Learn some smoke shop know-how with our helpful guide to extending the life and looks of your smoking apparatus.
The allure of wooden pipes can't be beat. They're beautiful, warmly organic pieces of art that provide a link to the past and happen to be made of sustainable materials.
But the smell of wooden pipes leaves a lot to be desired. After a certain amount of smoking, the pipe will start to accumulate tar and resin -- just as any piece would -- but the porous wood will also hang on to smells. If you've chosen wood over glass for your smoking apparatus, you might have discovered that getting it clean is not as simple as boiling it in water, which is a no-no for our wooden friends. Here's how to keep your hand-carved wooden pipe free of that ashtray taste.
#1 Get into a rhythm.
With proper care, a wooden pipe can bring you pleasure for years. But it's important to treat it right from the get-go. That means establishing a regular cleaning schedule. Most experts suggest cleaning at three intervals: immediately after you smoke your tobacco of choice, then again every few days with alcohol, and deep-cleaning once a month. We'll break each cleaning type down into steps.
#2 Clean immediately after you smoke.
Well, not immediately -- you don't want to burn yourself. But once the pipe has cooled down, you will want to remove any ash and leftover tobacco by knocking it into an ashtray. Next, push a clean pipe cleaner through the stem a few times to remove any ash or moisture. Repeat until the pipe cleaner comes out clean. Finally, wipe out the bowl with a pipe cleaner or paper towel. Ta-da! Your pipe is bright, shiny, and ready to provide another flavorful bowl.
#3 Clean with alcohol.
Every few bowls or so, you can basically repeat this process using alcohol. (Never soak your pipe in any fluid, however; this will warp the wood.) Saturate a paper towel with alcohol and use it to wipe the bowl. Then, do the same with a pipe cleaner: soak it in alcohol and swab out the stem.
#4 Dig in for a deep cleaning.
If your pipe can be disassembled, you'll want to do so every few months to really get in there for a deep clean. Knock out the ash from the bowl and scrape down the "cake" (the burned part of the bowl that becomes charcoal after a period of time). Emery cloth or sandpaper offers a gentle way to do this without nicking the wood bowl, but blunt knives work in a pinch, too.
Next, return to your old friend, the pipe cleaner. Using alcohol or a pipe cleaning formula, saturate the pipe cleaner and get to scrubbing that stem. Finally, dry the inside with a dry cleaner, wipe down the whole pipe with a soft cloth, and, for extra credit, polish any metal bands. For best results, let the fresh, clean pipe rest and air out for the next day. It probably earned this spa treatment and subsequent day off.
In the market for a new wood pipe (or glass or metal)? Your favorite New Orleans smoke shop is open and you can place credit card orders via phone. Come by Mushroom New Orleans from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (our temporary hours) for curbside pickup. See you soon, and take care!