how to clean my weed pipe

How to clean my weed pipe

You just picked up a bottle of top-shelf weed from your favorite pot shop, shot down to your buddy’s house, and now you’re both ready to get lifted on some killer cannabis. But when your friend brings out her favorite pipe, the inside is caked with lumpy brown crud, and the mouthpiece sports a dark ring of mystery lining. Before even puffing from that gunked-up piece, you just know the smoke is going to taste like charred bog logs, no matter how sweet those new buds smell.

Besides smelling and tasting like ass, a dirty pipe can pose as a health hazard, too. Just as cannabis can sprout molds when grown in environments with poor air circulation, pipes filled with layers of old tar can do the same thing. Folks with mold allergies, compromised immune systems, asthma, or respiratory diseases risk getting sick if they hit from these unhygienic pieces.

So, what’s the most effective way to clean that bad boy? There are a few options, but we’ll start with the simplest and safest.

Bottles of Prepackaged Cleaning Products

Cleaning out a cannabis pipe can be a pain. The tar stuck to the glass is weed resin mixed with ash. With marijuana, meaning the weed with lots of THC, the tar is an especially sticky oil, so simply scrubbing the pipe with a brush ain’t gonna cut it.

Thankfully, as legal weed has gone mainstream, several companies now offer special glass-cleaning products. These are usually liquids that require some soaking before the tar can be shaken or scrubbed clean. If you’re health-conscious or eco-friendly, look for cleaning products made with natural ingredients (citric acid, vinegar, etc.). Try Formula 420, Bud’s Resin Remover, Smoke Soap, Resolution Gel, Grunge Off, or Green Piece Cleaner, to start.

WARNING: Not all cleaning products are created equal. Read the instructions from start to finish before even popping open the bottle.

Isopropyl Alcohol and Salt

One of the oldest and most reliable marijuana pipe cleaning methods is the ol’ salt and alcohol trick. Mind you, this is the kind of alcohol sold in drug stores, not liquor stores. This method also works best with ultra-concentrated isopropyl alcohol — at 91 percent — as opposed to the more commercially ubiquitous stuff, which is just 70 percent.

To do this, take salt (either regular table salt, sea salt, or even Epsom salt) and pour it into the pipe. Fill the pipe with around 10 to 25 percent salt. It doesn’t require a ton of crystals either. Alternatively, some folks use sugar crystals in place of salt, and that’s fine, too.

After the salt, pour in the alcohol. Ensure there are still salt crystals present; if they all dissolve, the salt can’t act as an abrasive to scrub off the tar. Plug any open ends on the pipe, then shake vigorously for a minute or so. Dirtier pipes will require more shaking (and possibly more than one round of salt and alcohol). We recommend pouring the brown goop into your toilet, since the alcohol-resin mix will leave a smelly residue if poured into a sink.

WARNING: Once the pipe is sufficiently cleaned, rinse it thoroughly with water to get all the excess alcohol and salt out of it. And rinse it well, otherwise you’ll have replaced the acrid smell of ass with that of a phlebotomist’s office, and no one wants a smoke sesh to remind them of their last hospital visit.

Vodka and Microwave

If there’s no salt around, but you’ve got a bottle of Svedka from the night before, try filling a cup or bowl with equal parts vodka and tap water, then stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute (or however long it takes to get hot). Afterward, dip the pipe in and swirl it around.

WARNING: Do not place the pipe into the microwave. Some glass pipes contain metallic paints or coloring. If microwaved, they’ll spark and potentially explode. Besides ruining a perfectly good pipe, this method could also ruin a perfectly good microwave. Or a perfectly good house.

Boiling Water

The most basic marijuana pipe cleaning method involves dropping the pipe into a pot of boiling water. Although cannabis resin can’t dissolve in water (oil and water don’t mix), the heat alone can melt the tar. The tar will likely remain in the pipe, but a quick swipe with a small brush or scraper (see below) should easily remove all that gunk.

WARNING: While thick pipes can usually survive boiling, thinner pipes may break. And never, ever try to clean a bong by pouring boiling water into it; the base will likely burst. Additionally, placing a glass pipe into a metal pot can result in scratches, dents, or cracks in the pipe, so monitor your piece carefully.


Scraping is the worst method for cleaning a pipe. But if you already blew through your weed supply, and resin is all you have, sometimes it’s the only feasible option.

Scraping can be done on a pipe that’s either at room temperature or has just been boiled. Preferably, use a soft scraping tool made of wood or plastic. Scraping alone will rarely get all the tar out of a marijuana pipe, so this isn’t the most efficient method, either.

WARNING: Avoid metal scrapers, as they can chip away at the glass, causing the pipe to become more fragile after repeated scrapings. And be especially careful if scraping the black cake baked into the bottom of the pipe’s bowl, as this is usually the thinnest and most fragile portion of glass on a pipe.

Impeccably designed glassware should be part of every toker’s weed arsenal. What’s the best way to keep a pipe clean, though?

How to Clean Your Weed Pipe

Legal, recreational cannabis is coming to more states with every election, and that means more people may want to try it. To help these weed newbies (much of the Lifehacker staff included), we’re covering all the basics for beginners.

In this video, John Short of California Alternative Caregivers in Venice, California shows the proper way to clean your pipe. All you need is a Ziploc bag and some commercial pipe cleaning liquid. (If you don’t have that available, some rubbing alcohol and coarse salt will do just fine.) Simply submerge the pipe in the liquid in the bag and shake until all the burned-up bits come out.

Then rinse in warm water, dry, and you’re ready to light up again!

This story was originally published on April 17, 2019 and was updated on June 28, 2019.

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Designate a tupperware for this and all future cleanings. Place all dirty pipes in container and fill with isopropyl alcohol (the 90%, not the 70%); allow to soak as long as possible. Rinse pipes in hot water, wipe away any extra grime with a isopropyl-wetted cotton ball.

If that hasn’t gotten all the gunk off: stop the bowl with a dry cotton ball, hold the pipe with your thumb on the cotton ball and another finger over the carb, make a mess putting a little salt in the pipe (use Epsom salt for best results) and a little isopropyl. Stop the mouthpiece with another finger and shake. The salt/iso combination will scrub the rest of the resin off. Dump solution out and r inse with hot water to dissolve any lingering salt particles.

IF there is any more resin left on the piece, use pipe cleaners and/or q-tips dipped in isopropyl to brush the bastard clean. Recommend swiping each hole with an alcohol-wetted q-tip, practicing patience (resin can be a bitch to get off , especially on pipes), possibly using some gloves so your hands don’t get gunked (you can also use another isopropyl cotton ball to clean off your fingers), and laying out a square of aluminum foil to put dirty q-tips and cotton balls on so your sink/bathtub/table doesn’t get all contact- sticky.

Source: a cheap but clean stoner who is spending all their money on flower and none on single-purpose cleaner, thank you very much.

Legal, recreational cannabis is coming to more states with every election, and that means more people may want to try it. To help these weed newbies (much of the Lifehacker staff included), we’re covering all the basics for beginners.