In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. media suffers from a terrible case of negative bias when it comes to vaping. The topic of flavored e-liquid is one of the most prominent examples of that problem.
Studies have shown fairly conclusively that people are more likely to quit smoking and switch to vaping successfully if they use e-liquid flavors other than tobacco and menthol. Cigarette smoke, after all, actually tastes pretty awful. As soon as smokers come to the realization that they can have the nicotine without the smoke, they don’t want to taste anything that even resembles a cigarette.
If you believed the reports in the mainstream media, though, you might come to the conclusion that flavored e-liquid is just about the most sinister thing ever. Publishing mogul Steve Forbes is one of the few contrarians who actually understands what harm reduction can do for public health – but the open-minded are few and far between.
There is, however, one e-liquid flavor with a bit of controversy surrounding it. In this case, though, the controversy doesn’t come from the mainstream media or from deep-pocketed anti-nicotine activists – it comes from within the vaping community itself. This ingredient is so problematic that the brand ROBO2020 has launched primarily to give the vaping community a solution for the one major problem that it causes.
The problematic e-liquid ingredient is sucralose, and it’s the thing that could be ruining your vaping experience right now.
What Is Sucralose?
Sucralose is an extremely popular artificial sweetener that’s sold under the brand name Splenda and is commonly found in diet sodas and sugar-free desserts. It’s practically calorie free, and most people find it almost indistinguishable from sugar. It’s great for the sweet-toothed dieters of the world, and the fact that it’s available in liquid form makes it very easy to use as an e-liquid ingredient.
What effect does sucralose have on e-liquid? Well, it isn’t entirely accurate to call sucralose an e-liquid flavor. Rather, it’s more like a flavor enhancer. A few drops of sucralose can instantly increase the verisimilitude of any sweet flavor profile. An e-liquid with a doughnut, cereal, dessert, soda, fruit or candy flavor profile can taste quite good without sucralose. With it, though, that same e-liquid can taste almost like the real thing.
Just about everyone loves sweet things, and unsurprisingly, most vapers love sweet e-liquids as well. Just about all of the mainstream e-liquids that vape shops carry these days are sweetened with sucralose – that’s how ubiquitous the sweetener has become. If you vape – and the flavor of your e-liquid is anything other than tobacco or menthol – your e-liquid probably contains sucralose.
So, what’s the problem with that?
Why Can Sucralose Ruin Your Vaping Experience?
So far, you’ve learned that sucralose is easily one of the most common e-liquid ingredients on the market today. You’ve also learned that most vapers are completely happy with that because they love sweet flavors, and an e-liquid with a sweet flavor profile can only taste realistic if the e-liquid contains a sweetener.
Sucralose, however, has one major problem as an e-liquid ingredient: It doesn’t vaporize. This incredible YouTube video shows what a glowing-hot metal ball does when it’s dropped into a bowl of sucralose. The metal ball is a perfect substitute for the hot metal of the atomizer coil in your vaping device – and what happens when the ball touches the sucralose? It doesn’t vaporize into a cloudy puff of sweet goodness – it bubbles and turns into black caramel.
If you’ve ever looked closely at an old atomizer coil that you were just about to throw away, you probably already know where this is leading. You’ve seen the black sludge that appears on an atomizer coil after a few days of using a heavily sweetened e-liquid, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing in the YouTube video. Sucralose doesn’t vaporize; it burns. When you use a sweetened e-liquid, only the tiniest portion of the sweetener actually ends up in the vapor. The rest sticks to the atomizer coil and forms a layer of crust that thickens and eventually starts to burn. Vapers call that residue “coil gunk.”
How Does Coil Gunk Affect Your Vaping Experience?
- At first, it lends an exaggerated sweetness to the flavor of the e-liquid you’re using. The subtle flavor notes in the e-liquid become difficult to taste.
- As the layer of coil gunk becomes thicker, it starts to darken. At that point, the exaggerated sweetness gives way to a flavor resembling overcooked caramel.
- With continued vaping, the “caramel” flavor that the sucralose residue is adding to your e-liquid stops tasting overcooked and merely tastes burned. If you were to examine your atomizer coil at this point, you’d find that the heating surface has become very dark and that the coil’s cotton wick is stained brown.
- After a while, the layer of coil gunk becomes so thick that e-liquid has difficulty flowing from the tank to the coil’s heating surface. At that point, the coil gunk actually begins to burn when you vape. This creates a terribly unpleasant flavor and causes a burning sensation in the throat.
The big problem with sucralose is that the more powerful your vaping device is, the more e-liquid you use – and if you use a lot of e-liquid, gunk will form on your coil very quickly. You may find that you can’t even use a coil for a full day before the flavor quality starts to go downhill. If you discard your coil at that point, it means that sucralose is making vaping very, very expensive for you.
So, is that the only choice you have? Does vaping just cost more for people who enjoy sweet flavors and big clouds?
What Is the Solution for Coil Gunk?
Coil gunk is the inevitable result of using e-liquid sweetened with sucralose, and it is a problem with three solutions. The first solution is the simplest, but it is also the most expensive. You can simply continue using the e-liquid that you currently use, and you can discard your coil when you no longer enjoy the flavor – even if that means you’ll end up replacing your coil every day.
Alternatively, you can stop using sweetened e-liquid. You may not like it as much, but your coils will definitely last longer.
The final solution for coil gunk is the one referenced near the top of this article – you can use a device like the ROBO2020 automatic vape coil cleaner to clean your gunky coils. When you have a vape coil that’s covered with gunk, there’s nothing wrong with the coil itself – it’s just dirty.
Cleaning the coil removes the gunk and reveals the original metal underneath, allowing you to use the coil again instead of throwing it away. With a coil cleaner, you don’t have to change the e-liquid that you use, and you can often clean a coil several times before discarding it.