Cleaning your pipe keeps it functioning as best as it can, and also helps it last longer. Here are simple steps that will help you maintain your wooden pipe regularly.
*Note: Let your pipe cool entirely before you clean it. Removing the shank while the pipe is warm will cause a change in the fitting, causing irreparable damage to the pipe.
How to clean a wooden pipe
Regular cleaning is easy to do, and it takes less than 10 minutes to complete. For routine maintenance, you will need:
Bristled pipe cleaners
Make sure to use the picture below as a reference when we mention several wooden pipe parts. This will help you get the general idea of what the pipe looks like inside and out.
Parts of the wooden pipe.
Now for the cleaning process. As a reminder, please make sure that the pipe is thoroughly cool before cleaning.
Hold the pipe securely in your hand and cover the bowl with your finger. Shake the pipe for several seconds to loosen the ash and also to help it form a cake inside the bowl.
Dump out the ash in a receptacle. If nothing comes out, use a spoon end of a pipe cleaner to take out the residue.
Take the pipe apart firmly but gently to prevent breaking the parts. Lay the stummel and the stem in separate paper towels.
Dip the pipe and shank cleaner in alcohol. Tap out any excess to keep from saturating the pipe.
Take the stem and run the shank cleaner through the airway from the tenon to the mouthpiece.
Run the shank cleaner through the stem several times, and then change to the pipe cleaner. Follow it with a dry pipe cleaner to prevent saturating the parts. Keep doing this, changing pipe cleaners as you go. Continue until the pipe cleaner comes out clean.
Using a Q-tip, wipe around the outside of the mortise
Do the same thing with the stummel. Push the pipe cleaners through the mortise until you see a hint of the tip through the bowl. Blow through the mortise to force out any dislodge ash or resin.
Once the pipe cleaners come out clean, leave the pipe to air dry for 24-48 hours
If there’s a clog that’s preventing you from pushing the cleaners through the pipe, it’s time to do some deep cleaning.
How to Deep Clean a Wooden Pipe
Deep cleaning should be done only if you have too much resin build-up, and you want to strip your pipe so that you can taste a new herb strain.
Bristled pipe cleaners
Uncoated metal paper clip and a lighter or a candle
Reamer for breaking out the caked resin (only if you want a “new” pipe)
Egg carton – keep the pipe in place. You can also use a wide bowl with beans or rice in it.
Kosher salt – not table or sea salt because kosher has better moisture absorption without expanding.
High-proof drinking alcohol – 151 proof vodka is ideal because it has a neutral flavor. You can use isopropyl alcohol provided that it’s 99%, so it evaporates completely.
A small pouring cup with a spout or needleless syringe to keep the alcohol from spilling on the outside of the pipe.
Once you got all the materials ready, let’s get started with deep cleaning your pipe. Reminder: do this only when the pipe is at room temperature.
Separate the shank/stummel from the stem. Check where the clog is coming from.
Straighten out the paper clip and heat it using a lighter or a candle.
Carefully and gently push the paperclip, twisting it gently to help it gently melt the resin. Once you get the clog out, you can use the shank and pipe cleaners to get out as much resin as you can.
Keep going until you’re satisfied with the level of cleaning. It’s okay if It’s not thoroughly cleaned yet. You’re going soak the pipe later in alcohol to get rid of the rest of the resin.
Use the reamer to thin out the cake or “reset” the wooden pipe for smoking a new herb or tobacco flavor.
Optional: get your reamer to thin out the resin, or “reset” the pipe and remove the cake out to make it fresh. Insert the pointed “clipper” end of the reamer inside the bowl’s chamber. Do this carefully and feel the vibration as you scrape. Don’t do it too hard or you will scrape off part of the chamber. Gently tap out the residue that you scraped out on a tissue paper.
Take the plastic wrap and fold it until you get a substantial thickness. Wrap it around the Q-tip and push it through the mortise. Push it in until it’s nice and secure to keep the alcohol from leaking.
Place it inside the egg crate or bowl with beans/rice. Check that it’s straight, steady, and won’t topple over. Pour in kosher salt until it fills up 2/3’s of the chamber.
Using the spouted cup or syringe, pour alcohol until you’ve moistened all the salt. Let the alcohol settle, then add in salt a bit of the time. If you spilled alcohol on the outside, wipe it off immediately with a paper towel.
Continue to layer the salt and alcohol until it covers the entire chamber, just beneath the lip of the bowl.
Leave the pipe to soak overnight. The salt will turn into a brown, coffee color, indicating that the alcohol was able to melt the resin.
Scrape off all the salt using a pipe tool. Use a plate to catch all the salt. Fill the chamber with alcohol and use the Q-tip to capture all the leftover salt inside the pipe.
Pour out the alcohol and use a paper towel or pipe cleaner to clean the chamber. Keep wiping until you’re satisfied with the level of cleaning.
Take out the plug from the mortise and use distilled water to flush out any left-over salt.
Leave the pipe to dry out for a few days or a week to make sure that the alcohol has evaporated completely before use.
To take out any unwanted resin that can ruin the taste of your herbs
Ensure that the airflow remains clear.
Eliminate left-over flavors from your previous herb if you want to switch to a different tobacco or herb mix.
When will you deep clean your wooden pipe
There’s no exact period when you need to deep clean your wooden pipe. That will depend on how heavily you use the pipe and how often you maintain it. Generally, deep cleaning is done when:
There’s an unpleasant taste to your smoke. The taste can be salty, sour, or plainly unpleasant, something very far from the original taste of your herb.
The cake is too thick and there’s a danger of it cracking the wooden pipe due to uneven heat distribution.
If you don’t notice any difference in your smoking experience, you have to do the cleaning once a month to keep it functioning as good as new.
Tips for keeping your pipe clean
Keep the flame within the bowl and not on the rim. Frequent flaming of the rim leads to that blackened, charred appearance on the pipe. Should you accidentally flame the rim, get a pipe cleaner and moisten it with your saliva. Rub it on the rim to remove the black char. You can do this while smoking your pipe.
Don’t boil your wooden pipe, or expose it to moisture for too long. Wood is porous and absorbent. Water can cause the wood to expand, which can cause cracks or moisture problems with your pipe.
Do regular cleaning before and after each smoking session. This practice will keep your pipe clear and easy to use, and you don’t have to soak your pipe often or suffer through the blockage.
Now you have a pipe that gives you the clean flavor of your herbs — no more weird flavor or hard puffs during your sesh. Of course, drying your pipe would mean you won’t be able to use it for a day or more. It’s better to have another pipe to use as a stand-in while the other one is busy drying. Check out our collection of wooden pipes here. We’ve got a simple selection of great wooden pipes made out of the right material for a warm, earthy smoking experience.
How do you clean your wooden pipe? Please share your tips and tricks in our comment section below!