In our post-Covid world, personal hygiene and standards of cleanliness are of the utmost importance. But let’s face it – while you may have mastered washing your hands while saying the alphabet, you’re probably not cleaning your smoking accessories as often or as well as you could – or should!To get the scoop on the best practices for keeping your bowls, bongs, rigs, pipes, glassware and ceramics clean, we caught up with cannabis hospitality expert Andrew Mieure, founder and CEO of Top Shelf Budtending, a luxury consumption, events and consulting company. Top Shelf Budtending has served over 70,000 guests, and Andrew has made a variety of national media appearances emphasizing education, guest safety, and bespoke service. Top Shelf also specializes in large-scale consumption events, where cleaning accessories between users is at the heart of guest safety. These tips and tricks apply to your humble at-home pipe too. We caught up with Andrew to learn how to keep things clean, safe, and fresh.
How Often Should I Be Cleaning My Pieces?
The short answer is: As often as possible! “Pipes should be cleaned after every use, but we know most folks don’t have time to clean after every use,” explains Mieure. “In a personal setting, your pieces should not go longer than 24-48 hours without being cleaned.” If that timeline seems a little fast for your frequency of cleaning, consider this bit of knowledge from Mieure: “We all know that bong water smells awful when left too long, but did you know that it can form a film of bacteria, protists and fungi on top of the water called a biofilm? This layer of junk can be inhaled into the lungs, where it can cause infection.”
How Can I Keep My Pieces From Getting So Dirty?
The first step to making sure your pipe is squeaky clean is to make sure it doesn’t get quite as dirty, Mieure says: “First, focus on prevention. Use all-natural anti-resin and anti-buildup products like Piece Water.” This is a 'bong water alternative' liquid that offers a mix of natural oils that work to prevent tars and resins from sticking to glass pieces. “It makes cleanup so easy, by just rinsing out the glass when you are done with it,” says Mieure. He doesn’t recommend any similar products for a non-water pipe, and suggests consistent cleaning as the best solution.
How Can I Keep My Pieces Cleaner?
“Cleaning after each use will prevent any buildup. If you are using a cleaning product, I would suggest something natural and approved by the EPA,” says Mieure. He recommends retail products like Orange Chronic Cleaner, Formula 420, or Resolution to fight ongoing buildup.For commercial cleaning at consumption lounges, or if you’re ready to invest some cash to make sure you have the cleanest pieces in town, Mieure recommends a three-compartment sink with wash, rinse and sanitize stations. If you want to go the extra mile, and you have the time and or money or a commercial operation, Mieure recommends large speciality part cleaners that use ultrasonic waves to ensure your glass is spotless. “With the prevalence of COVID-19 and other transmittable viruses, UV and autoclave sanitation is definitely something to look into when time and budget permit,” says Mieure. “Both lab-grade sterilization and commercial UV solutions are extremely expensive, but are the most thorough.”
What About the Classic Isopropyl Alcohol and Salt Treatment?
If you’ve been consuming cannabis for any length of time, you’re likely to have turned to table salt and rubbing alcohol to get your pieces sparkling clean. But Mieure offers a note of caution. “There are a few problems with this method. ISO is flammable, so be careful lighting up right after cleaning, and make sure all of the alcohol has evaporated or has been washed away. The dangers of alcohol, solvent and volatile organic compounds are also well documented on living things," says Mieure. "Simply put, these chemicals are awful for your body and you shouldn’t be putting them near anything that you’ll be inhaling smoke out of."
What About Cleaning Other Materials Like Ceramics?
“Ceramic pieces can be a little more sensitive,” Mieure says. He suggests taking a more natural approach to these more porous materials. “I recommend using an orange cleaner like the Orange Chronic Cleaner, but if you do not have any all-natural cleaners around, you can use boiling water to clean the piece,” he says. For this method, simply heat the piece in water slowly to the point of boiling so as to not shock and damage it, then allow the piece to cool off and rinse in fresh room temperature water.
What Other Tools Can I Use?
Every cannabis user has a secret cache of small metal tools used to scrape out stubborn pieces of resin, but if you’ve ever broken a piece with an overly enthusiastic jab of a pen, you’ll know that finding the right tool is key. Mieure recommends pipe cleaners, paper clips, or small dental or pottery tools; and personally, we keep a stash of bobby pins around for this very reason. We love bobby pins and paper clips for their bendability that can dig into curved nooks and crannies.
Is It Safe to Share Pieces?
“My advice: Don’t!” says Mieure simply. “If you are gathering, bring your own piece. Single-use one-hitters and joints or blunts for yourself is the best possible solution. But if you insist on sharing, clean the piece fully after each use. That means all water is changed, a full soak in cleaner, and proper drying time – otherwise you risk active bacteria and viruses in/on the piece,” he says. In regard to Covid, Mieure offers one more piece of social smoking caution: Even smoking in the same room with other people right now is a major risk. Avoid consuming with folks outside of your home until more vaccinations roll out or the virus settles down.Follow Rachel Burkons on Instagram @smokesipsavor.