Hookahs can get messy what with all the ash blowing around and the juice from the tobacco that can flow down the stem. If you’ve ever looked at your vase and the water now looked like fruit juice then you know how much juice can escape classic bowls. Even when this doesn’t happen, smoke build up and stale flavors need to be flushed out to make sure that each session is as crisp as the last.
Basic cleaning starts with a good set of brushes and some hot water. Your main stem brush should be just a little longer than the entire length of your stem to make sure that it reaches every bit of grunge, but a shorter brush can work fine if you run it through both ends. The vase brush is good for clearing out the built up nicotine ring that can occur at the water line. I’ve found that almost every hose port brush is useless because they are inflexible and hose ports are often at odd angles/curves. I prefer long, bushy pipe cleaners and they do a great job cleaning both hose ports and purge valves.
The process is simply disassembling the hookah, running hot water through everything, brushing it out to break up grime and then rinsing it again with hot water. That is enough for almost every cleaning I do.
If there is a flavor that just won’t come unstuck from your hookah, a little baking soda on the brush will help to scrub just a little harder and it absorbs nasty odors. I know some people who pour baking soda and vinegar into their hookahs, but that’s messy and a little unnecessary.
The base can sometimes be hard to clean properly because of the odd shape, but a little dry rice can make all the difference. Pour just about a half cup of water in the base and throw in a handful of dry rice. Swirl it around over the stains and the abrasion will take them off without hurting the glass.
There are a lot of pipe cleaning liquids and special products that claim to clean better than standard techniques, but a little elbow grease makes all the difference and avoids the use of nasty chemicals that could taint your flavor.
Smoke clean and smoke happy.