Glass pipes and bongs are probably the most valued accessories among pipe users. Some of them, such as handmade blown glass, are authentic works of art, unique and exclusive pieces that are treasured with devotion and can reach very high prices. There are also more straightforward pipes that are only practical and functional objects and whose price is much lower, but all should allow appreciating the nuances of flavor and aroma of smoking entirely since there is no paper, metal or any other material burning along with the herbs or extract.
Bongs become dirty quickly when used, the smoke covers the interior walls with a sticky and foul-smelling residue that should be removed frequently to continue enjoying a tasty, clean and aromatic smoke. The cleaning of these objects is not difficult if you know the right way to do it, but the truth is that many users do not know how to leave them impeccable and with a pleasant smell, probably because there is still not much tradition of using glass pipes.
The main problem when cleaning anything that is stained with smoke resin is that resin is not soluble in water, which means that it cannot be removed with soap and water.
A different solvent is needed. The easiest to get is 91% Isopropyl alcohol from the pharmacy, but you can also use a high alcoholic strength liqueur such as vodka or rum.
How to clean your bong?
The best way to achieve an easy, quick and stain-free cleaning is to use salt, alcohol and a ziplock bag. The procedure is effortless, just put the piece in the plastic bag and add salt and alcohol. The quantities depend, logically, on the size of the piece of glass. For a small pipe, a spoonful of salt and a good jet of alcohol, enough to cover the piece. A medium bong may need a cup of alcohol and three soup spoons of salt, as well as a reasonably large ziplock bag.
Next, close the bag tightly, making sure that as little air as possible is left inside and let it rest for a while so that the alcohol softens the resin. In filthy pieces, it may be necessary to leave them overnight. Then, holding the pipe carefully so that it is not hit with anything, it is essential to shake vigorously to release all the waste, which will dissolve in the alcohol, dyeing it brown. The salt added earlier acts as an abrasive, scrubbing the glass clean.
If you are going to leave the pipe soaking in the alcohol for a few hours, you should put the bag in a bowl, if it is not closed well or has a hole, the alcohol with the dissolved resin smells pretty bad and can stain any material it touches.
If you do not have salt on hand, you can substitute rice grains or even very fine sand, although this last material is not advisable to use it with delicate or precious pieces, as it could scratch the glass. With rice, there is no risk of scratching the glass, but because the grains are larger than those of salt, it does not clean the smallest pieces as well.
Other homemade alternatives
Another method of leaving bongs clean, without any chemicals, is to put the pieces in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. As with all methods using hot liquids, the risk is that the glass may break if it is cold when it comes into contact with boiling water, so it is best to heat it first between your hands or immerse it in hot tap water for a few minutes. To prevent the glass from hitting the metal in the pot, you can put a folded rag on the bottom. The smell that this "infusion" gives off is usually quite unpleasant, it is advisable to turn on the vent of the kitchen and close the door to prevent the aroma from spreading throughout the house.
A variant of boiling water is to place the piece submerged in a container with water and put it in the microwave, at maximum power, for five to ten minutes. Most of the resin will become liquid and float in the water. Then you just have to take the pipe out of the water (best with kitchen tongs to avoid burning) and rinse it well under the tap with warm water that we will be cooling progressively.
A mixture of vegetable oil and rice grains can also be used to clean the resin, but, after removing the oil once the resin has dissolved, wash the piece with soap and water to remove the remains of oil that have stuck to the walls. Other sources recommend the mixture of vinegar and salt, or even mouthwash (one of those that have alcohol) with salt, which gets the bong clean and with a pleasant smell. These methods should be approached experimentally and cautiously.
There are many brands of cleaning products specific to pipes and bongs. Some are suitable for all types of materials while others are specifically designed for glass or acrylic. In general, they work well, and it is enough to soak the pieces overnight to remove all the dirt without having to shake the bong. The latter is convenient with large and expensive pieces that can be easily broken. In any case, they don't work much better than alcohol and salt either.
So that the bongs don't get so dirty, you can put an ash collector on them. It is like a second small bong that is connected to the first bong where the bowl would go. It has its own water chamber, where all the ash that comes with the smoke is collected so that when it passes to the primary bong, it is considerably cleaner and prevents it from getting dirty so quickly.