E-cigarettes are like any other item you might use in your daily life: as you use them, they inevitably become cluttered with dirt, grime and any other manner of things that you can imagine. An e-cigarette that isn’t ever cleaned can even begin to collect microorganisms.

It doesn’t matter how careful you are. Eventually, you’re going to flood your atomizer. Your tank will spontaneously empty itself. Your e-cigarette may simply become dirty from dust and pocket lint. Cleaning your e-cigarette periodically is a wise practice, and we’re going to walk you through it.

Why Should You Clean Your E-Cigarette?

A clean e-cigarette is an e-cigarette with a long life. Keeping your e-cigarette clean will ensure that your vapor production stays efficient, your airflow remains clear and your battery continues to deliver clean power as long as possible. A clean e-cigarette gives you the best possible vaping experience.

You should also clean your e-cigarette because doing so ensures that your e-cigarette remains safe to use. Modern sub-ohm vaping supplies such as rebuildable atomizers and RTAs leak very easily. Depending on the design of your e-cigarette, leaking e-liquid can very quickly seep into the body of the e-cigarette and come into contact with the circuitry, battery and battery terminals. E-liquid has a very high resistance, but a possibility still exists that it could cause a short.

You’ll also run into problems with your atomizers and tanks if you don’t keep them clean. Coil gunk and liquid residue will collect on the inside walls of your atomizer or chimney of your tank, creating off flavors until you clean them.

What You Need to Clean Your E-Cigarette

There’s a few ways that you can clean your e-cigarette, but what we’re about to recommend is likely the cleanest and easiest way to do so. There’s a few steps that are specific to people who like to drip with their e-cigarettes. Skip any steps that don’t apply to your vaping setup.

At the bare minimum, you’ll need just one absorbent paper towel to get this done. We’ve found that having 2-3 towels handy tends to make cleaning a lot easier. For small spaces, you may find some cotton swabs or pipe cleaners handy. If you need to remove sticky dust or e-liquid residue, a little rubbing alcohol can help.

Our Method for a Clean E-Cigarette

Here’s the easiest and most efficient method for e-cigarette cleaning we’ve come across. We’ve broken it down into easy-to-follow steps.

1. Disassemble Your E-Cigarette

Before cleaning your e-cigarette, wait until your atomizer is dry or your tank is empty. Disassemble your e-cigarette completely. Remove the atomizer or tank, and take it apart. Remove your e-cigarette’s battery. We’ll discuss cleaning your atomizer or tank in the next section.

2. Wipe Down the E-Cigarette

Wipe the body of the e-cigarette thoroughly with a paper towel. The paper towel will gently clear away dust and soak up any stray e-liquid. Fold the paper towel, push it into the atomizer threading at the top of the e-cigarette and twist to clear away debris. If your e-cigarette has small ridges that collect stubborn dust, wet a cotton swab with a little rubbing alcohol, and use it to clear away the dust.

3. Clean the Inside of the E-Cigarette

If your e-cigarette has a removable battery, you’ll want to clean the battery compartment as well. You’ll want to avoid any moisture collecting inside your e-cigarette if possible, so clean only with a dry paper towel if you can. If the battery terminals are dirty, you can use a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol to clean them. Wipe away the excess alcohol. Do not use the e-cigarette again until you are certain the inside is dry.

Our Method for a Clean E-Cigarette Atomizer or Tank

Cleaning your e-cigarette is important, but cleaning the attachment is even more vital. The attachment is the component that touches your mouth and creates the vapor that you inhale into your body. For hygiene and safety, you really do want to clean your e-cigarette atomizer or tank regularly.

1. Disassemble the Atomizer or Tank

If you’re using an RDA or RTA, we’re going to assume at this point that you’re ready to build a new coil. Disassemble your atomizer or tank. Remove the coil and wick, and throw them away. Skip ahead if you want to keep you existing coil.

2. Wash All Components

Wash the base or build deck, sleeve or glass and drip tip with soap and warm water. You may need to use a cotton swab to clean tight spaces such as the drip tip, chimney or base or your tank or atomizer. Dry every component thoroughly. Remember that any water remaining in your tank or atomizer could potentially cause a short when you build a new coil or use a new pre-built coil.

Cleaning a Rebuildable Atomizer Coil

If you use a rebuildable atomizer or RTA, it is possible to clean and reuse a coil a few times before you’ll need to build a new one. In this portion of our e-cigarette cleaning guide, we’re going to assume that you use Kanthal coils and cotton wicks. For more information about other wick and wire materials, consult our sub-ohm vaping guide.

  1. Remove the wicks from the coils, and throw them away. Once a cotton wick is burned or gunky, it’s done.
  2. Dry burn your coil by pulsing the power gently until the coils glow deep red.
  3. Use a pair of ceramic tweezers to scrape dark flakes from the coils.
  4. Allow the coil to cool completely. At this point, the coil should be entirely restored to its original bright color. Replace the wick, wet it thoroughly and resume vaping.
As an alternative to the dry burning method, you can also try removing the wicks from your coils and soaking the entire base of your rebuildable atomizer in rubbing alcohol overnight. Rubbing alcohol does an excellent job of loosening e-liquid residue. You can rinse any remaining gunk away or rub it off with a cotton swab. Remember that your atomizer must be completely dry before you can use it again.
In our experience, an atomizer coil that isn’t completely clean will form gunk again almost immediately — and cleaning a coil often requires just as much effort as building a new one. Cleaning or dry burning an atomizer coil won’t give you the same vaping experience that a new coil would, but cleaning can get you by if you’re out of materials.

Cleaning a Pre-Built Atomizer Coil

Pre-built atomizer coils are extremely convenient and work very well. If a pre-built coil develops gunk or the wick is burned, though, there isn’t a lot that you can do to revive it. You can attempt to clean a pre-built coil, but you won’t get the same experience that you would get from a new coil. If you want to try anyway, soak the coil in rubbing alcohol overnight. After the coil soaks, rinse it thoroughly with water, and allow it to dry completely.

Some people have also had success with dry burning certain pre-built atomizer coils. To dry burn a pre-built coil, you’ll need to remove the cap and rubber insulator from the bottom of the coil, and push the coil through the top of the enclosure. Discard the wick, and clean the coil thoroughly. Replace the wick, and reassemble the atomizer coil.

After you’ve removed the coil from the enclosure, you can dry burn it with a butane torch. Some people dry burn their pre-built coils with their e-cigarettes by reassembling the coils without wicks. If you dry burn a pre-built coil in this way, though, there is a chance that it could cause a short by touching the side of the atomizer enclosure.

For safety’s sake, we do not recommend disassembling or attempting to clean pre-built atomizer coils. Although successful cleaning is possible, we consider the potential for danger too great.