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The Professor's Pipe-Sweetening Treatment

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Mr_Houston

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One of the guys in a previous thread was asking about what to do with a pipe that he's smoked many types of tobacco in. I recommended that he consider the salt & alcohol treatment and looked to see if we had any reference to it yet -- we don't. Seems important enough to have a copy on Brother of Briar, so here is a post. There are many variations, some using cotton bolls, some using charcoal, etc. I'd like to give recognition to the Professor, but don't know who he is.

Salt And Alcohol Treatment

This article was published in the Pipesmokers' Welcome Guide 1995, by The Pipesmokers' Council, London.

The Professor's Pipe-Sweetening Treatment

Many people have asked me to make available a step by step set of instructions for my method of sweetening up a pipe. It is in response to my friends that I compose this article. The treatment really works and may result in the finest smoke you ever had from your pipes.
In 25 years of pipe smoking and collecting, I have found no better treatment for rejuvenating a tired pipe. The first smoke after the Professor's Treatment is a joy known by few, to date.

Tobacco contains oils. When combustion occurs, some of these oils are released and are deposited on the inside of the bowl, in the existing cake and in the shank of the pipe. In time, the oils mix with oxygen and turn rancid which is one reason for a bitter or sour taste in a pipe. It is the accumulation of these oils that prevents a pipe from delivering a sweet flavourful smoke. They can be dissolved and removed with the Professor's Treatment, restoring that faithful beauty to the delicious, mouth-watering, nut-like sweetness of a well-seasoned pipe.

The first step requires certain materials. You need a box of non-iodized salt easily found in any supermarket and a quantity of _pure_ alcohol. I suggest you have clean rag, facial tissues or paper towels handy to wipe up any errant alcohol lest it dull the bowl finish. Remember, the salt and the alcohol are to be consumed by your pipe so it will smell good, lower your blood pressure and taste sweet. If you consume the salt and alcohol, you will smell bad, raise your high blood pressure and be drunk. And when you sober up, your pipe will still taste like you are smoking cube cut gnu manure.

The second step involves preparing the pipe. Empty any dottle remaining in the bowl. Some people prefer to remove the stem and insert a pipe cleaner in the shank during the process. Others leave the stem in place. Find a location where the pipe may be set in a semi-upright position to prevent the salt and alcohol from spilling or leaking over the top of the bowl or running out the shank.

Fill the bowl of the pipe with salt all the way to the top. Some believe also filling the shank with salt will maximize the sweetening effect. Others, as stated above, insert a pipe cleaner in the stem to prevent salt from entering. Try it both ways and choose whichever variation gives you the most desirable results.

After filling the bowl with salt, it's time to add the alcohol. This may be done in several ways. One method entails using an eyedropper placing 8 to 10 drops of alcohol on the salt. A second way involves slowly pouring in alcohol, allowing it to rise to the top of the salt filled bowl. A third way has the salt placed in the bowl in a series of 3 to 5 layers with a few drops of alcohol added to each layer. And a fourth method requires filling the bowl about halfway with alcohol and then topping it off to the brim with salt. Again, I suggest you try each method and choose the one you like best. They are all variations on the same theme which is to achieve a desired admixture with which to entice the gods of sweetness to again reside in the chambers of your pipe.

This step is always the most difficult part for me because it requires doing nothing. The time necessary for the salt and alcohol potion to do its magic varies from 8 hours to several days. Some advocate that total evaporation of the alcohol must occur before the salt is removed. Others find that total evaporation isn't necessary. Experiment and see which produces the best results for you. Of course, the more alcohol is added the longer it takes to evaporate. In my experience, I have found that 10 to 15 drops in a bowl full of salt will dry in about 24 hours and result in as much sweetness and good taste as any of the other methods.

After waiting the chosen time interval, it is time to remove the salt and any remaining spirits of alcohol. Take a pipe tool and poke through the hard brown/black crust which has formed in the bowl. The darkening results as the rancid tars and oils are drawn out of the cake and into the salt by some mysterious process. I have found that thicker cakes produce darker salt. I do not recommend removing the cake that you have worked so hard to build. The cake is a product of a cooperative effect between person (puffing) and nature (tobacco) providing protection against burn-out. It also reduces tongue bite and is a significant factor in producing a sweet and mild smoke.

Remove the salt from the bowl by pouring, scraping, brushing, blowing or by throwing it over your left shoulder for good luck. But by all means don't draw on the pipe before removing all of the discoloured salt.

Run a pipe cleaner through the stem several times to remove any last grains of salt. Salt often lurks in the cave-like darkness of the stem hoping to ambush unsuspecting taste buds as you comfortably sit back and draw your first long anticipated puff of angels breath.

Assuming you have followed the steps listed above pretty much in order, allowing for one or two variations of style, your pipe is ready to smoke. Fill it with your favourite tobacco and prepare yourself for an exciting, pleasurable smoking experience.
 

vaperfavour

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i, personally would never try this on my high grades or pipes that i like, but on something no name could be interesting. has anyone tried this? :p
 

Justpipes

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I have used the salt and grain alcohol method on a few of my pipes with no problem. It really does draw the tar residue out of a pipe. I fill the pipe with non-iodized salt and put 2-4 small drops of grain alcohol in it with a small eye-dropper and let it sit. The salt starts to turn a light to medium brown as it is drawing the pipe residue out. It will also harden just a bit. I then loosen it up and dump it out and clean the bowl out thoroughly and then let it sit for a few days to allow every bit of the alcohol to evaperate. I think the key is to not over fill the pipe with salt and by all means just let it gravity fill. Do not pack it. I have been able to bring a couple of pipes back to life using this method.
 

Ego Archive

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I have used both salth, and cotton balls. Personally I found salt to be much better at leeching out the tars; as evident by much darker salt, then the cotton balls got. I have never had any problems with either method (about 50 pipes with salt, and 10 with cotton ball). That said, I have heard people mentioning salt treatments damaging pipe bowl, so I guess you have to consider that. As a note I have always done the salt treatment with a pipe cleaner in the shank.
 
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I've used the salt and alcohol treatment many times with no ill effects. However, since I can see where there might be unforeseen difficulties, I only do it if necessary to remove ghosts from a pipe. Otherwise, I content myself jus giving them a really good cleaning with alcohol.

Charles
 

Wet Dottle

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Charles Spencer":ir2tibky said:
I've used the salt and alcohol treatment many times with no ill effects. However, since I can see where there might be unforeseen difficulties, I only do it if necessary to remove ghosts from a pipe. Otherwise, I content myself jus giving them a really good cleaning with alcohol.
Yeap, same here. On both counts.
 
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The salt and alcohol treatment is certainly effective. However, it can lead to problems - rare problems, but avoidable problems. Salt can leech into microcracks in bowls, where it causes the cracks to expand. Again, such an issue is quite rare but does happen. Thus the adaptation of cotton balls. When using cotton balls the process is slower, as the alcohol dries more quickly, but with careful rewetting it is as effective as the treatment with salt. You might even need to remove the cotton and reapply, but it's safe.

There are also other methods of sweetening pipes. One I've used is this: remove the stem from the pipe FIRST. Preheat an oven to about 180 degrees. Fill the pipe bowl with crushed, activated charcoal (the kind used for fish tank filters), place it on a towel, then stick it in the oven to bake for about 4 hours. The charcoal will pick up the nasties. The pipe will likely need a good buffing after this process, due to the heat. Other folks also report good success using white vinegar as a solvent.

However, NONE of these treatments should ever be necessary if you just take the time to properly clean your pipes after smoking. Good maintenance keeps the nasties from ever building up and souring a pipe to begin with, and thus making these various sweetening treatments an academic exercise only.
 
A

Anonymous

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I've done the salt and alcohol treatment on pipes but don't find it as effective as a simple retort. It's quick, and removes what would otherwise be left behind in the shank area of the pipe.
 
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