Keeping your glass pipes and bubblers clean is a chore, but you want to keep them clean so that you can enjoy all the flavors and aromas of your herbs and concentrates. A dirty pipe tastes like a dirty pipe no matter what you’re vaping through it. Luckily it’s easy to keep your pipes clean with a little bit of regular upkeep and the right tools for the job.
To get started cleaning your bubbler you’ll need to gather a few things:
- Isopropyl Alcohol (70% or 99%) (required)
- Narrow brush (optional)
- Course rock salt (optional)
- Pipe cleaners (coarse) (optional)
- Plugs or stoppers (optional)
As you can see from the list, the only absolute must-have item is Isopropyl Alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the resin stuck to the inside of the glass, the higher the concentration of alcohol the better it works.
The cleaning process itself is simple. Fill your bubbler, pipe, bong, whatever glassware you’re cleaning with Isopropyl Alcohol, and give it a shake. Make sure you have a good solid grip, especially if your hands are wet. This is also the step where having something to plug up the openings in your bubbler helps. They make stoppers in all different varieties, glass stoppers are good for the glass joint but won’t work for the mouthpiece. For the mouthpiece, I use a silicone stopper. In general, I keep silicone stoppers around because they’re more versatile and less fragile.
Once you’ve shaken it up, let it sit and soak for a bit. Overnight is my recommendation.
Once your glass piece has been soaking for a bit, give the pipe another shake and evaluate how much of the resin has dissolved. The alcohol should have an amber tint to it, the dirtier the pipe the darker the color.
Inspect the pipe and see if there are still large patches of resin coating the inside of the glass. Depending on the shape and design of the pipe there may be spots where the resin is more likely to collect. Those spots may not come clean with just a simple soak.
For extra dirty pipes, or for an extra thorough clean, grab some coarse rock salt and pour some into your pipe. You want to make sure that you have enough for it to scrub the nooks and crannies, but not so much that the salt lumps together and doesn’t move freely. A small handful of coarse rock salt should be enough for most small to medium sized bubblers. Make sure to shake the pipe a lot to get that salt moving around and scrubbing. Hold onto your pipe carefully while shaking it, I can’t stress that enough.
If your pipe has an open downstem that you cant fill with salt, you can use a narrow brush (tube brush) to gently scrub the inside of the downstem while the pipe is filled with alcohol. Dunk the brush into the alcohol generously to make sure you’re coating the inside of the stem with alcohol while scrubbing.
I recommend starting with the rock salt on step one (the initial shake n soak) for the most thorough cleaning sessions.
If you’re cleaning a small bowl or spoon with narrow openings you can use pipe cleaners that have been dipped in Isopropyl Alcohol. Pass the pipe cleaners through the opening back and forth a few times and that should be enough to clean it right out. You can add a little squiggle to the pipe cleaner to make sure it gets the inside of the opening while you’re running it back and forth.
A note about pipe cleaners. There are decoratives ones, mainly used for crafts, and pipe cleaners intended for cleaning pipes. Decoratives pipe cleaners tend to leave fluff and fuzz behind which are made from synthetic fibers. You don’t want to be smoking that. Pipe cleaners meant for cleaning pipes come in a few different varieties (soft or hard) and have little scrubby bristles that help clean.
Once you’re done cleaning and you have a clean pipe with some dirty alcohol in it (and maybe some salt) you’re ready to finish up. If you’re going to be cleaning another piece immediately after you’re done with this one, you can pour the alcohol and salt directly into that one and start the soak. Otherwise you can pour it down the drain and begin to run hot tap water through your pipe. The goal here is to rinse all the alcohol out of the pipe and also dissolve any remaining salt.
Once you’re confident you’ve removed all the alcohol and salt, and you’re happy with how the pipe looks, you can fill it up and start using it again.
Enjoy the flavor.
Most of the items you need to maintain a clean pipe (or a fleet of them) can be purchased from the grocery store or drugstore. In some cases it can be tough to find the right stoppers for your pipes or the right pipe cleaners.
I’ve found that the Higher Standards Supreme Clean Kit has everything you need to get started and includes some harder-to-find items. I generally don’t recommend glass cleaning kits since you can get the same alcohol from a trip to the grocery store, but the Supreme Clean Kit comes with a bunch of extra accessories that would otherwise be a struggle to find. For $30 the kit includes everything you would need to clean one small or medium-sized bubbler a dozen times or so. After that, you’d need to buy more alcohol.
Included in the kit:
- Isopropyl alcohol (99%)
- Coarse Rock Salt
- Long cotton swabs (qtips)
- A rag
- Abrasive alcohol wipes
- Funnel (for the salt)
- Stem Brush
- Tube Tops (plugs)
The alcohol and coarse rock salt are run-of-the-mill good stuff alcohol and rock salt, gets the job done. The cotton swabs are cool and great for reaching the hard-to-reach places, but there are only 12 of them so use sparingly. The rag…. I think it’s a bandanna. Abrasive alcohol wipes are great for cleaning off the outside of your pipe. The funnel is just that, does the job, I used it once but don’t need it. The stem brush is great, it’s long and has stiff bristles. The tube tops are good, there are three large ones and three teeny tiny ones. The small ones are for plugging small holes in hand pipes and spoons while the large ones are meant for 14mm and 18mm joints, the largest size is for the mouthpiece opening on a tall beaker.
You can find the Higher Standards Supreme Clean Kit available at Vapor.com for $30 which is a pretty reasonable cost for everything included. I recommend starting with the kit and replacing the isopropyl alcohol from a local source when you need more, the same goes for the rock salt.