Household Items for Pipes

In addition to specialized pipe tools and supplies, I keep a small supply of household items I’ve used before to maintain or repair my pipes. Some of these I used once, others more frequently. These include:

  • Non-Iodized salt and as pure alcohol as you can get (150 proof or 75% minimum), for the pipe sweetener recipe.
  • Toothbrush for scrubbing out pipes without destroying cake or for cleaning out meerschaums without damaging them. I sawed my toothbrush from both ends. Cutting the extra plastic off of the brush side allows the brush to be able to scrub all the way to the bottom of the pipe. Make sure to round off the edges after cutting the toothbrush, as you don’t want a ridge scraped into your bowl.
  • Clear nail polish to apply to loose stems and fine sandpaper for tight stems.
  • Facial tissue for wiping out pipes. You can also keep around rags or paper towels.
  • Q-tips which are great for the gunk inside the shank. Sure you can scrub it, but it doesn’t drag out all the goop that lives in there.
  • Microfiber cloth for applying Paragon or Halycon wax. You can also apply Briar Pipe Wipe with the cloth, but don’t use the same cloth for both. Of course, if you have a buffing wheel, use it instead with some Carnuba wax.
  • Bleach for refurbishing extremely oxidized pipe stems. Don’t let the stem sit in the bleach more than an hour. Safer still, you can use “rubbing” compounds available in your local auto parts store (Turtle Wax or Simoniz).
  • Superglue for careful repair of meerschaum cracks.
  • Alcohol wipe to wipe out the insides of meerschaums. The wipe should be squeezed out of excess alcohol before cleaning. Do not get any of the alcohol on the outside of the pipe! Before you complain, there’s a dozen ways “recommended” to clean the inside of meerschaum bowls. A little aftershave, antibacterial wipes, the list goes on, including the alcohol wipes. My reasoning is thus; the alcohol will evaporate making the inside more porous. The more porous, the more absorbent the pipe. Of course, I could be full of bull-dooky.
  • I’ve used high heat non-toxic silicone aquarium seal for when I burned out chunks of the inside of a pipe. I found one that was rated to 400 degrees. If you think this is insane, you can mix cigar ashes and a very small amount of water to make a mud, and use this “putty” to fill the holes. I did not have luck with this at all, which is why I had to resort to an alternate method. Smoking slower prevents the damage in the first place, which I did eventually learn.
  • No matter how tempting, do not use a pocket knife to ream out your pipe bowl. Pocket knives are handy for a lot of things, but nothing I can think of involving your pipe.
  • Compressed air. Use a single extremely short burst from the inside of the shank if you want to blow dottle wedged in the pipe hole. Don’t use long or multiple bursts as these result in extreme cold air freezing the surfaces it contacts.

This is just a list of some non-specialized items I’ve used for maintaining or repairing my pipes. If you have anything to add, I’d like to hear it.

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