Stoner’s Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Hand Pipes

how to clean your hand pipe ultimate guide
August 1, 2019 By Kyle Broussard

No one wants to clean a hand pipe or glass bowl, so as Stoners, we usually let it get to the point where it is clogged before cleaning our bowls. 

This makes for a lot of caked up resin, and clogs from particulate that has made its way into the tube of your pipe. 

So how do you clean a bowl? 

In this guide, we outline everything you need to know about cleaning hand pipes, including: 

Click on any of the links above to navigate to the section you want. Let’s get started so you can get back to smoking!  

Why is it Important to Clean Your Hand Pipe?

There are a few main reasons you should clean your hand pipe: 

  • Keep bacteria out 
  • Ensure a smooth smoking experience 
  • Make your bowl or pipe last longer 
  • Enhance the taste while smoking 

Over time, bacteria builds up in any type of hand pipe, thanks to moisture and remaining saliva and germs from your mouth and hands after you smoke. Cleaning your pipe is a great way to make sure that you keep your body safe from harmful bacteria and even mold or mildew that can build up in the right conditions. 

We have all let our resin build up get to the point that you can’t even get a solid hit out of your bong or bowl. Cleaning your glass bowl on a regular basis can really help prevent against clogs, and give you a smoother smoking experience. 

Over time, resin build up can actually become nearly impossible to remove. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but I have tried to clean hand pipes that are 10+ years old with tons of resin, and it is like trying to remove tar from a ship’s hull – nearly impossible without ridiculously strong chemicals. Cleaning your bowl regularly can really help you get more out of it.  

No one likes getting a smokey hit from their bong or pipe. It’s disgusting and feels like you are kissing an exhaust pipe. Cleaning your hand pipe out regularly can greatly enhance the taste of your smoking experience, something I know is important to you Stoner Snobs ;).  

When Should I Clean My Hand Pipe?

Generally, we recommend that you clean your hand pipe or glass bowl every 3-6 months. This will help you to keep bacteria out, keep it clean, and clog free. If you smoke more frequently (daily or multiple times daily), specifically from the same piece every time, then you may need to clean your hand pipe more often. It also depends on preference, some people prefer their pipes to stay very clean. 

What Do I Need to Clean My Hand Pipe?

There are a few supplies you will need in order to clean your hand pipe or glass bowl: 

  • Isopropyl alcohol (91% or higher for best results)
  • Q-tips 
  • Pipe cleaners 
  • Paper towels 
  • Plastic Ziploc bags 
  • Salt 
  • Hair dryer (optional) 
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Clean water (for rinsing)

You will want to block off about 30 minutes to 1 hour to set everything up, and clean everything up when you are done. Bowls with more resin may take longer to clean, and we recommend if it is the first time cleaning it, you let it sit overnight to make sure the job gets done. 

3 tips for how to clean your bowl

3 Helpful Tips for Cleaning Your Bowl

Before you get started cleaning your bowl, there are a few helpful tips that will ensure you get the most out of the process: 

  1. Be thorough – The more time you put into cleaning your pipe, the cleaner it will be and the longer it will stay nice when you start smoking it again. Take your time and let the cleaning solution do its work. Use the tool list above and the steps below to ensure that you clean your bowl as thoroughly as possible. 
  2. Do not use hot water – Using water that is too hot can cause glass bowls and hand pipes to fracture and break. Rapid temperature changes are a surefire way to break a good pipe – or at least weaken it. Trust me, I have lost quite a few good pieces that way. The same thing can be said about water that is too cold. When rinsing and cleaning, always use room temperature water to be safe.
  3. Don’t smoke your resin – Look, every Stoner wants to try it once, and we get it. However, I strongly advise against smoking any resin left over from your bowl for a few reasons; it tastes awful, it is full of chemicals, and you wind up inhaling a lot of butane trying to heat it up. Put simply, it’s not worth the bad experience or health concerns. 

With these tips in mind, let’s learn how to clean your glass bowls and hand pipes! 

best way to clean your hand pipe in 7 steps

How to Clean a Hand Pipe in 7 Easy Steps 

Finally, the answer to your question, “how do I clean my bowl?”. Cleaning your hand pipe can be broken down into 7 simple steps:

  1. Create a salt and Isopropyl alcohol solution – Take your Ziploc bag, and fill it with Isopropyl alcohol. Then, mix in about 2-4 tablespoons of salt. Close the bag and shake it well (be careful not to spill :P) until the salt mixes with the alcohol to create a solution. 
  2. Soak your hand pipe for 30-60 minutes – Open the bag and place your hand pipe in the cleaning solution. Let it soak for about 30-60 minutes. If you want, it is okay to shake the bag while your hand pipe is in there, however, we don’t recommend it as this resin water reeks! 
  3. Inspect your pipe and remove excess particulate – Once you have let your hand pipe soak, take it out of the bag, and empty the dirty solution into your toilet or preferably outside – to reduce the smell as much as possible. Check your hand pipe or glass bowl to see how clean it is, and remove any remaining particulate on the outside by rinsing it.
  4. Soak again if necessary – Occasionally, you Seasoned Stoners who use your piece every day will need some extra time to clean your hand pipes. No worries, throw it back in the solution and let it soak overnight – problem solved. 
  5. Rinse out and scrub with warm water – Rinse out your hand pipe in running warm water to remove any alcohol and remaining resin. If it is still not clean completely in some of the hard to reach spots inside of the tube, gently use a pipe cleaner to remove it while running it under water or soaking it in your cleaning solution. 
  6. Let it dry – Once you have finished rinsing your bowl off, it is very important that you let it dry for a few reasons; smoking wet herbs can be dangerous, inhaling alcohol fumes can be very dangerous, and you don’t want to drop your bowl because it is slippery. To speed this process up, you can use paper towels or a hand dryer (as long as it isn’t on melt your face mode – for temperature change concerns). Another easy way to speed up the drying process is to use the Q-tips to soak up moisture in the pipe and bowl pack.
  7. Smoke your clean hand pipe! – Congrats! Your bowl is finally clean now! See, that wasn’t so bad. Now keep it clean and make your life easier by cleaning your hand pipe every 3-6 months. Well, you know what it’s time to do now ;). Light ‘er up!

How to Clean Your Glass Bowl Accessory

Honestly, cleaning your glass bowl attachment for your bong is the same exact process as cleaning your hand pipe. The only differences are: 

  • It may take less time/cycles to get it completely clean 
  • You will probably not need to use a pipe cleaner 
  • They are a bit more fragile so be careful while cleaning

You should also remember that when you are cleaning your glass bowl attachment, you may also want to clean your slide or downstem. This is a delicate process that takes care to make sure you don’t break anything. For more on how to clean your downstem, check out our Bong Cleaning Guide.

how to clean a hand pipe with household items

How Do You Clean a Bowl Without Alcohol? 

So maybe you hate the smell of rubbing alcohol, you’re allergic, or just want an all natural solution for cleaning your glass pipe, there are a few very effective alternatives you can use:

1. Vinegar & Baking Soda

This is probably the second most effective way to clean your hand pipe. It takes a bit longer to work, so you should soak for at least 45 minutes. Other than that though, the results are the exact same. Just be ready for the smell xD. 

2. Salt & Vinegar 

Cleaning your bowl with salt and vinegar is almost as effective as vinegar and baking soda. However, you should know that it also takes a bit longer to get the best results. Follow the same exact steps as above to get the best results.

3. Warm Lemon Water 

Warm lemon water also works as a cleaning solution. Be sure that the water is not too warm, as this can damage your bowl or hand pipe. This solution takes much longer and usually needs at least 1 hour to get the best results. If you use this method to clean your hand pipe, we recommend letting it soak overnight. 

4. Boiling Water – DO NOT USE

Look, I am not going to sit here and tell you that this method doesn’t work, because that’s a lie. But honestly, it’s just not worth it. It’s just about the same amount of work, and sure, it is a bit quicker, but overall it is much more dangerous, as it is easy to burn yourself this way, and you also risk breaking your bowl or pipe. Overall, we never recommend you clean your hand pipe this way, because it is just not worth it. If you do choose to clean your pipe this way and it breaks, don’t point fingers at us :P. 

Answering Some Hand Pipe Cleaning FAQ

At Best Gifts For Stoners, we get a lot of questions about how to clean hand pipes effectively. So we thought we would share some answers to questions you probably have. 

How do you clean the inside of a bowl?

This can be a bit tricky, but the best way to clean the inside of your bowl is to let it soak in Isopropyl alcohol and salt for 30-60 minutes, and then run warm water through it in order to get remaining particulate out. If there is still resin, give it another soak. If it still won’t go away after all this, you should use a pipe cleaner to scrub the inside while running warm water through your bowl, or while soaking it in the cleaning solution. Using Q-tips can help to soak up any resin particles caught in water on the inside of your bowl also. 

How do you clean a glass pipe with water?

The best way to clean your glass pipe using water is to squirt a fair amount of lemon juice or salt into the water, and then let it soak in this solution for 1-2 hours or overnight. After that, you should rinse out your bowl with warm water. If resin still remains, soak it again, and then rinse it out with water, and scrape resin from the inside with your pipe cleaner to loosen it while rinsing. Make sure you let your pipe dry before smoking it again.

Can you clean a glass pipe with dish soap?

Honestly, we do not recommend that you use dish soap or soap to clean your hand pipe for a few reasons: 

  • It takes much longer to clean your pipe this way 
  • It leaves a resin layer of soap inside and outside of your bowl
  • This layer of soap is dangerous if smoked 
  • It also affects the taste of your smoking experience 
  • Lastly, it is really hard to get rid of this, especially inside of your bowl

If you are going to take this approach, first ask yourself why. If the problem is about using a safe method without alcohol, plenty of ways to clean your hand pipe without alcohol exist. If you are looking for a way to clean your glass pipe with water, there are plenty of ways to do that as well. You would honestly be better off just buying a new bowl before cleaning it with soap and water. 

How do you unclog a bowl?

To unclog your bowl or hand pipe, soak it in an Isopropyl alcohol and salt mixture for 30 minutes to 1 hour. If it is very badly clogged, you may want to leave it to soak overnight. After that, use a pipe cleaner to get out any remaining resin on the inside of the owl, while rinsing with warm water. For those grandfather bowls, it may take a few rinses in the cleaning solution to work. 

What is the best way to clean a hand pipe?

The best way to clean a hand pipe is to soak it in an Isopropyl alcohol and salt solution for 30-60 minutes, or overnight. After soaking it, rinse your hand pipe off with warm water, and use a pipe cleaner to remove any particulate that is still hanging around. Be sure to let it dry before using it again. 

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Wrapping Things Up – How to Clean Your Hand Pipe

Hopefully, this guide helped you to understand everything you need to know about how to clean your bowl. 

If you tried any of the techniques in this article, please let us know how they worked in the comments below! We work very hard to create the best content in the industry to keep the Stoner community informed. 

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