Pipe cleaner

Pipe cleaner
A plain white pipe cleaner.

A pipe cleaner or chenille stem is a type of brush originally intended for cleaning dottle from smoking pipes. Besides cleaning pipes, they can be used for any application that calls for cleaning out small bores or tight places. Special pipe cleaners are manufactured specifically for cleaning out medical apparatus[1] and for engineering applications.[2] They are popular for catching drips[clarification needed], bundling things together, colour coding, and applying paints, oils, solvents, greases, and similar substances.



Smoking pipe cleaners normally use some absorbent material, usually cotton or sometimes viscose. Bristles of stiffer material, normally monofilament nylon or polypropylene are sometimes added to better scrub out what is being cleaned. Microfilament polyester is used in some technical pipe cleaners because polyester wicks liquid away rather than absorbing it as cotton does. Some smoking pipe cleaners are made conical or tapered so that one end is thick and one end thin. The thin end is for cleaning the small bore of the pipe stem and then the thick end for the bowl or the wider part of the stem. When cleaning a pipe, pipe cleaners are normally discarded after one or two uses.


Many children enjoy bending pipe cleaners into various shapes.[3] "Craft" pipe cleaners are usually made with polyester or nylon pile and are often longer and thicker than the "smoking" type, and available in many different colors. Craft pipe cleaners are not very useful for cleaning purposes, because the polyester does not absorb liquids, and the thicker versions may not even fit down the stem of a normal pipe.


A pipe cleaner is made of two lengths of wire, called the core, twisted together trapping short lengths of fibre between them, called the pile. Pipe cleaners are usually made two at a time, as the inner wires of each pipe cleaner have the yarn wrapped around them, making a coil, the outer wires trap the wraps of yarn, which are then cut, making the tufts. Chenille yarn is made in much the same way, which is why craft pipe cleaners are often called "chenille stems". Some pipe cleaner machines are actually converted chenille machines. Some machines produce very long pipe cleaners which are wound onto spools. The spools may be sold as-is or cut to length depending on the intended use. Other machines cut the pipe cleaners to length as they come off the machines. Smoking pipe cleaners are usually 15 – 17 cm (6 – 7 inches) long. Craft ones are often 30 cm (12 inches) and can be up to 50 cm (20 inches).


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pipe-cleaner — pipeˈ cleaner noun A length of wire with tufts of fabric twisted into it, used to clean pipe stems • • • Main Entry: ↑pipe * * * pipe cleaner UK US noun [countable/uncountable] [singular pipe cleaner plural …   Useful english dictionary

  • pipe cleaner — pipe cleaners N COUNT A pipe cleaner is a piece of wire covered with a soft substance which is used to clean a tobacco pipe …   English dictionary

  • pipe cleaner — pipe .cleaner n a length of wire covered with soft material, used to clean the inside of a tobacco pipe …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pipe cleaner — ► NOUN ▪ a piece of wire covered with fibre, used to clean a tobacco pipe …   English terms dictionary

  • pipe cleaner — n. a short length of thin wires twisted so as to hold tiny tufts of yarn and used to clean the stem of a tobacco pipe, etc …   English World dictionary

  • pipe-cleaner — pipe ,cleaner noun count or uncount a piece of wire covered with a soft substance, used for cleaning tobacco pipes …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • pipe cleaner — noun cleaning implement consisting of a flexible tufted wire that is used to clean a pipe stem • Hypernyms: ↑cleaning implement, ↑cleaning device, ↑cleaning equipment * * * noun, pl ⋯ ers [count] : a piece of wire that is covered with soft cloth… …   Useful english dictionary

  • pipe-cleaner — UK / US noun [countable/uncountable] Word forms pipe cleaner : singular pipe cleaner plural pipe cleaners a piece of wire covered with a soft substance, used for cleaning tobacco pipes …   English dictionary

  • pipe cleaner — pipe′ clean er n. cvb a short length of twisted flexible wires covered with tufted fabric, used to clean the stem of a smoker s pipe and for various handicrafts • Etymology: 1865–70 …   From formal English to slang

  • pipe cleaner — noun Date: 1870 something used to clean the inside of a pipe; specifically a piece of flexible wire in which tufted fabric is twisted and which is used to clean the stem of a tobacco pipe …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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