It happens to everyone: dirty pipes. It’s nearly impossible to truly enjoy the flavors of cannabis with unclean pipes, and honestly, it’s kinda gross. You wash your dishes, you wash your clothes, you wash your body (when you can)—it’s time to clean your pipes!
Before you start, you’ll need isopropyl alcohol. Now, there is some concern over using such a volatile chemical, but it is as safe as the alcohol in your hand sanitizer. Still, if you don’t want to use alcohol, you can use baking soda and vinegar. You will also need rock salt (small enough to get into and through the cracks of your pipes), pipe cleaners (duh!), zip-ties, paper clips, Q-Tips, rubber gloves, paper towels, and a Ziploc bag or a plastic container with a lid.
Glass If you are just cleaning one piece, a baggie will do, but if you are cleaning multiple pieces, consider using a container. A container is also good if you want to add a pipe-cleaning routine to your chore list; doing so will help you save resources and reduce waste.
Place your piece in the container and add just enough alcohol to cover everything. Add 1-3 tablespoons of salt. Seal the container and gently swirl it around to allow the salt to “scrub” the glass surfaces while floating around in the alcohol. Leave it alone for at least an hour—overnight for really dirty pieces or pieces with intricate parts. But what if this is your only piece, you ask? Take this as an opportunity to either support a local glassmaker or practice your joint-rolling skills.
Open the container away from your face. It will not smell good. The alcohol will have turned all that hard, funky resin into a sticky goo. Very. Sticky. Try to not touch it. Use more alcohol to wipe up any remaining trouble spots, then take your pipe to the sink. Run hot water, then lay a paper towel over the drain to catch the resin. Prop your pipe up in the drain and let the hot water sluice through it, in at the mouth and out like geysers at the bowl and carb. The hot water will wash most of the resin out in just a few moments if you let the pipe soak long enough, so you shouldn’t need to use much water. If there is still a fair amount of resin in the pipe, soak it again in alcohol, and this time leave it overnight. Any little bits left after the hot-water wash can be fished out with pipe cleaners or Q-Tips soaked in alcohol. Rinse with hot water as the last step. Leave on a towel to dry.
Stone & Ceramic You can still use alcohol to clean these, but don’t soak them; instead, soak Q-Tips, pipe cleaners, or strips of paper towels in alcohol and swab out the insides of your smoking device. Let them air dry, preferably overnight.
Metal The very best way to clean metal pipes is to boil them for 20 minutes or so, but be prepared to lose a pot to the sticky goo. You can swab these guys out with alcohol, too. If there are tiny parts, put tape over all but one opening, fill with alcohol and salt, and shake to clean the inside.
Wood, Antler, or Bone Put the alcohol away. These organic materials are too delicate. My best advice is to gently scrape the insides with zip-ties, paper clips, and pipe cleaners. Just be patient, and you’ll be enjoying a tasty smoke in no time.