How to Unclog a Cart and Get Your Vape Pen Hitting Again

Is there anything less fun than a vape pen that isn’t working? You think you’re about to get a big lungful of sweet vapor, but you end up getting nothing at all when you draw on the device or push the button. Worse yet, if your vape pen is clogged, air might not travel through the cartridge at all – and if you inhale firmly enough to clear the blockage, your tank might spit hot vape oil into your mouth. Gross.

So, how do you unclog a cart? In this article, we’re going to give you some advice that can help you clear the blockage in a clogged vape cart and get back to vaping. You’re going to find that fixing a clogged vape cartridge isn’t too difficult in most cases. It’s actually much more important to use your equipment in the right way, though, so clogs don’t happen in the first place. We’ll start with some advice that can help to prevent your vape pen from clogging.

How to Unclog a Vape Cart: Quick Guide

In this article, we’ll provide detailed steps that you can use to unclog any vape cartridge regardless of what the problem is. Before we begin discussing the various unclogging methods in detail, though, here’s a quick step-by-step guide that you can use to get started.

  1. Remove the cartridge from your device and locate the airflow holes.
  2. Check to see if your cartridge has an adjustable airflow collar. If the airflow holes are closed, rotate the collar to open them.
  3. Examine the airflow holes to see if they’re clogged with oil.
  4. Open clogged airflow holes with a pin or paperclip.
  5. Try inhaling through the cartridge while it’s still removed from the device. Does the airflow feel smoother? If so, you can resume vaping.
  6. If the airflow doesn’t feel smoother, run a paperclip down the cartridge’s mouthpiece to clear a blockage obstructing the center airflow chimney. Be careful not to touch the cartridge’s heating coil or wick.
  7. If the cartridge still seems clogged after you reconnect it to your vaping device, make sure the device itself isn’t blocking the cartridge’s airflow holes. If it is, rotate the cartridge slightly to open the holes.

With that quick guide out of the way, let’s discuss the reasons why an oil cartridge can become clogged and what you can do to fix it or prevent it from happening in the first place.

Use the Right Type of Vape Cartridge

In order to have a vape pen that works reliably, you’ve got to start with the right type of cartridge for your needs. The best vape cartridge for oil is one with a ceramic wick like the CCELL® cartridges that we offer here at Hamilton Devices. The CCELL® technology uses a porous ceramic wick that’s absolutely perfect for thick oils and will work reliably without clogging. An e-liquid cartridge with a cotton wick won’t work reliably with oils and will either clog or leak.

Fill Your Cartridge with High-Quality Oil

The second thing that you need to do to prevent your vape cartridges from clogging is make sure that you’re using the highest-quality oil possible. A vape oil that’s poorly filtered may be full of particulate matter left over from the extraction process – and no matter how good your equipment is, you’re going to end up with a clogged cart when the particles get stuck in the wick. It might be hard to avoid clogging your cartridges if you’re making your own extracts in an uncontrolled setting. If you’re buying your oil from a dispensary, though, it’s worth the extra money to spring for a higher-quality extract that’s properly filtered.

If you have a cartridge that’s already clogged with plant material, you can try to unclog the cart by cleaning it. You’ll need to wait until the cartridge is empty, though, because you’ll lose any material remaining in the cart when you clean it.

Don’t Try to Fill an Oil Cartridge with Wax

Under no circumstances should you ever try to stuff wax into a cartridge intended for oil vaping. If you do, you’ll end up with a clogged cart every time because there’s just not enough room in an oil cartridge for the coil’s heat to reach the wax and soften it. If you prefer wax vaping, use our Nomad wax coil to avoid a clogged cart.

Puff Gently when Using an Oil Cartridge

A vape cartridge has small airflow vents because it’s designed to produce a small amount of vapor at a time. Oil-based concentrates are extremely potent, so you wouldn’t want to use a huge cloud chasing tank because you’d find the experience too overwhelming. You might feel tempted to puff more firmly on a vape cartridge once in a while when you want to get a bigger cloud, but you shouldn’t do that because you’ll end up with a clogged cart. Puffing too firmly on an oil cartridge causes the oil to soak through the wick too rapidly, flooding the coil – and if the coil floods, the oil will flow under the coil and clog the cart’s airflow vents. A flooded coil doesn’t just clog your cartridge; it also wastes your oil.

Avoid the Temptation to Unclog a Cart by Blowing Through It

If you have a clogged vape cart, you might be tempted to dislodge the clog by blowing firmly through the cartridge’s mouthpiece. You shouldn’t do that, though, because you’ll end up wasting your oil. Blowing through the cartridge forces the oil through the wick, flooding the coil – and as we just explained, that leads to a leaky vape cart and wasted oil. In the end, it’ll only make the clog worse.

Warm the Cartridge to Loosen Thick Oil

In your process of learning how to unclog a cart, one of the first things you’re going to discover is that vape oil doesn’t travel as easily through a wick when it’s cold. If you’re using a thick oil or are in an air-conditioned environment, you’re going to find that it can be difficult to get the oil flowing through the wick until you warm it up.

Some people recommend dipping a clogged vape cart in warm water to loosen the oil, but we don’t suggest that because the water could get inside the cartridge and cause even more problems. Instead, try removing the cartridge and rolling it between your hands to let the heat of your skin warm the oil gently. You can also loosen a thick oil by pulsing the coil, either by pressing your vape pen’s fire button a few times or by taking a few short puffs if your device has puff-based firing.

Tap the Cartridge to Break Air Bubbles

If your cartridge is still clogged after warming the oil, it could be that a pocket of air is preventing the oil from flowing through the wick. Try tapping the cartridge gently against your hand or a table to break the air bubbles and get the oil flowing. After tapping the cartridge, wait a few minutes and try vaping again.

Use a Pin to Dislodge Tough Vape Cart Clogs

The final reason why a vape cartridge can become clogged is because oil can condense in the cartridge’s chimney, where it eventually hardens and blocks airflow. If the blockage is too far from the coil, the heat from the coil won’t reach the oil to loosen it. In that case, you might need to provide a little mechanical assistance. Put a needle or paperclip down the tank’s chimney and make a gentle stirring motion, being careful not to touch the coil or wick. If you remove the needle or paperclip and see oil on it, you’ve probably unclogged the cart and should be able to resume vaping without any trouble.