Synthetic bags, although relatively new to the piping community, have come a long way in a short period of time.
Originally no more than a synthetic, airtight material, synthetic bags were flimsy under the arm, when not inflated, and were somewhat challenging to strike in and stop. Over the years, bag makers have added a variety of options including hybrid bags that include a thick, hide-like material over the airtight membrane. This gives the bag a solid feel under the arm and provide for better starts and stops.
Review Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 for the first steps to working with your synthetic pipe bag and dealing with potential leakage. In this post, we cover some maintenance steps to avoid future problems and keep your bag clean
Many moisture control systems use some sort of moisture absorbing desiccant. Sometimes, this material will shed small particles. For silica, many manufacturers recommend drying the desiccant in the oven as opposed to the microwave. By using the oven, the argument goes, silica will be less susceptible to cracking. In practice, at least in my experience, silica will crack whether you recharge it in the oven or the microwave. Small particles of the silica will escape into the bag.
Powder from clay based desiccants, similar to silica desiccants, will escape into the bag.
You can prevent the particles from silica or the powder from clay based dessicants from building up by vacuuming the bag on a regular basis with a handheld shop vac or tube attachment. To vacuum your bag, remove the drones and chanter; vacuum the bag through the zipper opening. Pay close attention to vacuuming the chanter stock. A vacuum head, though, may be unwieldy and difficult to insert into the zipper opening. You can vacuum through one of the drone stocks by corking two of the drone stocks, leaving the chanter stock uncorked (the blowpipe will still be in place), and then placing the vacuum head on the third drone stock. Cup it in place with your hand then create suction by placing your free hand over the chanter stock. After you've vacuumed through the drone stock, you can place the vacuum head over the chanter stock and cup it in place with your hand. Then create suction by covering the open drone stock with your free hand.
Any plain tube water trap in the blowpipe stock should be cleaned on a regular basis—it can harbor some nasty bacteria and fungus. To clean, remove the tube trap from the blowpipe stock, remove the hemp, and rinse it with hot water from the tap to clear out any gunk that has built up. It is important to note that hot water from the tap is not hot enough to kill bacteria. To effectively kill bacteria, use a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water and soak your tube trap for about fifteen minutes. Make sure to only soak the plastic parts of the tube trap and make sure to remove any hemp before soaking. After the bath in the bleach solution, rinse the tube thoroughly with hot water. Make sure that all of the bleach residue has been removed and make sure that there are no fumes from the bleach on the plastic. Then, let the tube trap dry. After the tube trap is completely dry, rehemp and replace it in the blowpipe stock.Alternatively, you can use a bottle brush with soap and hot water to scrub out your tube trap. Soap and water will not be as effective as bleach at killing bacteria, though.