What is a Bong & How Do You Use It?

October 18, 2023

There are some devices in the cannabis world that need no introduction. You know them by their look, and when it comes to a marijuana bong, you know them by the sound they make when being used. That glug-glug-glug of bubbling water in your bong actually has a benefit—creating a smoother smoking experience. In this guide, we’re going to get into the world of bongs, talking about what they are, how they work, how you should use them, and where you can buy one.

What is a Bong?

A bong, often referred to as a water pipe, is one of the most popular tools used for consuming cannabis—and it has been for many years. Bongs come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, but they all serve the same primary purpose: to deliver a smooth and water-filtered cannabis smoking experience. The key feature that distinguishes a bong from other smoking methods is the presence of water in its design.

How Do Bongs Work?

Bongs work on a simple yet effective principle: water filtration. This filtration system provides a smoother and cooler hit compared to traditional methods like smoking a joint. When you ignite cannabis in the bowl and inhale, the smoke is drawn through the water chamber. The water cools the smoke, removing some of the heat and making it easier on your lungs. Additionally, the water acts as a filter, removing ash and other particulates, resulting in cleaner, smoother hits.

  Colorful bong on a pink plastic shelf in front of a pink background

What are the Different Parts of a Bong?

Understanding the different parts of a bong is essential for a complete bong experience. Let's break down the main components:

  • Bowl: The bowl is where you place your ground cannabis flower before lighting it. While designs differ depending on the bowl, they typically have a small hole at the bottom where the smoke can travel down the downstem. When you light the cannabis, the bowl holds it in place, ensuring a steady burn.

  • Carb: The carb, short for carburetor, is a small hole usually located on the side of the bong. It plays a crucial role in controlling airflow. By covering and releasing the carb, you control the intensity of the hit and the speed at which you clear the chamber.

  • Downstem: The downstem is a tube that extends from the bowl into the water chamber. It directs the smoke from the bowl into the water, allowing it to be filtered and cooled. Downstems come in various styles and materials.

  • Water Chamber: The water chamber is the main body of the bong. It holds the water used for filtration and cooling. This chamber can come in different shapes and sizes, and some even have added features, like ice notches for further cooling.

  • Tube & Mouthpiece: The tube extends upward from the water chamber and connects to the mouthpiece. The tube is where you inhale the smoke after it has been filtered and cooled by the water.

How Do You Use a Bong [5 Steps]?

Using a bong may seem complicated, but it's quite straightforward once you understand the steps. Here's a basic guide on how to use a bong:

Step 1: Fill with Water

Begin by filling the water chamber with an appropriate amount of water. The ideal water level typically covers the downstem and percolator openings. This water will filter the smoke, making it smoother and more enjoyable to inhale. If you’re not sure if you put in enough water, here’s a good rule of thumb: The water should bubble when you inhale but shouldn’t hit your mouth. 

Step 2: Pack the Bowl

Grind your cannabis to an even consistency, ensuring a smoother burn. Pack the bowl with the ground cannabis. You don't need to pack it too tightly; a loose pack often works best.

Step 3: Place Mouth on Mouthpiece

Position your mouth over the mouthpiece and get ready to inhale. Ensure your lips form a seal around the mouthpiece, so no smoke escapes.

Step 4: Light the Bowl

Using a lighter or hemp wick, ignite the cannabis in the bowl while simultaneously inhaling. The smoke will be drawn down into the water chamber, where it gets filtered and cooled.

Step 5: Inhale

As the smoke rises through the water and up the tube, inhale slowly and steadily. Keep an eye on the carb, if your bong has one, and release it when you're ready to clear the chamber. Inhale the remaining smoke and enjoy your hit. Remember, the more smoke in the tube, the more smoke in your lungs when you inhale, so judge your dose accordingly.

How Often Should You Change Bong Water?

Regularly changing the water in your bong is essential to maintain the best possible smoking experience. Stale water can lead to unpleasant odors and negatively affect the quality of your hits. Depending on how frequently you use your bong, changing the water after each session or every few sessions is recommended. Fresh water ensures the best filtration and cooling for each hit.

How Do You Clean a Bong?

Keeping your bong clean is vital for preserving its functionality and flavor. Resin buildup can accumulate in the water chamber and on the glass, affecting the taste and draw. To clean your bong, you can follow these steps:

  • Empty the water: Start by pouring out the used water from your bong.

  • Rinse with warm water: Use warm water to rinse the bong's water chamber and other components. This helps remove loose debris.

  • Use a cleaning solution: There are various cleaning solutions available that are specifically designed for bong cleaning, but you can also use isopropyl alcohol and coarse salt to dissolve any stubborn resin by shaking the mixture once it’s in your bong.

  • Clean hard-to-reach areas: Utilize pipe cleaners, brushes, or cotton swabs to clean those hard-to-reach areas like the downstem and tube.

  • Rinse again: After cleaning with a solution, rinse thoroughly with warm water to ensure all residue is removed.

  • Dry completely: Allow your bong to air dry completely before using it again.

By regularly cleaning your bong, you'll ensure that every hit is as smooth and enjoyable as the first.

Bong vs Water Pipe: What’s the Difference?

The terms "bong" and "water pipe" are often used interchangeably—and for good reason. A bong is a type of water pipe. There are other types of water pipes, like bubblers, that use water but are shaped a little bit differently than your traditional bong. Basically, all bongs are water pipes but not all water pipes are bongs.

Bongs vs Bubblers: What’s the Difference?

Bubblers are smaller, portable devices that incorporate water filtration like bongs but are generally more compact and handheld. While bongs require you to fit your mouth over the tube, bubblers generally have a mouthpiece that goes between your lips, much like a handheld spoon pipe.

Bongs vs Dab Rigs: What’s the Difference?

Dab rigs are primarily designed for dab concentrates, which means cannabis concentrates that can be vaporized like wax, shatter, or budder. They feature a different set of accessories, including a nail or banger, which is heated to high temperatures to vaporize the concentrate. While they share similarities with bongs in terms of water filtration, the use and purpose of dab rigs are distinct.

How Much Do Bongs Cost?

Bongs come in various price ranges, depending on factors like size, material, and complexity. Simple, small bongs are often budget-friendly, while larger or intricately designed bongs can be more expensive. On average, a basic glass bong might start around $10, but prices can go much higher for artisan or custom pieces.

Answering FAQs About Bongs

As popular as bongs are, it makes sense we get questions about them. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about bongs:

How much do bongs cost?
Bongs vary in price, ranging from affordable options to high-end collector pieces. Basic glass bongs typically start around $10, while more elaborate or custom designs can reach hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Why do bongs need water?
Bongs utilize water for filtration and cooling. The water filters out ash and particulates, making the smoke smoother and cleaner. It also cools the smoke, making it more comfortable to inhale.

Are bongs illegal?
If you’re in a state where marijuana consumption is illegal, you probably shouldn’t have a bong unless it’s specifically designed for tobacco. This is a challenging thing to prove, so we recommend that you don’t have a bong if you aren’t in a state where you’re not allowed to enjoy cannabis as an adult or consume cannabis as a medical marijuana patient.

Purchasing a Marijuana Bong

Bongs are a popular choice for cannabis consumption due to their ability to provide smooth, filtered hits. Understanding their components and how to use and maintain them is key to enjoying yourself. Whether you're a seasoned smoker or new to the world of bongs, the right knowledge can help you enjoy your cannabis to the fullest, so if there are any questions you have, be sure to talk to your budtender. They can help you pick out the perfect bong for you, your budget, and your needs.

Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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