Keeping It Clean: How to Clean Your Weed Pipe, Bong or Bubbler

Haute Health / Introduction / Keeping It Clean: How to Clean Your Weed Pipe, Bong or Bubbler

If you’re a true stoner, your pipe or bong most likely reflects something about you or your history.  What we smoke out of might be as unique as we are as individuals.  Many people’s cannabis delivery system mirrors their relationship to the plant itself. Or, maybe your smoking tools were handed down from generation to generation? Sometimes, what you smoke out of can be just as important or personable as what you’re smoking.  We wrote this guide to maintaining a clean and good looking pipe/bong for you: The smokeshow who is proud of their one-of-a-kind pipes, rigs & bongs.

For the average seasoned stoner in Canada, rolling a joint is the convenient way to get your fix of cannabis on-the-go or at social gatherings.  But when you’re at home, or if you’ve got some of your smoking buddies over, you can dig out that ornate looking box with your initials carved into it, or reach into the secret compartment of your nightstand and bust out the big guns: your cherished pipe, your most impressive dab rig or favorite bong.  There’s something to be said about the familiarity, the artistry and the style of smoking cannabis or marijuana concentrates from a pipe, bong or bubbler.  Many of us have invested a lot of money in one or several smoke systems, and their funky colors or eye-catching design enhance the way we consume our weed.  Why do you choose to smoke from a pipe? Have you always hit the bong? What made you switch to doing dabs from a bubbler? There are as many reasons and ways to smoke as there are strains of cannabis, but the reasons don’t matter so much as the end goal: getting the best high and the perceived quality of your smoking experience.

If you’re aiming to reach the highest highs with a trusty pipe, a big-bowled bong or an ornate bubbler you need to make sure you’re maintaining your rig.  A clean smoking implement can mean the difference between getting all those active compounds we like to call cannabinoids – or, by their more common moniker, THC and CBD.  A gummed-up, sludge-filled, residue covered pipe or bong not only looks terrible but it can be detrimental to how you pull the smoke, can alter the taste or aroma, and ultimately diminish the quality of your smoking experience.  There are hundreds of ways to keep your setup clean, but which ones work best? What kinds of cleaning products are safe to use? Are there chemical free ways to keep my system clean and clear and under control? Let’s go over some of the top methods to keeping a clean pipe, dabber or bong, but first we need to take a look at what kinds of smoking tools there are before we learn how to maintain them.

TOKING STYLE: Pipes, Bong, Rigs & More!

What smoking tools you like to use often says a lot about you as a person, as well as your tendencies as a stoner.  For example, someone who prefers to puff on old toby’s finest from their gandfather’s wood-and-horn pipe is probably a big fan of vintage, or the classics (not to mention a Lord of the Rings nerd).  On the other end of the spectrum, someone who only hits the most buds from their bubbler rig might be more into the “it’s all about the high, bruh” mentality.  And then there’s the hemp-shirt wearing, chillest of the chill, lazy-day weekend stoner who just needs a massive hit of their 3-foot glass bong shaped like a Rhastafarian mermaid chick.  What kind of rig you trust in depends on how high you want to get, what kind of high you’re looking for, and the level of convenience that most suits your stoner lifestyle.  Some people just smoke on-the-go, whenever or wherever, so a smaller system like a pipe that fits in their handbag is perfect; on the other hand, some people don’t want to stick it in their pipe and smoke it because they need some extra absorption and a smoother toke, like with water vapor.  Have you tried all the different kinds of pipes, bongs, bubblers or even dab rigs? There’s nothing wrong with having a beloved way to smoke cannabis, but it’s definitely a good idea to try as many methods as you can – you just might find a new, surprising favorite in pipes, bongs, bubblers or dab rigs.

Pipes are certainly one of the more common methods of toking up – all you need is a pipe, a lighter, a grinder and some choice nugs.  Pipes are usually made of glass but some can be metal, minerals (granite, quartz) wood, porcelain, heck there’s even food-derived pipes (homemade apple pipes are in ingenious way to smoke if you’ve got no pipe but you do have a packed lunch).  Pipes come in a number of shapes, sizes and colors so there’s no end to the customization or personal touches you can put on how you smoke weed with a pipe.  Pipes are easy to take with you, they’re usually discreet enough to hide in your pocket, and their versatility makes for a convenient way to consume your cannabis wherever/whenever you want.

If you’re a fan of smoking cannabis but pipes & joints are just too burning for your throat/lungs or not hitting you hard enough, then the soothing but powerful vapors of a Bong hit just might be what you need.  Bongs utilize the natural cooling and filtering effects of water molecules to deliver a potent but smooth dose of marijuana – not to mention the pleasing cadence of the bubbling bong water with every toke.  Bongs are typically larger, tabletop delivery systems made of glass, metal or even plastic.  All you need to enjoy a good rip with one of these is a bong, some water, your choice of cannabis and a lighter… oh, and some strong lungs, because these hoots might send you into a lung-filled coughing fit if you’re not ready for the power of a good bong hit.

Bubblers are not as common as pipes or bongs, but they’re becoming more popular across North America as a suitable hybrid of both pipes and bongs.  Think of bubblers as a handheld, pipe-sized bong – small enough to fit into your hands, but built to include the benefits of smoking marijuana through the lung-friendly filters of water vapor.  There are even bubblers that can incorporate a weed joint into their design; instead of a bowl for packing buds into, some bubblers have an insert for a marijuana cig.  Bubblers, as their name suggests, are distinct for their bubble chamber where the cannabis smoke is filtered and cooled en route to delivering straight to the lungs.  These kinds of water-pipe-hybrids are usually a combination of glass, metal or ceramics, and many people who use them are known to be – shall we say – “members of higher society” (no pun intended).

There are also many kinds of dab rigs, such as e-nails, that have become extremely popular over the past decade.  The reasons why dabbing is such a popular phenomenon probably has something to do with their potency, the intense flavors and aromas you can experience with them, and the technological advancement of cannabis concentrates & extracts.  Dab rigs is basically the same idea and functionality of a bong, but they’re designed for smoking concentrates like shatter, resins, or even waxes.  Dabbers really focus on inhaling the vapors created by flash-heating the cannabis extracts whereas bongs or bubblers simply filter the smoke from flowers.  As you can imagine, water vapor is a lot more direct to the system than smoke – the lungs are themselves one of our body’s major filters, constantly processing what we breathe in.  Water vapor is more easily absorbed and processed by the lungs, unlike smoke which our lungs try to expel through coughing.  Simply put, dab rigs are one of the most efficient, potent deliveries of cannabinoids through your lungs, but they also require a bit more know-how than your average pipe or bong.  If this sounds like something you’d be interested in learning, check out our blog on Smoking Shatter.

So, you’ve smoked a bunch of bowls from all the different kinds of pipes, bongs, bubblers and dabbers… but now you’ve got an accumulation of resins and residues.  What can you do?! You might have a big party planned this weekend, and you’re definitely looking forward to showing off that life-size Yoda bong you bought at the cannabis tradeshow… but there’s too much green in the chamber and the bowl, even for a little-green guru like Master Yoda.  Don’t fret, your party can go on and we promise you will have your bong looking shinier than the day you bought it, with just a few cleaning tips & tricks.

READY, SET, SCRUB! Keeping Your Pipes, Bongs & Bubblers Clean

The first, very important thing to remember is this: DO NOT use household cleaning chemicals on your pipes, bongs, bubblers or dab rigs.  It can be very risky for your health or the health of anyone who could breathe in the smoke; smoking cannabis involves heat, biochemical reactions and sometimes vaporized water molecules, all of which can cause further chemical reactions with the cleaning products you might use at home.  Some people prefer to strictly use natural products, such as vinegar-based surface cleaners or plant-derived, safer chemicals in lieu of your everyday Windex or Mr. Clean.  Still, we can’t recommend enough to avoid using any/all chemicals for your smoking tools, it’s just not worth the risk of creating a potentially dangerous or harmful chemical reaction.  So, with that important notice out of the way, what IS safe and effective for cleaning pipes, bongs and bubblers? We’ve got some cleaning secrets for you, but first you need to know WHY your smoking instruments need to be cleaned, and WHAT happens to them over time.

First of all, how much you smoke (how often, how much) will determine the frequency or severity of build up of residues in your pipes or bongs.  Certain grades of cannabis – from the skunk dro you got from a friend, to the most premium nugs you paid top dollar for – will also influence how dirty your smoking tools get.  Some avid bong tokers have even remarked at how certain strains can accumulate more tar in their water chambers than others, and this is most likely a similar reflection of a bud’s quality by how it burns, what kind of ash it produces.  There are a multitude of reasons for why a cannabis flower burns the way it does (probably too many points to cover for this article), but we’ll keep our focus narrowed to minimizing the effects of residues and build up on our pipes, bongs and bubblers.

Secondly, the build up of carbon (which is what cannabis residue and tar is) can negatively impact the taste of your weed, not to mention blockages preventing you from inhaling all of the potent smoke.  Carcinogens can accumulate if you don’t remove the residues, you can start to notice a nasty after-taste whenever you smoke, and even after-burning the built up tar can lead to other potentially negative health effects.  We all remember our parents’ constant reminder to clean our rooms, and even though the monotony and repetitiveness might’ve annoyed us, they did it for a reason – if you don’t keep a clean, clutter-free space you risk the growth of mold, bad bacteria or even injuries from an overwhelming mess.  Cleaning gunk from your pipes, bongs or bubblers is no different – it’s something we just have to keep doing to avoid some negative (and downright embarrassing) consequences if we let it get out of hand.

Thirdly – and certainly, this one really stinks! – is the unpleasant aromas associated with a gummed up pipe or bong.  Whenever you smoke, you’re applying heat and energy to the glorious scents and flavors of your cannabis buds… but if what you smoke out of isn’t clean, you’re basically applying all that heat, energy and mobility of airflow to the nasty smells caked on your pipe/bong.  You don’t want to smell, let alone taste, last year’s holiday weed you got from “Santa”, do you? Old scents, stale aromas, and the release of carbon build up are not positive add-ons to any smoking experience, so don’t let it be a problem in the first place and clean your darn tools!

Since most pipes, bongs, bubblers or dab rigs are made of glass the obvious cleaning techniques focus on this kind of material.  That being said, not all smoke instruments are created equal – some are the trippiest, Doctor Seuss-like shapes and designs, while others are just a simple bowl-and-pipe build.  How can you clean something that borrows it’s shape from a Jackson Pollock painting?!  Not only are some pipes or bongs complicated to clean, they’re often very fragile when they’re crafted from glass or ceramics.  It’s important to be patient, and most of all NOT high, when you’re wiping down your pipe or bong.  Use microfiber cloths are a soft material rag to wipe down your pipe/bong at least once a week – after every smoking session is ideal, but again try no to do this while you’re high to reduce the risk of dropping or breaking your prized smoking instrument.  

Wiping your rigs down with a damp cloth or microfiber rag can help to reduce carbon residue build up, but only if you keep up on it.  Frequent cleaning with a clean cloth is honestly the best way to prevent resins from choking up your instrument, and no chemicals are needed if you keep it up. If you’re too busy (or too stoned) to consistently clean off your smoking tools, there’s still plenty of things you can do to reverse caked on residues.  Plant-based products, like the ones that incorporate natural plant oils as the active cleaning ingredients, are the best substances to use on your bong water reservoir or pipe bowl.  These kinds of cleaners bind to the resins and can strip them or pull them from your smoking implements, without using acids or chemicals that can leave trace amounts on your pipes and bongs.  A simple DIY cleaner some people in the cannabis-mecca of Colorado have been using is a mixture of vinegar, hot water and a tiny bit of dish soap.  Mix this concoction together and soak a microfiber cloth or something bristly (soft toothbrush, foam scrubber) and watch the grime and filth melt away! This homemade remedy is definitely a little sharp smelling from the vinegar, but if it’s important to you that your pipes or bongs are as natural as the cannabis medicine you smoke, then look no further than this hidden gem.

Another important part of keeping a clean system is the wire-brush.  Wire-brushes do NOT mean metal-wire scrubbers like you find under your kitchen sink – this dental-tool lookalike is a thin strip of wire with a small-bristled head typically smaller than your pinky finger.  Smaller, fine wire-brushes for these really tiny pipes or difficult to clean areas of a bong can be found in the dental aisle at most grocery stores, but for larger ones you can also visit your local hardware store (typically in the plumbing department).  Try to get the softest bristles you can, because glass, wood, ceramics and even metal pipes/bongs can scratch if you’re not careful.  Once you’ve acquired your wire-brush, simply run it through the resinous areas of your pipe (typically the stem, chamber, bowel and mouthpiece can show build up of cannabis residues).  For bongs, you’ll want to disassemble as much of it as possible and soak the parts (the bowl, carb, chamber, slide, stem and mouthpiece) in warm water while you scrub with the wire-brush.  For bubblers it’s pretty much the same processes as pipes or bongs, depending on the level of sophistication/design of your bubbler.  When you’re cleaning any smoking delivery system, always keep in mind what kinds of materials you’re dealing with.  For instance, if there’s metal parts try not to use water or any acidic solvents in cleaning to prevent rusting/corrosion, and likewise for wooden pipes you might not want to soak it directly but wipe it down or scrub with a slightly damp cleaning implement.

Typically, one good clean a week will be enough to keep your pipes, bongs and bubblers looking clean and tasting/smelling only the fresh buds you’re currently smoking, but it depends on how often you smoke.  If you’re a casual toker, just keep up on the wiping/brushing after each time you smoke and you won’t have to invest in much cleaning products.  For avid stoners – you know who you are – you are more likely to need some store bought cleaning products; there’s usually a few options at your local dispensary/cannabis shop, but try to stick with the naturally derived cleaners like the plant oil based ones we mentioned.

DON’T FORGET TO WIPE… YOUR BONG, AND PIPE

We hope you try these simple, but effective cleaning techniques next time you notice some build up on your favorite pipe or trusty bong.  There’s many ways to smoke a bowl, but there’s only a handful of proper methods to keeping your smoking instruments clean and working effectively.  Try not to use any isopropyl alcohol – chill, we can already hear a lot of you saying “but that’s what I’ve always used!” – because of the dangerous toxins that can be ingested in the smoke when your cannabis interacts with the alcohol residues left behind by these cleaners.  The same goes for a lot of other commonly (mis)used solutions like nail polish remover or anti-bacterial/sanitizing wipes.  A simple rule to remember is: if you wouldn’t want to put this chemical in your mouth, let alone your lungs, then don’t clean with it because it will end up in your system if you clean your pipe, bong or bubbler with it.  When you’re just learning how to clean your weed pipe, how to unclog a bowl, or how to clean your glass bong water chamber, stick to scrubbing/wiping in circular patterns and avoid using abrasive tools (like a kitchen utensil or flathead screwdriver).  If you’ve got a particularly stuck-on mess, clean your marijuana pipe or bong with a dentist’s pick – those hooked, sharp things our dentists like to torture us with when they “clean our teeth”.  These picks are specialized for removing firmly fixed particles, and they’re usually made of a metal that’s soft enough for teeth, so it won’t scratch/damage your smoking tools as bad as a knife will.

Cleaning your bowl of weed after a good smoke sesh might seem like a buzzkill when all you want to do is chillax or enjoy being stoned.  Nevertheless, when it comes to cleaning your pipes, bongs and bubblers it’s the little things that make big differences in the quality, longevity and overall look of your smoking tools.  Don’t forget to clean your tools, and you’ll always have a smooth, flavorful and the deliciously dank aromas of cannabis whenever you smoke out of your pipes and bongs.  Are you new to smoking in Canada? We’ve got your next reading material set then: How Canadians Smoke, Coast-to-Coast might shed some light on what kinds of cannabis there are, why you should try them, and what’s the smoking method that best suits you.

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