Posted by Renia Carsillo on April 14, 2014
A quick internet search will yield a kaleidoscope of contradicting advice on how to smoke a pipe. In this series, we give you our two smoke’s worth. Follow it, disagree with it, share it...Read Part One on pipe rotation to see how it all started.
Proper cleaning and maintenance is critical to keeping your pipe clean and sweet for years to come. If a pipe isn’t properly cleaned, it can develop a sour taste, burn too hot and eventually build up too much cake, causing the pipe not to function properly.
Cake is a carbon deposit left behind by smoked tobacco. It is not charred wood. Cake on the inside of the pipe bowl is important because it insulates the briar and makes it less likely you’ll burn your smoking pipe. In addition, cake sweetens the smoking experience, because the carbon deposit is created by sugars in the tobacco.
A small amount of cake will yield a superior smoking experience, but too much creates other problems. Just like Goldilocks, it’s got to be “Just right!”
Tobacco pipes typically need to be cleaned at three intervals; first, a basic cleaning after each smoke; second, an alcohol-based cleaning can be done every few smokes for a more thorough cleaning; finally, the pipe should be disassembled and cleaned carefully once a month or so--depending on usage.
Then, turn the pipe over a cork knocker, holding by the bowl, gently knock any ash or leftover tobacco into the ashtray. We like the Peterson Green Pipe Ashtray for this step.
5. Ensure your pipe is completely cool. Then, use alcohol (rubbing alcohol works, but we prefer rum or brandy) to clean the pipe more thoroughly. Soak a paper towel in your alcohol of choice and rub it inside the bowl. Then, soak a pipe cleaner in the alcohol and run it through the stem a few times.
6. Use a dry pipe cleaner to soak up any excess moisture from the alcohol, then leave the pipe to dry completely.
7. If the carbon cake is thicker than about 1.5mm, scrape down the cake before swabbing the bowl with alcohol.
Note: It’s essential to make sure your pipe is 100% cool before doing this type of cleaning
8. Disassemble any removable parts of the pipe (typically the mouthpiece and any filters).
9. Use a pipe brush to clean the bowl thoroughly. Then, swab with alcohol and set aside to dry thoroughly.
10. Consider using an oil (olive oil works great) to polish and treat the exterior briar. Allow all pieces to dry completely before putting the pipe back together.
Every tobacco pipe collector eventually evolves to a unique routine for the cleaning and care of their smoking pipes. We’d love to know what your ritual is! Please share in the comments below.