Pipes can be one of the most tricky difficult smoking devices to clean. Their small tubes, or barrels, combined with the thickness and stickiness of cannabis resin make it nearly impossible to clean pipes spotless, and often pipe breaks happen when you’re trying to clean them, which is incredibly annoying, but when done properly it is quite possible to have a spotless, new looking, pipe again.
There are a few factors to consider before deciding on the right method of cleaning to use.
First, you need to take into account what the pipe is made of.
Is it a glass pipe, or is it made of metal or wood?
Is it painted with anything? Are there any plastic parts to the pipe?
All of these can factor in to which methods are the safest or most effective in cleaning your pipe.
Let’s start with an old fashioned method of cleaning your pipe, poking and scraping. What type of tool you should use can vary from pipe. For very small, simple, and straight pipes the cheapest and simplest tools to use are straightened paper clips or bobby pins. They’re small, can fit in your pocket (or be stored in your hair) and are easy to replace. Furthermore, they work for just about every kind of pipe material, as long as the pipe is small. To best use the paper clip unravel it into one long, straight piece of metal. This tool is great for cleaning the mouth piece, choke (shotgun) and barrel of the pipe. Basically, use this to clean out any straight portions of the pipe. For those especially tricky bent and curved parts of the pipe and bowl, bend the tip of the paper clip into a hook sort of shape and use this in conjunction with the straightened clip to loosen the chunks of resin. If your pipe is made out of glass or metal then use hot water from your sink to rinse out the loosened resin. Avoid this if your pipe is wooden however, as wood is slow to dry and so it is more likely to grow dangerous mould than glass or metal devices.
One of the best ways to clean metal or glass pipes is by turning on your sink and running hot water through them. This method has the advantage of being cheap and can be done anywhere that you have access to a sink. It is important to make sure that your pipe is at least room temperature before doing it, as if the glass is too cold the abrupt temperature change can cause the glass to break, and there are few things as disappointing as a broken pipe.
Aside from water, there are a few other liquids that you can use to loosen up the resin in a glass or metal pipe and have it smoking like new in no time. Undoubtedly the most effective of these is 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This powerful, strong smelling chemical destroys the bonds holding the resin together, as well as to the inside of your pipe. Simply fill a small container with isopropyl alcohol until there is enough there to submerge your pipe in. Place your pipe in to the solution and let it soak anywhere from a matter of hours to a night. Then remove your pipe from the container and run some water through it to flush out the loosened resin pieces. Set it to dry and when it is done your pipe should be looking and smoking as though it were brand new. There are some safety factors to consider when using isopropyl alcohol however, since it is toxic make sure to keep it out of your eyes and mouth, and to wash it thoroughly with water before use. Since isopropyl is quite flammable you want to make sure all of it is gone before you’re ready to smoke.
Conveniently, carbonated beverages such as Coke or Pepsi have much the same effect as isopropyl alcohol, but are cheaper and non toxic. They are also great for getting irritating, sticky resin patches off of your hands when you’ve been cleaning your devices. As mentioned before, liquids are a bad idea for cleaning out a wooden pipe, so you’re better off using some sort of cleaning tool.
Old fashioned pipe cleaners are too brittle and easily bent to effectively work on cannabis resin. If your pipe is relatively small then the two paper clip system, one hooked and one straight, should be versatile enough to clean out even the toughest clogs. It is when you have particularly long or curved pipes that you may run into some difficulty. Since they are so long, bend easily, yet are designed specially not to break, guitar strings make excellent pipe cleaners, as they can curve around difficult bends but are made out of metal and strong enough to push through difficult clogs. For a more solid long scraping tool try cutting a metal coat hanger into various lengths. They don’t bend very easily but will work perfect for scraping out straight pipes.
Lastly, there is the blowtorch system. Since you’ll be working with incredibly hot and flammable materials this is the most dangerous method of pipe cleaning, and furthermore it only works on pipes that are pure glass or metal, anything else will be seriously damaged or destroyed in the process so you need to be extra cautious when using this method. You will need a small blowtorch, fuel, and tongs to hold the pipe with. First ensure that the pipe isn’t too cold, as a rapid temperature change will cause it to crack or shatter. Then pick the pipe up using the tongs, hold it a safe distance away from your body and run the flame of the torch along your pipe. The resin inside will start to bubble and liquefy, eventually running out of the pipe’s bowl or mouthpiece. While this method is fast, it is also dangerous, so be careful not to burn yourself in the process.