Why Should I Use a Pipe Screen?
It’s really a question you only ask yourself once: why should I use a pipe screen? Once you find out why, you’ll be sorry that you ever questioned it. There’s nothing worse than a mouthful of burnt ash landing in your mouth, and because it’s a problem that’s so easy to prevent most smokers don’t even talk about it. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple of different solutions that you could implement to prevent a cherried bowl from landing in your mouth, though, so here’s a little background on all of your pipe screen options.
Reasons to Use a Pipe Screen
Technically you don’t need a pipe screen; plenty of bowl sessions have gone fine without one. Some bowls have holes that are small enough that they don’t tend to let any ash through, although these often end up getting stuffed up with tar after a few uses. Even if you’re an expert at lighting up, there will always be some circumstance where you pull too hard and wind up with a mouth full of ill-tasting plant matter.
Besides the obvious reason of keeping your mouth free of gross debris, there’s also the matter that pipe screens help to keep a bowl cleaner in the long run than not using one. They make it easier to dump out the contents of a piece in between sessions and, especially in the case of brass and silver screens, keep some tar from building up in the glass itself. This means that you’ll be able to get away with cleaning your piece less often and, in the case of water-based pieces like bubblers or bongs, have less concern about clean water in general.
Kinds of Pipe Screens
Some folks make their own pipe screens using tin foil with toothpick holes poked into it. Inhaling smoke off of heated aluminum isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice when it comes to screens however, and it’s affordable and easy enough to buy a big pack of screens that you’ll never have to bother with worrying about tin foil lung.
The most basic and popular pipe screens are circular mesh ones made of either silver or brass. They come in bulk packs and can last for a few sessions each. They’re easy to use: just tuck them into the empty bowl and press down so that the screen conforms to the shape of the bowl. Generally they end up getting burnt in the center or caked with tar and cannot withstand too much direct heat, so it’s helpful to buy plenty of these kinds of screens at once (since they’re cheaper that way anyway).
These kinds of screens are also available in a slightly hardier version that’s pre-shaped with a circular metal rim perfect for stone pipes. These stone pipe screens, as they’re known, are not designed to be imminently disposable the way that the more traditional mesh ones are but should still regularly be cleaned and replaced.
Glass screens are a great alternative if you want something that can be shined up and reused. These little guys are usually shaped like flowers or jacks and are sold in multipacks that give you the option to just use ‘em and toss ‘em if you want. If you have the patience and don’t want to waste a perfectly fine screen, these accessories come out sparkling from a soak in 91% isopropyl alcohol with some large-grained salt. Even without cleaning, these kinds of screens definitely hold up longer than mesh ones and are surprisingly effective at keeping debris out of your mouth and downstem.
Built-in screens are also an option, if disposability isn’t a concern of yours at all. Plenty of bowls, both female and male, are available with screens punched into the bottom instead of a single hole. Some of these built-in screen bowls are simple, single-walled affairs with a little handle and a few holes in the glass bottom. Others can veer into more complex territory, like the Honeycomb Screen Bowl, which uses a honeycomb perc design to offer a double-walled bowl that keeps ash out of its stem. Luckily even these more complex options stay in the affordable price range, so whatever screen setup you’re looking for you don’t have to throw down too much to keep things clean. Like a glass daisy screen, these bowls are easy to clean with alcohol and salt and make a solid, easy go-to for filtered smoking.
Whether you’re keen on grabbing 100 disposable mesh screens or prefer to find a bowl that will just do the job for you automatically, there are plenty of options available to make sure that you can avoid Scooby snacks from falling into your mouth and making you look like a coughing, spitting fool.