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Shishapedia - How to clean your Hookah Pipe

Updated on November 28, 2011

Shishapedia – How to clean your hookah pipe

Every time you smoke a shisha you leave a residue inside it of flavour. If you are a regular smoker and today you set-up a mint shisha; you will be familiar with the taste of yesterdays double apple hinting through. This is always the last thing you want; and old flavours can build up over time. The reality is your hookah pipe is just not clean and inside it there is a lot of old molasses and juices sitting around. Worse than that you could have little bits of ash sitting somewhere; and I’m pretty sure your base will have a dark water line across it.

If this sounds just like your set up it’s time to do a serious clean. Personally I would recommend to give your hookah pipe a quick clean between every usage; but an in depth clean at least once every ten sessions. The longer you leave it, the worse it gets to clean!

If you have a small hookah pipe it is fairly easy to use a kitchen basin to do the cleaning; but if you have a larger hookah pipe I recommend cleaning it outside. The bigger the pipe, the bigger the water splashes will be. Remember that outside of the hookah shaft is often made out of a metal that can rust. To be safe and avoid corrosion be sure to dry it soon after cleaning.

Step One – Pull the hookah apart

The first step is to pull your hookah pipe apart. Empty all the water from the base and note if there are any strong water marks inside the base. Remove all the shisha molasses from the bowl and remove all the coals from atop the bowl and in the tray. Remember to ensure all the coals are not ignited or burning. I would recommend leaving your hookah pipe for an hour after last usage before you commence cleaning.

Disassemble your hookah pipe by separating the head, the shaft, the base and the hose. Remove all grommets and leave in the bowl safely. You really don’t want to lose them. Carefully unscrew the ball bearing valve(s) and if they actually come apart leave safely in a small bowl with the ball bearings. Some hookah pipes do not actually separate here so don’t pull it apart if it’s not designed to!

Step two - rinse

Each part of the pipe should be rinsed independently first. You used ensure that you allow water to get through the shaft of the pipe and through the holes in the head. Your main aim here is to remove all the loose particles of old molasses and coal. Anything that is big and clumpy will only stand in your way when you try to get a deeper clean to the hookah pipe.

Step three – The base

The base of the hookah pipe is always a headache to clean. The natural shape of the base makes it extremely difficult to get a sponge or cleaning cloth around the widest part of the inside. The trick here is to find a solution that will clean your hookah base out without ruining it. If you want to buy a solution I recommend only one brand, Bling cleaner; but I recommend this warily. This cleaner will pick away paint on acrylic bases, if used to often it can weaken the glass and if used on your hookah hose it will totally ruin it.

My ideal solution is to make a cleaning agent at home that will be safe to use on any hookah and very easy to make. You want to make a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice and mix it thoroughly. You can use this mixture to clean all parts of the hookah pipe and it is very effective at removing bad and foul odours and dirty marks. You want to shake this mixture in the base, and after a few minutes you should see the stains start to fall away. You want to use the technique of swirling in one coat of the lemon juice/baking soda mix then swirling in some warm water. You can repeat this technique several times.

Please note: You never want to use HOT water to rinse out your hookah base. Please note that hot water followed by a cold liquid in the glass, or a cold liquid followed by a hot liquid in the glass will cause your glass to fracture and crack.

You can use gentle dish soap to clean the base, but remember nothing too harsh. Whatever you use to clean, you will be smoking!

Step four – The shaft

Cleaning brushes and cleaning rods should be invested in. Often when buying a new hookah beginner package cleaning brushes will be included. They will include two main brushes. One wide short brush which is good for cleaning the base, (but not extremely effective at removing those water marks, so stick with the lemon and baking soda mix!) and one long think brush.

The long thin brush will fit down the shaft and will help you reach those difficult areas. Always wet the cleaning brush before use and pour a little of the cleaner you are using onto it. Be warned when pulling it loose, as it will throw out a lot of dark “gunk”. This is best done outside where your lovely kitchen tiles can’t get covered with muck. Majority of shisha residue is water-soluble as it is mainly made up of honey, molasses or glycerine. All of these dissolve easily in water so it should be fairly easy to clean.

Cleaning rods work in a different way, they allow you to pull a piece of material through the shaft in order to clean it. It is very simple to use, but personally I think the brushes are a lot more effective at cleaning.

As soon as you have completed washing the shaft dry it immediately; you don’t want it to start rusting.

Step five – The little bits and pieces

Place all the grommets and the ball bearings into a small bowl and add some hot water. Let them soak, and one at a time take them out and give them a good scrub. Place the ball bearings in a bowl of vegetable oil or olive oil to help give it some extra protection. You can now start to put them together. These items should only be washed with water; anything else will only damage them.

Step six – the hose

Unless you have a Nammor or a washable hose I advise you don’t wash the hose. Most other hoses contain an inner metal shaft which will start to corrode under repeated washing. I would suggest a good blow through them should help clear them. If you feel there is some muck trapped inside them I suggest you wash them no more than once every two months. You will have to buy a new hose every couple of years if you insist on doing that. It can be useful to buy multiple hoses, and keeping one for stronger flavours, and one for weaker flavours. If you do wash your hoses you want to run either wash water through them or wash the hoses with a solution of lemon juice and baker soda. Either hang up the hose to dry, or hold one end tight and swing the other end in a circle. If the piece has a removable mouthpiece be sure to remove these before swinging them.


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