The Chronicle

Tetra Tutorial: How to Clean a Glass Pipe

Any regular smoker should know how to clean a glass pipe quickly and easily to keep it looking fresh and new. When you've invested in a well-designed glass pipe worthy of a place on your coffee table — like Tetra's Balance Pipe or Elbow Pipe — you also need to invest a little time into cleaning it regularly.

With frequent use, your glass pipe can get coated and clogged with residue that makes smoking far less pleasant — and your pipe far less attractive. How often you need to clean your pipe depends on how often you use it, but you'll definitely be able to see and taste when it needs cleaning; frequent smokers should clean their pipes at least once a week.

We tested two of the most popular pipe-cleaning methods that are both simple and effective. Here's how to clean your glass pipe.

How to Clean a Glass Pipe With Alcohol



Here's what you’ll need:

  • A Ziploc bag, glass container, or plastic container
  • A cotton swab or pipe cleaner
  • A Tetra Fog Pin, needle, or similar object
  • Rubbing alcohol (preferably 90% isopropyl)
  • Coarse or kosher salt
  • Gloves (if you have them, gloves can make this stinky and sticky process more pleasant)
  • Tongs
How to do it:
  1. Dislodge loose residue from the glass pipe by holding it upside-down over a sink and gently tapping it or blowing through it. Use your Fog Pin or a similar implement to remove any larger bits, but don't scrape too hard and risk damaging the pipe.
  2. Place your glass pipe in your container of choice: either a Ziploc bag or a plastic or glass container. Some people prefer to have one container they reserve only for this purpose.
  3. Carefully pour the 90% isopropyl alcohol into the container, just enough to submerge or cover the pipe.

  4. For pesky buildup, you can also add 1 tablespoon of coarse or kosher salt to the bag or container. Gently shake or stir the alcohol and salt solution, so that the salt gets into the pipe to scrub out the residue, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Leave your pipe to soak in the container with the alcohol and salt for several hours or — even better — overnight.
  6. After it's done soaking, rinse the pipe thoroughly with very hot water. We like to get our faucet as hot as possible, grip the pipe with tongs, and let the piping hot water run through the pipe until all the alcohol, salt, and residue is flushed out.
  7. Use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab (we prefer the sturdier wooden swabs) to wipe off any remaining stains or spots. 

How to Clean a Glass Pipe With Boiling Water

While we find the alcohol method more effective, some people don't like the idea of inhaling out of something cleaned with alcohol, even after it's been thoroughly rinsed. In that case, you can clean your glass pipe with boiling water, but a warning: this method is a little stinkier and stickier.

Here's what you’ll need:

  • A small pot for boiling water
  • A cotton swab or pipe cleaner
  • A Tetra Fog Pin, needle, or similar object
  • An oven mitt or tongs

How to do it:

  1. Dislodge loose residue from the glass pipe by holding it upside-down over a sink and gently tapping it or blowing through it. Use your Fog Pin or a similar implement to remove any larger bits, but don't scrape too hard and risk damaging the pipe. Rinse the pipe with warm water — never cold.
  2. Fill a small pot with a few inches of water, enough to submerge your pipe. Bring the water to a boil on the stove. Once it reaches boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer.

  3. Carefully and gently, lower your pipe into the simmering water until it is fully submerged. Allow the glass pipe to soak for at least 20 minutes and keep a close eye on it to make sure the pot doesn't get too hot and that the pipe remains fully submerged.
  4. After 20 to 30 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and drain the water out of the pot. Using an oven mitt or tongs, inspect the pipe to see that it's been thoroughly cleaned. If not, you may want to repeat steps 1 to 3 in a fresh pot of water. Remember: never run cold water over the hot glass, as you could break your pipe!
  5. Use a pipe cleaner or cotton swab (we prefer the sturdier wooden swabs) to wipe off any remaining stains or spots.