The word “dab” can be both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it's a term used to describe an unspecified amount of concentrate — usually what you would consume in one hit, or an amount about the size of a grain of rice. A dab can mean any form of concentrate such as budder, crumble, sauce, shatter, or wax.

As a verb, dabbing is the act of inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates using a heating tool such as a dab rig, e-rig, or vaporizer.

More about dabs

Since dabs are a concentrated form of cannabis, they are usually much more potent than marijuana flower. 

Additionally, because these blobs are typically made up of highly concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes, dabs are thought of as very flavorful. And because dabs are vaporized rather than combusted, dabbing also delivers a very clean taste, if done properly. Newer dab rigs include more precise temperature controls, allowing dabbers to dial in ranges for certain terpenes or cannabinoids

More about dabbing

Dabbing has quickly become one of the most popular consumption methods of consuming cannabis, offering a potent high and flavor-packed experience. It  is usually done with a dab rig — a glass chamber similar to a bong.

Rigs typically include a titanium, ceramic, quartz, or glass nail, also known as a banger. Think of them as the bowl or place to hold the concentrate. Consumers use a butane torch or e-nail to bring the banger to a temperature that almost instantly vaporizes the concentrates.

Because it utilizes concentrated cannabis, dabbing typically offers a more potent high and more immediate effects than smoking flower. It will also usually produce stronger flavors and terpene-rich aromas. If you're concerned about odor, you might be wondering, do dabs smell? 

To some extent, yes, but the scent of marijuana concentrates do not linger very long. Moreover, dabbing arguably offers even more discretion when handheld vaporizers and portable e-rigs are used. 

The overt disadvantages to this consumption method are the necessity for tools and accessories, and the learning curve involved in achieving the perfect vaporization temperature. The temperature of the nail at the moment you take the dab will affect the flavor, ability to clean your nail, and according to recent studies, it could alter the desired effects of the concentrate. 

High-temperature dabs — 340-700 degrees Fahrenheit (170-370 degrees Celsius) — will scorch concentrates, leading to an astringent, harsh flavor. Those temperatures also tend to leave behind residue that is very hard to clean. Low-temp dabs — less than 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 Celsius) — leave behind a small amount of oil where the concentrate didn't fully vaporize. It can be easily removed with a cotton swab.

A study from Portland State University published in September 2017 found that vaporizing terpenes at the temperatures above 600 Fahrenheit (322 Celsius) produced the toxicants methacrolein and benzene. In other words, if you dab weed concentrates at high temperatures, it may turn terpenes toxic.

How to dab weed concentrates

The technique, upfront cost, and the number of accessories involved in dabbing may be overwhelming to newcomers. But once you get the process down, using a rig can be easy and efficient. The key steps are simple:

  • Step 1: Heat up the nail with the torch. If it is your first time and you are using a quartz nail or banger, heat it up until it is glowing red. This process, called seasoning, will ensure that any small particles are burned off and help your nail last longer and be easier to clean.
  • Step 2: Wait for the nail to cool down. It may sound counterintuitive, but when you dab weed concentrates, you need to let the nail cool down so you don't scorch the dab. The amount of time you need to wait is dependent on the thickness and material of your nail or banger. Your target temperature should be around 300-450 degrees Fahrenheit (149-232 degrees Celsius) to get the most flavor out of your concentrates.
    • As a general rule, it usually takes 30-60 seconds for a nail to cool, depending on the material and thickness of the nail and how much you heated it up.
    • To dial it in even further, you need to figure out exactly how long it takes for your nail to cool to your desired temperature. To do this, you'll need an infrared thermometer and some sort of dab timer. You can use a stopwatch or download a specialized app on your smartphone. 
  • Step 3: Place the concentrate on the surface of the nail and slowly start to inhale the vapor. Unlike a typical bong hit of flower, dabs require a long, slow inhale as the majority of the concentrate does not vaporize instantly. 
  • Step 4: If available, place a carb cap on the nail or banger to better vaporize the dab while inhaling. The carb cap will act as an oven and trap all of the heat in the nail to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
  • Step 5: Exhale the vapor immediately.
  • Step 6: Clean your nail. To prevent residue from possibly changing the flavor, always keep your nail clean. Allow the nail to cool down a bit and then swipe the inside of the warm nail with a cotton swab. For more deep cleaning, dip a cotton swab in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and rub it along the interior of your warm nail.
  • Step 7: In addition to cleaning your nail after every dab, change your water for each dab session, and be sure to clean your rig every two weeks or so. 

It may take some time and repetition before you really feel like you know how to take a dab. But once you get an intuitive sense of the simple steps involved, dabbing is an incredibly efficient way to consume cannabis concentrates and use them to their full potential.

The most effective dabbing alternative to a traditional dab rig is arguably using an e-rig or e-nail. The main benefit of the e-rig is the ability to precisely control the temperature. 

Unlike a traditional rig, in which you're at the mercy of the flame and your timer, with an e-rig, you can dial in the precise temperature you prefer and rest easy knowing the nail will remain within a narrow range of your desired temperature. And because they're heated electronically, e-rigs don't require a torch.

How long do dabs stay in your system?

Whether you're dabbing, smoking flower, or ingesting edibles, the mode of consumption will likely have an impact on how long weed stays in your body. It can take up to four weeks or longer for your body to fully process THC and its metabolites to the point that it no longer shows up on a urine test. The precise time it takes for THC to leave your body and no longer be detectable by a drug test depends on a few key factors, including:

  • How often you consume THC
  • How much THC you consume 
  • How you consume THC
  • How fast your metabolism is

Dab tools

  • Rig: The entire dabbing apparatus except the banger and carb cap. Both dab rigs and bongs are considered rigs, or pipe chambers connected to a nail or bowl.
  • Banger or nail:  The attachment where dabs are vaporized after it's been heated by torch or electric coil. There are many different styles that change the rate of vaporization and the amount that can be dabbed at one time. Some bangers have a vacuum-sealed jacket that allows them to retain heat for extended time periods. 
  • Carb cap: A glass, ceramic, quartz, or titanium cap that covers the top of the nail. A carb cap, which has a small hole in it, lowers the pressure in the nail or banger, acting like an oven to trap the heat and reduce the needed vaporization temperature. 
  • Dabber: A long, slender tool used for removing a dab from a concentrate container and placing it inside the nail or banger for heating. Some dabbers include a carb cap on the other end.  
  • Torch: A butane hand torch is recommended for heating the nail sufficiently and dabbing at the right temperatures. Propane torches burn a hotter flame that can damage the nail.
  • Quartz insert: A quartz insert can be added to your nail or banger for additional surface area, essentially increasing your ability to get the most out of low-temperature dabs. When inserted into a hot nail, quartz inserts act as internal carb caps.
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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on August 9, 2021.