You just picked up a bottle of top-shelf weed from your favorite pot shop, shot down to your buddy’s house, and now you’re both ready to get lifted on some killer cannabis. But when your friend brings out her favorite pipe, the inside is caked with lumpy brown crud, and the mouthpiece sports a dark ring of mystery lining. Before even puffing from that gunked-up piece, you just know the smoke is going to taste like charred bog logs, no matter how sweet those new buds smell.
Besides smelling and tasting like ass, a dirty pipe can pose as a health hazard, too. Just as cannabis can sprout molds when grown in environments with poor air circulation, pipes filled with layers of old tar can do the same thing. Folks with mold allergies, compromised immune systems, asthma, or respiratory diseases risk getting sick if they hit from these unhygienic pieces.
So, what’s the most effective way to clean that bad boy? There are a few options, but we’ll start with the simplest and safest.
Buds Resin Remover Instagram
Bottles of Prepackaged Cleaning Products
Cleaning out a cannabis pipe can be a pain. The tar stuck to the glass is weed resin mixed with ash. With marijuana, meaning the weed with lots of THC, the tar is an especially sticky oil, so simply scrubbing the pipe with a brush ain’t gonna cut it.
Thankfully, as legal weed has gone mainstream, several companies now offer special glass-cleaning products. These are usually liquids that require some soaking before the tar can be shaken or scrubbed clean. If you’re health-conscious or eco-friendly, look for cleaning products made with natural ingredients (citric acid, vinegar, etc.). Try Formula 420, Bud’s Resin Remover, Smoke Soap, Resolution Gel, Grunge Off, or Green Piece Cleaner, to start.
WARNING: Not all cleaning products are created equal. Read the instructions from start to finish before even popping open the bottle.
Isopropyl Alcohol and Salt
One of the oldest and most reliable marijuana pipe cleaning methods is the ol’ salt and alcohol trick. Mind you, this is the kind of alcohol sold in drug stores, not liquor stores. This method also works best with ultra-concentrated isopropyl alcohol — at 91 percent — as opposed to the more commercially ubiquitous stuff, which is just 70 percent.
To do this, take salt (either regular table salt, sea salt, or even Epsom salt) and pour it into the pipe. Fill the pipe with around 10 to 25 percent salt. It doesn’t require a ton of crystals either. Alternatively, some folks use sugar crystals in place of salt, and that’s fine, too.
After the salt, pour in the alcohol. Ensure there are still salt crystals present; if they all dissolve, the salt can’t act as an abrasive to scrub off the tar. Plug any open ends on the pipe, then shake vigorously for a minute or so. Dirtier pipes will require more shaking (and possibly more than one round of salt and alcohol). We recommend pouring the brown goop into your toilet, since the alcohol-resin mix will leave a smelly residue if poured into a sink.
WARNING: Once the pipe is sufficiently cleaned, rinse it thoroughly with water to get all the excess alcohol and salt out of it. And rinse it well, otherwise you’ll have replaced the acrid smell of ass with that of a phlebotomist’s office, and no one wants a smoke sesh to remind them of their last hospital visit.
Vodka and Microwave
If there’s no salt around, but you’ve got a bottle of Svedka from the night before, try filling a cup or bowl with equal parts vodka and tap water, then stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute (or however long it takes to get hot). Afterward, dip the pipe in and swirl it around.
WARNING: Do not place the pipe into the microwave. Some glass pipes contain metallic paints or coloring. If microwaved, they’ll spark and potentially explode. Besides ruining a perfectly good pipe, this method could also ruin a perfectly good microwave. Or a perfectly good house.
The most basic marijuana pipe cleaning method involves dropping the pipe into a pot of boiling water. Although cannabis resin can’t dissolve in water (oil and water don’t mix), the heat alone can melt the tar. The tar will likely remain in the pipe, but a quick swipe with a small brush or scraper (see below) should easily remove all that gunk.
WARNING: While thick pipes can usually survive boiling, thinner pipes may break. And never, ever try to clean a bong by pouring boiling water into it; the base will likely burst. Additionally, placing a glass pipe into a metal pot can result in scratches, dents, or cracks in the pipe, so monitor your piece carefully.
Scraping is the worst method for cleaning a pipe. But if you already blew through your weed supply, and resin is all you have, sometimes it's the only feasible option.
Scraping can be done on a pipe that’s either at room temperature or has just been boiled. Preferably, use a soft scraping tool made of wood or plastic. Scraping alone will rarely get all the tar out of a marijuana pipe, so this isn’t the most efficient method, either.
WARNING: Avoid metal scrapers, as they can chip away at the glass, causing the pipe to become more fragile after repeated scrapings. And be especially careful if scraping the black cake baked into the bottom of the pipe’s bowl, as this is usually the thinnest and most fragile portion of glass on a pipe.
Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter