Pipe cleaners, as their name makes clear, were originally developed to clean tobacco pipes. Consisting of a wire core covered by short bristles, these long and flexible tools can reach narrow, unseen areas with ease. But their creative potential was quickly identified by artists, who have used pipe cleaners to sculpt and weave all kinds of fascinating works. Today pipe cleaners come in myriad colors, finishes, and sizes and are an especially popular material for all-ages crafting. Our recommendations below will help you find the ones that will reliably hold up to your particular uses.
1. Anvin Pipe Cleaners
Fuzzy, colorful, and durable, these pipe cleaners are hard to fault. Each pack comes with 100 pieces in 10 colors, with Anvin offering six fun colorways ranging from vibrant to pastel tones. The stems themselves are very easy to manipulate, and you can even bend them several times without breaking them. They also don’t shed as you work with them, allowing you to recycle them as desired for other projects.
2. Creativity Street Chenille Stems
The standard diameter of pipe cleaners is 6 millimeters, but if you’re searching for slightly thinner ones, we like this option from Creativity Street. These stems are just 4 millimeters wide, allowing you to create more intricate forms. They are very easy to shape with your hands and are quick to cut, yet they hold up to heavy use and gluing. There is a wide choice of single-color packs available, making this option ideal for crafting larger forms out of consistent components. Multicolor sets are also offered.
3. Caydo Pipe Cleaners
This option provides an abundance of pipe cleaners, each a fraction of the cost of our other picks. The trove of more than 300 pieces is vivid and eye catching, with 27 colors ranging from baby blue to hot pink. They are easy to bend, twist, and cut, but they are slightly less sturdy than the competition, and too much handling can result in some loss of fuzz. But if you’re using these for casual crafts that don’t require support systems, they will serve you well.
4. Darice Crazy Stems for Craftwork
If you’re on the hunt for jumbo pipe cleaners, we recommend these lush ones from Darice. Each has a very flexible metal spine but a super-furry pile, making them ideal for soft, medium-to-large sculptures. They are not only very thick—with a diameter five times that of standard pipe cleaners—but also long, measuring about 19½ inches from tip to tip. Choose among four different colorways, from a neon-themed pack to an all-white set.
5. Krafty Kids Tinsel Chenille Stems
Sometimes you just want a handful of festive pipe cleaners. For ones with satisfying sparkle, consider Kraft Kids’ product, which comes with nearly three dozen stems covered in a consistent piling of tinsel. They shimmer nicely in the light and are an excellent way to dress up any project. Plus, because they withstand repeated bends without shedding, you can reuse them for a different purpose.