Soaking Pipes?

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jruthledge

Junior Member
Feb 17, 2015
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So I ran into a guy at a local shop who told me that he soaks his pipes in brandy to clean them. I asked just to make sure and apparently he just drops the whole bowl into a glass of brandy, lets it soak, takes it out and scrubs it, puts it back... until it's cleaned to his satisfaction. Does that sound a little crazy to anyone else? On the other hand, I've been working on cleaning up this old Peterson and I wouldn't mind a shortcut if I didn't think it would risk ruining the pipe...

 

danielplainview

Preferred Member
Mar 30, 2014
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That could strip the stain and finish. Soaking it will also swell the briar. At first the stem will be too tight and after it dries out , the stem will be loose. I clean my pipes with whiskey but I do not soak them. Try dipping a pipe cleaner in brandy and swabbing the airways and bowl chamber. Be careful not to get it on the exterior of the pipe.

 

warren

Preferred Member
Sep 13, 2013
7,713
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Is he speaking to restoring used pipes? Hopefully he isn't using top shelf cognac. A shameful waste to me. Unless of course, he's counting on a bit of ghosting.
Seems like a lot of effort for routine cleaning, a couple of swipes with cleaners, maybe a bit of 100 proof if necessary, a bit of cake paring when required, wipe down the bowl and bit . . . done.

 

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frozenchurchwarden

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Mar 1, 2014
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The immediate consequence is going to be that the finish will be stripped.

Standard procedure is to block up the shank and fill a pipe with salt and alcohol. His methods don't sound too drastically different at first, but most people use the highest percentage alcohol they can get their hands on. Using an actual drink for cleaning is going to flavour the pipe. Again, maybe not a big deal to some, but it's also going to have a lot of water in it. That's the part that a proper cleaning is not going to have.
The wost thing I can think of that's likely to happen is the expansion and contraction from changing moisture levels might crack the pipe, most likely the shank.
The main issue is there's no good reason to dunk the entire pipe instead of just filling the bowl, you don't really gain anything.

 

sablebrush52

Preferred Member
Jun 15, 2013
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Why, oh who, am I still surprised that there is no end of stupid? Aside from the aforementioned issues this wretched practice produces, there is another, and it is permanent. Exposure to alcohol leaches out the silicates in the briar that give it its properties for handling moisture and heat. A little exposure offers no great damage, but prolonged exposure will eventually damage the briar in a way that can't be reversed.
This guy should soak his head and leave his pipes alone.

 

jpmcwjr

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May 12, 2015
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Depends on what soak means. Depends if it's a one time thing with a filthy pipe that needs refinishing. Might not be as bad as it could be

But a colossal waste of cognac.

 

jruthledge

Junior Member
Feb 17, 2015
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The comments generally reflecting my opinion as well. I don't think it's coincidence that he mentioned one of his pipes cracking at some point.
Now the stem, that's another story. I got an estate Peterson recently and couldn't seem to scrub out the ghosting in the stem with all the rum and pipe cleaners in the world. Soaked it overnight in vodka and it's clean as a whistle. Used the salt method on the bowl and that seems to have worked out well too. It's drying now and I can't wait to try it out this weekend. My first system pipe!
Thanks for the feedback, fellas.

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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Lots of guys do that, except they use a higher % alcohol. I do it when refurbishing my own pipes, but not to clean. But yeh, the old guys who come into the Briary will tell the newbies that this is their routine. The briar will not swell, the stain does not leach, and the world keeps on turning.
As Skip will say as he rolls his eyes at these guys, It is none of my business what these guys do with their pipes after they've paid for them and taken them home. They can hammer nails with them or smoke crack out of them for all I could care. Never tell a man how to ride his horse, unless he asks for advice.

 

mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
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We're an interesting bunch, pipe smokers, but when you get into the category of "a guy I ran into at a local shop," you do have to factor in the eccentricity quotient, to put it politely. Someone pointed out on a recent post, apropos of a pipe getting left in the rain or getting dunked in the lake, that pipes are moistened and washed while being carved, although not after being finished. So briars can survive some submersion, the less the better. No one was talking brandy. If you run into this chap again, see if he's smoking a pipe, and see how it looks. Each to his own, but not my pipes, thank you.

 

cosmicfolklore

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Aug 9, 2013
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The "someone" was a couple of pipemakers. I would give credence to what they say, and add that I have no problem at all with soaking a pipe in water if a circumstance calls for it. I have had the time my girlfriend (now wife) washed my pipe in the sink like it was one of the dishes. I occasionally drop one in the hot tub. And, I have gone to bed leaving a pipe or two on the back deck and they've spent a balmy evening getting rained on, with not a single one harmed in any way.
Now, just immersing a pipe in brandy to clean it, while not exactly going to damage the pipe, just isn't an effective way to clean one, IMO, unless the pipe has some sort of nicotine patina on the finish that you want to remove. But, it's just quicker and easier to dip a pipecleaner in some rum and ream the draft.
I cannot attest to what sable says about silicates, myself. It sounds plausible. And, I would maybe avoid keeping my pipes soaked in alcohol for any extended time. But, I don't think an occasional bath is going to penetrate into the briar with any significance. IMO.
It has been said time and time again, most of what pipe guys believe about these seemingly magical things is mostly just bunk superstition.
While I see no need to soak a pipe often for my own, I am also not going to loosen my bowels if someone else does.

 

okiescout

Preferred Member
Jan 27, 2013
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It does seem like a tragic waste of good liquor, as Warren said. I think some people are just trying to get by the easy way. At any rate they are his pipes. Some people just live to destroy things, go figure.

 
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