By Bob Tate
*Editors Note: These cleaning instructions are for use on wood pipes such as Brair, Olive, Cherry, etc. It is not recommended to clean Meerschaum pipes using these instructions. The actual procedure will be in a video which is included in this article.
As all pipers know, you should always keep your pipes clean. By keeping them clean, they will reward you with a nice, sweet smoke and will help to offer up the true taste of the blend that you are smoking. It will also keep your pipes looking attractive as well. Although it is called routine cleaning, how often you will have to clean your pipe depends on a variety of factors. Things such as the pipe itself, how often you smoke it, how long you let it rest, what type of tobacco blend you smoke in it, etc. are all things that will affect how often you will have to do a routine cleaning on a pipe. On average, you will probably have to do a routine cleaning somewhere around every 10-20 bowls.
When you do a routine cleaning you should use alcohol or a specialty cleaning solution that is made specifically for cleaning the interior of tobacco pipes. They are normally called pipe sweeteners. Some of the name brands are; Brebbia Liquid Pipe Cleaner and PipeMasters Clean & Cure. I like to use Grain Alcohol because it is easily available to me, is relatively inexpensive, and it has a very high alcohol content. It is a lot easier for me to find Grain Alcohol than the pipe sweeteners.
Some people like to use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean their pipes. I prefer to use Grain Alcohol because, in my mind, it is safer. I try not to use anything on my pipes that I can not consume safely. I am not saying that those that prefer to use Isopropyl Alcohol are wrong and that I am right; I am just explaining my take on it. I am not going to debate which is the best to use as it is one of those things that are personal preference.
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Whatever type of alcohol that you use, make sure that it has a high alcohol content so that the briar is not absorbing a lot of fluids while cleaning. A high alcohol content will evaporate relatively quickly instead of being absorbed into the wood. One thing to keep in mind while cleaning your pipe is, and it is a very important thing, DO NOT get any of the alcohol or cleaning solution on the exterior of your pipe. Alcohol and cleaning solutions can and will strip the finish, stain, etc. off of the pipe. So be careful!
I am going to list the things that I use when cleaning my pipes. You may choose to not use some of them and replace them with something else to do that part of the job. For example, I like to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the last step. Others don’t like to do that. They prefer to use some form of wax or polish instead. So if you don’t want to use that, then omit it from the list. I find that Olive Oil works great. I have been using it on my pipes since I have started smoking them and have never had any ill effects. This is just a guideline to get you started and to show you the procedures on how to clean your pipe. The items marked with an asterisk after them are things that you will definitely need to use.
Here is the list of supplies that will be needed:
•Cleaning Solvent (Alcohol or Sweetener) *
•Bristle Pipe Cleaners (Various Sizes)*
•Extra Absorbent Pipe Cleaners (Various Sizes) *
•Cotton Swabs (Such as Q-Tips)
•Paper Towels *
•Soft Cotton Cloth
•Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Now that you have everything that you will need, on to the video!
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I hope this article helped get some of you on the way to properly cleaning your pipes.