Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
The bong is one of cannabis’ most essential and beloved smoking devices, used by medical and recreational users alike to consume marijuana flower. The bong’s water cools and filters smoke, directed downstem and up through the mouthpiece before inhaling into the lungs. However, because the water molecules cling to the tar and carcinogens in the smoke, bongs can build up an immense amount of residue, which can be dangerous if left too long.
It’s essential to regularly clean your bong to keep it sanitary and functioning in tip-top shape. While it requires some prep work to clean a bong, this step-by-step guide will explain everything you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your glass bong.
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How Often Should You Clean Your Bong?
A dirty bong is never a pretty sight, especially with tar, smoke buildup, and old plant matter sticking to the device. Neglecting to clean your bong is both a health threat and socially uncouth if you’re in a group smoking session.
Many consumers anecdotally recommend cleaning your bong approximately once a week, if not more, if you’re a frequent smoker. Further, you should replace your bong water at least once daily, ideally after every session, to avoid mold buildup. Mold can grow as quickly as 24 hours of sitting, and you certainly don’t want to inhale it unintentionally, which can cause lung infections or even pneumonia.
A quick visual inspection will clue you in as to when you need to clean your bong. If your glass device is anything besides apparent, such as a dark brown or even black, it’s time for deep scrubbing.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need to gather a few supplies — many of which you can find around the house — to prepare to clean your bong:
- 99% isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
- Coarse sea salt
- Two large plastic zip bags
- Rubber stoppers or bong plugs
- A cloth or paper towel
How to Clean a Bong
Once you’ve gathered the necessary materials, you’re ready to clean your bong. The following steps will give your dirty bong a thorough cleanse and allow you to enjoy your next smoke with peace of mind. The following method also works to clean bubblers.
1. Dump Old Bong Water
Before you begin cleaning, you’ll need to get rid of the old water in your bong and pour it into the sink or drain. Again, changing your water daily is always a good idea to prevent resin buildup and keep your smoke clean.
2. Disassemble Your Bong
Remove all removable parts from the bong, including the bowl and downstem, and place them in separate zipping storage bags. You could technically put both pieces in the same storage bag, but separating them helps prevent damage and gives them a more thorough clean.
3. Place in Zipper Storage Bag with Rubbing Alcohol and Salt
Toss a handful of sea salt into the zipper bags and pour rubbing alcohol until the part is completely submerged. Place these aside and allow them to sit. Alternatively, you can use a bong cleaning solution for this and the following step.
4. Add Salt and Rubbing Alcohol Mixture to the Bong
Pour a handful of coarse salt into the emptied bong to coat the bottom of the base. Then add about ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol into the bong and let it sit.
5. Plug Any Holes
Using rubber stoppers or bong-sized plugs, plug up the openings of the mouthpiece and downstem of the bong to trap the water inside. It’s essential to know the size of these holes and order the right-sized plugs when purchasing.
6. Shake the Bong and Pieces
Once sealed, shake your bong and make sure the alcohol-salt solution reaches every corner of the device. Shake your downstem and bowl inside their storage bags as well.
Keep shaking the three components until the resin starts to come off, and once enough is gone, pour out the alcohol and salt and remove the pieces from the zip bags.
7. Rinse Everything
After the resin has successfully been cleared, use warm-to-hot water to rinse them off. Add hot water to the bong and lightly shake to rinse the remaining plant matter. Be sure to thoroughly rinse every piece to remove any alcohol or residual resin traces.
If there’s still resin after rinsing, repeat steps 3-6 until your bong is clean. Pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol can also help clean hard-to-reach spots.
8. Allow to Dry
If you need to use your bong after cleaning, wipe everything down with a paper or cloth towel. Otherwise, allow your bong to air dry in the sun to burn off the last of any germs and melt away sticky residue.
Cleaning Plastic or Acrylic Bongs
In the case of plastic or acrylic bongs, you want to avoid alcohol, which can potentially strip down certain latex or acrylic materials. Instead, opt to scrub the different pieces of your bong with a pipe cleaner and hot water, scrubbing well to remove resin and rinsing away the removed plant matter.
Baking soda, vinegar, and hot water will also do in a pinch. The vinegar helps remove flower buildup, while baking soda is a water softener. Together, the two make an abrasive solution that helps to scrub leftover resin from every corner of your plastic or acrylic bong.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to clean your bong will go a long way to protect your health and keep your device in top shape for years. A well-made bong can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance, so don’t forget to give your bong a regular clean and replace your bong water daily. The more you clean it, the less often you’ll need to do a deep clean.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is smoking from a dirty bong dangerous?
Stagnant, dirty bong water can become home to all kinds of bacteria and molds in as little as 24 hours, which can be hazardous to your lungs and lead to infection or pneumonia.
How often should you change bong water?
It’s essential to replace your bong water daily to be safe, and some anecdotal reports recommend pouring out dirty bong water with every smoke. You’ll know it’s time to replace the bong water when you see a layer of brown or plant material, known as biofilm, lying across the top. The benefit of smoking with a bong is to filter the smoke, but it can only really do its job with clean water.
Can you clean a bong with vinegar?
Vinegar, baking soda, and hot water effectively clean bongs if you don’t want to or can’t use rubbing alcohol.