If you're new to cleaning glass water pipes but aren't sure where to start or what to use, you're not alone. There's a first time for everything which is why we've compiled this simple guide for cleaning your glass pieces. Even if this isn't your first time cleaning a water pipe, hopefully this can provide some additional tips to make future cleanings easier and more efficient.
This guide will provide you with all the information you'll need to properly clean your glass water pipe and bring it back to it's day one appearance. Depending on how long you've waited between cleanings, this can take a few minutes or up to a few hours, but ultimately you should always be able to make your water pipe look and feel brand new again with minimal effort and supplies. We'll start off with the simplest methods and work our way to heavier cleaning techniques.
As a quick disclaimer: Always be careful when cleaning glass, especially when handling with water over a sink. Have a firm grip on your glass and support it from the bottom if necessary.
#1 Warm Water
By far, the simplest and easiest method of cleaning glass water pipes is to simply run warm water through them. Water should be used when your piece has fresh, minimal buildup or simply as a first step when removing the bulk of loose debris from dirtier water pipes.
- Before rinsing your piece, you'll want to remove any accessories or loose items (such as Downstems, Bowl Pieces, Domes, Nails, etc.) as the water may cause them to detach and fall while cleaning. These items should be cleaned separately and can be done the same way as your water pipe.
- Once you've removed these pieces, simply run warm/hot water either down the mouth piece or the glass fitting end where the Bowl or Nail is normally attached. Ideally you'll want to run water both directions as debris can get caught in narrow channels and will only evacuate one way. After a few moments of running hot water through your pipe, the contents will warm and loosen before being stripped away. Changing the angle in which water flows into either opening of the pipe can also help clean harder to reach areas and provide more agitation to loosen grime.
- When you start to notice that debris is no longer stripping away, you can stop rinsing and inspect your piece. If water was enough to clean the pipe to a satisfactory level, feel free to carefully dry the outside of the pipe, fill it up with fresh water and start using it again! But if you still see undesirable buildup you can move onto the next steps.
#2 Retail Cleaners
These pre-mixed cleaners can be found online or in brick and mortar headshops and usually contain a solvent (or mixture of solvents) and an abrasive material. The solvent is used to chemically break down and dissolve the waxes and oils on the inside of your pipe. These substances are what cause the buildup to be "sticky" and hard to remove with just water as they are not water-soluble. The abrasive is then used to physically scrub and remove the loosened debris from the glass walls to then be flushed out of either end of the water pipe.
- To use retail cleaners, you'll want to remove any accessories or extra pieces and drain any water remaining in the pipe. Small accessories can be soaked in cleaning solution while you clean the water pipe.
- Once empty, fill the pipe with the solvent-abrasive mixture as much as deemed necessary. You'll want to cover as much of the buildup as possible which is usually no more than you would fill your pipe with water for regular use. You can always add more or dump some out if needed.
- Now that the piece is filled with the cleaning solution, you'll want to let it sit for a few moments to let the solvent go to work on the waxes and oils in your piece. Depending on how fresh the buildup is, this could take minutes to overnight as older buildup tends to take longer to break down.
- Once you've let the cleaner sit for an appropriate amount of time, you'll then want to carefully shake your solution-filled pipe to let the abrasive begin stripping the solid debris from the glass. If you notice that not much debris is being stripped, let the mixture soak a little longer before trying again. This can take several attempts and may require that you drain and replace the pipe with fresh cleaning solution. This all depends on how often the piece is used and cleaned.
- After draining all of the debris and cleaner from your newly cleaned water pipe you'll want to rinse it thoroughly with warm water before drying the outside and refilling it with fresh water for continued use. Accessories and small pieces should also be thoroughly rinsed before drying and reusing as well.
#3 Homemade Cleaners
If you're on a budget and don't feel like paying full retail prices for pre-mixed cleaners, homemade mixtures are your best bet. Although not quite as effective as retail cleaners, homemade mixtures can be made for a fraction of the price and with household supplies that are found just about anywhere. Homemade cleaners are used in the exact same way as retail cleaners (soak and shake) so go ahead and use the previous steps for this method as well.
To make a homemade pipe cleaner mixture, you'll again need both a solvent and an abrasive. The most common and cheapest options used are isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and coarse salt. When selecting a rubbing alcohol, you'll want the highest percentage available as lower concentrations simply contain more water and are more diluted. When selecting salt, the coarser the grains the better, as larger chunks do a better job at aggravating buildup and debris for removal.
Simply mix the alcohol and the salt in whatever ratio seems necessary for your specific pipe but usually you will only need about a half a tablespoon of salt for every 8 ounces of alcohol. Use as you would a retail cleaner following the steps above and remember to thoroughly rinse everything, including accessories, before drying and reusing.
- Sometimes when using cleaners it's necessary to plug/cover one or both openings (mouthpiece & joint) of the water pipe in order to shake vigorously without spilling any liquid. This can be done a number of ways including buying special glass plugs to cover the standardized glass fittings or simply using paper towels, but always use your best judgement before shaking your glass.
- When you have hard to reach places (such as the inner topside of a tree perc or splash guard) sometimes you'll need to submerge the entire water pipe with no trapped bubbles to clean it entirely. If your piece is prohibitively large this can be done one half at a time by flipping it upside down to let the top half soak. It is never recommended that you try and balance a water pipe upside down without supporting it in some way.
- Never try and rush the cleaning process. Cleaning your glass piece doesn't have to be a chore and can even be therapeutic for some, much like washing the dishes. Saving a few minutes of your time is not worth the heartbreak of dropping your glass piece on the kitchen floor.
- On a similar note, it is always recommended to clean your piece regularly. This ensures easy cleaning which can be accomplished with warm water if done frequently enough. The longer you let a piece build up debris, the longer it will take to restore it to spotless state.
- When using a water pipe, try to clear the smoke in the chamber entirely on each hit to mitigate the collection and condensation of stale smoke inside the water pipe. This will keep your water pipe fresh and will require less cleanings.
If you have any questions about any of these steps or cleaning methods, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.