Smashing Success with Salt Cleaning

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rmcnabb

Might Stick Around
Feb 19, 2024
87
489
I bought a lovely Bjarne Brebbia 925 off of ebay but it stunk to high heaven with some kind of incense essense. It wasn't Lakeland, I don't know what it was, but it was intolerable. So I tenatively decided to clean it with the salt and alcohol treatment you see advised. It worked perfectly.

Removed the stem, clogged the tenon with saran wrap, packed the bowl with Kosher salt (must be Kosher I'm told) and carefully poured in PGA "Golden Grain" pure alcohol until it was a risky looking sloppy mess. Nothing much happened but the next morning it was a disgusting brown. I scraped out all the salt, rinsed it with more alcohol (which didn't rinse the salt very well - I blame chemistry) then rinsed it lightly with water. Set it aside and let it fully dry for 2 days.

If I had the tongues of men and of angels I couldn't begin to tell you how much this helped. I'm smoking my favorite home blend in it now and I feel like I'm tasting the tobacco for the first time - layers of flavor and complexities I never knew were there.

TLDR: If you're on the fence about this, if you've scored some pretty but stinky estates and are wondering whether they'll ever taste right, don't hesitate. Just do this, and you'll be SO glad you did.
 

sardonicus87

Lifer
Jun 28, 2022
1,203
12,867
37
Lower Alabama
So the salt doesn't really do anything, huh? It's all the alcohol?
Yes and no.

Alcohol does the cleaning yes, salt doesn't do the cleaning... salt is just there to absorb the alcohol and whatever nastiness the alcohol leeches out. Cotton balls achieve the same effect.

Gives the nasty a place to go as well has holding the alcohol in place. Without a medium to catch it, the nasty would just come to the surface and sit on top of the wood as the alcohol evaporates.
 

Sobrbiker

Lifer
Jan 7, 2023
3,017
37,858
Casa Grande, AZ
After trying both, I prefer salt to cotton. I’m sure the difference is all in my head.
However I did note that after cutting up plugs with my 1095 Carbon tobacco chopper, it had residue on the blade that no scrubbing with Everclear would take off, yet hot water almost rinsed it off effortlessly.
My next funky estate may get a hot water rinse, then alcohol treatment to thoroughly dry and defunk.
 

lraisch

Part of the Furniture Now
Jul 4, 2011
661
1,300
Granite Falls, Washington state
After trying both, I prefer salt to cotton. I’m sure the difference is all in my head.
However I did note that after cutting up plugs with my 1095 Carbon tobacco chopper, it had residue on the blade that no scrubbing with Everclear would take off, yet hot water almost rinsed it off effortlessly.
My next funky estate may get a hot water rinse, then alcohol treatment to thoroughly dry and defunk.
I finally decided to try a water flush on an estate Caminetto. It instantly removed all of the stain, except in the deeply carved areas. Looked like it had some horrible disease. I sent it out to be re-stained and ozone cleaned and now it looks fine and smokes great.
 

tanless1

Part of the Furniture Now
Sep 14, 2010
684
137
Kosher salt, or popcorn salt as I recall. Has more to do with the lack of iodine.
....I could be wrong.

Be sure to leave a pipe cleaner in the stem so the salt doesn't get down there.
 
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Sig

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jul 18, 2023
264
1,418
Western NY
Ive tried every method under the sun.
They all seem to work to different levels.
I still use salt on the REALLY bad ones from ebay.
If for nothing else than helping the alcohol kill the hepatitis and herpes!
 

denholrl

Starting to Get Obsessed
Mar 27, 2011
116
222
Next time, use pipe cleaners to block the entire shank . . . potentially, to save yourself a cracked shank end!
 

jpmcwjr

Moderator
Staff member
May 12, 2015
25,329
28,533
Carmel Valley, CA
Next time, use pipe cleaners to block the entire shank . . . potentially, to save yourself a cracked shank end!
I've usually done it with the stem in place. Never a hint of a problem. A quick flush with hot water, and the gunk is really gone, and the pipe is fresh smelling and smoking. [Well, after the mortise is cleaned.]
 
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grimpeur

Starting to Get Obsessed
Oct 30, 2015
105
380
Toronto, ON, Canada
I've usually done it with the stem in place. Never a hint of a problem. A quick flush with hot water, and the gunk is really gone, and the pipe is fresh smelling and smoking. [Well, after the mortise is cleaned.]
I'm a fan of leaving the stem in too, with a pipe cleaner inserted acting on the mortise and stem the same as the salt or cotton acts on the bowl: giving the nasty stuff a place to go.

My theory, based on mostly smoking Falcons, is that a good bit of ghosting is caused by the mortise area in a briar soaking up condensate over time; that's a hard area to get really clean.

With a Falcon, the aluminum tube cleans out quickly, the underside of the bowl can be cleaned in a few minutes; minimal ghosting. The mortise area in briars, I've found needs a good scrubbing, and sometimes drilling through to clean wood to really get rid of old flavours. The actual tobacco chamber, once reamed to wood, is rarely an issue.
 

Chasing Embers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
43,989
112,087
Yeah, that dank smell of kush… 🤣

Cotton balls and vinegar will remove funk as well.
Many times they'll use cologne or perfume to cover it up, even alcohol wouldn't remove that from briar. I've had to toss several pipes contaminated like that.