How to Clean a Tobacco Pipe

Man smoking tobacco with a pipe

Having a well maintained pipe is the key to having a successful and enjoyable pipe smoking experience. No matter your rotation, whether you have one pipe or one hundred pipes, it’s important that you take good care of them so that they can continue to serve you with fantastic smokes. In this article, we’ll be looking at how you should be cleaning your pipes, the equipment you’ll need and what to avoid when taking care of your collection. For a successful pipe cleaning session, you’ll need:

  • Bristle pipe cleaners
  • Regular pipe cleaners
  • Grain alcohol
  • Flavoured alcohol/liquer (optional)
  • Pipe reamer
  • Pipe tool

Whether you’re setting up to give your pipe a light daily clean or the time has come to do a deeper clean, it is vital that the pipe is cool when you commence cleaning. If you have just finished a bowl of lovely Ashton pipe tobacco and want to clean the pipe straight away, this will cause irreversible damage, so make sure that the bowl has cooled down before any cleaning commences.

Firstly, you’ll want to ensure that the bowl is free of any leftover tobacco from the previous smoke, as this will cause issues with the cleaning process. You can do this with the pipe tool by carefully dislodging any dottle or ash from the bottom of the bowl and discarding it. If there is any harder to remove leftovers then try tapping the bowl upside down onto the palm of your hand. Under no circumstances should you hit the bowl against any hard material such as wood or metal as this can damage the pipe.

Now that the tobacco has been removed, you’ll want to separate your stem from the shank for easier cleaning. Carefully twist and remove the stem as not to break the tenon, as this would be imposible to repair! Of the two pieces, start with the stem first. Start by taking a bristle pipe cleaner and dipping it into the alcohol cleaning solution – you could introduce a flavoured liqueur to the solution to give the pipe a new flavour next time you smoke it. If you do decide to add a flavour, we’d recommend using 70% grain alcohol vs 30% flavoured for the cleaning solution. Submerge the pipe cleaner about half an inch into the fluid before letting any excess run off back into the bottle. Push the cleaner through the stem from the tenon to the mouth piece and pulling it through at the other end – likely there will be ash or black residue on this cleaner. Follow this with a clean and dry cleaner by pushing it through from the tenon once again. Repeat these two steps until the moist cleaner comes out completely clean and finish with one final dry cleaner.

Next, we’ll move onto the stummel of the pipe and start by cleaning the airhole with an alcohol moistened cleaner, followed by a dry cleaner. Again, repeat this process until the moist cleaners are coming on clean and finishing with a dry one. If your pipe has a large airhole, we’d suggest folding the cleaner in half so that it fills more of the room and will remove more residue. Cleaning is not necessary for the bowl as this is where the cake is built which ensures a more fulfilling smoke and ultimately a longer lasting pipe. If you’re unsure on how to build cake in your tobacco pipes, we’ve put together a handy guide here.

Having cleaned your pipe, we’d suggest leaving it to sit for at least a day while the excess alcohol solution evaporates, leaving a wonderfully clean and crisp pipe for your tobacco. If you’re looking to expand your collection of pipes or tobaccos, we have a great selection of each with something bound to take your fancy!

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