How to clean a bong
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- What you’ll need
- Cleaning your bong step-by-step
The bong, also known as a water pipe, is one of the oldest and most commonly used modes of cannabis smoking. Using water to cool and filter smoke, the basic bong mounts a bowl of packed cannabis on top of a downstem, which directs the smoke through water at the base, then up the neck of the bong and through the mouthpiece.
One of the reasons glass bongs have remained a popular way to smoke for so long is that they’re easy to use. Not only do they eliminate harsh smoke and potentially filter out carcinogens and other toxicants produced by burning cannabis, they also require less prep work than a joint and are generally easier to learn to use than other smoking devices or methods. Unfortunately, they can also be exceptionally difficult to clean due to the immense amount of resin buildup, especially when they have more complex filtration features.
Part of knowing how to use a bong is knowing the cleaning method behind it. Below is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to cleaning and maintaining a bong for optimal performance, smoke purity, longevity, and visual appeal.
What you’ll need
Before you begin the process of cleaning your bong, you’ll need to gather the following ingredients and materials:
- Coarse sea salt
- 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- Two large zipper storage bags
- Rubber stoppers or bong plugs
Cleaning your bong step-by-step
Now that you have what you need to adequately clean your water pipe, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Remove the bowl and downstem
Carefully remove the bowl and downstem from the bong and place them in two separate zipper storage bags. Placing the bowl and downstem in separate bags ensures that the two small pieces won’t be damaged or broken, and affords them a more thorough cleaning.
Carefully remove the bowl and downstem from the bong and place them in two separate zipper storage bags. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 2: Place in zipper storage bags with alcohol
Pour a handful of coarse salt and rubbing alcohol (preferably 99% isopropyl, or rubbing, alcohol) into each of the two storage bags until the bowl and downstem are fully submerged.
Pour salt and rubbing alcohol into the bags until the bowl and downstem are fully submerged. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 3: Pour out old bong water
Before you begin cleaning your bong, you’ll need to pour out the old water in your bong into a sink or drain.
Note: If you use a bong often, it’s a good idea to change out the water daily. Doing so will help prevent excessive resin buildup and help preserve the flavor and cleanliness of the smoke.
Before you begin cleaning your bong, you’ll need to pour out the old water in your bong into a sink or drain. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 4: Add salt and alcohol
Start by pouring your coarse salt into the bong. The salt should be enough to coat the bottom surface of the base. Then pour about ¼ cup, or 60 milliliters, of rubbing alcohol into the bong and let it sit.
Pour coarse salt and rubbing alcohol into the bong and let it sit. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 5: Plug holes
Plug the openings of your bong in the mouthpiece and downstem areas. Standard rubber stoppers will be sufficient. You can also order standard-size plugs and caps from Amazon or from your local head shop. Make sure you know the size of your mouthpiece and downstem openings before you buy plugs.
Plug the openings of your bong in the mouthpiece and downstem areas. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 6: Shake bong
Shaking your bong, as well as your downstem and bowl inside the storage baggies, is the best way to remove heavy resin buildup. Shake well until you can see the resin starting to come off. Once a satisfactory amount of resin has come loose, pour out the alcohol and sea salt.
Shaking your bong, as well as your downstem and bowl inside the storage baggies, is the best way to remove heavy resin buildup. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Step 7: Rinse the bong, downstem, and bowl
Once you’ve cleared most of the resin from your bong, downstem, and bowl, use warm water to rinse them off. Lightly shake the bong as you rinse to wash away the remaining resin.
Once you’ve cleared most of the resin from your bong, downstem, and bowl, use warm water to rinse them off. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Before you reassemble the bong, rinse each piece thoroughly to make sure you don’t have any alcohol left over. If you find any residual resin after rinsing, repeat each step until it is flushed out. If you have a bong with extra filters or other features that make some areas harder to reach, try using pipe cleaners or cotton swabs.
The more you clean your bong, the less frequently you’ll have to deep-clean it. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Remember, a well-made bong can last a lifetime, but it needs regular maintenance to fully function. The more you clean your bong, the less frequently you’ll have to deep-clean it.
How to clean a bong Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What you’ll need Cleaning your bong step-by-step The bong, also known as a water
The Leafly Bong Experiment: What Happens When You Replace Bong Water With Other Liquids?
It’s one of those “high-deas” that has probably occurred to everyone who’s ever used a bong. What if you replaced the water with something else? Would it taste different? Would it have the same effect?
We now have the answer.
In the interest of science, a team of Leafly researchers recently took the liberty of experimenting with various liquids in lieu of the standard room-temperature water.
The team proposed a variety of different liquids. Some were vetoed due to the gross-out factor (milk, chocolate milk, Milk of Magnesia). A few were declined based on safety concerns (hydrogen peroxide), and some didn’t make the cut because they were just too damned messy (sorry, Mrs. Butterworth). In the end, we came up with a fairly decent, comprehensive list of liquids to be tested and evaluated.
Ice Bong Water
In the world of the water pipe, ice water is king. Distilled and chilled, it represents the “control” of this experiment.
Discussion: It cools the smoke and enhances the crisp taste of the flower. Overall, we found it created the ideal experience for smoking cannabis out of a bong.
Conclusion: 10/10 would hit again.
Hot Bong Water
Stepping in the opposite direction of ice water, we chose hot water from the tap. We don’t recommend using boiling water for the sake of preserving the integrity of your pipe; boiling water can weaken the glass, making it more susceptible to breakage.
Discussion: We were impressed with the visual effect of steam snaking out the bong stem. Our second impression was how warm the bong felt on our hands, also a pleasant experience. Third impression: inhaling hot smoke. Spell broken. The hot water was aesthetically and tactilely pleasing, but harshed the smoke, which burned the throat on the way down, thus undermining the bong’s prime directive (“First, smooth the toke”).
Conclusion: Better in theory than practice.
Fruit Punch Bong Water
We used water flavoring drops for this experiment – two drops of generic fruit punch flavoring was plenty to permeate the water.
Discussion: This was the only liquid that actually “flavored” the smoke, making the first few inhales taste exceptionally sweet and fruity. Unfortunately, the taste diminished with each consecutive inhale, particularly when the bowl approached cash-out. As the greens disappeared, so did the fruity deliciousness.
Conclusion: Quite tasty and worth trying. Be warned, though: It did stain the bong pink for a while.
Vodka Bong Water
Awesome idea, right? Combine two of your favorite minor vices. What could go wrong? Answer: Everything.
Discussion: Nope, nope, nope. This was easily the worst experience of the liquids. You can taste the alcohol vapor and it’s TERRIBLE. You know that feeling when you stick your nose into a tumbler of strong whiskey and the alcohol vapor is so strong it feels like it will burn your nose hair off? It’s like that only worse, because you’re actually trying to inhale ALCOHOLIC SMOKE, which is exactly as terrible as it sounds. A scientist we know was mildly aghast that we even tried it. “Not advised, or safe,” he told us. “Huffing alcohol fumes is toxic.”
Conclusion: Learn from our experience. PASS.
Cranberry Juice Bong Water
Cranberry Juice came highly recommended from several sources, mostly notably because it is thought that the acidity in the fruit juice can actually help keep your glass clean longer.
Discussion: In terms of usability, cranberry juice was comparable to standard water. Almost no cranberry flavor came through in the smoke, but using icy cold cranberry juice was pleasant, if indistinguishable from tap water.
Conclusion: Worth the substitution if you’re hoping to prolong the cleanliness of your water pipe.
Gatorade Bong Water
Gatorade is known in some circles for its sturdy plastic bottle, which historically has been used in a pinch as raw material for a homemade plastic water pipe. We advise against this, of course, as nothing good can ever come from mixing flame, plastic, and your lungs.
Discussion: Unremarkable. Towards the end of the exhale there was the tiniest hint of Gatorade flavoring (we tried Gatorade Frost – Cherry Glacier), which was quite nice.
Conclusion: Meh. Worth trying out of curiosity.
Slurpee Bong Water
This was by far the most popular medium among bystanders and curious friends. “How’d the Slurpee turn out?” we heard, over and over. All right. Here’s your report.
Discussion: This was a difficult fluid to test, mostly due to the chunky, icy consistency, which made it hard to pour into the bong without spilling (we used the blue raspberry flavor, available at most convenience stores). The bubbles were slow to emerge from the mixture, which made it difficult to inhale, kind of like sucking a really thick milkshake through a really thin straw.
The smoke was cooled significantly by the slushy ice, creating a curious effect. Because the smoke was so much colder and smoother, we ended up taking rips that were much, much bigger than we anticipated. In fact, that first big hit sent one researcher into a coughing fit. After that, though, each consecutive hit was easier as the icy slush concoction melted.
Although the Slurpee flavor wasn’t immediately apparent, the occasional splash-back that grazed our lips during a vigorous hit was surprisingly tasty.
Conclusion: The texture was fun, albeit messy. Plus you can drink the leftover Slurpee when your mouth dries up. (The extra, not the bong water Slurpee! Eww.)
Soda Bong Water (with Lime)
For this round, we went high-class and created a sort of a gin-and-tonic without the gin.
Discussion: This was by far our favorite liquid replacement, the unanimous winner of the Great Bong Experiment of 2016. If you’re hoping to try this one, make sure the seltzer is chilled, fresh, and bubbly for optimal effect.
The first inhale is crisp and fresh. It almost tastes like the smoke has been textured. The carbonation actually changes the smoke to make it tingle in your mouth and throat, almost like inhaling Pop Rocks. We tried it first at room temperature, then added a few ice cubes. The chilled version was far and away the better choice. The ice cooled the smoke and the carbonation altered the consistency in a most pleasing manner.
Note: We consulted with a scientist to ensure the safety of this particular fluid. It was relayed to us that, in moderation, it is highly unlikely that this liquid would be dangerous. However, just for good measure, be safe and proceed with caution.
Conclusion: Winner winner chicken dinner. The only fluid I would consider using on a regular basis and/or recommend to others.
We put one of the greatest “high-deas” to the test and replaced bong water with various liquids. Needless to say, the results were surprising.