As dabbing becomes increasingly popular, so too does the dab rig — a water pipe used for vaporizing cannabis concentrates. A dab rig serves the same function as a bong, filtering concentrate vapor through the water in its base. Dab rigs are typically smaller than bongs, providing less drag so the vapor travels to the lungs more quickly and retains potency.
In this guide, we'll cover why you should clean your dab rig regularly and how to clean your dab rig for optimal performance and vapor purity.
Why is it important to clean your dab rig?
Similar to bongs, dab rigs filter concentrate vapor through water, up the neck of the rig, and through the mouthpiece. In the place of a traditional bowl for smoking dry flower, the dab rig has a dab nail or banger, where a dab of concentrate is placed to inhale the resulting vapor.
Learning how to clean your rig properly has benefits beyond making it nicer to look at. Stagnant dab rig water, just like water in a puddle, can be a home to all kinds of bacteria and fungi. Yeasts and other microorganisms can also fester in dirty rig water. You do not want to inadvertently ingest or inhale any of these substances.
You'll know that the water needs to be changed when it develops a top layer known as a biofilm. Forming across the surface of the water, the biofilm could harbor any number of nasty pathogens, from Strep and E. coli to black mildew. When inhaled, these substances can lead to serious illness, so be vigilant about changing that dab rig water. One of the benefits of dabbing is that the rig filters out harmful materials, but they can only accomplish that feat with clean water.
Ideally, you should use clean, fresh water every time you dab. If you don't change the water frequently enough, the dab rig will be challenging to clean. It's also important to change the rig water regularly to remove any potentially carcinogenic materials that the filtration system has trapped.
As an added benefit, when you regularly maintain your dab rig, it can be easier to clean than your bong because the absence of combustion in dabbing creates less resin buildup. Dab rigs do, however, build up reclaim — waxy, unevaporated cannabinoids — which can clog your rig and hinder the flavor of each dab. Repeated use of a nail can cause carbon and reclaim buildup, especially if the nail isn't cleaned regularly.
Bottom line: Old dab rig water is gross and potentially harmful. Clean your dab rig often to avoid inhaling unwanted substances.
What you'll need to clean your dab rig
Before you begin the process of cleaning your dab rig, gather the following ingredients and materials:
- Your dirty rig and nail
- 99% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- Coarse sea salt
- One large sealable plastic bag or container
- Cotton swabs
Cleaning your dab rig step-by-step
Step 1: Torch your nail
One of the simplest ways to clean a nail or banger is to heat it with a torch until reclaim or residual carbon burns completely off. If buildup is minimal, torching a nail should clean it sufficiently. You can also try cleaning the surface of your nail with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab.
Step 2: Soak the nail
If torching your nail isn't enough to clean off all carbon or reclaim buildup, place the nail in a sealable container or plastic bag and let it soak in alcohol. If you're using a sealable bag, try adding salt and shaking the bag a bit.
Step 3: Pour out the water
Before you begin cleaning your rig, pour the old water into a sink or drain. If you use your rig often, change the water daily. Doing so will help prevent reclaim buildup and preserve the flavor and cleanliness of the vapor.
Step 4: Add alcohol
Fill the base of your rig with 99% isopropyl, or rubbing, alcohol. If a deeper cleaning is needed, first add coarse sea salt until it covers the bottom of the base.
Step 5: Shake
Cover the holes of your rig, either with your hands or standard-size plugs or caps, and shake the rig to loosen and dissolve reclaim buildup.
Step 6: Rinse
Once you've cleared the reclaim from your rig and nail, rinse them thoroughly with warm water. Lightly shake the rig as you rinse to wash away the remaining reclaim.
Your dab rig needs regular maintenance for optimum performance. Change your rig's water often, and lightly clean your nail with a cotton swab after each dab. Regularly cleaning your rig means you'll have to deep-clean it less frequently.
Frequently asked questions
How do you get wax out of a dab rig?
If you've tried all of the steps above and you still can't get the wax or reclaim out of your nail, try soaking it longer and using an old toothbrush to scrape away any sticky bits. You can also try freezing your dab rig to make the remaining residue harder, which will make it easier to chip off with a toothpick or brush.
How do you clean a dab rig without rubbing alcohol?
If isopropyl alcohol is hard to come by in your area or you would rather not use it, you can clean your dab rig with hot water and coarse salt. If that doesn't work, you can also try acetone, a common nail polish remover sold at drug stores. Follow the same steps listed above using acetone in place of alcohol.
How do you clean a dab rig with hot water?
Pour hot water into the base of your dab rig and let it soak. Once the water has cooled enough to be workable, pour in some coarse salt, plug the holes and shake your dab rig. Repeat as necessary.
How do you collect reclaim?
Some dab rigs have drop-down attachments that will trap reclaim and make it easier to collect. You can invert that part over parchment or wax paper and liquify the reclaim with your torch until it drips onto the paper. If your dab rig doesn't have a drop-down attachment and you are forced to remove the reclaim using alcohol, reusing the reclaim is not recommended.
Can you use reclaim?
Similar to resin, you can collect and reuse reclaim to make edibles, tinctures, and capsules. You can also dab reclaim as it often retains some cannabinoids from the original concentrate — the terpenes will be gone, though, so don't expect the same experience.