Cannabis Manual: Second Harvest

What’s That Black Goo In Your Pipe?

Joshua Lee
5 min read
Second Harvest
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Let me start by pointing out that I’ve been there plenty of times. The final crispy crumbles of my stash are long gone and I know it will be days before I see another bud. The solution? Get a paper clip and dig the black goo out of the inside of my pipe and smoke that foul, ungodly mess until my eyes go all fishy and the floor tilts.

These flirtations with resin would produce very strange and unsettling effects—not like the cannabis high I was used to. For one thing, I could never smoke enough of the stuff to feel satisfied. It just never scratched the itch. So I’d just sit there and puff and puff, the resin bubbling and spitting like Satan’s diarrhea, never quite getting where I was trying to go. Then I’d get frustrated and stand up only to feel my stomach drop like a stone and my eyes bug out like they were on stalks. It was awful.

Nevertheless, I continued collecting resin from pipes when they’d get too clogged or when they’d break. I rolled it into a ball that kept getting larger every week. Even when I got to a point in my life where I was sure I’d never be broke enough to need it again—I kept adding to the boulder. I’d drop the sticky ball of gunk into a baggie and leave it in a dark and smelly corner of the stash box.

Come to find out, I was basically storing the most useless and unhealthy cannabis product (byproduct) known to mankind. Apparently my nose already knew it. Researchers say our sense of smell was selected by evolutionary forces because it
guides us toward helpful chemicals and away from useless or even dangerous ones. Resin smells like a fungus from the bottom of Death’s refrigerator. The smoke offends the most ironclad nostrils and hangs in the air like lead, refusing to leave or be fanned away. It is truly evil stuff.

Resin (some call it “reclaim,” but I’ve also heard that term used for the byproduct left after vaping wax) is a mix of tar, ash and carbon that’s a byproduct of plant combustion. It begins to accumulate on the inner surface of pipes and bongs immediately upon use. After a while, it will build up and block the flow of air, causing your paraphernalia to stop hitting properly.

It does have THC content—maybe more than flower. A 2008 study published in the
Journal of Forensic Science found that, among samples of resin and marijuana seized by British police, the median THC content of cannabis and resin was 2.1 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. But the tar and carbon make it too unhealthy to make up for it. And as I said before: The THC might be there, but the high is definitely not the one you’re looking for.

This is why it’s important to keep those pipes clean (I really need to find a better way to say that). If your pipe is suddenly way darker than you remember, and you’ve started noticing your bowls are lasting longer than usual, it’s time to clean that sucker out. Most likely, you’ve been getting a few resin hits at the end of those bowls. All that crap lining the bowl and built up under it has just been cooking the whole time, and those heavy, acrid hits at the end aren’t real hits at all.

Here’s a tip that I almost never hear for some reason. Ignore all those weird products you’ll find that are marketed to clean pipes and buy some pipe cleaners instead. To start with, get a medium saucepan (preferably stainless steel for easier cleanup) and put enough water in it to cover your piece. Slowly bring the water to a boil (don’t ever drop a pipe at room temperature into boiling water, because it could break). Once it starts to boil, keep an eye on it. You will want to leave it in there for up to five minutes. The dirty smell of resin will fill the air and the water will turn black and murky.

Remove the pan from heat. Let the pipe soak for about 10 to 20 minutes. If it’s still gross, carefully pour out half the water and refill it. Repeat the process until it’s clean. Use the pipe cleaners in between boils to agitate the more stubborn bits.

As I mentioned, your house will smell disgusting for a few hours, so crack a window. If there are any resin stains left after the treatment, use some rubbing alcohol to clean the fixtures and Everclear to clean the pans or utensils.

It’s gross and it’s a pain, but it’s like brushing your teeth or cleaning your fingernails. Just put it on your calendar, you lazy beast.
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