Your hookah bowl is the most abused and dirtiest part of your hookah. Shisha as and juice often burn and form a crust on the surface and inside the bowl. Unfortunately, that crust can be pretty hard to clean. These carbonized gunk gets baked on your bowl due to intense heat. Your bowl often reaches high temperatures of 400°F-600°F, and that’s enough to bond the carbonized material to your bowl. Some don’t mind the crusted material since, for them, it gives dimension to the taste of the hookah smoke. Others are not fans since it gives off an unpleasant flavor that ruins the whole experience. Here’s how you can clean your hookah bowl properly and maintain its overall integrity.
Materials needed for cleaning a hookah bowl
For cleaning hookah bowl, you will need:
A small or medium-sized pot, just enough to accommodate your hookah bowl(s).
Thin, small, but sturdy knife
A pair of tongs
Trash bin or collecting vessel for used shisha
A small bowl that will fit the upper dome of your hookah bowl
How to clean a hookah bowl without chemicals
We’ll talk first about cleaning your hookah bowl without using any chemicals. Chemical-free cleaning should be your first option, especially when you’re cleaning clay bowls, whether they are glazed or unglazed. Clay is porous and absorbent, so trust your bowl to suck in water along with the chemicals you used. To clean your hookah bowl:
Grab your hookah bowl and get a small knife or a pair of tongs to scrape out used shisha from the bowl. Dump it in a trash bin or collecting vessel to prevent clogging your sink.
Scrape off as much shisha as you can and wash the bowl thoroughly under running water. Don’t forget to clean the inside of the bowl as well.
Soak the bowl in warm water for 30minutes to 1 hour. If the crust is too hard, an overnight soak in room-temperature water is okay.
Use a scouring scrub to get out as much crust as possible.
For stubborn crusts, get your pot and place your bowl face down inside it. Fill it with enough water until it reaches past up the neck of the bowl. Be sure to add water in the smoke path as well.
Put the pot on the stove and turn on the heat to medium or medium-high.
Let the pot of water boil for 5-10 minutes to soften the crust.
Keep the hookah bowl in the pot of water and let it cool down to lukewarm or room temperature. Don’t shock the bowl by taking it out immediately and placing it in a cold environment, especially when you’re dealing with glass. This will cause your hookah bowl to crack or break.
Put on a kitchen glove to protect your hand from the heat. Take out the hookah bowl with a pair of tongs, then hold the hookah bowl with your gloved hand.
Using your thin knife or sponge scrubber, remove as much crust as you can from the bowl. If you’re cleaning a glazed bowl, be careful not to use too much pressure to prevent ruining the glaze. If you use a rough scrubber or a metal scouring pad, be careful not to scratch and ruin the glaze.
Rinse the bowl under running water with each scrub to see how much crust you took out.
Most of the time, boiling removes the crust inside the bowl. If there are still some left, be very careful if you’re going to use a pipe cleaner or a sponge to prevent breaking the bowl.
Let the bowl dry completely, especially clay ones before you use the bowl. Water expansion happens as you heat the coil, which can crack or break your bowl.
Cleaning your hookah bowl with chemicals
Note: this procedure is for glazed clay and glass hookah bowls.
If you’re not satisfied with mechanical cleaning, you can use chemical options to remove the crust. You can use 90% isopropyl alcohol or Oxiclean to make your life easier, but you do need to rinse the bowl thoroughly afterward.
Remove the used shisha from the bowl using a knife, and dump it in a trash bin or collecting vessel.
Rinse the bowl thoroughly under running water.
Using isopropyl alcohol
Get your small dish or bowl and place the hookah bowl face down.
Pour alcohol through the bottom end of the hookah bowl. Keep going until you see enough alcohol cover 1cm-3cm of the bowl’s lip.
Soak the bowl for 3-5 minutes. If the buildup is too thick, extend the soak to 10-15 minutes.
Get a rough sponge and get as much residue out as possible. Repeat the soak for stubborn crusts.
Run the bowl under warm water and let it go through the bottom. This will flush out any loosened residue from inside the bowl.
Wash the bowl thoroughly to remove any trace of alcohol.
Place it down inside a small sauce pot and add water until it covers two-thirds of the bowl.
Place the pot on the stove and turn up the heat to medium or medium-low.
Get about a tablespoon of Oxiclean and pour it inside the bowl about three-fourths of the tube. Pour the rest in the water.
As the water heats up and boils, Oxiclean is going to froth and bubble over the bowl. Let it do its work for 10-20 minutes.
Let the bowl cool for a bit until you can hold it comfortably.
Use a scrubber to get as much crust off of the bowl.
You can boil the bowl again until you’re able to get it as clean as you want.
Rinse the bowl thoroughly to get rid of all the chemical residue. Don’t shortcut this step or you’ll be inhaling bleach with every pull.
Dry the bowl thoroughly before using.
Important hookah bowl cleaning tips
The methods above are applicable for all types of hookah bowls. If you have a vortex bowl, treat the spire gently. Don’t just stick anything inside it to get it clean. Some use pipe cleaners to clean the inside of the spire but end up breaking or chipping off a piece of the spire.
Again, always go for mechanical cleaning. Chemicals leave odor and taste that will ruin your smoking experience, not to mention pose a risk to your health. Only use the chemical cleaning as much as possible on glass bowls. If you need to do chemical cleaning because of hard crusted material, make sure you thoroughly rinse your bowl with running water to remove any compound.
If you can get the crust out with scraping and scrubbing, do so. Repeated boiling of your hookah bowls will weaken the material due to repeated thermal shock. Boil your hookah bowls only if you cannot get the grime out. Glass hookah bowls are especially prone to thermal shock, as well as scraping. Expect the glass to lose its transparency and shine with each use and scrubbing of your hookah bowl.
A clean hookah can have a huge impact on your hookah experience. A clean hookah bowl can mean a lot for your health. The burnt residue becomes a great breeding ground for bacteria, which you can inhale with each drag from your hookah. Don’t let your bowl get to the point that crusts are forming. Make it a habit to clean your hookah bowl after letting it cool down for the day’s session.
What’s your technique in cleaning your hookah bowl? Please don’t forget to share it with us in the comment section!