How to Clean a Hookah
This blog was updated on 2/22/2019
Let me guess. Every bowl of hookah tobacco is starting to taste the same. Or maybe you just loaded your hookah bowl with Starbuzz Pina Colada and all you can taste is the Tangiers Maraschino Cherry from last night's hookah session. Your hookah may be desperately waiving a white flag! SOS! Help! Clean me!
Knowing how to clean your hookah properly (and actually doing it) will exponentially increase your hookah knowledge and the quality of your hookah session. So go grab that unkempt hookah, grab your cleaning supplies, and let's bring it back to life!
1. Disassemble your hookah: Remove your hookah bowl, grommets, tray, hose(s), adapters, and diffuser if you are using one and separate your hookah stem from the base. If your downstem detaches from the upper stem (this is most common in Mya Saray and Sahara Smoke hookahs) unscrew it from the shaft, and if your shaft separates from your hub, detach it as well. Basically you will want to dis-assemble your hookah down to its component parts to be able to clean each nook and cranny where shisha juice or moisture could accumulate.
Become familiar with your hookah and its parts. You'll want to know how to put it together, take it apart, and be able to fix or troubleshoot any issues that may arise. It only takes a few times doing it yourself for you to fully know your way around your hookah.
2. HOT WATER. Use it. All the time. Don't go from hot to cold or from cold to hot. Sudden temperature changes will end up cracking your glass base and offending us nerds. I learned this the hard way when my Mya Saray Diva Base busted on me. If you're interested in learning why hot water is better for cleaning than cold water, research kinetics and entropy. This is not the forum for that topic. Where was I? Right. Use hot water to clean your base and shaft thoroughly.
3. Shaft, hub, and downstem: Remember, cleaning brushes are your friends. If you clean your hookah shaft frequently (as you should), it only takes a few passes from end to end to scrub off any residue that might be lingering behind. If your hookah hasn't been cleaned in a while, it may take several more minutes of scrubbing.
If you look down into your hookah shaft after scrubbing it and still see accumulated shisha juice, or if you don't see that shiny metallic surface of the stem, then it may be time for a new cleaning brush. Note: cleaning brushes are a lot like toothbrushes. They will eventually become a little dirty with bristles that don't exactly do what they're intended to. You wouldn't brush your teeth with a over-the-hill toothbrush, and you certainly shouldn't use dirty old cleaning brushes to clean your hookah.
4. Hookah Base: Hot water is perfect for standard cleaning, but lots of folks also use a non-toxic glass cleaning solution such as Bling and/or lemon juice which are great options for deep cleaning that have a mild odor/taste to them which is easily overpowered by whatever flavor you are smoking during your next hookah session. You can also use dishwashing soap as well, but you'll want to make sure that you give the hookah several rinses with plain water afterwards as soap can leave a strong, distinctive taste in the hookah if not rinsed thoroughly.
Here is where your handy little base cleaning brush comes in handy. Make sure every crevice has been scrubbed and there are no lingering substances hiding in the corner and make sure to swirl the hot water around in the base to loosen up those tough to reach particles. Moving on.
5. Grommets and Adapters: You really just want to make sure each grommet (and diffuser if you are using one) has been rinsed off. You may also find that using a mild soap on the grommets and Heba Diffusers will help as well. No need to scrub them with cleaning brushes. However, you will want to run a thin cleaning brush through your hose adapters if possible, or give them a quick soak in hot water to remove any build up on them.
6. Purge Valve: Rust has a tendency to build up in this valve if not cleaned regularly which can cause your BBs to become stuck in the valve. If your BBs are sticking, you won't be able to purge smoke from your hookah base if you ever need to. And, if you're not careful, you can also end up blowing water all the way back up the shaft and into your hookah bowl ruining an otherwise excellent session.
A good remedy here is to make sure to scrub the metal ball bearing with a cleaning brush or a bit of steel wool to remove any built up oxidation and then add a drop of vegetable oil to the BB before putting it back in the valve. The added lubrication of the vegetable oil will help to keep the bb moving smoothly in the valve for future sessions.
So scrub your hose adapters and make sure your BBs don't stick. Got it? Good.
7. Hookah Bowl: Treat it like a cereal bowl. No, don't place it on the floor so that Scratches The Cat can drink from it. That's not what I'm saying. I am saying to wash it thoroughly, every time. If shisha residue is left behind from bowl to bowl then you'll be heating that residue over and over again which can really muddle the flavor that you should be getting from your session. Make sure to rinse and scrub your bowl regularly, and steel wool is a great option for scouring off any tough build up around the rim of the bowl.
8. Hoses: If you have Washable Hoses, you'll want to rinse them with hot water and a little bit of lemon juice. Plug one end of the hose with your thumb and pour in your water and lemon juice mixture and then plug the other end of the hose with your other hand and give it a shake! This should allow your mixture to circulate from one end of the hose to the other and cover the entire circumference of the hose.
Once the hose has been rinsed, you'll want to dry the hose before using it to make sure that you don't get a mouth full of water the next time you smoke.
If you would rather let your hoses dry naturally, always leave them hanging from a peg or door handle with the hose tips facing downward. This will ensure that water can fall in a downward motion towards the ground. If you point the ends upward, moisture will build up in the middle of your hoses, and sitting water just welcomes all kinds of unwanted bacteria or mold. Also make sure to set a towel or newspaper below the hose tips so you don't end up with a slip n' slide floor!
Alternatively, if you are using a hose with removable tips and have an area where you can swing the excess water out of the hose such as a backyard, bathtub, or apartment patio then you can go ahead and remove the hose tips, hold the tubing in the middle, and swing that hose like a windmill! This will use centrifugal force to push the excess moisture out of the hose and then you can reconnect the hose tips once the hose is dry.
If you do not have washable hoses, my only recommendation is to air them out. Make sure all the smoke has been blown out of them first. Then you can swing them in a circular motion to get as much of the unwanted particles out as possible.
9. Tray: It's nice to have a shiny tray before the start of each hookah session, but it doesn't have to be spotless. As long as it doesn't have residue that would stick to your coals if you placed them on the tray, you'll be fine. One quick note though, if you wash your tray with water, make sure all of the moisture has been toweled off before coals are placed on them. A wet coal is no bueno. Not good.
10. Put it all back together!
Take pride in your hookah and enjoy the experience in the best way possible. Now that you know how to clean your hookah, there is no reason why your hookah should ever have to cry out for help. Take care of your hookah and I guarantee your clean hookah will take care of the rest! Try your brand new shisha again, for the first time. Happy Smoking!