How to Clean Your Pipes, Bongs, and Vapes

Q-Tips and vinegar are your friend.

There comes a time when even the gnarliest stoners must admit to themselves that a pipe, bong, or vaporizer needs to be polished off.

While cleaning isn’t typically mentioned 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.

marijuana pipe cleaning
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Glass or Wood Pieces

When it comes to glass or wood pipes, it’s best 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.

Instead of making pipe soup, a glass or wood apparatus calls for a little shaking and a lot of soaking. 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 formulas available online from classics like Formula 420 to the reusable Res Gel and powder mix Sudz by Budz. For our purposes, we're going to use good ol’ 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol, but you could swap in vodka or white vinegar in a pinch.

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. Let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes, shaking occasionally, before rinsing. If there's still lingering residue, repeat and/or use a pipe cleaner to coax the remaining gunk out.

For pieces that won’t fit in a sealable bag or container, you need to create your own fizz. Enter baking soda and vinegar! Or denture tablets and water. 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 to 15 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

glass and acrylic bongs

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, repeat as necessary.

For the bong itself, dump out the bong water and rinse it out 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, but a sink will work in most cases. It's not a bad idea to temper glass pieces with warm water, to avoid weakening or shattering the glass with too hot of water, too fast.

Since it's hard to find containers large enough in which to seal a bong, you can use a wad of paper towel on both openings to allow you to vigorously shake the baking soda and vinegar or denture tablets within. Something like Formula 420 along with a pipe cleaner or a narrow bottle brush will do you just as well. Soak; rinse; dry, and get that baby back in action.

vape pipes
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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. Here, go buy a box of 200 for $4 and stash one in your wallet.

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 result in you inhaling bits of metal.

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. If you’re using a wax or oil vape, you'll need the power of rubbing alcohol (applied to a Q-Tip) to eliminate sticky residue.

one hitter weed
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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!) against a hard surface 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.

Lauren Yoshiko is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She writes The Broccoli Report, a bi-weekly newsletter for creative cannabis entrepreneurs.