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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.