Being a reformed pisshead. I am not too keen on cleaning with alcohol. is there anything else? also the meds i take react badly to alcohol and am a bit nervous about any getting in to my system via the pipe. any help would be much appreciated.. :D
If you pipe is in poor condition and in need of a deep cleaning, you could always go to a trusted pipe shop and have them work on your pipe. I am getting an estate in the mail soon and I plan to take it in to get refurbished (Iwan Ries in Chicago). Although, I understand that is not sometimes an option. I normally use rye or bourbon, so I can not really give other suggestions.
You could also pick up some methanol, also known as carbinol, methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, at the hardware store. Make sure it's 100% pure with no other distillates or petrochemicals in it. Should not be a temptation to drink at all, and more than sufficient to clean even the toughest pipes--in fact, beware its solvent properties especially around the finish.
You can also use regular water for a steam retort. The process with alcohol is described below, just substitute water for alcohol, repeat the process a few more times, and allow for at least a week or two for the wood to return to relative condition. Also, it requires the retort apparatus, which so many have been asking about that I'm considering ordering the components and making some for the members here.
It's super easy (but slightly dangerous). It consists of a 50ml lab glass beaker with a rubber hose attached to it, which you FIRMLY affix to the end of your stem. Plug the bowl with a cotton ball. I use a test tube clamp to hold it over the alcohol lamp. The alcohol boils, the vaporized alcohol shoots into the pipe, cools instantly, then shoots back into the flask carrying all the crud and oil with it. 3-4 times and you're done. If the pipe has a cake that was too hard & thick for reaming, this will render it easy to remove; then retort once more and you have a pipe that's as fresh as the day it was made. The trickiest part is making sure that the seal is tight, as boiling alcohol vapor explodes. Thus, I have no eyebrows, but I consider them vestigial anyway.
Cheers guys i dont mind having pure alchol around as that stuff is hot!! Trust me i know :D I have seen those steam thingys on our local trading site so it might be an option. as for professional pipe repairs, I don't think there is one down in my neck of the woods, (New Zealand). but will look into it.