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A new owner's guide to cleaning pipes and bongs 

There are many iconic means of smoking cannabis, from simple classics like the joint to cutting-edge vaporizers and dab rigs. Some are designed for discretion, while others are pieces of gallery-ready art.

Caught by the visual allure and ease of use, new smokers may choose to purchase a pipe or bong. But after just a few smoking sessions, they will have to deal with the sticky black resin left by burnt cannabis. This residue contains mostly ash and tar, with very small amounts of THC. Built-up resin has a strong smell and adds an unpleasant taste to the pipe or bong.

Most pipes and bongs are made of non-porous material, typically glass or metal, though some budget bongs are built partially of plastic. Fortunately, none of these materials restrict basic cleaning and maintenance, though owners of high-end glassware with lighting, sound effects and the like should consult the manufacturer or retailer for tips on preventing damage to sensitive electronic components.

click to enlarge The basic supplies for proper bong maintenance. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • The basic supplies for proper bong maintenance.

The easiest way to clean a pipe is by using a combination of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and table salt. Resin will dissolve in rubbing alcohol, but because it's so thick, this will take time. Salt pulls water out of the alcohol, making it more concentrated and better at dissolving resin. It can also act as an abrasive, helping scrub resin away without scratching the pipe or bong.

To clean a pipe, first submerge it in rubbing alcohol. Next, add salt, then scrub the outside with a little salt between finger and glass. Note that the bowl will require more attention to clean thoroughly. Once the outside is clean, remove the pipe from the alcohol, being sure to leave some inside the pipe. Shake the pipe until it appears clean. If the pipe is opaque, shake with alcohol, then rinse with hot water to see if further cleaning is necessary. In any case, rinse the pipe thoroughly with hot water and allow it to dry.

click to enlarge Add salt and alcohol, then cover the holes and shake. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • Add salt and alcohol, then cover the holes and shake.

When cleaning a bong, first disassemble it as much as possible. This may be as simple as pulling out a removable bowl. Bongs with carburetors usually have bowls that can be removed for easy cleaning as well. Ensure also that any bong water has been disposed of. Fill the main chamber of the bong with one to three tablespoons of salt, depending on the size. Add enough rubbing alcohol so that the salt moves throughout the bong easily. Then, simply shake until the inside of the bong appears clean.

click to enlarge Some parts take more scrubbing than others. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • Some parts take more scrubbing than others.

If the bong has carburetors or multiple chambers, make sure these get cleaned as well. Rinse the bong thoroughly with hot water and allow it to dry. Finally, clean the bowl as you'd clean a pipe.

click to enlarge A removable glass bowl is a magnet for resin buildup. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • A removable glass bowl is a magnet for resin buildup.

Routine cleaning is the easiest way to prevent heavy resin buildup. Soaking the pipe or bong in very hot water will loosen resin, making it easier to clean. More stubborn or hard-to-reach resin deposits may warrant a pipe cleaner — not of the soft, fluffy craft variety — sold in most places that carry tobacco for pipe smokers. Lastly, soaking a pipe or bong overnight in the alcohol-salt combination will take care of even the toughest stuck-on resin.

click to enlarge The dissolved resin still smells foul; dump this mess. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • The dissolved resin still smells foul; dump this mess.

With this information, even the new smoker will find it easy to maintain a clean, fresh-tasting bong or pipe for a more pleasant smoking experience.

click to enlarge A freshly cleaned bong, sure to smoke like new. - LAUREN MCKENZIE
  • Lauren McKenzie
  • A freshly cleaned bong, sure to smoke like new.

Enjoy!

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