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What's Up With This Char Line? | How-To Clean A Charred Bowl

alpaca hookah bowls

What’s the black stuff on your hookah bowl?

If you’ve made 5-10 bowls of shisha tobacco, you’re already familiar with today’s topic; CHAR.

After some time in your hookah journey, certain pieces become favorites that get used more often than other items in the same category.

Hookah bowls can develop char on the edges of the clay walls which can happen during your first session.

Some may say that it adds character or that it helps as a guide when preparing a bowl. The other side of the argument is that it should be cleaned off, plain and simple.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

What's Char?

“Char” may not be the best word to describe this material but it’s what many of us have called it in the past, so we’re running with it.

alpaca hookah bowls

Misplaced shisha tobacco or excess juice can get trapped between the barrier that separates the tobacco from the charcoal (i.e. foil, Kaloud Lotus).

A constant heat source, like hookah charcoal, will burn whatever is on the edge and juices also have a tendency to rise as well as making its way to the edges. The charcoal burns these items onto the porous and nonporous parts of your clay bowls, leaving behind a dark color.

Is it preventable?

Sort of. Taking an extra step before applying foil, or any other heat management system, can save you a deep cleaning session in the future.

alpaca rook bowl and towel

Keep a towel on standby so when your bowl is prepared, you can wipe the edges dry of any shisha tobacco leaves or excess juices before applying your foil or Lotus. It’s that easy.  This won’t prevent the char from building up but it leaves little behind that can be burned.

How-To Remove Char?

Hookah bowls without char

I’ve used the same bowls for years and to date I have kept the char to a bare minimum. I wish I could get it down to zero but that’s just the OCD in me.

You’ll need a sponge with a rough back or a brillo style pad and hot water. You can run the bowl under (warm-hot) water while scrubbing the edges with the abrasive side of sponge/brillo on the clay's exterior. If that doesn't yield a clean bowl edge, try soaking the bowl in hot water first to loosen the char before scrubbing.

Hookah sponges

*Some bowls may need more than my quick fix tool and, before you attempt to remove the char, take a close look at your bowl . Please remember we’re dealing with clay so micro-fractures are typical with constant heating and cooling. Too much pressure can cause the bowl to shatter.

How Does It Affect My Session?

Rook bowl coparison

Over the past year or so, a fellow crew member and myself used our Alpaca Rook bowl daily (over 300+ sessions each bowl). As you can tell from the pictures, we’re on polar opposites of the cleanliness spectrum for our hookah gear. He doesn't use any of the tips I've laid out for you today.

But at the end of the day we both enjoy the session we create for ourselves. Although I believe char affects the taste of your smoke, I can't validate it because we all have different sense of taste.

You may be looking at a bowl in your cabinet right now that is completely covered in char, but you’ve never noticed any major change in your session.

The harden exterior of the char will only affect your bowl-heat-up times slightly, as the heat has to make its way through an extra layer before reaching the clay walls. This would really depend on how much char you have on the bowl and the bowl design.

Rook bowl coparison

If the char isn’t a bother to you then don’t worry about it, but for optimal flavor and general cleanliness, wash your bowls in between every use.

The phrase “it adds more flavor when you don’t wash it” is not true. (Please leave a comment if you agree, I’m really trying to make a point to that crew member.)

Washing your bowl will also keep your base cleaner.

How Does It Affect Your Bowl Lifespan?

The char on the edge of a traditional Egyptian bowl won’t affect the lifespan of the bowl in comparison to a specialty bowl like an Alpaca Rook. These bowls have unique features like cutouts around the central spire, which like the edge of the bowl, can develop char.

Rook bowl Airflow

Once the spire has too much char, you pretty much have a regular phunnel bowl, as the air can’t pass through crusty blockage. A quick clean of your spire at the end of the session can help you out big time in the long run.

The BIGGEST problem with excessive amounts of char on your bowl is the fact that it can eventually make your bowl edges brittle. Every bowl manufacturer uses a different clay composition but they’re all subject to chipping once too much char has hardened on the edges.

If you can catch the char before it gets out of control, you'll save yourself money on a replacement.

Deal Or No Deal

What do you think hookah fan; does the char line bother or are you cool to smoke any type of bowl?

How do you clean the char off your bowl?

Let’s get the conversation started below, and if you’ve been trying to tell this type of info to a friend, be sure to send them over.

If your favorite hookah lounge needs to hear this send them over as well.

Thanks for reading!


Comments (12) -

  • Char just makes me sad
  • That first bowl looks so gross! Thanks for the tips!
  • Ill agree it does add flavor just not the flavor you want.
  • I always use a Coal under hot/warm running water and scrub works wonders on char! Smile
  • Muj
    I think it adds character on a regular Egyptian bowl.
  • I don't see anything wrong with Char, in fact I advocate for it.
  • This is a great blog. The bowl with the Char is fantastic. Clearly owned by someone that knows Hookah, I am assuming you. Great work seasoning your bowl man, and thanks for showing the newer smokers how to clean the bowl when they aren't advanced enough to get a good char.  As the old saying goes..Keep it Char, keep it good.
  • I use a stainless steel wire brush to clean the inside of my bowls every session, and the brillo on the outside. Keeps the inside clean as possible and the outside looking nice.
  • Des
    OHHHH gross. I couldn't even imagine that. I have friends whose bowls look like that. I tell them to re-home them to someone else who will love them more!!! Lol
  • I use a stainless steel wire brush on the bottom of the kaloud lotus to keep it shiny. I also clean the lip every week or so to prevent black char build up.  I can’t imagine the char could be consitered a good thing, reasoning, it’s just an added carcinogen with unknown health costs.  Properly cleaning the bowls in my house is a standard. Keep the hookah spotless, change the water at least every two bowls;  Every bowl if mint is used, or if different flavor shisha is to be used.  That’s my .02c
  • As a 14 year hookah veteran, i can tell you a great way to clean your bowl and lotus (if you use one)  is to take one of your coconut coals, and wet it. Then, it acts as an abrasive yet forgiving surface, and will easily strip the "char" from your bowl and lotus. Simply soak the coal in water for about 20 seconds, then use it to scrub the bowl. Thank me later.