Effectiveness of alcohol treatment: cotton vs salt

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menuhin

Preferred Member
Oct 21, 2014
642
1
The story goes like this: I got an estate pipe (chimney) from a seller who did a decent job in refurbishing outside of the bowl and the stem, and after having passed an alcohol dipped pipe cleaner to the stem and the shank, I decided to give it a try. It was okay at the beginning but when it approached the bottom of the bowl the taste got more and more bitter. I thought that was the tobacco (Sweet Dublin) but it was impossibly bitter to that degree that I felt it was a torture, one that I could not bear anymore... So I stopped (but puffing this super-bitterness since then plagued me with a cough that has not stopped yet), dumped the dottle and used cotton swabs to clean the super narrow bottom of the bowl that is directly above the draft: after 20+ swabs and the swabs still came out really dark. Then I thought it may be the time for some alcohol-salt treatment, which I now try to avoid because this treatment increases the moisture level of the chamber, leading to gurgling of the pipes if I do not rest them for quite a few weeks after the treatment.
Of course, Ozone chamber is still the best (I read the DIY Ozone chamber of a forum member here) as it deodorize and sanitize both the bowl and the stem at the same time, leaving no smell behind after the treatment. Not so near to Walker's, I usually try the alcohol treatment first. I also included a few other pipes that I think could have delivered better tasted smoke. This time I used also the cotton balls beside salt, and as shown in the picture, some dark residue of the chamber diffuses into the cotton balls or the salt, and I tend to renew the salt / redo it until the salt looks not as dark. For the bottom of the bowl, the white cotton pipe cleaner soaked up the juice and darkened.

Current this is my only DIY method to improve the delivered taste of a pipe as I haven't tried retort and some forum member said that is unnecessary. It doesn't work super well as I am usually quite heavy handed on alcohol and the pipes treated usually gurgle even after resting for 2 weeks. And the taste of smoke may have an improvement (e.g. less bitter) that may last for 3+ times of smoking a treated pipe if I am lucky.
Cough cough cough... I wish I have a better way to judge how well an estate pipe has been cleaned near the draft hole at the bottom of the pipe, so that this won't happen again. :crazy:

 

menuhin

Preferred Member
Oct 21, 2014
642
1
Some say alcohol treatment with cotton balls is sufficient. I am going to experience it first hand this time.

 

agnosticpipe

Preferred Member
Nov 3, 2013
2,652
170
I had a similar problem with an estate Orlik Double Bore I bought over a year ago. It looked fairly clean, no bad cake build up, so I gave it a good cleaning with alcohol and some bristle pipe cleaners until it looked good. But every time I smoked it, it seemed bitter. I tried a few different tobaccos, but they all had a bitter taste to them. So I sanded the cake down to the wood, scrubbed the shank good with alcohol and a brush, and gave it the salt and alcohol treatment. I've been using pickling salt which is regular salt but much finer, so it flows into the shank more easily. Let it set over night, and then used clean alcohol (91%) to rinse it out good. I also made sure the stem got cleaned out really good with alcohol too, and that double bore is not easy to clean. I had to polish the stem up again as the alcohol dulled it up some what, even though I was pretty careful not to get it on the outside. I let everything dry out 24 hours and the first bowl I tried was a world of difference! No more bitter, and every bowl since has shown no taste of bitter either. This is the only pipe I've had this problem with, but now I don't take any chances, and clean all the estate pipes I get with this treatment. No problems since with any of them.

 

spartanfan

Junior Member
Oct 3, 2013
99
0
Did I understand that you were concerned about adding to the possibility of gurgle with the salt & alcohol treatment? It would seem like as long as you let all the alcohol evaporate for a couple of days after there should not be an issue but maybe I am misunderstanding you.

 

stvalentine

Preferred Member
Jan 13, 2015
808
2
Northern Germany
Whether you use salt or cotton balls shouldn´t make any difference. What you should do is get rid of the cake. Sand the bowl down to the wood (black marks are ok to stay). By this you get rid of a lot of ghosting-potential. Then I would recommend getting a retort because this can really make a difference with a very dirty pipe. The retort won´t spare you the cleaning with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs but it helps to loosen up all the gunk inside the pipe.
When I use the retort it´s generally a very messy affair but it "washes" out the bowl like nothing else. Don´t worry about the wood being soaked with alcohol. The stuff will evaporate in no time.

Some pipes need the retort AND the salt/cotton/alcohol treatment and for some you don´t even need the retort. I always stuff the shank with cotton wool and alcohol too. It´s the dirtiest area of a pipe anyway!

 

cortezattic

Preferred Member
Nov 19, 2009
14,806
2,521
Chicago, IL
I always stuff the shank with cotton wool and alcohol too. It´s the dirtiest area of a pipe anyway!
I never experienced the horrid bitter that's described in this thread; but I have found that the "sweetness" of my pipes is satisfactorily restored by just cleaning the shank and stem with alcohol. I used to do the cotton ball/alcohol soak in the bowl, but I found that it is not necessary in my routine.
I suppose that I would do what Orley does if I had a real stinker.

 
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