell membrane proteins to coagulate instantly, providing a protective layer for the organisms. That doesn’t mean they don’t kill bacteria – it just means they may take longer to do so. In either case, you’ll likely be soaking your pieces in the substance for some time, and the extended exposure will get the job done. 

Additional Resources:

At The Weed Blog, we strive to produce the latest online news resources regarding marijuana. We also review various strains of cannabis or other edible counterparts. We are committed to helping you find valuable information about marijuana on our website. With marijuana laws constantly changing, learn from us what you can do to promote activism in your area. Otherwise, consider these other top-tier articles regarding cannabis:

How to Pick the Perfect Water Pipe

15 Household Items You Can Make a Bong Out Of

All About Dabs: The Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Concentrates


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