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Clean Your Briar Pipes The "New Way".

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  1. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    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

    I know that you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
    Posted 1 year ago #
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    aldecaker

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    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!

    A man who serves his country is a patriot. A man who serves his government is an employee. The two are not always the same thing.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. jeffro

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    derekflint

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    You just let the water run thru ? Any scrubbing ?

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    jzbdano

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    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

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. chasingembers

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    Clean your briar pipes the "new way".

    And capitalize thread titles the "old way".

    Have you noticed any lime buildup from the tap water?

    Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.
    -Edward Teach
    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. saltedplug

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. chasingembers

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. saltedplug

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. chasingembers

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    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.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. cosmicfolklore

    Cosmic

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    Not every time, but I do use water occasionally.
    Thanks John

    Michael
    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. philobeddoe

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    Nope....

    "So it goes." - K.V.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. anthonyrosenthal74

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    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.

    Arrrrr, shiver me timbers! International Talk Like a Pirate Day is September the 19th!!!
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  14. theloniousmonkfish

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    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

    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. chasingembers

    Embers

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    john's
    pipe
    maintanence
    called
    water
    jet
    reaming

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. brian64

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    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!

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  17. chasingembers

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    It's been his dastardly plan all along!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. anthonyrosenthal74

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    It's been his dastardly plan all along!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  19. woodsroad

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    I moved over to water cleaning a while back and have not suffered from worms or long relationships since.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. kangaroo

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    There're many possible methods not in use. All are about the comfort zone of people

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. briarblues

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    I guess I am an "old school" guy. I do find this method interesting, but doubt I will try it. I have a few thoughts / questions.

    First, water from different regions varies. Is the water soft, hard, city, well, or chlorinated and or florinated? ( sp ) Over time if on hard water will there be a build up of minerals.

    If I understand the method, you run water through from the tobacco chamber, through the stem, while attached. Once rinsed through, you remove the stem, dry the mortise, tobacco chamber, and stem air passage. I assume, you leave the stem removed from the shank, during the drying process, for ??? 24 , 48 hours or more?

    I would really like to see this method shown in a video. I am 100% not adverse to trying new techniques, as any method / technique I find that works better and faster than my current way helps me. Currently for me to clean, refurbish and polish any arriving estate ( pre smoked ) pipe takes around an hour. Some much longer, very few shorter.

    Tell us / show us more.

    Regards
    Michael J. Glukler

    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. woodsroad

    woodsroad

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    Mineral buildup is a non-issue, since the briar isn't absorbing water. Ditto on water hardness and chlorination/fluoridation. No different that wiping down your countertops with a damp rag.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. briarblues

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    woodsroad, man you better come visit me. I love my milky white ( that used to be green ) counter tops. hahahahahahaaha

    If not absorbing water does this mean, the wash is of a short duration? It's not like you're running luke warm water through for 10 minutes?

    I am serious. I am fascinated at this technique and if it is better than what I am doing now.

    Regards
    Michael J. Glukler

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. ben88

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    I also use water to clean my pipes. Once every 4-5 smokes. Trimmed soft toothbrush helps clean out the chamber.

    Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate
    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. ssjones

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    I'm usually less concerned about the bowl and more about the shank.
    By my practice, alcohol is usually applied on a paper towel scrunched into the shank, then twisted in. This usually removes the tar build-up. I'm skeptical that water would be as effective.

    Al

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    derekflint

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    I was under the impression alcohol was used as an antiseptic to kill bacteria and other hidden nasties that could foul or sour a pipe. Is water going to be as effective as alcohol ? Is alcohol too strong an agent for briar in the long run ?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. jpmcwjr

    jpmcwjr

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    If I understand the method, you run water through from the tobacco chamber, through the stem, while attached. Once rinsed through, you remove the stem, dry the mortise, tobacco chamber, and stem air passage. I assume, you leave the stem removed from the shank, during the drying process, for ??? 24 , 48 hours or more?

    No, no and no! on the leaving the stem out. The mortise will either expand (due to the wood drying and shrinking away from the tenon) or feel tight, due to the lack of lubricant effect from moist wood.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  28. jpmcwjr

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    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 possibl

    Great question, and I think the answer is: far less moisture will get into the briar with a hot water rinse than in regular smoking, where the briar is subject to much higher temperatures with moisture laden smoke, for much longer times.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  29. jpmcwjr

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    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- I haven't had to remove cake via this method, though I've given a light scrape under running water.

    And I don't soak, just running water. (though there's evidence that prolonged exposure to water doesn't really do any permanent harm, mostly aesthetic.)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  30. briarblues

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    jpmcwjr

    Ok I get it. So you leave the stem in place while allowing the pipe to dry. So then after 24 hours or more, you remove the stem to clean the mortise and re dry.

    Regards
    Michael J. Glukler

    Posted 1 year ago #
  31. jpmcwjr

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    Well. I've gotten lazy and complacent! Sometimes I just run a pipe cleaner though and let her dry. Sometimes I don't even do that! (hangs head in shame). Only occasionally do I remove the stem and dry the mortise, and when I do so it's when the pipe has just been rinsed. (And it's for a minute or less, in answer to your question above).

    I do believe I am removing gunk from the mortise with the hot water rinse, without having to take the stem out. Hence the nasty mortise phenom is less likely, or at least delayed significantly.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  32. jpmcwjr

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    If not absorbing water does this mean, the wash is of a short duration? It's not like you're running luke warm water through for 10 minutes?

    It's more like hot tap water for a minute more or less.

    As to videos, that wasn't part of my NY resolution! But maybe.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  33. sablebrush52

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    If I understand the method, you run water through from the tobacco chamber, through the stem, while attached. Once rinsed through, you remove the stem, dry the mortise, tobacco chamber, and stem air passage. I assume, you leave the stem removed from the shank, during the drying process, for ??? 24 , 48 hours or more?

    Hi Mike,

    Unlike John, I actually do separate the stem from the shank for cleaning as that's my usual practice for cleaning after use and before resting the pipe. It's a short hot water rinse, maybe 10-20 seconds, then scrubbing out and using fluffies to wick up moisture and sediments like I would if I'd used alcohol. Briar being pretty unabsorbent, the pipe dries out quickly and reassembly is the same as for alcohol, a minute or two for things to dry out. Keep in mind that I live in a dry climate.

    I was under the impression alcohol was used as an antiseptic to kill bacteria and other hidden nasties that could foul or sour a pipe. Is water going to be as effective as alcohol ? Is alcohol too strong an agent for briar in the long run ?

    You're correct about the use of alcohol as an antiseptic, and water does not replace alcohol for that purpose. But while I would use alcohol to clean up an estate, I don't need it for everyday use. The only issue with using alcohol on briar is that it leaches out the silicate over time and it is the silicate content that gives briar its ability to handle heat and moisture. However, it would take a lot more exposure to alcohol than is likely to happen over many years, for that to become a concern.

    Most of the time I just do a thorough dry cleaning on the briar, using various kinds of pipe cleaners and a wadded up piece of toweling or two for the chamber. No water or alcohol, just a lot of cleaners. The stem gest flushed out with warm water and then dried. The use of solvents, and water IS a solvent, is something I do after a few day's worth of use. And once or twice a year I do a thorough clean out. But my pipes are kept clean, so it's not much of a clean out.

    It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. - Mark Twain

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    Posted 1 year ago #
  34. jpmcwjr

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    I was under the impression alcohol was used as an antiseptic to kill bacteria and other hidden nasties that could foul or sour a pipe. Is water going to be as effective as alcohol ? Is alcohol too strong an agent for briar in the long run ?

    I've read that prolonged use of alcohol may remove some of the silicates in briar, a bad thing. But no cite, no proof. Hope someone can supply same.

    As to killing bacteria, removal is more important, as you don't want dead or alive bacteria making home in your mortise (the most likely spot for bad stuff to happen).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  35. zack24

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    My only issue is that water (especially hot water) will absolutely swell the mortise- . Even with the stem in, there is always space betwen the end of the tenon and the floor of the mortise that is anywhere from maybe .02" to .25" like I've seen on Dunhills. Alcohol does not swell the wood...

    Posted 1 year ago #
  36. sablebrush52

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    My only issue is that water (especially hot water) will absolutely swell the mortise- . Even with the stem in, there is always space betwen the end of the tenon and the floor of the mortise that is anywhere from maybe .02" to .25" like I've seen on Dunhills. Alcohol does not swell the wood...

    My experience is different. Both water and alcohol temporarily swell the wood. When you're smoking a pipe, steam is going into the mortise, so briar gets hit with water all the time. Swelling comes and it goes. For me, water and alcohol are about the same. But again, I live in a dry climate. Might be different in a very humid one.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  37. chasingembers

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    Shower heads and faucets aren't absobant, but I've had to remove lime buildup a few times from both.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  38. fitzy

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    Hmm I'll have to give it a shot. I usually just run a few pipe cleaners through and wipe out the bowl. Once in a while I'll run a cleaner through with a dab of alcohol on it.

    I'm a bit skeptical that running water through it will remove much gunk but I will give it a try.

    "These are ghosts that are more at home in a girdle-filled drawer than one of my pipes." Quote by Neil Archer Roan on lakeland ghosts
    Posted 1 year ago #
  39. mso489

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    I don't have any objection to using water to address a stinky or somewhat clogged pipe, or other issues. Being one of those who maintains a very thin carbon layer by wiping out the bowl with a paper towel/napkin after every smoke, so there is no cake build-up, I am not moved to do this on any regular basis for routine or deep cleaning. It has been pointed out that water is used repeatedly by most pipe makers, factory or artisanal, in making a pipe, so water is not some kind of destructive substance. Like any other cleaning process, if done too often it might induce wear of its own on the finish, but perhaps not much.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    aldecaker

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    "Shower heads and faucets aren't absobant, but I've had to remove lime buildup a few times from both."

    I once worked on an old pickup that the owner was in the habit, for years, of topping up his radiator with the garden hose. Ho. Lee. Shit. What a calcified mess.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  41. chasingembers

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    And meerschaum being very absorbant, wouldn't calcification be an issue there?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  42. sablebrush52

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    It's a short exposure and the water is being wiped away immediately, so how much calcification could collect?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  43. cigrmaster

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    The water here in Florida is disgusting. I am worried that I will get a nasty chlorine taste left over in my pipes using the water here. I guess I will take one of my pipes I hardly use and see what happens. I am all for an easier softer way.

    Harris
    Posted 1 year ago #
  44. jpmcwjr

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    Good Lord, my parents used to live in FLA, and now I remember the crap water there. Almost forgot; 35 years ago last there, as my Mom moved to NM; Dad was dead.

    Fortunately, chlorine does evaporate pretty well, and hopefully not a trace when you light up.

    Posted 1 year ago #
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    aldecaker

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    I wonder why the water there is so heavily chlorinated? Isn't it just regular groundwater?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  46. sablebrush52

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    Clean 'em or don't clean 'em any way you want. All I know is that my pipes smell better and my smokes taste better and that's all I need to know.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  47. jpmcwjr

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    IIRC, on the West Coast (S of Sarasota ca. 30 miles) the water had some real sulphur content, and perhaps the chlorine was added as a safeguard against germs.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  48. warren

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    Anchorage is rated as having great water. I, unfortunately, am on a well which produces a liquid iron infused substance requiring heavy filtration. But, the water cleaning technique seems to work. My only observation is I can't do it in my chair with a drink handy. I have to stand at the sink. I am getting lazy or old, combination of both I suspect.

    A man without a shillelagh is a man without an expedient.
    Posted 1 year ago #
  49. cigrmaster

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    The ground water here in Sarasota stinks like rotten eggs from all the sulfur. They have to treat it with a ton of chlorine to make it potable.

    I have my hot water heater turned up to the max so I get wicked hot water. I am looking forward to seeing if it will melt all the crap in my shanks. Using Everclear takes time and tons of pipe cleaners. I will report back my findings.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  50. jpmcwjr

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    I await your report with bated breath!

    PS, you can use a nose clip to help with the odor....

    Also, you might finish with a dash of cool drinking water. (some with Scotch for the operator, rest for chamber rinse.)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  51. londonmake

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    Hey guys
    I've used water for years now. I use it to clean estate pipe bowl chambers. Not the shank.
    First, I'll ream the bowl. If the cake comes out easily, I'll go right to the "bath".
    Stem is removed. Go to the sink, run hot water.
    Use one hand to hold bowl upside down, then, with my other hand, take smallest finger and get it wet, put it into the bowl and rotate once or twice, repeat as needed until the my finger doesn't come out all brown any longer. Swap out with paper towel. Then, I'll turn to alcohol and swab the bowl interior with pipe cleaners.

    I've never dipped a whole pipe into water and let it stay under---that looks really bad for the wood and it's color stain.

    With my way, the bowl exterior is not really touched by the water at all. I've cleaned many many estate pipes this way and it gets them clean and sweet smoking every time. I use alcohol for cleaning the stem airways, not water, ever.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  52. uncleblackie

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    I just tried this out with three different pipes. Removed the stems and ran hot water out of the sink through the bowls and stems for about a minute each. Followed this with some pipe cleaners, scrubbing the bowls, shanks, mortises, and stems. They definitely smelled cleaner as a result. Already smoking one after about ten minutes of dry time. Not sure if it tastes any better but it’s certainly no worse for the wear.

    Only things I noticed: the finishes dulled slightly, but a quick buff with a cloth took care of that. Other thing is the fills on one pipe washed out somewhat, and are now more obvious and pit-like. Doesn’t bother me though. I think I might prefer the look.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  53. jpmcwjr

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    I've never dipped a whole pipe into water and let it stay under---that looks really bad for the wood and its color stain.

    No one is suggesting that. For the good of science, Mr. Monkfish illustrated there's no harm in doing so; if soaking doesn't hurt, rinsing for a minute or two certainly won't.

    I don't understand your reluctance to clean out the stem with hot water, nor the fingering of the pipe. Just run very hot water down the chamber and out the bit till it runs clear. Then you don't need to follow with the alcohol nonsense.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  54. snagstangl

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    Does water instant oxidize stems like alcohol? I think only my spit does that.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  55. jpmcwjr

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    I'm not the best to ask, as I pay minimal attention to the stems, though I have plans to change that one day. Seems to bring up some, but then it seems to be easy to wipe away.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  56. metalheadycigarguy

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    Interesting thoughts from both sides water v alcohol. I'm going to stick with my normal routine for cleaning and continue to use alcohol. It hasn't failed me yet.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  57. cortezattic

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    I read that alcohol is a great solvent for tars and oils; but, water is an excellent solvent too, overall, owing to its bi-polar nature. Has anyone tried cleaning a dirty pipe first with water, then re-cleaning it with alcohol to see if the alcohol picks-up any grunge the water didn't remove?

    Personally, I have no reason to doubt the efficacy of the water rinse, but I just can't bring myself to subject my pipes to a stream of water (even though I know that burning tobacco produces steam that always condenses inside the pipe).

    I find myself sitting idly on the line dividing past and future,
    as if I could kill time without injuring eternity. -- Thoreau
    Posted 1 year ago #
  58. crashthegrey

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    I don't clean with water, but to address some of the issues with chlorine; instead of running from the faucet, just pour a glass and let it sit out for a bit and the chlorine will be a non issue. Then you can pour the water through the pipe instead. Or get a brita or similar filter and do the same. I suppose that would remedy your issues. Although the chlorine will evaporate from the pipe anyway.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  59. popeofpiping

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    I simply abide by the drinking alcohol rule. Pour you a glass of some high proof, dip a couple of cleaners in, and the rest if for my enjoyment.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  60. huntertrw

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    Tap water? Bah!

    To really do the job you need a pressure-washer!

    Love Me, Love My Pipe
    Posted 1 year ago #
  61. jpmcwjr

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    But, but, butt.... That's an enema machine!!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  62. huntertrw

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    How does that rapper figure into this discussion?

    Posted 1 year ago #
  63. colorduke

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    I throw the whole Pipe by Venturi in the dishwasher.

    I will give up my pipe when they pry my cold dead fingers off of it!
    Posted 1 year ago #
  64. User has not uploaded an avatar

    jzbdano

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    I rinsed a couple pipes last night, quick and simple. They seem to smoke the same, I will do this every time I ream now.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  65. craiginthecorn

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    I have used hot water at times both for restorations and for maintenance. I do think it cleans well. I also think it swells the mortise, so I prefer to keep the stem in place when using hot water, if possible. Hot water will tend to precipitate oxidation in vulcanite that's near the surface, but I don't think it causes oxidation. As for water versus alcohol, water is a smaller molecule than alcohol, so it will absorb into briar more readily than alcohol. I imagine that means a greater potential for removing soaked in tars and also for swelling fibers. Does it swell fibers significantly more than alcohol or the moisture that occurs during smoking? Probably not for a 30 second rinse.

    Ironically, I've also had mortises swell from dry heat and adding moisture actually helped the wood return to its original state. I discovered this while trying to rid some pipes of a musty aroma using low heat from an incandescent lamp.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  66. sablebrush52

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    Some of you may find this interesting. The link shows three pipe bowls that were cut in half. These are very old and very much abused pipes, clearly smoked too hot. Years of heat and steam. You will find the article about half way down the page.

    pipe autopsy

    Posted 1 year ago #
  67. chasingembers

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    Here they are Jesse.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  68. chasingembers

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    I also remember someone doing a cross section of a meer, but don't remember where it was.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  69. jpmcwjr

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    Here's another cross section of a different pipe.

    Either the pipe is quite small, or the draft hole is (was) huge, no? Though it's so gunked up I doubt there was much of a draw.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  70. User has not uploaded an avatar

    headhunter

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    Y’all can use water if that floats your boat. I’m going to continue to use Everclear, shank brush’s, q-tips, bristle pipe cleaners and fuzzy pipe cleaners. It has worked for me for over 50 years and I hope the next 50, but I doubt that long.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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