How to Clean Your Herb Grinder

How to clean a manual grinder

Welcome to our guide on cleaning your herb grinder. 

We've explored various topics in our blog, from the history of grinders to grinder selection, but now it's time to delve into a less favored aspect of grinding: cleaning your herb grinder.

Cleaning a herb grinder may not be the most enjoyable task of owning such a tool, but it's crucial if you want to fully enjoy your herbs.

Like any tool, a grinder requires maintenance from time to time. Thankfully, cleaning is not particularly difficult or time-consuming, so once you establish a cleaning routine, you'll find it doesn't detract much from the enjoyment of your herbs.

A quick note on grinder materials

In this article, we'll focus on cleaning metal grinders. If you own a novelty plastic, wood, or stone grinder, follow the special care instructions provided with the grinder. Wood, plastic, and stone aren't the ideal materials for grinders as they can be porous and prone to damage, so it's important to follow special care instructions for these units.



When to Clean

When to clean your herb grinder


How often should you clean your grinder?  Well, this depends on what you’re using it for.

1 - The Frequent User

If you consistently grind only one type of herb and use your grinder regularly, daily cleaning might not be necessary. Since you're consistently grinding the same type of herb, taste transfer isn't a major concern, and any leftover herbs in the grinder won't spoil in the day between uses.

However, even with frequent use, it's still important to establish a cleaning routine to prevent herb debris or oil from oily herbs from clogging up the mechanism and affecting the grinder's performance.

If you notice that your grinder is becoming difficult to use, or if an electric grinder seems to have reduced power, it's time to disassemble and clean it.

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 frequently switch between different herbs or enjoy experimenting with various strains of a single type of plant, mastering the art of cleaning your grinder with each switch is essential.

Fresh and aged herbs often don't blend well together. Therefore, if you don't thoroughly clean your grinder between each different plant, you'll likely find that the experience of one herb will be compromised by lingering tastes and odors from previous grinds.


What You Need to Clean

What You Need to Clean your grinder


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.


Easiest Ways to Clean a Grinder

For herb enthusiasts, herb grinders are as essential as the herbs themselves. However, with regular use, grinders can become sticky and clogged with residue. Here are some of the easiest ways to clean your grinder.

How to Clean with Soap and Water

How to Clean a Herb Grinder with Soap and Water


Good old soap and water are effective for cleaning an herb grinder. Simply disassemble your grinder and soak all non-electric components in hot water with dish soap. Use a toothbrush to scrub and loosen any plant material. It's best to do this after allowing the grinder to cool and removing the largest debris.

Once you've finished cleaning your grinder with soap and water, rinse it thoroughly under hot water and allow it to air dry. This method is suitable for those who prefer to avoid the odor of isopropyl alcohol. Dish soap is effective at tackling greasy residues commonly found in grinders after grinding oily herbs.

How to Clean with the Freezer Method

How to Clean with the Freezer Method


Including a freezer on the list serves a specific purpose: many herbs contain oils and greases that can make them difficult to clean. These substances tend to spread around rather than being easily removed from the grinder during cleaning.

A freezer helps solve this problem by cooling the oils to a temperature where they behave more like solids than oily liquids. This makes it much easier to clean the grinder effectively. The first step in achieving a deep clean is to place the grinding mechanism in your freezer for around 10 minutes. It doesn't need to stay in the freezer overnight; it just needs to cool down enough to solidify the herbal residue.

Here's how to proceed:

  1. Disassemble your grinder and place the parts in a plastic bag.
  2. Put the bag in the freezer for about an hour.
  3. After removing the parts from the freezer, tap them on a solid surface to dislodge the frozen particles.
  4. Use a small brush or toothpick to remove any remaining residue.
  5. If you have an electric grinder, be sure to remove the batteries before placing any parts in the freezer. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, the freezer is not suitable for storing batteries. If the battery is integral to the grinder, only put removable parts in the freezer.

Chemical Cleaning Agents

For those who prefer a more systematic approach to cleaning their herb grinder, chemical cleaning agents can be invaluable. They're effective, readily available, and simple to use. Let's explore two of the most common options: Hydrogen Peroxide and Isopropyl Alcohol.

Cleaning Herb Residue with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a common household item, often used for wound disinfection due to its antimicrobial properties. However, it can also serve as an effective cleaner for your herb grinder.

Yes, hydrogen peroxide can effectively remove herb residue. The bubbling action of hydrogen peroxide helps dislodge and lift stubborn residues, making them easier to scrub away. It's important to note that hydrogen peroxide may cause discoloration on certain metals, so it's best suited for use on glass or ceramic grinders.

Here's how to use it:

  1. Disassemble your grinder.
  2. Submerge the pieces in a bowl filled with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for approximately 20-30 minutes.
  3. Use a toothbrush to scrub any stubborn spots.
  4. Rinse the pieces thoroughly under warm water to ensure all hydrogen peroxide is washed away.
  5. Allow the grinder components to air dry completely before reassembly and use.

    Using Isopropyl Alcohol to Dissolve Herb Residue

    Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent solvent for cleaning grinders. It acts as a disinfectant, preventing bacterial growth, while also dissolving herbal residues such as oils and physical material, reducing the need for extensive scrubbing.

    However, it's important to remember that isopropyl alcohol is flammable, so it should be used away from open flames or high heat sources. Additionally, ensure your grinder is completely dry before using it again to avoid any residual alcohol taste in your herbs.

    After cooling your grinder in the freezer and removing the largest herb pieces, you can use isopropyl alcohol for cleaning. If you don't require a deep clean, you can start directly with the isopropyl alcohol since it is a potent cleaner.

    For a thorough clean, you can immerse metal grinder pieces in a container with isopropyl alcohol (such as the grinding head, not the entire electric grinder) and let them soak for about 30 minutes. For a quicker clean, simply spraying some isopropyl alcohol into the grinder or applying it onto a brush is sufficient to achieve reasonably clean results.

    Once the alcohol has soaked into the herb residue, use a brush to gently remove the debris from the grinder. After cleaning out the debris, rinse the grinder under hot water and pat dry with a paper towel or rag. Allow the grinder to air dry completely before using it again.

    Tip: If you want to speed up the drying process, a hair dryer works well!


    Alternative Cleaning Methods

    In the world of herb grinders, a clean grinder is a happy one. But what happens when you can't or prefer not to use alcohol to clean it? Fear not, there are alternative methods for maintaining your device, and you probably have the ingredients in your kitchen already.

    Cleaning Herb Grinder Without Alcohol

    For those days when you're out of isopropyl alcohol or want to try something different, several household items can effectively clean your herb grinder.

    Firstly, warm water and dish soap can work wonders. Disassemble your grinder, soak the pieces in warm soapy water, scrub them with a toothbrush, rinse, and let them air dry.

    Another method involves using a combination of salt and lemon juice. The salt acts as an abrasive to scrub away residue, while the citric acid in the lemon juice helps break down grime. Simply mix equal parts salt and lemon juice into a paste, apply to the grinder, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub and rinse.

    Will Vinegar Clean a Herb Grinder?

    Vinegar, specifically white vinegar, can be a potent cleaner due to its acidic nature. However, it's essential to note that vinegar can leave a strong smell behind, which might not be ideal for your next grinding session.

    To clean your grinder with vinegar, disassemble it and let the pieces soak in a bowl of white vinegar for about 30 minutes. After soaking, use a toothbrush to scrub any stubborn spots. Rinse thoroughly under warm water to ensure all vinegar is washed away, and let it air dry completely before use.

    Cleaning Herb Grinder with Milk: A Step-by-Step Guide

    This may sound surprising, but milk can also clean your herb grinder. The fats in the milk help absorb and remove residue build-up in your grinder. Here's how to do it:

    1. Warm up a cup of milk until it's hot but not boiling.
    2. Disassemble your grinder and place the pieces in the hot milk.
    3. Let them soak for about 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
    4. After soaking, use a toothbrush to scrub any stubborn areas.
    5. Rinse thoroughly under warm water and let it air dry before use.


    Grinder Usage and Maintenance

    Proper usage and maintenance of your herb grinder can significantly enhance its lifespan, ensuring you get the most out of your investment. In this section, we will cover some common questions and concerns about grinder usage and maintenance, including mold prevention, leaving herbs in a grinder overnight, and the use of wet grinders.

    Preventing and Addressing Mold in Herb Grinders

    Mold in an herb grinder? Yes, it can happen. If your grinder is not properly cleaned and dried after use, moisture can lead to mold growth. Moldy herbs can be harmful if consumed, so it's crucial to prevent mold growth and know how to address it if it does occur.

    To prevent mold, always ensure your grinder is dry before storing it. Regular cleaning is also essential. If you notice mold in your grinder, don't panic. Here's what to do:

    1. Disassemble your grinder.
    2. Discard any herbs that were in the grinder.
    3. Soak the grinder in a 1:1 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water for about 30 minutes.
    4. Scrub with a toothbrush to remove any mold.
    5. Rinse thoroughly and let it air dry completely before use.
    6. Leaving Herbs in a Grinder Overnight: What You Need to Know
    7. Can you leave herbs in a grinder overnight? The short answer is yes, but it's not ideal. Leaving ground herbs in your grinder for extended periods can lead to dryness, potentially affecting their flavor and quality.

    If you must leave your herbs in the grinder, ensure it's stored in a cool, dark place to preserve their freshness. Also, consider investing in a grinder with a kief catcher to collect the resinous trichomes that fall off during grinding.

    Wet Grinder Usage and Maintenance

    A wet grinder is typically used for grinding food grains into a paste. But can it be used for herbs? Technically, yes. However, it's not recommended as the high-speed operation can pulverize the herbs too much, affecting their quality.

    If you decide to use a wet grinder, ensure your herbs are thoroughly dry before grinding. Too much moisture can cause the herbs to stick to the grinder, making it hard to clean. Speaking of cleaning, make sure to clean your wet grinder after every use to prevent residue build-up and potential mold growth.

    Remember, proper maintenance and usage of your grinder can significantly enhance its lifespan and the quality of your herbs.



    Tips and Tricks for Quick Cleaning Between Grinds

    Tips and Tricks for Quick Cleaning Between Grinds


    Now that we've covered cleaning methods for your herb grinder, let's discuss some basic habits that can make cleaning easier: cleaning between each use.

    Whenever you grind all of the herbs in your grinder and it's empty, it's a good idea to disassemble the grinder and shake out any loose particles. However, be mindful of where you do this: to avoid losing your herbs, make sure you do it over something that can collect all the product.

    After shaking, use a brush (such as a toothbrush) to delve a little deeper and remove any material caught between the teeth of the grinder. It's advisable to keep such a brush with the grinder for this purpose, and use a different one for deeper cleaning sessions.

    These steps shouldn't take much time and are an excellent way to prevent your grinder from getting excessively dirty too quickly. While not a substitute for the more thorough cleaning methods described above, developing a habit of quickly cleaning out large particles in your grinder between uses will help conserve your herbs and keep your grinder in excellent condition.


    drying with a towel


    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 2024

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