The ash and the last bits of unburned tobacco, known as dottle, should be cleaned out with a suitable pipe tool. A soft or bristle pipe
cleaner, which may be moistened with strong spirits is then run through the airways of the stem and shank to remove any moisture, ash,
and other residue before the pipe is allowed to dry. A pipe should be allowed to cool before removing the stem to avoid the possibility of
A cake of ash eventually develops inside the bowl. This is generally considered desirable for controlling overall heat. However, if it
becomes too thick, it may expand faster than the bowl of the pipe itself when heated, cracking the bowl. Before reaching this point, it
needs to be scraped down with a reamer. It is generally recommended to keep the cake at approximately the thickness of a U.S. dime
(about 1/20th of an inch or 1.5 mm), though sometimes the cake is removed entirely as part of efforts to eliminate flavors or aromas.
Cake is considered undesirable in meerschaum pipes because it can easily crack the bowl and/or interfere with the mineral's natural
porosity. Meerschaum also softens when heated so it is recommended to allow meerschaum pipes to cool before cleaning as people have
been known to push pipe cleaners through the walls of heated pipes.
With care, a briar pipe can last a very long time without burning out. However, due to aggressive (hot) smoking, imperfections in the wood,
or just bad luck, a hole can be burned in the tobacco chamber of the pipe. There are several methods used to help prevent a wood pipe
from burning out. These generally involve coating the chamber with any of a variety of substances, or by gently smoking a new pipe to
build up a cake (a mixture of ash, unburned tobacco, oils, sugars, and other residue) on the walls.
These coatings may include honey and water; powdered sugar and water; cigar ash and water; and sour cream, buttermilk, and activated
charcoal among many others.
Many modern briar pipes are pre-treated by the manufacturer to resist burning. If smoked correctly, the cake will build up properly on its
own. Another technique is to alternate a half-bowl and a full-bowl the first several times the pipe is used to build an even cake. Burley is
often recommended to help a new pipe build cake.
The effectiveness of these methods is by no means universally agreed upon.
The caked layer that helps prevent burning through the bottom or sides of a briar wood pipe may damage other pipes, such as
meerschaum or clay. As the cake layer heats up, it expands and may cause cracks or breaks in non-briar pipes.