An OxyClean Experiment

Blog by Greg Wolford

Not long ago I was involved in a discussion about what I do when I start restoring an estate pipe. The subject was on removing oxidation from stems so I stated that the first thing I do is an OxyClean bath, soaking for an hour to overnight. One of the folks involved thought I meant that I put stummel and all in the soak and asked what it did to the briar. I explained that I didn’t put the stummel in, only the stem. But this got me wondering what would happen if I put the whole pipe in … this this experiment.

I picked this little pipe up in a lot and thought at first it was just a “toy” but closer inspection showed it had been used by its former owner – a lot. The cake was surprisingly thick and I figured it must have been his short smoke pipe. This unmarked little guy would be my Guinea pig.

I dropped the separate pieces into the Oxy bath and left it overnight, doing no reaming, acetone wipe, or anything else before so. It sat overnight as the OxyClean did its work.

When I returned to it the next day I retrieved the stem first and saw the soak had done its job on bringing up the oxidation. And I was a bit surprised how much oxidation there actually was. But onto more pressing issues: What did the briar look like?

So I reached in and pulled out the stummel and immediately felt the slick, almost slimy feeling that an OxyClean soak gives stems was on the briar, too. I began wiping it dry and noticed immediately that almost all the finish and a fair amount of the stain was gone. There was one patch that didn’t seem to be too effected by the soak, maybe it was not fully submersed; I don’t know.

The next thing I noticed was the cake, or lack thereof. The OxyClean bath had removed pretty much all of the buildup in the bowl and on the rim, which wasn’t to bad to start with. It would most likely not need any reaming after it was dry from looking at it.

So, what do I think about soaking the whole pipe in OxyClean now? I think that of removing the finish and stain are your goal and it has a fair or greater build up of cake/tars, this probably a pretty viable option. I still need to get the rest of the finish off and sand the stem and stummel; it is nowhere near finished. But I am leaning toward this experiment being called a success. Of course after the pipe has dried well and I finish the work on it I’ll have a better idea of what the pros and unknown at this time cons are so more experimentation is needed to say for sure. But at this stage I think I have new weapon to use (really an old one in a new way) for certain situations. Time will surely tell.



10 thoughts on “An OxyClean Experiment

  1. Mark Domingues

    Hold on a minute! I tried this on a bowl also. While it did a good job removing cake and finish, it also removed the stamped nomenclature as well! If it is a pipe that needs the stampings to hold a value, I would avoid this method. Just my 2 cents…

    1. Greg Post author

      You are probably correct on this. The pipe I used was not a valuable one, only an experiment, and probably not one I will repeat. Thank you for the warning though, Mark.

  2. Ed. James

    I know a gent who throws his pipe bowls in the sink fill with hot water and dish soap and gives them a good scrub. I know that soap and water ain’t gonna hurt the briar but the idea of the soap INSIDE the bowl makes me cringe! I sometimes soak a bowl in alcohol and use Murphys Oil soap on the outside. Let us know if this pipe tastes soapy–or blows bubbles!!

    1. Greg Post author

      I know what you mean, Ed! But since she got a rinse and an alcohol bath afterward I’m pretty confident that there’ll be no aftertaste. I’ll fess up if I’m wrong though. 🙂

  3. rebornpipes

    That is not something I would have thought about doing. Somehow the notion of submerging the briar in a water based solution just seemed wrong to me. But looking at what you did I am curious about the way the Oxy broke up the cake. Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.

      1. rebornpipes

        True enough. Going to have a go with it and see what happens. I am thinking of using the method on a Bakelite bowl I have here. It is an interesting pipe. Both the stem, shank and bowl are Bakelite. Never seen that before. The oxy should clean up the bowl nicely. Then on to try it on a briar bowl. Make sure it dries well before smoking. Don’t want to split it.

        1. Greg Post author

          Yeah, should do real nice on Bakelite. I let it dry for about a week now; I was at the doctor office today and remembered I had the photos on my iPhone and hasn’t written it up yet so I got something done other than waiting!


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