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how to maintain coil

How to Avoid Coil Gunk When You Vape

Gunky coils are gross. Vapers call the thick, black layer of something coating the coil of your atomizer and clogging up the wick “gunk,” and it often detracts from the taste of your juice and reduces the lifespan of your coils substantially. The problem is that it’s hard to avoid in a lot of cases, especially if you have a sweet tooth when it comes to your e-liquid flavor choices. But learning a little more about coil gunk and what you can do to prevent or fix it can help you get the most out of your vaping experience.


What is Coil Gunk?


Coil gunk is the dark, gloopy buildup you may have noticed around your coil and soaked into your wick. This is one of the most common reasons you’ll have to change your coil regularly, because the build-up around the coil interferes with the flavor of your e-juice and the gunk in your wick affects its ability to soak up e-juice.


The gunk is essentially residue from e-liquid that hasn’t been successfully vaporized. Some components (often sweeteners or other ingredients from sweet flavors) are left behind, and as you continue vaping, these components are heated over and over again and turn dark. Sweeteners are particularly bad for creating coil gunk because they are heavy molecules that don’t vaporize easily, and turn dark (in a way very similar to coil gunk) when they’re exposed to extreme heat.


Causes of Coil Gunk


Avoiding coil gunk means understanding what causes it in the first place. The good news is that the most common cause is fairly easy to avoid, and while there is always some risk of coil gunk, you can minimize it with only small changes to your vaping habits.


  • E-juice with sweeteners: The most common cause of coil gunk is e-juice containing sweeteners. The sweeteners don’t vaporize easily and can leave a residue on your coil, as explained in the previous section. Many NET e-liquids contain sweeteners, and if they haven’t been filtered well, some of the material from the steeping can lead to gunky coils too. This is why many NET e-liquids are bad for coil gunk. However, at Black Note we don’t add sweeteners to our e-liquid and everything is thoroughly filtered so you only get pure e-juice. That’s why we call it “clean coil” e-juice.
  • Dark-colored e-liquids: In general, darker-colored e-liquids are more likely to lead to coil gunk than lighter e-liquids. However, this is really because darker-colored e-liquids are usually heavier and sweeter than lighter-colored e-liquids, so it’s really more about the sweeteners likely to be included than the color of the e-liquid in itself.
  • Higher VG e-liquids: While this is disputed by some, some vapers argue that higher VG e-liquids produce more coil gunk than lower-VG ones. Higher VG e-juice is thicker, which makes clogging more likely in general, and would explain why some vapers notice more gunk with high-VG e-juice. Black Note’s blends are 50/50 PG/VG, but anything with less than 70% VG will reduce the risk of coil gunk.
  • Higher power settings and chain vaping: If you vape at high power settings and either chain-vape or take very long puffs, coil gunk is more likely to occur. The effect of vaping a lot or at high powers might be more to do with directly burning your wick (through dry or slightly dry hits) than gunk necessarily, but the end result is the same.


What Can You Do to Avoid Coil Gunk?


It’s true that coil gunk is a bit of a fact of life for vapers. You can’t completely avoid it all the time unless you’re very careful about the juices you vape and how you vape them. Even if you’re absolutely careful, your coils will get gunked up eventually. However, you can drastically reduce the chance of getting coil gunk by taking some simple steps. These follow-on from the causes linked in the last section:


  • Change your e-juice flavor: Switch to a different e-juice flavor if you want to avoid coil gunk. Black Note’s NET blends don’t include sweeteners and are some of the only NET blends that don’t have an issue with coil gunk, but the most important thing is to avoid e-juice with a lot of sweeteners or darker, sweeter flavors in general.
  • Turn the power down: Reducing the power setting you vape at can reduce the risk of coil gunk. If you find that your coils don’t last long, even if it isn’t related to gunk, turning the power down and chain vaping less can help anyway, so this is definitely something to try.
  • Switch to a lower-VG e-juice: Many high-VG e-juices don’t cause coil gunk, but if you really struggle to avoid it, switching to a lower-VG e-juice may help reduce the problem. Again, Black Note’s blends are well set up for this because they’re only 50% VG, but anything with less than 70% VG should reduce the issue substantially.


So Your Coils Are Gunked Up: What Can You Do?


If, despite all your efforts, your coils get gunky, there are a few steps you can take to rectify the situation. You might not be able to save the coil in every situation, but if it isn’t too bad you might be able to save yourself the purchase of a new coil or at least get more life out of your existing one.


  • Switch to rebuilding: Using rebuildable atomizers has tons of benefits for reducing coil gunk. The main reason for this is that if your coil does end up covered in gunk, you can simply remove the wick and replace it with a new one. Take out your existing wick and then dry-burn your coil to remove some of the residue. Wait for the coil to cool down and if there is any residue, give it a gentle wipe with a damp Q-tip or paper towel to get your coil nice and shiny again. Then simply re-wick and you’re good to vape.
  • Clean pre-made atomizer heads: For pre-made atomizer heads, re-wicking is possible but a more challenging process. However, you can often reduce the effects of coil gunk by cleaning your atomizer head when it gets gunky. You can do this with hot water in many cases or strong grain alcohol (that you can drink – Everclear is a favorite but vodka works too). Disassemble your tank and drop the atomizer head in the liquid before leaving it to soak for half an hour or so. If you’ve used alcohol, rinse the coil under water after you remove it. Then leave it to thoroughly dry before trying to vape using it again – at least 12 hours should do it. You can read more about cleaning your coils here and here.
  • Re-wick pre-made atomizer heads: This isn’t the most convenient solution, but if cleaning won’t re-vitalize your coils, you can change the wick on them if you’re careful. In essence, you need to just replace the wick material (usually cotton) with a matching wick, but how simple this is depends on the structure of the atomizer head. You can often find specific guides for your device if you need help (for example, this video covers the Smok TFV-8).
  • Change wick material: If you build your own coils, chances are you use cotton as a wicking material. While this does have many advantages, it is more susceptible to gunk than some other materials. Switching to a silica wick will make your builds more resistant to gunk. Some pre-made atomizer heads also use ceramic for wicking, which is also less prone to getting gunky.


Gunk Can Be Reduced, But Not Avoided Entirely


Following the advice in this post should help you get more life out of your coils and will reduce gunk in most cases. But it isn’t perfect, and for all your best efforts, your coils may still get gunky. There are only so many times you can clean a coil, and everyone likes a bit of sweet, darker e-juice from time to time. If your coil is gunky and nothing is helping, it may be time to rebuild your coil entirely or install a new atomizer head. It isn’t ideal, but if you take care over how you vape, it won’t happen often.

Lee Johnson is a writer and vaper from the UK. He started vaping in 2012, and since then has contributed to E-Cigarette Reviewed, E-Cigarette Direct’s Ashtray Blog and Vaping360. He strongly believes smokers need accurate information about vaping and other reduced-harm alternatives to smoking. He has a degree in physics from the Open University and a passion for all forms of science.

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