At first glance, a water pipe may seem confusing, especially if you've never seen one used. In reality, however, water bongs are quite simple and easy to enjoy. A water bong filters and cools the smoke so that the experience is smooth and enjoyable. Using a water filtered device is one of the cleanest, smoothest, and healthiest ways to smoke tobacco or any other products, and they are a cinch to keep clean.
Preparing the Bong
- Mouthpiece: This is the opening at the end of the tube where you place your mouth. When placing your mouth on the inhale hole, place your lips inside, not over, the hole. Purse them slightly and force them gently into the hole so that the outside of your lips creates an airtight seal.
- Chamber: This is where the smoke accumulates, ready to be inhaled. Smoking a bong is a two-part activity -- you fill the chamber of smoke, then "clear" it with quick inhale at the end.
- Bowl (Slide): This holds your smoking material. It is sometimes called a slide because you remove it from the downstem as the final step before inhaling the smoke in the smoke chamber.
- Downstem: A small tube that connects the water in the bottom of the bong to the bottom of the slide. It may be defused (notched at the bottom) or a simple tube. The smoke travels through the downstem and into the water. Some bongs do not have downstems and instead have a molded glass tube leading from the slide into the chamber. The water should always be higher than the downstem.
- Carb (Optional): A hole on the side of the bond above the water level, the carb is kept covered while the slide is being lit and then uncovered when the user is ready to inhale the smoke. Most water bongs, however, do not have a carb, unless they are wooden or porcelain.
2.Fill the bong with water until it just covers the downstem. Remove the downstem and fill the chamber with water so that all the holes in the downstem are covered. It should be low enough so that it doesn't spill out of the carb, if you have one. Try to get the water between 1" and 1/2" above the end of the downstem. The temperature is a matter of preference-- some people love cold, some warm, and many are fine with room temperature.
- Contrary to popular belief, more water does not lead to a better experience. It takes your lungs effort to pull air through water, so more water just means you are working harder to pull the smoke through.
- Test the amount of water by taking a quick, deep breath through the mouthpiece -- it should bubble up but never come to your lips.
3.Fill any percolators with water. Percolators, or percs, are small additions in the neck and chamber of the bong that further filter your smoke. They can be branched like trees, circular discs, notched tubes, rounded domes, or a variety of other shapes depending on the glassblower. Their purpose is all the same -- they provide more air and water to diffuse and cool the smoke. Fill the percolator with enough water to cover any air holes with a few millimeters of water.
- You may have to fill a percolator through the mouthpiece instead of the downstem.
4.Add ice to your bong (optional). Ice will cool down the smoke, which some people believe makes it easier to inhale. Carefully put some in the water to cool it down, removing the downstem first so that the ice doesn't break it on the way down.
- Some bongs have "ice pinches," where the glass of the chamber is pinched to allow ice cubes to rest. This forces the smoke to travel around the cold air in the neck, cooling it right before it goes into your mouth.
- On the other hand, some smokers prefer hot water in the chamber because the steam helps bring moisture into the lungs. This is a matter of personal preference.
5.Slide in the downstem and a clean bowl and take a test drag. Breath as if you were smoking the bowl normally, once with the bowl in and once with it removed. Does any water hit your lips? If so you should pour some out. Are all the percs bubbling when you inhale? If they are not, add a bit more water so that you see big, honeycombing bubbles up the sides of the glass as you inhale.
Packing the Bowl
1.Remove the bowl from the bong to fill it up. This is so that you don't accidentally knock the entire thing over while packing.
2.Clean out any ash or large residue in the bowl. First, make sure that enough airflow makes it through the bowl. Gently blow on the bowl, and make sure you can feel air on the other side, where it meets the downstem. If air gets through easily, you're golden. If not, take a pointy tool, like a safety pin or mechanical pencil, and gently unpack any debris that may be lodged in the bowl. The key to smooth, milky smoke is enough airflow.
3.Break up your smoking material, removing any seeds, stems, or leafs. Break up your smoking material into small pieces roughly the size of large crumbs. If you're using a grinder to grind up your smoking material, take a look through the smoking material and try to remove any seeds or stems before grinding it up. Seeds, stems, and leafs will compromise the purity of your smoke, so it's best to remove them.
If you do choose to use a grinder you should give it a quick, coarse grind. Finely ground smoking material can get sucked into the chamber and become extinguished before it has time to release its seductive smoke. This is sometimes referred to as "snapping the bowl."
4.Loosely pack the bowl with your smoking material. Do not pack it over the top edge, as the smoke will drift away instead of into the bowl. If you have a large hole the bottom of your bowl, break off a bigger piece of smoking material (such as a 4-5mm "nugget") and use it to lightly block off the hole. This prevents the herb from sucking into the downstem.
- Make sure the bowl is not so full that your smoking material falls out, or so tightly-packed that no air can pass through. You should pack your material to a medium-light consistency. You want to get as much material in your bowl as possible while still being able to pull air through it with each inhale.
5.Place the bowl into the downstem of the bong. Fit it in snugly, but don't feel like you need to cram it in. Unless you have a carb, you'll need to remove the bowl to smoke from a water bong.
Taking a Hit
1.Hold the bong securely in your non-dominant hand. Most people grasp the bong firmly around the neck, which is made to fit in your hands. The bottom often rests in your lap or on a flat surface. Novice bong users should always follow this rule: Keep the bong on a flat surface (like a tabletop) to minimize the chance of it falling and breaking. More advanced bong users can be seen gripping the bong without any support underneath, but this can lead to accidents if you aren't prepared.
- If you can't find a flat surface to hold the bong on, rest the bong on your stomach area or in between your legs if it's big enough.
- If the bong has a carb, grip the piece so that one finger plugs up the hole. If you don't, you will draw in outside air, not the air through the burning bowl, and end up with no smoke in the chamber. Make sure you can safely uncover the hole as well.
2.Place your lips inside the opening, forming a seal. It is bad etiquette to wrap your lips around the outside of the mouthpiece. Instead, purse your lips and push them lightly in the inside of the tube. Make sure that the entire opening is sealed, otherwise you won't be able to draw any smoke out.
- Practice good bong etiquette by wiping your mouth, drying your lips, and placing your lips inside the inhale hole instead or entirely around it. You'll create a better vacuum and you won't slobber all over the top of the bong, making the next hit unpleasant.
3.Hold the lighter up to the edge of the bowl while simultaneously inhaling. Strike your lighter with your free hand and slowly tilt it down over the bowl. As you do, begin inhaling so that you "pull" the flame into the bowl, igniting your smoking material.
- If you don't want to inhale the fumes of a lighter, or simply don't want to deal with the hassle of many moving parts, try lighting hemp wick instead. Also known as "bee line," hemp wick is an organic lighting string that burn slowly and stay lit. You light the end, like a candle, and use this to light the bowl.
4.Remove the flame once the bowl has caught, but keep inhaling. Once the herb is lit, it will start glowing and the bowl will fill with smoke. The key here is to inhale slowly. You don't want to be inhaling your smoking product so much as gathering smoke inside the bong's chamber.
- Once the smoking material is lit, it will stay lit as you pull air through it, helping the rest of the bowl catch as well. It should only take 1-2 seconds of direct flame.
- Move on when you start running out of breath. You don't want to be completely winded before you inhale the smoke-- you should have one big, quick breath left in your lungs.
5.Inhale the smoke with a big, deep breath by removing the bowl or opening the carb. To get the smoke into your lungs, you need to allow fresh air to flow through that pushes the smoke up and into your lungs. Use the hand that held the lighter to pull the bowl out, or remove your finger from the carb. As soon as you do, take a deep, rapid breath to inhale all the smoke in the bowl.
- Many beginning smokers struggle to know how much air they have left for this final inhalation. If you are unsure, remove the bowl after the chamber has filled up with smoke, before the smoke gets into the neck.
6.Exhale immediately. There is no real benefit to keeping the smoke in your lungs, as most pleasurable compounds are absorbed instantly. Place the bowl back into the downstem or clean it out if it is finished.
7.Clear any remaining smoke from the water bong before passing it on. Many smokers find the left-over smoke "stale" and prefer not to smoke it. Instead, blow lightly through the downstem to force the remaining smoke up and out the mouthpiece of the bong.
- Do not ever exhale back into the top of a bong, as this usually spills the water out the downstem or carb and can wet the bowl, ruining any extra smoking material.
Practicing Bong Etiquette
1.Avoid drooling into the bong. The first couple times you hit a bong, it's easy to accidentally drool while you're inhaling. But this is bad smoking etiquette. No one wants to think about drool as they let the relaxing calm of a smoking product take hold. To avoid drooling into the bong, try these tricks:
- If you feel drool start to drip out, stop inhaling, put out the bowl with the heel of your lighter and close your mouth. Do this while your mouth is still in its original position, without moving it from the inhale hole. Try to swallow as much drool as possible without exhaling.
- Stop inhaling and put the bowl out. Take your mouth from the inhale hole without exhaling and cover the inhale hole with an open palm. Wipe your mouth on your sleeve and try again.
2.After each hit, wipe off the mouthpiece or inhale hole with a shirt or sleeve. You're probably among friends, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep everything tidy.
3.Only light a corner of the bowl, not all the smoking material. It's rude to smoke all of what's in the bowl if you're supposed to share with other people. Ask the owner of the bong if s/he is packing a "one-hitter," meaning they've only put enough smoking product in for one person. If it is, light the entire bowl. If it isn't you should try "cornering:"
- Focus the flame of your lighter on the side of the bowl, only dipping a little bit of the flame into the bowl.
- Leave as much of the top of the bowl unburnt as possible, as this has the best taste. The center and sides will light for you, saving the rest for someone else's "fresher" hit.
4.Clean the bowl out when there is nothing but ash. Again, no one wants to smoke the dregs, so don't let them. Give the slide back to the person who packed the bowl. They'll either pack a new one or call it quits.
5.Change the water when it becomes discolored. As the water filters out impurities in the smoke, it will turn tan and smell unpleasant. You should quickly rinse it out and put in fresh water every 7-10 hits, and even sooner for a better taste and cleaner smoke. Frequent rinsing will also make the piece easier to clean later on.
Cleaning a Water Bong
1.Use isopropyl alcohol and salt to quickly clean a tube at home. No matter how often you change the water, your water bong is going to get dirty. Luckily, cleaning a piece is easy, especially if you do it frequently. All you need is some isopropyl alcohol and salt, however you can also invest in cleaning products like Simple Green or Grunge off for a deeper clean. Other home cleaning remedies, mostly used for quick cleanings without large chunks of residue to remove, include:
- Vinegar and baking soda
- Hot water and denture tablets.
2.Rinse all of the pieces in water separately and dry them off. Use a paper towel to wipe away any big, easily reached pieces of resin and pat all the pieces dry. Trying to clean all the parts of the bong while it is still put together can lead to a heartbreaking accident if a piece slips off.
- Try not to dump water out the mouthpiece, as this may bring residue up to the top that you don't want to taste later.
3.Place the bowl and downstem in small Ziploc bags and fill them with isopropyl alcohol. Make sure there is enough alcohol to completely cover the surfaces of the pieces, then set them aside to soak.
- Whenever possible, use 91% isopropyl alcohol, as it is far more effective than 70% alcohol at removing resin.
- If they are very dirty, you should soak the pieces overnight to make cleaning easier.
4.Fill the bong with 1-2 tablespoons of large grain salt. Use kosher or coarse grained salt whenever possible, using 2 tablespoons if your bong is larger and a foot tall. Salt is purely an abrasive that won't dissolve in alcohol, allowing you to "scrub" the inside of the bong without ever reaching into it.
5.Dump in a 1/2 cup of isopropyl alcohol and shake the piece. The alcohol will weaken the residue and remove the smell, and the salt will scrub away the bits of resin. Use one hand to cover up the top of the piece and another to plug the hole in the stem, then shake the piece to clean it. Think of the salt like a sponge, using it to wipe away any spots or resin. When done, let the piece sit and soak while you take care of the downstem and bowl.
6.Put a little salt in the Ziploc bags with the downstem and bowl and shake well. Letting these pieces soak a little bit will loosen up the resin, since the bowl and downstem are frequently dirtier than the bong. Add some salt to the bag and shake it up just like the bong, trying to get the salt to pass through the pieces.
- This is why you should use separate bags for the two pieces, as the shaking can cause them to damage one another.
7.Use Q-tips and pipe cleaners to get off any tricky residue. Wipe away anything that lingers around, as it should come off easily after the exposure to alcohol. If you are still having trouble, try soaking the pieces overnight and repeating the salt scrub in the morning -- you will usually have better luck.
8.Rinse all the pieces with hot water. Clean out any salt and alcohol from the pieces and rinse them thoroughly. Set them aside to drive and continue to enjoy them as usual. To make it really sparkle, mix hot water with the juice from half a lemon and shake up the bong to remove water stains.
9.Clean your bong every few weeks to prevent large build-ups of crud. It is much easier and faster to spend 5 minutes cleaning out the bong than an hour trying to dislodge large pieces of resin. Take some time to do a simple salt scrub frequently, once a week if you smoke daily, and you'll be the happy owner of a clean bong for years to come.