Clean Your Briar Pipes The "New Way".

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jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
14,403
2,091
Monterey Peninsula
Note: This does not apply to corncob pipes nor any briars with visible cracks in the chamber or fissures around the mortise.
Now that a fair number of experienced pipe smokers here have tried the hot water rinse to clean their pipes and found it preferable to alcohol swabbing, it's time to dispel the myth perpetrated by some pipe manufacturers that "water should not be used". It was common practice for those companies selling their own concoction of liquids to clean or "sweeten" pipes to do so. So the myth was memorialized in brochures at tobacconists and inserts in pipe boxes for decades, and I believe it's the main reason many use alcohol as a cleaner. Some are simply afraid to go against the written advice of a maker or recall what WC Fields said about water. (Fish "cavort" in it.)
So, how do you do it? You run hot water into the chamber, letting it flow out the stem. Best results is when pipe (and gunk inside) are warm, if not hot. Tap the bowl against your palm to dump out the chamber, then dry with a paper towel twisted up. You can remove the stem to clean the mortise by drying with a Q-tip, or save it for the one deep cleaning you do. Pipe cleaner up the stem, and you're good to go. Most will rest the pipe as usual, but you can smoke it right away. Briar doesn't absorb much if any moisture this way. (More is absorbed while smoking where the humidity in the smoke stream is carried at much higher temperatures).
Since I started this a few years ago, I've not had to deep clean a pipe with alcohol/salt except for a new estate that someone smoked sardines in. For an intermediate cleaning, filling the bowl with wet coffee grounds and letting them dry fully is gentler than salt/alcohol, but for some pipes' condition, salt and alcohol may be needed.
If I have left anything out, or there are questions, fire away! If anyone has had a bad result from water cleaning, please post that. (If you're afraid the finish will come off with water, you have the wrong finish. If water takes it off, so will your hands and clothes)
Water is the "new way"- ironic in that without water we'd have no briar, and doubtless some smokers did so 200 years ago. Oh, btw, it works fine with meers, too, but maybe that should be a separate thread.
I edited your title for capitalization ~Cosmic

 
Reactions: vates

aldecaker

Preferred Member
Feb 13, 2015
4,409
7
I still haven't converted to the water method, but I will give you some witnessin' on the wet coffee grounds. It has worked for me every time I've used it. Preach on, brother!

 

jeffro

Member
Jul 18, 2017
145
4
One of my pipe smoking friends has always scrubbed his pipes with water and small diameter bristle brushes.

I have called him crazy for doing this to his pipes.

He thinks that I am crazy to put salt and Alcohol in my pipes to clean them.

I have not done the warm water scrub yet on my existing pipes in my collection, but I might try it on a couple old estate pipes I have yet to refurbish. This method does seem faster And I imagine that dealing with a heavily caked bowl would be easier to clean with the help of hot water.
The coffee grounds method seems intriguing, I might give that a try also.

 

jzbdano

Member
Jul 7, 2016
159
100
What is the thickest cake you have cleaned out? I have some estates en route that have some serious build up. Any concern with soaking a pipe too long? Thanks for the info, I will try it soon.

Daniel

 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Jul 24, 2016
1,908
6
I know that the new wave is water, but like microwaving tobacco, liberal use of water to clean wooden pipes doesn't work for me. I subscribe to smoking tobacco with moderate moisture and follow the "no" method of deep cleaning. I'll wait until my pipes sour as they taste fine to me for that.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
16,790
2,294
I only do an annual deep cleaning with moonshine and bristle cleaners, though I do take my pipes apart after every smoke and clean them out with regular dry pipe cleaners.

 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Jul 24, 2016
1,908
6
I hate estates with loose, wobbly stems due to a non-frictive joint of tenon and mortise. There is a school of thought that advocates not removing the stem as it wears down the tenon. If a good fit when new, how did it become loose else by removal? I always remove gunk with cleaners after every smoke, but I'm not sure what's gained by cleaning with the stem removed.
Just my opinion.

 

chasingembers

Preferred Member
Nov 12, 2014
16,790
2,294
If a good fit when new, how did it become loose else by removal?
As the briar is smoked, heat and moisture swell the mortise, and over time this can compact the tenon.
https://youtu.be/khWHIzdBbhw
I'm not sure what's gained by cleaning with the stem removed.
Gunk between the mortise and stem.

 

anthonyrosenthal74

Preferred Member
Jan 8, 2013
7,335
99
To each their own, I suppose. I'm going to continue using high proof alcohol to clean my pipes. Water may for the most part be just fine, but what if perhaps there's a small unseen flaw inside the shank and water gets down inside it. Alcohol will evaporate out of it, whereas water might get down in there and take longer to evaporate. As non absorbent as briar is, it's still going to absorb some moisture, and more so with water, and perhaps in time lead to a weakness and then a cracked shank or even bowl. I'm not saying that's certainly going to happen, but it sounds possible.

 

theloniousmonkfish

Preferred Member
Jan 1, 2017
766
0
So, for science, I threw a pipe in a jar of water and walked off. Upon return it was still there. Didn't dissolve or swell up, nothing. Actually seems to be the same minus a more neutral smell. If a pipe ever goes foul I'll try the faucet trick.
After a smoke I use q tips in the chamber and shank and after a few pipes I'll have enough stems to use a pipe cleaner on. Not counting estates only had to deep clean a few ever, and those were only once every few years after many bowls, often several in a day and days in a row, smoked in them.

After



 

brian64

Preferred Member
Jan 31, 2011
5,459
575
john's

pipe

maintanence

called

water

jet

reaming
DUDE...You finally solved the riddle of that incomprehensible string of letters!!! You're a genius Dude!

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,360
240
I moved over to water cleaning a while back and have not suffered from worms or long relationships since.