Hookahs Hookahs

Romancing the Smoke: Ew. Clean Your Hookah. Seriously.

If you’re just tuning in to Romancing The Smoke, this is a blog following my journey to becoming a hookah know-it-all. If you’re also a beginner, or a pro who wants to offer some advice, then I hope you’ll follow along!
What is slightly sludgy, a little gooey, vaguely off color, and tastes delightfully...stale? Oh yeah. It’s that hookah that you’ve never (properly) cleaned. “But I wiped it out with a damp paper towel that one time,” you say!Fie on you! A plague of ill-tasting shisha upon your house! You cannot call yourself a proud hookah owner if you pass to a friend and slime leaks out of your hose. And that IS what she said.
Face hidden to protect the identity of a certain hookah master.
I’m on week three of my training and so far my hookah master has assumed multiple forms through which he has taught me the basics, but I have to say that things got a little weird today. Hookah master Scott showed up for today’s lesson holding a feather duster, wearing a French maid’s outfit, and a knowing smile. I guess today we are going to learn the proper way to clean a hookah. I asked if the costume was necessary. His reply? “In order for an individual to truly be able to cleanse, they must first be comfortable with themselves.” Rock on. Let’s get to a-cleanin’!
First we have to take the hookah apart, just reverse the directions of the last blog post. For specific hookah disassembly instructions, check this out. When taking apart your hookah, make sure that you take off all removable parts, including grommets, ball bearings, hoses, etc. I put all small, easily-loseable parts into a bowl so as not to...well...lose them. Make sure to dump any leftover water from the vase and scrape out the shisha from the bowl. Depending on the size of your hookah, you may want to wash it in the sink, the bathtub, or using an outside hose. Or in some cases you may need a large ladder and a the assistance of the fire department. -> I would suggest plugging the drain in a sink/tub so that you don’t accidentally drop any parts into the abyss.
Okay, what to use as a cleaning agent? Hookah Master Scott nearly choked on his feather duster when I suggested soap and some steel wool. “Pish-posh,” he said. “The hookah is a work of art, and must cleaned with the delicacy of a Mona Lisa-esque restoration.” His French panties were in a bunch, because it doesn’t take THAT much tenderness, but we do need to be careful to not break the glass or mess up the metal. Some say that water shouldn’t be used at all on the metal parts, just a high powered air hose, but seeing as how not many of us have mechanized tire pumps in our garages, we’re going to stick with water and thoroughly drying. Now, what to use? There are specific cleaning products out there like Bling!, I've heard vinegar works great, but we're going to be using part lemon juice, part baking soda.
First, rinse everything off with hot water. Starting with the top, take the bowl and sprinkle some baking soda in the divot, add a few squirts of lemon juice (natural lemon or any generic lemon juice will do) and use a soft, damp cloth to gently scrub the bowl inside and out. Do the same with the tray.The baking soda is lightly abrasive to break up stains, and with the lemon juice this mix will dissolve lingering smells and flavors. Rinse with warm water, make sure the holes in your bowl don't have any build up in them (you can use the poker that comes attached to your metal hookah tongs), and then set these items aside. Now take your hookah stem, pour some baking soda down the shaft along with a little lemon juice and pass a hookah shaft brush through the shaft a few times. If you regularly clean the hookah, it should only take a few passes, but a little more scrubbing may be necessary if you’ve been neglecting your poor hookah like a red-headed step child.Since you have detached the hose adapter and air purge valve, make sure that those openings don’t have any residue built up, if so, give them a little brush action. Rinse thoroughly, set aside.Alright, now we’re looking at the base, which is usually glass. So for the love of all that is holy DON’T just toss it under super hot or cold water. Glass breaks when suddenly introduced to extreme temperatures, so use tepid water and slowly bring up the temperature. You know the drill - dust the baking soda, drizzle the lemon, give it a little scrub with your hookah base brush, wipe out the nooks and crannies, rinse, repeat if necessary, just don't break it!Next, take all of the rubber grommets and rinse them under water until the water runs clear, wipe off any remaining residue.
Okay, now the hose. If it's washable, just put one end up to the spigot and the other end pointing at your buddy's face...or into the sink...and run hot water through it for about a minute. I would just stick with water, maybe a little of the soda/lemon combo, but just water should do the trick. If your hose isn't washable, blow through it to get out any lingering smoke, take it outside and spin it around a few times to fling out any mositure, then hang it (same for the washable hose) over something like a shower rod so both ends point down to drain.
Now comes the really important part: dry everything! Use a paper towel, or a dry cloth to thoroughly dry off every part, and every crevice. I, personally, then let everything air out for about an hour, and I went over it all with a towel again before I put it away. If there is any residual moisture, the hookah can get funky, or rusty, or smelly, and so on and so forth.Now you can put it away! Or smoke it! Or do whatever you do with your hookah! But make sure you're cleaning it after every use to ensure a long hookah life filled with sparkling longevity.If you don't...Hookah Master Scott knows where you live, and you do not want to see the up close and personal details of his legs in this skirt.
Until next time, happy smoking! -Katie
To see tutorial videos on this subject, and others, check out our How-To Playlist on YouTube!

Comments (10) -

  • Thank you soo much for posting this. I have been wondering how to clean mine for a while and before this, have only been using hot water. This is why I will continue to shop here, its far more than just a place to buy hookahs.
    • Aw, thanks, James! We're so glad to hear that it was helpful. I'm still learning as well, so if you have any other questions that you would like answered on the blog just hit me up at katie(@)hookah-shisha.com and I'll write it up!
  • Another great solution to cleaning a hookah base, as well as any other glass is to use a couple tablespoons of corse salt and a shot or two of grain alocohol/ ISO alcohol and water to losen the salt. Shake it for a min or two and rinse thoroughly and tada! It's the college students cleaning method!
  • After trying this out a few times I have to say its great, gets rid of the smell and build up, its cheap and it works. Also tip for drying it with air; go out to a pool store and buy an electric inflator for pool toys. It will run between 20-40 bucks last i checked but it works quite well. Just make sure it comes with a narrow nozzle end to focus the air.
    • I would have never thought of that drying technique, but that's a great idea! Thanks for the tip, JamesSmile
  • using a vacuum cleaner hose works perfect if you have NON-WASHABLE hoses. I even use this process to get any left over moisture out of my washable hoses right after I wash them.
    the hose for your vacuum is probably wider that your hookah hose's diameter- fit a funnel either over or into the tip of your hookah hose and the other side of the funnel either inside or on the outside of the vacuum hose. a funnel serves as a great seal between the hoses
  • i have used pinesol to clean mine and it made it smell and tastes like dirt!! how would i get that out of it
    • I would suggest sprinkling baking soda inside of the base, along with a few tablespoons of lemon juice, and fill it the rest of the way with water - let it soak for a few hours, then scrub it out (possibly with a little more baking soda). The baking soda acts as a flavor/smell neutralizer and the lemon juice is a gentle cleanser. Pinesol was a bold choice, my friend! Let us know if this worksSmile
  • I love the hookah master. I didn’t know that s/he can transform and can don different outfits. It makes kinda excited and at the same time, apprehensive.