How to Unclog a Vape Cartridge

Published Tue, November 08, 22

If you’re an experienced vaper, you’ve probably come across a familiar situation — that dreaded moment when instead of tasting sweet vapor, your lips meet only with frustration after sucking on the end of a vape cartridge. A clog doesn’t only block the airway of your vape — it makes it entirely impossible for you to make use of the substances trapped inside.

That is, of course, unless you know the trick to unclogging any vape: Applying heat. Learning how much heat to use and how to apply it, however, is an art you’ll start mastering in this comprehensive guide.

Why does my vape pen feel clogged?

Your vape pen feels clogged because vape extract has accumulated in the airway to the extent that air can no longer pass through. This has nothing to do with your vape’s charge level or the content of its tank (though clogs do tend to occur when the tank is low since that’s the point when the most vaporized extract has passed through the airway). The issue is, instead, a physical obstruction that’s easier to remove with heat than with air pressure.

What causes a vape cartridge to clog?

The reason a vape cartridge clogs is not always clear, but the issue usually lies with the viscosity of the extract inside the tank and the substances from which it is composed. Low-viscosity vape extracts tend to vaporize more “cleanly,” leaving less residue behind to adhere to the walls of a vape’s airways.

Cannabis flower extract is naturally very viscous, though, to the point of being nearly sappy. Retaining the natural benefits of cannabis extract while also making it ideal for vapes is a difficult balancing act that can sometimes lead to extracts with a predilection toward clogging.

It is, of course, also possible for vape cartridges to become clogged with saliva or other foreign materials, which can be harder to clear or dislodge. Nine times out of ten, though, the reason behind a clogged cartridge can be found with the viscosity of the extract it contains.

Unclogging a vape 101

Learn the basics of unclogging vapes that won’t hit below:

How do you unclog a vape cartridge?

The easiest way to unclog a vape cartridge is to apply heat using a hair dryer. Simply grip the bottom of the cartridge with pliers to avoid burning your hands, and hold the cartridge vertically over a counter or drip pad that will accumulate any melted extract that drips through.

Apply heat for periods of around 30-60 seconds, then allow the vape to cool for a few seconds before taking a “test hit.” If a limited amount of air pressure allows you to clear the clog and take a hit, you’ve been successful. You may want to apply heat a few more times, however, to make sure the airway is completely clear of extract.

How do you unclog a disposable vape pen?

Due to their plastic components, you need to be very careful not to overheat disposable vapes during the unclogging process. The basic procedure, however, is the same as when unclogging replaceable vape cartridges:

  • Hold the disposable vape in such a way that your hand won’t get burned (pliers optional)
  • Use a hair dryer to apply heat to the end of the disposable vape for 30-60 seconds at a time
  • After allowing a cooling period, try hitting the vape to see if it is clear
  • Even after it has cleared, apply heat again to make sure any extract in the airway has melted away

How do you clear a clogged 510 cartridge?

Though there’s a common misconception that 510-threaded cartridges are somehow special, this term simply refers to the standard type of vape cartridge that screws into almost all types of batteries on the market. As a result, the technique for clearing a 510 cartridge is the same as the technique used to clear any other cartridge — simply heat it, and wait for the airway to melt clear.

Unclogging vapes: 3 methods

So far, we’ve mentioned using a hair dryer to heat your clogged vape. There are other approaches you can take, however — we’ll cover the most common three below:

Method #1: The hair dryer trick

Using a hair dryer is probably the easiest and most reliable way to remove a clog in a vape cartridge. Holding the source of heat in your hand gives you optimal control, allowing you to heat your cartridge enough for any extract in the airway to clear without melting the plastic.

Allowing enough heat to accumulate to do the trick using a hair dryer can be difficult, however, and some vapers lack the patience for the hair dryer method. For passive methods, see below.

Method #2: “Heat” it up

Radial heaters may seem old-fashioned compared to contemporary forced-air models, but they still have their benefits — and unclogging vape cartridges is one of them. Whether it’s a radiator in an old house or a plug-in radial heater you just bought on Amazon, these appliances come in handy as sources of passive heat you can use to unclog your vape.

It’s best to avoid allowing your cartridge to directly touch the grills of your radial heater. If you leave the battery attached to the cartridge, that’s about the right height to reach the hottest area between the grills, and you can simply attach a chip clip to the base to keep the battery and cartridge upright. The same method works for disposables, but due to their plastic components, it’s even more important to keep disposables from directly touching radial heater grills.

Method #3: Baked goods

Baking your cartridge is one of the riskiest methods of removing a clog, but it’s also one of the most surefire. This method is also useful when you want to remove the last little bit of extract from a depleted cartridge:

  • Find something you can use to keep the cartridge upright on top of a cookie sheet. For whatever reason, empty 9mm ammunition trays are the perfect size for holding 510-threaded vape cartridges, and they even usually feature convenient holes in the bottom to allow extract to run through.
  • Set your oven to the lowest possible temperature setting. Most ovens have a function listed as “Warm,” which is best to use for removing clogs from vape carts.
  • Place the cart in the oven, and check it every 5-10 minutes. Once you have a basic idea of how hot your cart will get, you can leave it in the oven for longer periods — just make sure not to melt any of the plastic components.

BONUS METHOD: Au naturale

The human body is more than warm enough to melt even the most pernicious vape clogs. Whether it’s inside your fist, cleavage, or (please no) pants, find a nook or cranny on your body that accumulates heat, and pop the cartridge inside. Wait a few minutes, and the clog should be warm enough to at least be cleared with air pressure. This method is only a band-aid, though — without the antiseptic benefits.

The bottom line: How do I make a clogged vape hit?

What’s the best way to make a clogged vape hit again? Most people will choose to slam their carts with the heat of a hair dryer, which is certainly a valid method.

True pros, however, might prefer to put their carts into the oven instead. While riskier, this method allows you to unclog multiple carts at once, and after mastered, the oven technique is also excellent for getting leftover extract out of empty carts.

In the end, you might want to develop your own method. Just don’t do anything that could allow molten plastic components to mix into your melted-down vape extract.

Unclogging a vape cartridge FAQ

Learn more about unclogging vape cartridges below:

Why did my cart stop pulling?

The most common reason a vape cart has stopped pulling is that it is clogged. Clogs can occur in vapes for a variety of reasons, but the most common culprit is extra-viscous vape extract, which can be cleared by gently applying heat with a hair dryer or another heat source.

Why does my 510 cartridge get clogged?

The usual reason a 510 cartridge — or any other vape cartridge — gets clogged is the gradual accumulation of viscous extract within the airway that leads from the coil to the mouthpiece. Since vape extract becomes liquid at relatively low temperatures, gently applying heat generally resolves 510 cartridge clogs.

Why is my cart constantly clogged?

If your vape cart keeps getting clogged, it’s possible that you never fully cleared the original clog. Try a method you didn’t use before to see if you can get rid of your cart’s clog for good.

What do you do if your disposable isn’t hitting?

If your disposable won’t hit, the first two things you should check are the battery’s charge level and the contents of the tank. If you’re good to go on those fronts, it’s possible your disposable vape pen is clogged.

Why is no smoke coming out of my disposable vape?

Disposables suffer from clogs just as much as cartridges. The most common reason a disposable vape won’t produce smoke is a clog in the airway, which can be resolved with mild heating.

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