Have a glass pipe that needs cleaning? With a little grit and patience, you can have your glass pipe sparkling clear in no time, without stopping by a glass pipe shop to buy a new one.

10 Second Summary

  1. Knock out any lingering gunk or ash.
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
  3. Reduce the water to a constant simmer.
  4. Submerge the pipe in the water.
  5. Allow pipe to soak for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab to remove any residue.

Method 1: Using Rubbing Alcohol

1. Remove any loose gunk from the pipe

Hold the pipe upside down and gently tap to remove any remaining particles. Then use a pipe cleaner, cotton swab, mechanical pencil, needle, or similarly thin object to remove any large, easily dislodged bits of resin you can reach.
Don’t risk breaking the pipe to get at tough spots, as you only need to get anything big and easy to reach off now. This will help the alcohol clean the rest of the pipe faster.

2. Fill a plastic resealable bag with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

Try and purchase 90% isopropyl, as it will clean the pipe faster than the more watered-down 71% solution. Place the pipe inside, making sure it is fully submerged in the fluid.
Alcohol breaks down tar and resin, making it easier to remove and cleaning off stains over time.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the bag

Salt will act like an abrasive sponge on your pipe, scrubbing away the resin in places you could never reach with a sponge or brush. Because it is meant to rub away the resin, try and use the biggest grains of salt your can find — course or kosher salt is usually your best bet.

4. Shake the pipe in the bag, making sure to work the salt into the inside of the pipe

If possible, get the salt in the pipe and then use your fingers to close off the openings to the pipe. You can then shake up the salt inside the chamber, getting rid of as much resin as possible. Shake the bag for 1-2 minutes or until the pipe is visibly clean.

5. Soak the pipe for several hours and repeat in the morning to clean very dirty pipes

Add a splash of fresh isopropyl and let the pipe sit, submerged in the fluid, for several hours before shaking it up again. If you are using 71% isopropyl alcohol, then some of your salt may have dissolved, so be sure to add more if you seem to be missing some.

6. Rinse out the pipe with hot water

Remove all the alcohol and salt from the pipe with some piping hot water and discard the rest down the toilet, as it can stink up your sink and pipes if left undisturbed.

7. Clean out any remaining spots with a pipe cleaner or cotton swabs

Wipe off any little spots, dipping the end of your tool in some clean alcohol to get rid of any persistent stains. To remove any water marks or non-resin stains, soak the pipe for 10-15 minutes in a mixture of warm water and lemon juice.

Method 2: Using Boiling Water

1. Knock out any lingering gunk or ash

Do a quick, basic cleaning of the pipe by knocking out any loose resin and using a cotton swab to wipe or dislodge any large pieces of gunk. Rinse the pipe out with warm water. Do not use cold water, as the transition from cold to boiling water may break your pipe.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil

Place it on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce water to a simmer. Make sure there is enough water to cover the entire pipe, preferably by 3–4 inches (7.6–10 cm) at least, to be safe.

A simmer is when there is a constant, but not extreme, cascade of bubbles breaking the surface of the water.

3. Submerge the pipe in water

Make sure that the pipe is fully submerged in water. As it boils, the water will evaporate, so keep your eye on it so ensure your pipe doesn’t end up alone in a hot pan, which may crack it.

4. Allow pipe to soak for 20-30 minutes in simmering water

Remove pot from heat, drain out the water, and inspect the pipe to check for any excess residue. The pipe will be extremely hot, so use an oven mitt and extreme care to check it. Never douse the hot glass in cold water — this will cause it to shatter.
You may need to repeat this process with a fresh pot of clean water until the pipe is thoroughly cleaned.

5. Use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab to remove any remaining residue

Take a cotton swab or pipe cleaner and wipe away any lingering residue. If there are water stains, soak your pipe for a few minutes in a mixture of lemon juice and 2–3 tablespoons (29.6–44.4 ml) of clean water and then let it air dry.

Method 3: Using Alternate Cleaning Solutions

1. Try using denture cleaning tablets

Put your pipe the bottom of a Tupperware container and fill it up with enough hot water to cover the top. Drop in 2-3 denture tablets and let it sit and soak for a half hour. The fizzing will remove a lot of resin, and the formula is designed to remove stains and residue. Other alternate home cleaning solutions include:

  • Salt and vinegar.
  • Baking soda and vinegar.
  • Sand and water.

2. Purchase specialty cleaning solutions

Marketed specifically to smokers, products like Simple Green and Formula 420 are made to clean the resins in glass pipes. They are, however, a bit more expensive than the simple DIY solutions, and many people do not find them any more effective. That said, they eliminate the need for shaking or messes, as they often remove the resin through simple soaking.

3. Freeze the pipe to remove hard buildups

Freezing causes the resin to harden and dry up, making it easier to dislodge. Freeze the pipe for 30 minutes to an hour, then quickly use a needle or similarly sharp, thin object to knock off the resin. It will not take long for the resin to warm up and become gummy again, so you need to work quickly.

4. Clean your pipe regularly

A quick rinse and a soak in some isopropyl, done once a week, takes only 5 minutes. But it will keep you from having to resort to deep cleanings or overnight soakings, and keep your piece shiny and sparkling. Some stains will not come out if they soak into the glass, but this only happens if you neglect cleaning for several months or years in a row. Take the time now to clean it off and your task will be much easier in the future.