How to Clean Your Pipes, Bongs, and Vapes
There comes a time when even the gnarliest stoner must admit to him- or herself that a pipe, bong, or vaporizer has gotten grotty to the point of needing to be cleaned (that time might be now, with 4/20 just behind us). While cleaning isn't generally high on the list of fun stoner activities, it's a pretty painless endeavor that's going to make the quality of your next sesh so much better, which is why we made you this guide to cleaning any type of piece you’re packing.
Glass or wood pieces
When it comes to glass or wood pipes, you may want to steer clear of boiling. Many people safely boil their glass or wood pipes, but you run the risk of weakening the glass or warping the wood if you do. So! Just be aware of that.
Instead of making pipe soup, when it comes to glass or wood apparatus a little shaking and a lot of soaking is what's called for. There are a bunch of different ways to go about this, from container variations to the choice of soaking liquid.
In terms of where this operation is taking place, you can use a large bowl that's big enough to fully submerge the pipe in liquid, or a plastic take-out box, Ziploc bag, or other tightly-lidded container.
When it comes to what to use to clean a glass or wood pipe, there are loads of options and, as it turns out, people get really territorial and weird about their personal method and want to insist to you that it's The Best Way, which is pretty un-chill, but also sort of endearing. Rubbing alcohol, vodka, Formula 420 -- those are all ones that people will evangelize about. For our purposes, we're going to use rubbing alcohol to talk about methodology, and you can swap in vodka or white vinegar or water+epsom salt or or or or or. Lots of options, is the takeaway here!
Fill the bag or container with equal parts rubbing alcohol and warm water. Then add a liberal amount of kosher salt, put the lid on or seal the zipper, and give it a good shake. Then, let it sit for 30-60 minutes before rinsing; if there's still lingering residue, use a pipe cleaner to coax the gunk out.
If you're using a bowl rather than a sealable bag or container, you won't be able to get that cool agitation effect, which means that you'll want the cleaning agent to provide that for you. Enter baking soda and vinegar! Or denture tablets and water. Things that fizz, is the idea here. Denture tabs can be dropped into the bowl and then covered with warm water; if you use baking soda, cover the piece with a good amount of the stuff then pour white vinegar over and marvel at the cool-ass volcano effect. Allow the piece to soak for 10-15 minutes then rinse with warm water.
Glass or acrylic bongs
Cleaning glass or acrylic bongs is more or less similar to cleaning glass or wood pipes, but there are some nuances to point out in terms of methodology. The first is that you want to remove the bowl and the slide and clean those separately, much in the same way you'd clean a pipe -- seal them up with a cleaning agent, shake, rinse.
Next, dump out the bong water and rinse the chamber with water by filling from the top and dumping from the slide opening to avoid getting dirty water in the lip of the mouthpiece. If you have a really tall bong, you may need to use a measuring cup with a pouring spout to fill it with water, while shorter ones can be filled from the faucet. A note on the use of hot water: It's not a bad idea to temper glass pieces with warm water, to avoid weakening or shattering the glass.
Since it's hard to find containers large enough in which to seal a bong, using baking soda and vinegar or denture tablets, or something like Formula 420 along with a pipe cleaner or a narrow bottle brush will do you well. Soak, rinse, dry, and get that baby back in action.
Not all vaporizers are created equally, which is why we must begin by strongly suggesting you read the manufacturer's instructions on how to keep your model clean and in good working order. Another general piece of information is to clean your vape regularly, but base the definition of "regularly" on how often you use the thing.
With that said, the mouthpiece should be cleaned often -- after all, it's been hanging in your mouth, and possibly in the mouths of others, which means germs, bacteria, and viruses can linger. (That's a nice way of saying we don't want you to catch oral herpes.) Fortunately, there's a super cheap and super easy way to keep mouthpieces clean, even when you're on the go: Alcohol swabs. Yup! The thing the doctor uses to clean your arm before stabbing you with a needle is all you need to keep a mouthpiece clean (and avoid oral herpes). Here, go buy a box of 200 for $4 and stash one in your wallet right next to the condom.
When it comes to cleaning the chamber and heating element, if your vape came with a tool go ahead and use that to dislodge anything that's causing a clog, otherwise use a Q-Tip or pipe cleaner. Avoid using things like bent paper clips or safety pins, as the sharp metal can cause damage to the coil and you definitely don't want to do that. That same rubbing alcohol you used on the mouthpiece can also be used to clean the outside of the chamber, but avoid the use of any liquid cleaning agents like water or rubbing alcohol on the interior unless you're using a wax or oil vape, in which case you'll need the power of the rubbing alcohol (applied to a Q-Tip) to eliminate sticky residue.
Metal or ceramic pieces
Cleaning a metal or ceramic pipe or one-hitter is as simple as making soup: Just boil the thing. Use tongs to submerge and remove the piece from the water and lay on a towel to cool before handling. Once it's cool enough to pick up, you can bang it (gently!) on paper towels to knock out any remaining buildup. You can also use any of the methods described above to great effect.
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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Follow her on Twitter @joliekerr.