How to Clean Your Herb Grinder
Welcome to our guide on cleaning your herb grinder.
We’ve touched on many different topics in our blog, from history of grinders to grinder selection, but now we want to get down and dirty with a part of grinding that most don’t enjoy: cleaning your herb grinder.
Cleaning a herb grinder is probably not your favourite part of owning such a tool, but it is very important if you want to enjoy your herbs.
A grinder is a tool, and like all tools, it does require some maintenance from time to time. Fortunately, cleaning is not a particularly difficult or time consuming thing to do, so once you get into a cleaning routine you’ll find it doesn’t take much away from the enjoyment of your herbs.
A quick note on grinder material:
In this article, we’re focusing on the cleaning of metal grinders. If you have a novelty plastic, wood, or stone grinder, follow the special care instructions that should have come with the grinder. Wood, plastic, and stone aren’t the best materials for grinders and can be porous and easy to damage, so you’ll need to follow special care instructions for these units.
When to Clean
How often should you clean your grinder? Well, this depends on what you’re using it for.
1 - The Frequent User
If you only ever grind a single type of herb and use your grinder frequently, you don’t really need to clean your grinder each and every day. Because you’re constantly using the same sort of herb, taste transfer isn’t a big deal and old herbs in the grinder won’t go bad in the day between grinds.
However, even if you use your grinder frequently, you’ll still need a cleaning routine so that herb debris or oil from oily herbs doesn’t gum up the mechanism and make the grinder difficult to use.
If you’re finding that your grinder is getting hard to use, or in the case of an electric grinder it doesn’t seem to have the same power, it is time to disassemble and clean.
2 - The Infrequent User
If you only rarely use your grinder, it is a good idea to clean it after every use. Herbal residue in the grinder will go stale with time, and if mixed with fresh herbs in your next grind, will tarnish the taste and effect of the next use.
3 - The Multiple Herb User
If you switch between different herbs, or like to try different strains of a single type of plant, you’ll want to get good at cleaning every time you make a switch.
Fresh and old herbs often don’t mix, so if you don’t clean it well between each different plant you’ll find that the experience of one will be ruined by lingering tastes and odours of previous grinds.
What You Need to Clean
Now that we’ve discussed when to clean, we need to assemble our supplies. Luckily, it doesn’t take anything too expensive or elaborate to clean a grinder. Here is what you’ll need:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- A freezer
- A medium-stiffness toothbrush
- A sink
- A cleaning surface, and rags and/or paper towels
See, not so bad. Many of these items most people have anyways.
How to Clean with the Freezer Method
Why is a freezer on the list above? Simple: many herbs are oily and greasy, which makes them hard to clean. They just sort of spread around instead of coming out of the grinder when you are trying to clean them.
A freezer solves this problem by cooling the oils down to a temperature where they behave more like solids instead of oily liquids. This makes it much easier to clean a grinder, so the first step to a deep clean is to place the grinding mechanism in your freezer for 10 minutes or so (it just needs to cool down, not spend the night in there) to solidify the herbal residue.
If you have an electric grinder, make sure you remove the batteries before freezing! Unless the manufacturer says otherwise, the freezer is not a great place for batteries. If the battery is integral to the grinder, then only put parts that can be removed in the freezer.
How to Clean with Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is a great solvent for cleaning grinders. It is a disinfectant and prevents bacterial growth, but also dissolves herbal residues such as oils and physical material, and takes a lot of work out of straight scrubbing.
After your grinder has been cooled off in the freezer and the biggest pieces of herbs removed, you can use isopropyl alcohol to clean it out. However, if you don’t need the deepest of cleans, you can just start with the isopropyl alcohol since it is a great cleaner.
If you are doing a deep clean, you can place metal pieces of your grinder in a container with isopropyl alcohol (such as the grinding head, not an entire electric grinder) and let it sit for 30 minutes before carrying on with the process. If you’re doing a quicker clean, then simply spraying some isopropyl alcohol into the grinder or putting it on the brush is enough to get the grinder reasonably clean.
Once the alcohol has been applied to the grinder and has had the time to soak into the plant material, use a brush to gently remove the debris from the grinder. Once you’ve cleaned out debris, run the grinder under hot water and blot dry with a paper towel or a rag and allow the grinder to air dry.
Tip: If you want to speed up the drying process, a hair dryer works well!
How to Clean with Soap and Water
Good old soap and water work well to clean an herb grinder. Simply take your grinder apart and soak all non-electric components in hot water with dish soap while scrubbing with a toothbrush to loosen and remove all plant material. Again, this should be done after cooling the grinder and removing the largest chunks.
Once you’ve finished cleaning your grinder with soap and water, give it a good rinse under hot water and allow it to air dry (or use the hairdryer as mentioned above). This method is great for those that don’t like the odor of isopropyl alcohol, and dish soap does a good job tackling greasy messes such as what is found in many grinders after they are used to grind an oily herb.
Tips and Tricks for Quick Cleaning Between Grinds
Now that we have covered cleaning methods for your herb grinder, let’s talk about some basic habits that you can develop that will make cleaning easier: cleaning between each use.
Whenever you grind all of the herbs in your grinder and it is empty, it is a good idea to disassemble to the grinder and shake out any loose particles. Don’t just do this anywhere: unless you want to lose your herbs, make sure you do this over something that will allow you to collect all of this product.
After shaking, use a brush (like a toothbrush) to go a little bit deeper and pull out material caught in between the teeth. It is a good idea to keep such a brush with the grinder for this purpose, and use a different one for deep cleans.
These steps should not take much time, and are a great way to keep your grinder from getting too dirty too quickly. While not a substitute for the deeper cleaning methods described above, a habit of quickly cleaning out large particles in your grinder between grinds will save you herbs and keep your grinder in tip-top condition.
Good-quality herb grinders are largely maintenance-free and don’t require much from the operator to stay in good condition.
However, complete neglect will result at best in unwanted taste transfer and poor grind performance and, at worse, seizing of the grinder.
Thankfully it doesn’t take much to clean these wonderful little machines, so use this article as your go-to guide for cleaning your grinder and enjoy trouble-free grinding!
Related Article: 10 Best Electric Herb Grinders in 2023
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