How To Clean A Tobacco Pipe After A Smoking Session

Hey everyone, Truett Smith here with Smokingpipes, and today we're going to be talking about the end of a pipe bowl. Specifically, how do you know when the pipe is done and when you've smoked through the majority of the tobacco that's in your pipe chamber?

Gauging When The Bowl Is Finished

How To Clean A Tobacco Pipe After A Smoking Session

For beginners especially, it can be difficult to know; because the bowl is not see-through, it's difficult to know how far down you've smoked through the tobacco, and it can actually be damaging to your pipe to try to smoke all of the tobacco in the chamber. Typically, when I'm smoking, I gauge how much I've smoked based on how far the ash is as I tamp down, and also a combination of how often I am having to relight and how soon the tobacco is going out.

Cleaning Your Tobacco Pipe

How To Clean A Tobacco Pipe After A Smoking Session

I've been smoking this pipe for a little bit now, and the ash is about halfway down the bowl. I'm not going to smoke all of it right now for the purposes of this video, but at this point I'm starting to pay a little more attention to how the tobacco's burning and how often the light is going out, even with a steady cadence, etc. And once I get to the point that it's not staying lit for very long, I'm pretty confident then that there's no tobacco left to be burned. So, at that point, you're going to take your tamper, or your dottle pick rather, if you have one, and you're just going to scrape out and loosen up the ash and the unburnt tobacco that's in the chamber. Now, if you notice that there's unburnt tobacco, that's okay. Don't then tamp it back down and relight it thinking that there's more to finish. That's what is called dottle — dottle is the bottom of the tobacco chamber, basically the tobacco at the bottom of the chamber that isn't really combustible. It's usually got some moisture to it, and to try to light that is probably going to damage your pipe because of the amount of heat you're going to have to introduce to it to get it lit.

So, all that to say, if you notice some unburnt tobacco while you're doing this, don't worry. It's all part of the process. I've got it loosened up, and then I'm just going to dump it out in the ashtray. If you have a cork knocker on it, that can be helpful. Get that pick going, and scrape it all out. Sometimes I'll give it another hit with my hand. Do a blow through; you'll notice some ash coming out of there. Give it a couple more hits, and I'm just looking through to see if there's anything left in there.

Maintaining Your Pipe For Longevity

How To Clean A Tobacco Pipe After A Smoking Session

Now I've got an empty pipe. It's time to think about maintenance: taking care of it and treating your pipe in a way that's going to make it last as long as possible and, hopefully, longer than you. A lot of people have different methods. My personal method is pretty simple and straightforward. After every bowl I smoke, I take a pipe cleaner, I run it through the stem, run it through the airway, take it out, and then I fold it in half. And I'm just rubbing the inside of the chamber, wiping it down and cleaning it out. As the tobacco burns over the course of many bowls, it's going to develop a layer of cake on the inside, which is just a natural carbon buildup on the inside walls of the chamber. I don't want to get rid of that unless it gets too deep and too thick, then I'm going to ream it out. But we'll save that for a different video. I'm not taking a knife or a dottle pick and really scraping that away; I'm just cleaning out the chamber with a pipe cleaner. After I do that, then I give it one more knock to get out any other loose ash.

How To Clean A Tobacco Pipe After A Smoking Session

Those are some pretty quick and easy steps for the end of your pipe-smoking session. Let us know in the comments what you personally do in your pipe maintenance routine at the end of a smoke. Hopefully this was helpful. And be sure to check out our other videos for more helpful hints. See you next time.

Category:   Resources
Tagged in:   Pipe Basics Smoke Rings University Tips Video


    • Dave on September 30, 2023
    • An excellent video lesson, thank you.After every smoke, I dip a soft cotton pipe cleaner into a bottle of isopropyl alcohol (any 80 proof beverage will also suffice), then run the cleaner through to the bowl (holding the bowl above the lip to prevent excess alcohol reaching the briar finish). Then I run a dry pipe cleaner through.Then blow through the pipe to remove any cotton fuzzies which may be left by the pipe cleaners.Bent stems require a trial-and-error art to put a small bend near the tip of the pipe cleaner to navigate the cleaner through the bend.

    • Billy Cagle on October 1, 2023
    • Very simple and straightforward video. I like to clean my pipes with my favorite rum. I try to clean my pipes after every use.

    • Joseph Kirkland on October 1, 2023
    • Fine article and video. Years later, you may adapt. After roughly using the same process you describe, I save the pipe until it cools, often overnight, and take out the stem and clean both the stem and chamber again. Anything to protect a fine investment!

    • Wayne on October 1, 2023
    • After every smoke, I wrap a portion of a paper towel around my ring finger. This I moisten with alcohol, then rub down the inside of the bowl. This removes the ash and also starts drying the bowl. Then the pipe, without the stem, gets placed in front of a fan. In a short time, the pipe is ready to be smoked again.

    • P on October 1, 2023
    • An old pipe smoker taught me to put an unused pipe cleaner down the stem and leave it overnight, or until you next smoke the pipe. It helps absorb any moisture left behind and keeps your pipe smelling fresh.

    • Kenn on October 1, 2023
    • This was a friendly, succinct description of what I'd consider proper pipe treatment. Thank you! I sometimes chuckle at some of the recommendations I heard back when pipes were enjoyed just about anywhere. Some could be downright harmful such as taking great effort to smoke that last bit of tobacco at the bowl's base — sometimes initiating several re-lights to accomplish the task! That's a quick way of enacting early retiring one's investment. They may have meant well or were misinformed, but we're all works in progress. Thanks again for a well-written instructional.

    • james strathy on October 1, 2023
    • Pipe cleaner first then I roll up a paper towel into a tail clean the shank then stuff it into the chamber spin it out like the shank. Put the pipe together and blow through. I'm a Thin cake fellow.

    • Robert S on October 1, 2023
    • Very good video, thanks for sharing. From my side, I use steel or brass pipe screen for the last 10-15 years and it saves a lot of tobacco and also the hassle of cleaning the pipe. With the use of the screen you lose a small bit of chamber space but it gives you a clean smoke of your tobacco till finished. I give a thorough cleaning of the pipe after every 4-5 smokes as the residue gather at the bottom of the chamber under the screen. There are various screen sizes depending on the size of the chamber.

    • William on October 2, 2023
    • Thank you very much. This article has helped me a lot, and let me learn new knowledge about pipes. Before, I was afraid of wasting tobacco, I always smoked the tobacco at the bottom. Now that I know that smoking all the tobacco will cause damage to the flue, from now on, protect your favorite pipe

    • Santos on October 2, 2023
    • Espero a que se enfríe-normalmente varias horas-. La desmonto, limpio con escobilla cónica el tubo, y con servilleta de papel la punta delantera. Haciendo un tirabuzón, limpio el caño; después paso la parte gruesa de la escobilla varias veces, y para finalizar, con el papel arrugado limpio la cazoleta de las cenizas y hebras que hayan quedado, haciendo especial presión en el borde de la cazoleta. Luego espero hasta 2 días para fumarla otra vez.

    • Ron on October 2, 2023
    • I would add that at some point it is crucial to remove the stem from the shank and clean the gap area (however small) between the tenon and the shank wood. It is amazing how much residue can build up here, and failure to get ride of it can result in a very bitter taste. I fold a bristle pipe cleaner (to match the large diameter of the tenon) and sometimes use a commercial pipe cleaning solution. If you have not cleaned this region for a long time you might be surprised to find it will take several pipe cleaners to do the job, however clean you have kept the rest of the air passage.

    • Mark on October 5, 2023
    • I do exactly the same as recommended here except that I add a couple of steps. I use two pipe cleaners. The first a regular, soft one. Then I repeat it with a bristle cleaner. Next, I rub down the entire outside of the pipe—bowl, shank, and stem—with either a pipe cloth or a microfiber cloth, or both. I do this in order to clean it and polish it a bit. I pay particular attention to the stem, especially where a lot of gunk tends to accumulate near the end where it was in my mouth. (This routine may sound arduous and time consuming, but it’s not.) Then, after a varying number of times smoking any pipe, I decide it is time to take it apart for a thorough cleaning of the inside. Other commenters here have ably covered that process. I learned some of these techniques from various things I’ve read in books or articles over the years, and the rest of it I’ve gradually worked out for myself. Whatever has seemed to work best. The School of Trial and Error.

    • J. L. Allen on October 9, 2023
    • I do as Mr. Smith shows in the video. As others have commented, I also do a semi-deeper clean every so often. The deeper clean comes when things are not tasting as fresh or a ghosting is more noticeable. When I do the deeper clean, I dip a pipe cleaner in Everclear and run it through the stem, shank, and bowl. I run a dry pipe cleaner to capture the excess. I leave the pieces separated overnight to dry. I typically give the pipe a few days to rest before returning to smoke it. That's another reason to have a decent rotation; you're able to give pipes a rest as needed.

    • Steve Dahout on October 12, 2023
    • To my way of thinking, as you smoke and maintain your pipe, you want to develop a cake that coats the inside of your bowl evenly from top to bottom. What normally happens in practice is that the cake will develop more readily in the waist area of the bowl, leaving a more open, relatively uncoated area near the heel. That bottom area will be moist after a smoke. What I do, with a pipe cleaner inserted in the airway, is put fine white ash back into the cleaned bowl, put my thumb over the top and give a shake so the fine ash sticks to the moisture. Knock out the excess ash on my palm and allow the pipe to dry and rest at least a day with the pipe cleaner removed. This dance helps a lot to develop an even cake all the way down.

    • M. A. Martin on November 11, 2023
    • I'm getting far closer to 80 than I would like to be, but Dad and our cousin Jack were both addicted to Wally Frank pipes, etc. I love to visit with them when they pulled out their newest pipes and sat there puffing away on each other's finds. When Dad died - nearly 30 years ago, my mother and I went through all of these pipes and decided which I would keep, what Ma wanted. We had a large closet where I loved to spend time, just smelling the heavenly aromas of the different tobaccos, camphor, etc. I don't remember which tobacco Jack preferred, but Dad was always a big fan of Captain Black Gold and related tobaccos. To date, I always keep some Captain Black around the house for smudging and related purposes. I told my caregiver that there are only one or two pipes I wanted to keep for sentimental reasons, but if her husband would like any of the remaining pipes, he's welcome to them. I was told that he never smokes in the house, but he always uses Kinni-kinick (spelling?) Amerindian tobacco and never uses the commercial stuff. I'm not planning to live forever and have no plans to take the pipes with me when I walk on. All of a sudden, this evening while dusting off the pipes, the name Wally Frank kept running through my mind, and as far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best-known pipe brands - and anytime a Wally Frank package came for Dad, he was like a little kid in a candy store. Cousin jack also sent things drop-shipped that he knew Dad would like.Am I a smoker? No. However, I live in a very nice wet state that has made marijuana what it is for medicinal use. And yes, I've got a state medical card. I live in a small mining town in the mountains of NM. So now that I use the stuff for medicinal use only, and our little town now has five dispensaries with talk of this place becoming a "marijuana" mecca in the near future. I have one special pipe of Dad's that I use on occasion - one of his painting pipes, but I have my own little collection that I use. I read with great interest the item about cleaning pipes, and I think I will clean out some of the pipes I will give to my friend. Thanks, Steve Dahout

    • Hector F. Gonzalez Aviles on November 18, 2023
    • Nice video, I just would add1) very important let it cool down totally first.2) I clean the bowl with a paper napkin.I smoke with filter and like to change it every 1-2 smokes. The paper holds a lot of moisture and needs to be removed for faster drying.

    • Stan on November 24, 2023
    • I’ve been smoking a pipe for just over 50 years and your method of maintenance is pretty much my own. But about 6 months ago I’ve seen on line people packing their pipes with kosher salt claiming it will draw out excess tar and nicotine. I’ve never heard of this before and would appreciate your reaction.

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