Degrees of Clean, Meerschaum

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obc83

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 4, 2023
244
1,144
Is there any way to de-color meerschaum? I read a forum post (can't remember if it was here or not) where the poster was discussing the removal of some really stubborn grime in an estate meer. After a titanic struggle he ends up soaking it in olive oil on an offhand suggestion from his wife. According to him it worked shockingly well and it comes to mind whenever I look at ebay estates. He doesn't mention any color change but it got a couple cogs clanking over. Everyone talks about coloring meers, but is there anything like a reverse process? I suspect I'll have to get by on "no.", but I am curious about what people consider "done" when cleaning up meerschaums in general. Do you just give it a once-over with your hanky or drill down to the bedrock?
 

sardonicus87

Lifer
Jun 28, 2022
1,206
12,923
37
Lower Alabama
From what I understand, the color can fade over time if it's unused long enough. How long that is and how much it would fade, I can't say.

I imagine though it'll never go back fully white-white. Like an article of white clothing worn enough will eventually at best be off-white no matter how much you bleach it.

If I were getting estate meers, I would call it done cleaning when all the cake is gone. I wouldn't personally try to remove any coloring.
 

OzPiper

Lifer
Nov 30, 2020
6,176
33,444
71
Sydney, Australia
Is there any way to de-color meerschaum? Everyone talks about coloring meers, but is there anything like a reverse process?
Why?
Most buy meerschaum pipes to enjoy not only the smoking qualities, but the colouring process
Reversing the process goes against the grain of having a meer

If you really want a pristine "white goddess", then buy a new one.

I am curious about what people consider "done" when cleaning up meerschaums in general. Do you just give it a once-over with your hanky or drill down to the bedrock?
Reaming out the cake (if it is substantial) leaving a very thin <1 mm layer
Cleaning the exterior if it is really grimy. I have never had to re-wax any of my estate meers.
With estates pipes my main concern is the airways - shank, mortise and stem. This is where most of the funkiness and bad taste emanates. I spend more time cleaning this than the bowl.

There are lots of threads on how to clean meerschaums, so I won't repeat them
 

brian64

Lifer
Jan 31, 2011
9,853
15,527
Personally I wouldn't want to use alcohol, oil, water or anything else on a meer, which is one of the reasons I wouldn't buy an estate...but that's just me. I wouldn't buy an estate briar either...just don't want to deal with it.

As for the exterior, I wouldn't have any interest in trying to remove any coloring, but I do seem to remember someone on here once saying that a meer they left in the sun faded back to white...I have no idea whether that's true or not. Maybe whoever it was will chime in.
 

verporchting

Lifer
Dec 30, 2018
2,967
9,161
If you’re just looking to remove surface grime like dirty fingers and such, I suppose you could gently scrub it with a soft toothbrush but it’s just going to get dirty again unless you wear white cotton gloves while smoking it. Unless you got it from Earl at Jiffy Lube or something it’s just normal use with a meer IMO.
 

warren

Lifer
Sep 13, 2013
11,997
17,290
Foothills of the Chugach Range, AK
All you have to do is figure out a way to suck all the tobacco residues out of the viens in the porous mineral, thoroughly.

I clean a meer to the same degree as cobs and briars except, no cake. I want, as an end result, a dark mahogony brown (nearly black) as an end result. Hard to achieve that is. I'm fairly close with two but,at my age, I shouldn't live long enough to get either one "finished."

My question is, why re you smoking a meer if you want pristine white. Buy a white painted briar. Or have I totally miss read your OP?
 

obc83

Starting to Get Obsessed
Sep 4, 2023
244
1,144
Good stuff, thanks everyone. I suppose my original query is a bit rhetorical and I have read plenty of cleaning threads. I have no desire to return a pipe to factory fresh, well, almost no. But I am interested in drilling down into how the material itself responds to different methods of care. I will certainly be acquiring one, or two soon to further my own research. The sun bleaching idea sounds interesting and I'm eager to see what Ember's process yields. Generally I love all things used, but I definitely want to achieve a nicely colored meer from my own efforts. Anyhow, thanks again. It's nice when a thread yields many varied responses. Also, I utterly despise emojis but I could see myself using one of these if it was in the 'like' menu: 🤔
 
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jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
25,342
28,557
Carmel Valley, CA
Meers have value in and of themselves. Not everyone is interested in speeding up the coloring process; they (we, I) enjoy smoking it.

I wouldn't soak a Meer, but application of hot tap water to clean is fine. Cleaning airway and chamber, and/or removing grime from the stummel.
 

Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
44,003
112,147
Pipe has to be dirty on the surface for alcohol - or water and detergent- to show any results.
Your pipe was too clean!
It wasn't about cleaning, it was about removing color. Refer to the OP and my original response as the question and reply had nothing to do with cleaning but removal of color.
 
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jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
25,342
28,557
Carmel Valley, CA
It wasn't about cleaning, it was about removing color. Refer to the OP and my original response as the question and reply had nothing to do with cleaning but removal of color.
The topic expanded to cleaning, as it was generally agreed that color could not be expunged. Your photos indicate -- what?

Grime was not apparent- which was a complement to you, ce. And neither was color removed.