What are Pipe Screens and Do You Need One?

Smoker lighting ground cannabis in green chillum bowl

If there were no pipe screens and you loaded your heady glass bowl with weed and sparked it up you’d inhale a bunch of gnarly detritus from the buds. The screen is what prevents that from happening. Most pipe screens are made of brass or stainless steel, although in some high-end bongs, the screen may be fashioned from something exotic like titanium or quartz. Without pipe screens, smoking herb would be a decidedly different experience than it is now. So we’ve put together this short guide in order to give some props to the humble screen.

Where It’s Found

In most cases, the pipe screen can be found at the bottom of the bowl. This is where it’s been located for decades in pipes large and small, expensive and cheap. These days, however, some exotic pipes may place the screen somewhere between the bowl and the mouthpiece, or even drape it over the top of the bowl, which makes it easier to remove and clean. To be sure though most pipe screens are still found at the bottom of the pipe bowl.

What It Does

Seems that just about every day we field a question from a headshop customer in Denver who’s new to weed pipes and wants to know what that thing at the bottom of the bowl is and what it does. Well, that thing is a pipe screen and its job is to keep ash, weed particles, dirt and other detritus generated by the combustion process from ending up in your mouth or, even worse, your lungs.

Without the pipe screen not only would your lungs receive a lot of unwanted byproducts of combustion but so would the stem of the pipe and the water chamber (in the case of bongs). In addition, having the screen there adds a bit of resistance to the draw, which in turn should create larger hits, in theory anyway. We say “in theory” because if the screen gets too clogged up with resin, ash and other material it will be nearly impossible to draw through the pipe. So there’s a fine line between resistance and being unable to generate a hit.

Cleaning Your Pipe Screen

As we just mentioned the pipe screen can become so clogged with byproducts from the combustion process that it will be nearly impossible to generate a hit. When that happens you have no choice but to pull the screen and either clean it or replace it. We’re going to assume you prefer the practical, cost-effective approach of cleaning the pipe screen. Here’s how that is done.

1: Remove the screen

Hold your glass pipe over an ashtray and tap it to remove as much loose material as possible. If you have a bong, unscrew the bowl and do the same thing. Once all the loose material has been removed, reach into the bowl with a pair of tweezers and grab the edge of the screen. Gently lift it up. If it’s stuck, try grabbing a different point on the edge of the screen then remove it.

2: Hold the screen up and blow through it

Blowing through the screen will remove any loose material attached to it. If you happen to have access to a can of compressed air, even better. In some cases once you blow through the screen a few times you might find that it’s all clear and you can put it back in the bowl. In most cases though you’ll probably have to continue on to the next step in the cleaning process.

3: Burn off the gunk

Hold the screen by the edge with a pair of tweezers in a horizontal position and pass a flame under it. You can use a match, a candle or a lighter. Doesn’t matter. Just don’t expose it to the flame for more than a few seconds at a time. Pipe screens are surprisingly fragile and too much heat at any one time could ruin it.

After each pass with the flame let the screen cool off then blow through it. If it’s clean and clear after one pass then congratulations, you’re done. If it’s not, then repeat this step to remove the built-up gunk. If by some chance 4 or 5 burn cycles don’t remove everything you’ll need to move on to the next step.

4: Place it in a saucer of alcohol

If the resin is too thick to succumb to repeated heating pour some isopropyl alcohol in a saucer or bowl and then place the screen in it. If you don’t have isopropyl alcohol but you do have 100-proof vodka, that will do just fine. Let the screen soak in the alcohol for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the screen from the alcohol and hold it under running water to rinse away the alcohol and any loosened materials. Let the screen air dry while sitting on a paper towel. This should have removed the last of the gunk. If it didn’t you might want to consider getting a new screen.

Check Out Our Online Head Shop for Screens and Other Accessories

Pipe screens are one of those little things that make a huge difference to the quality of your cannabis experience. But it’s also important to have a great pipe, bong or heady glass. For all your herb paraphernalia check out the 710 Pipes online smoke shop, or drop by our brick-and-mortar shop in Denver.

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