How to Clean a Meerschaum Calabash Pipe

Written by michael belcher | 13/05/2017
How to Clean a Meerschaum Calabash Pipe
Calabash pipes are known by many people as "Sherlock Holmes" pipes because of their use by actors playing Holmes on stage and screen. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Meerschaum pipes are smoking pipes made from meerschaum clay, a light, porous clay mined in Turkey. A calabash pipe is a large pipe made from the calabash gourd and traditionally lined with porcelain or meerschaum. Meerschaum pipes are prized by pipe smokers for their dry smokes, the ability to be smoked several times a day, and their ability to "color", or absorb tar and oils from the burning tobacco and turn varying shades of tan and gold.

Remove the stem from the pipe by twisting clockwise to unscrew it from the bowl. Most modern meerschaum pipes have threaded Lucite stems. Wipe off any dottle, or tar, build-up on the threads of the stem with a moist cloth.

Dip a pipe cleaner in the alcohol and run it through the stem to remove any tar or ash build-up. Run a dry pipe cleaner through the stem to absorb any moisture left from the alcohol. Repeat until the alcohol-soaked pipe cleaner no longer picks up any dottle in the stem. Run several dry pipe cleaners through the stem to remove any remaining moisture.

Wipe the inside of the pipe bowl using a clean, dry cloth. Remove any unsmoked tobacco and ash, and any cake, or carbon residue, inside the bowl. Cake should not be allowed to build up in meerschaum pipes, but is an important insulator in wooden pipes. Clean the ash from the bowl after every smoke to ensure minimum cake build-up.

Wipe the outside of the pipe with a clean, cool, damp cloth. A cool cloth is recommended as the beeswax coating on many meerschaum pipes is susceptible to heat. Allow the pipe to dry completely before reassembling.


Smoking causes health problems.

Tips and warnings

  • Smoking causes health problems.

Things you need

  • Damp cloths
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Cleaning alcohol or other high-proof alcohol
  • Dry cloths

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