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How to Clean a Glass Pipe: Isopropyl Alcohol vs. Specialty 420 Cleaners

Anyone who has smoked out of a dirty pipe knows it’s a rather unpleasant experience. While some people don’t mind a dirty piece, it’s generally accepted that routine glass cleaning is necessary.

Now you may already be aware of how to clean a glass pipe, but we’re going to break it down for you and answer one of the most common questions among glass owners: are specialty 420 cleaners better than isopropyl alcohol?

Isopropyl Alcohol vs. Specialty 420 Cleaners

To maintain objectivity, we’ll first briefly discuss some of the benefits each product brings to the table. Let’s kick off the conversation with isopropyl alcohol. Arguably one of the most versatile sterilization cleaning solutions available, isopropyl alcohol, or iso for short, works great to clean flower resin or concentrate reclaim from glass surfaces. When purchasing iso from a store, be sure to look for the 91% variation, as it will work the best out of all the store-bought options. The high concentration of alcohol is perfect for cleaning out those pesky stains and residue build ups. When a piece is soaked in hot water beforehand, iso is even more effective. Using Epsom or rock salt in addition to iso is also a great way to safely clean a pipe. Isopropyl alcohol usually retails for about $1.99 – $4.99 per bottle and is widely available at many department stores and pharmacies across the U.S.

In comparison to isopropyl alcohol, 420 cleaners are specialized and created specifically for cleaning a dry herb piece.

They come in vibrantly colored, branded bottles and are most commonly available in head shops or online marketplaces. 420 cleaners work in a similar fashion as iso and break down residues left from concentrate or dry herb consumption. What’s cool about 420 cleaners is that they come in a variety of options with different active ingredients. This allows you to try different brands/types to find the best one for your needs. Some cleaners utilize isopropyl alcohol as the active ingredient, while others use compounds like ethyl alcohol or fully organic ingredients. The variety of brands and options available for specialty 420 cleaners is a big plus, however, these products range from $7.99 – $25.99, making them a bit pricey compared to simple iso.

Which product is better — Isopropyl Alcohol or 420 Cleaners?

Ultimately, it’s up to the specific consumer to choose which option suits their needs best, but there’s really no need to pour your money down the drain. In our extensive personal experience when discussing how to clean a pipe, specialty 420 cleaners and iso are practically indistinguishable in effectiveness, making iso the obvious choice considering the difference in price.

The availability of iso is also a big factor as well. Head shops are awesome to visit, but they don’t always have the most accessible hours. Isopropyl alcohol is available at many 24-hour retailers, so you never have to worry about running out or not being able to grab some in a pinch. On top of the difference in price and availability, iso is also much more discreet than 420 cleaners, which are clear indicators of someone’s dry herb consumption. If you’re trying to keep your stoner lifestyle on the DL, then iso is the product for you.

How to Clean a Pipe with Isopropyl Alcohol

Now that we’ve answered the question on which product is better, let’s move on to how to clean a pipe effectively using isopropyl alcohol.

#1: Gather your materials

The first step is to assemble everything you’ll need for the process. Grab your piece (pour out the water if you’re cleaning a glass pipe), iso, slide/bowl/banger and a few q-tips. To make the process easy for yourself, you’ll want to set up near a sink that has a pretty hot water output. Be sure to place your glass in a safe space not too close to the edge of the counter. Placing some paper towel or a rag down to avoid direct contact with your counter is a good option too.

Once you have assembled all of the necessary materials, it’s time to get down and dirty. This isn’t the most exciting activity you’ll do, but it’s an important part of maintaining your pieces and extending their longevity. Additionally, smoking or vaping out of a clean piece is much healthier and reduces the number of impurities you intake into your body.

#2: Start cleaning

To begin the cleaning process, turn on your water source and allow it to get as hot as possible (or as hot as your hands can take). Once the water is heated, carefully fill your piece up with hot water. Be careful not to burn yourself during this process. Once the piece is filled, perform a thorough shaking to loosen up any resin present.

When it comes to cleaning glass, it’s important to understand that concentrate reclaim and resin left from combusted flower are completely different forms of residue. Concentrate reclaim is generally easier to remove and reacts much better to hot water rinsing. If you’re cleaning a rig with only concentrate residue, the hot water shake will remove most of the resin right off the bat.

Depending on how long it has been caked on, resin left behind from the combustion of dry herb flower is a bit trickier to remove. If it’s fresh resin, generally hot water and iso will work pretty effectively. However, if it has been left on for a while, some rock salt may be needed for an extra abrasive cleaning.

#3: Soak and shake.

Now that we’ve soaked and shaken our piece in hot water, it’s time to move onto the actual cleaning. Pour out the hot water from your piece and be careful not to let any residue stick to your hands on the way out. Once all the water is drained, add your isopropyl alcohol. You’ll want to add enough iso to cover the entire inside of the piece when shaken. If you’re cleaning a piece containing only concentrate reclaim, all you will need is iso. If you’re cleaning flower resin, do a quick assessment of how caked on the resin is. If it’s on there pretty good, throw a little rock or Epsom salt into the mix. You don’t need a ton, so use it as needed. Once you have your mixing agent in the piece, it’s time to shake it up!

Shake your piece vigorously for several minutes, checking periodically to see how much residue is remaining. If all of the residues comes off cleanly within the first few minutes, you are on your way to an easy finish to the process. If after several minutes you still have residue caked on, try repeating the process. Pour out your isopropyl alcohol and pre-rinse your piece with hot water. Pour some iso and rock salt back into your piece and shake extensively again. This process can be repeated as many times needed to get your piece spotless. If shaking is proving useless, you may need to soak your piece overnight. You can also use Q-tips or pipe cleaners to get at those hard-to-reach spots. Simply dip them in some iso and apply to the resinous spot. A little elbow work and you should be good to go.

#4: Rinse and enjoy a toke!

After every bit of residue has been cleaned off the glass, pour all of the iso and rock salt out of your piece and rinse thoroughly with hot water. Don’t skimp on this process, any leftover iso could be harmful to consume. Shake and rinse your piece out several times with hot water until there is no leftover isopropyl alcohol.


By now, you’ve learned how to clean a pipe effectively. All that’s left to do is to dry off your rinsed and fully clean piece, fill it with water if necessary, and enjoy some tasty tokes! Keeping your piece clean will not only give you cleaner hits but also extends the longevity of your glass. So to recap, don’t waste your money on expensive 420 cleaners, use isopropyl alcohol and keep your pieces fresh, clean and ripping for years to come!

How often do YOU clean your glass?

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By | 2017-12-08T10:01:41+00:00 December 8th, 2017|Industry News|0 Comments