What is a bong?

A bong is a marijuana pipe that uses water to cool and filter the smoke, producing an especially smooth, clean-tasting, and potentially healthier smoking experience. The physics behind a bong are fairly straightforward: smoke is pulled through a chamber filled with water, and as the smoke bubbles up through the liquid, the water simultaneously cools down the temperature of the smoke and pulls out fine particulate matter including tar and ash.

plastic glass silicone bongs
A bong is a marijuana pipe that uses water to cool and filter the smoke, producing an especially smooth, clean-tasting, and potentially healthier smoking experience.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Interestingly, there are a number of scientific studies showing the efficacy of water filtration. According to a literature review published by researcher Nicholas V. Cozzi, a study in 1963 found that “water filtration reduces both the amount of particulate matter and the number and quantity of toxic substances in the smoke that passes through it.” Similarly,a number of studies throughout the 1970s found that THC tends to pass through water while a number of other, potentially harmful substances are filtered out and stay behind in the water. Further supporting these findings, a study published in 1991 concluded that when smoke passes through water or some other wet surface, a number of toxic substances are removed.

What you need to hit a bong

Here's everything you need to smoke a bong:

  • Your favorite strain of marijuana
  • A bong. Be sure your bong has a downstem and bowl.
  • A lighter or hemp wick
  • Water
  • A grinder
  • For cleaning your bong you will need zipper-top plastic bags, plugs that fit the holes in your bong, and a cleaning solution (either one designed specifically for bongs or a combination of rubbing alcohol and coarse salt).
how to use a bong
First, gather everything that you will need to smoke a bong.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Step-by-step instructions on how to smoke a bong

Bongs are a staple of cannabis culture. Knowing how to use a bong is important for anyone who wants to enjoy the full range of cannabis consumption methods. Here's a step-by-step guide for smoking a bong.

  1. Prep your bong

    Before doing anything else, be sure your bong is ready to go. Insert the downstem while checking that your bowl slides smoothly in and is cleared of any ash. 

    Next, pour water into the water chamber. Typically, the water goes through the mouthpiece, which is the large opening at the top of the bong. Put enough water into the water chamber so that the bottom of the downstem is fully submerged—you don't need any more than that. Finally, if you are using any additional components such as an ice catch, be sure everything is in its proper place inside the bong.pouring water into a bong

  2. Grind your marijuana

    The best way to do this is with a grinder, as the device will give you the most uniform grind. Place a medium-sized nug into the part of the grinder that contains the grinding teeth. Replace the cap and twist it back and forth until your weed is fully ground.

    If you do not have a grinder, you can use a sharp pair of scissors or even your fingers. Whatever method you use, the goal is to break the nug down into small chunks of more or less the same size.grinding weed for use in bong

  3. Pack the bowl

    When your weed is ground, use your fingertips to pick up a pinch of marijuana. Carefully place the pinch of weed into the bowl. Then use your finger, the flat end of a lighter, or a tamping tool to gently tamp the marijuana down into the bowl. Don't pack the bowl too tightly, though, otherwise you could have problems pulling smoke through the bowl. Add enough marijuana to fill the bowl to the top, then slide the bowl into the downstem.filling bowl with weed

  4. Ignite the marijuana

    At this point, you're ready to start smoking your bong. Use a lighter or hemp wick to ignite a corner of the bowl. As you do this, put your mouth to the mouthpiece and start pulling in with your lungs. There is no need to be too aggressive with your pull; give it a smooth and steady drag. You will see the smoke travel from the bowl through the downstem, and start bubbling up through the water.smoking a bong

  5. Clear the chamber

    When the chamber has filled with smoke and you're ready to take a hit, you need to clear the chamber. To clear the chamber, slide the bowl out of the dowstem. Be sure to continue pulling in with your lungs. By removing the bowl, you open the flow of air moving through the bong, which pushes the smoke up the mouthpiece and into your lungs.
    To clear the chamber, slide the bowl out of the dowstem. Be sure to continue pulling in with your lungs.clear bong chamber

  6. Clean your bong

    Bongs can quickly become dirty, smelly, and gunked up with resin. To keep your bong in pristine working condition, clean it after each session.

    Begin by emptying out all the ash from the bowl. Then, remove the bowl and place it in a zipper-top plastic bag with some coarse salt and rubbing alcohol (or  simply use a cleaning solution designed for bongs and other glass smoking pieces). Gently shake the bag and use your hands to scrub the bowl. The idea is to let the alcohol break apart the sticky resin while the salt acts as an exfoliator. Work the bowl around inside the bag until it is clean. Then remove the bowl from the bag and rinse it in clean water.

    Next, repeat this step with the downstem. If the salt/alcohol solution isn't too dirty, you can simply drop the downstem into the exact same zipper-top bag.

    cleaning bong

    Now that the downstem and bowl are clean, it's time to focus on the bong itself. Start by pouring out the water in the water chamber. Now pour in some rubbing alcohol and coarse salt. Alternatively, you can use a cleaning solution designed specifically for bongs. Either way, once you've added a cleaning mixture, use rubber stoppers to plug all holes. Give your bong a good shake. As with the bowl and downstem, the alcohol will help break apart the sticky resin and the salt will exfoliate away any residue. When the bong is clean, dump out the cleaning solution and rinse the entire thing with clean water.

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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 June 3, 2022.