For smokers, ceramic pipes are the crown jewel of smoking accessories. For marijuana aficionados, they offer a clean smoke that doesn't detract from the flavor of the home grown herb. The problem is that they get dirty very easily. But with a little work, you can have your pipe glistening as good as new.
There are several commercially available cleaners available from most tobacconists and smoke related products stores that will do an excellent job cleaning a glass pipe. A note of caution however; ceramic pipes, are susceptible to fume "wash out" when cleaned with a strong cleaner that includes solvents. Surface fume is melted into the glass and will not wash out, while internal fume cannot be adequately melted in due the inability to really get the flame inside the piece at a 90 degree angle for optimum melt. If the fume is washed out, the pipe will no longer color change. Check the label. Any alcohol based cleaner (more than 50% alcohol content), or cleaners that include petro-chemical based ingredients (gasoline, diesel fuel, lighter fluid to name a few) will probably wash out the internal fume.
If you are unable to find a commercially based cleaner, create your own. Mix 4 parts very warm, (yet, not hot) water with one part dish detergent and one part salt. Very hot (boiling) water will cause uneven thermal expansion and will probably break your piece. Submerge your piece in this home brew overnight. Rinse thoroughly in very warm water. This home brew will eliminate the majority (not all!) of the marijuana residue from your pipe. If you have a stubborn area that refuses to clean up, fill the pipe with home brew cleaner and add a teaspoon of coarse grind salt, then gently shake. The course salt will act as a gentle abrasive and help to clean the stubborn spots.
Step by step guide:
Solution: Materials needed:
Liquid Dish Detergent (Dawn)
Small nylon brush/ paper clip/Q-tip
1) First take the pipe and turn it vertically so the mouthpiece is facing downward. Give it some light taps on the tops as you shake it. This will get ride of anything loose that might have settled into the pipe.
2) Next take a Q-tip, or a small nylon brushes and begin lightly scraping the inside of the piece. Scrape from both the mouthpiece as well as the pipe's bowl. Be sure to bend the paper clip periodically to reach hard to reach places
3) Once you have thoroughly scraped the inside of the pipe and discarded any resulting ash, fill a small pot with water.
4) Place the pot on the stove, and set the stove on high.
5) Once the pot is near boiling, turn off the flame & remove the pot from stove
6) Add solvents into pot with a light stir of mixtures: course salt acts real well as an abrasive and dish detergent acts good as a lubricant.
7) Carefully place the pipe in the pot with a tong.
8) Periodically lift the pipe up carefully using the tongs and brush it with a small nylon brush. As you brush the burnt particles away, the soap will temporary lubricates the pipe to allow the residue to slip away with ease, without scratches. Afterwards, place the pipe back into the pot to soak for a final cleaning latter. Be sure and get warm water started again.
9) Repeat these steps until satisfactory. At the end, you should be left with a fully transparent pipe.
10) Cool the ceramic pipe at room temperature. Never cool the pipe rapidly with water because it will cause uneven thermal contraction and will probably break your piece.
11) Notice that your pipe is very slippery, so one last rinse is necessary to avoid dropping it from the excess soap.
12) Fill & smoke. The transformation will enhance the quality and vibrant taste that only a clean ceramic pipe can bring.