Last updated on September 20th, 2021
Cleaning Your E-Cigarette’s Atomizer by Dry Burning – Is It Worth the Risk?
What is Dry Burning?
Dry Burning is an advanced cleaning method devised by do-it-yourself vapers for getting the sticky e-liquid residue off your e-cigarette’s replacement head (the atomizer coil).
The coil contains the wick and heating coils that turn your e-juice into a lovely vapor. If those coils are purposely overheated, they will burn off the sticky ejuice resin that has built up after months of vaping with the same atomizer. The problem is Dry Burning can produce aldehydes which can be dangerous to your health.
The wicks get stained and gunky too, but they can be cleaned safely with a regular soak, which I’ll get to a bit later.
Why Should You Consider Dry Burning?
Many advanced vapers love playing with the small parts of their ecigarettes. Playing with small parts can be fun, but with e-cigarettes, I personally don’t think it’s worth the effort.
You’ll find many different dry burning methods for various types of atomizers all over the web, but don’t expect to find any sure-fire instructions from e-cig companies as they do not recommend dry burning. Neither does respected e-cigarette research scientist Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos who said,
Dry burn helps in nothing but accelerating the thermal breakdown of the metal.
Still, many vapers love to demonstrate new and exciting ways to play with your ecigarette.
Some dry burning methods are easier than others, but no method is foolproof. It’s easier to destroy your coils and burn your fingers than it is to perform the perfect dry burn.
I’m going to describe just one method for a single bottom coil atomizer. If you have a dual coil atomizer (or if you’re not sure), don’t try this at home or anywhere else.
The Arduous Task of Dry Burning Your Bottom Coil Replacement Heads
You must begin by taking apart your tank and your atomizer entirely. That means you’ll have to do the tricky bit of removing the plastic insulator which is the white part at the base of the stem and next to the coil. Unless you have long fingernails, you’ll need a pair of tweezers, a steady hand and 20/20 vision.
Wash away the old eliquid by running the parts under the tap. Make sure you don’t wash them down the drain. Blot the parts with a paper towel to dry them.
Now you have to get the wick off the coil. The first step is to pull the center stem off of the base. (illustration shown) It’s slippery and you will probably need a paper towel or a pliers to help you get a grip the stem. Even so, it can take a bit of jiggling and a strong tug since the manufacturer didn’t plan on you dry burning their product. Be prepared for the wick to pop out too. Hopefully it won’t get lost in the shag carpet.
If you’re lucky and the top wick is still in place, remove it from the coil base with the tweezers. Don’t grab it from the center of the wick or you’ll destroy the coil or short circuit the whole system.
Set the wick aside with the stem. Now rinse the exposed coil and base with cold water, pat dry with a towel and let it sit for 10 minutes. You can also rinse the wick you just removed, but don’t let it unravel and make sure you dry it afterwards.
Okay, you’re about halfway done. If you’ve messed up, throw the atty away and buy a new one. Here’s where you can get them cheap. If you’ve made it this far and you’re adventurous, keep reading.
Now For the Fireworks
So now you have a replacement head base without a wick or a stem. Screw the base onto the battery and begin to burning the coils by simply pressing the battery button for one second at a time. Keep pressing at regular intervals.
Caution, the base will get very hot!
If you do it just right (and it takes practice), the e-liquid residue will burn off, and you’re ecig will start to smoke (just like a real ciggy). It will also create a bit of gray ash on the wick near the coil. That’s the only ash you’ll ever get from an e-cigarette. You can carefully remove the ash later with paper towel, or you can just blow into the coils.
Keep pressing the battery button one second at a time and (hopefully) after a few presses and more smoke, the coil will glow orange. Don’t get glow happy or you’ll destroy the coils, change the ohm resistance, or perhaps start a small fire.
Hey you’re almost done.
Now rinse everything again under warm water. Dab it with the paper towel and let everything dry out for a few hours.
When everything is dry, use your tweezers to put the wick back into the grooves on top of the base exactly as you found it. Replace the stem and reassemble your tank. Fill your tank with e-liquid and vape away. Don’t be surprised if your e-liquid tastes a bit burnt, or it doesn’t extend the atomizer’s life as long as you expected.
The Mastervaper Method
I rarely perform a dry burn which is why this post lacks a clever video demonstration. I prefer to concentrate more on vaping and less on cleaning and producing aldehydes.
But bravado aside, ecig replacement heads can be nearly rejuvenated by performing a perfect dry burn if you’re a risk-taker, up for the task and too cheap to buy a new one.
I prefer soaking all the parts of my Clearomizer in vodka, but I’m an eccentric, in fact, I use more vodka for ecig cleanings than I do for mixing martinis. Vodka, happens to be great for cleaning your entire tank, Clearomizer, or the bathroom shower door.
That said, some newer sub-ohm, NI and Titanium coils should be replaced, as they can be damaged if you soak them. Read the instructions that came with your atomizer. The manufacturer will let you know if soaking is recommended.
If You Don’t Dry Burn, When Should You Replace Your Head?
Ah, if we could replace our own heads as easily as we could replace an atomizer that would be grand, but alas, we can only change our mind.
That said, you should replace the entire atomizer replacement head every couple of months. No amount of vodka soaking or dry burning will rejuvenate a 4 month old atomizer. Happily, fresh attys are an inexpensive investment. I buy mine at DirectVapor for that reason. I make it a point never to run out of spares.
Sometimes I replace my heads even earlier than a few months, when my e-juice tastes less “fresh”.
The Choice is Yours
Love ecig challenges? Try dry burning. Like to vape it easy and safely? Check out our detailed guide to doing an easy, proper, e-liquid tank cleaning.
I highly recommend doing an atty soak cleaning every few weeks and replacing your atomizer when you notice diminished vapor and a slightly burnt taste.
I’d love to know what you think. What’s your favorite method for prolonging the life of your atomizer? Feel free to leave a comment! Our readers appreciate it too.