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As more states move to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, even more Americans are getting their smoke on. Whether you’re new to toking up with a water pipe or you’re a seasoned bong smoker, regular maintenance is key for keeping your weed flavorful — which also requires that you keep your precious piece in proper working order. If your artful glass accouterment has accumulated some gunk or stink, then it’s high time for a refresher on how to clean a bong.
“Most folks prefer bongs for the water filtration. Like any filter, which in this case is our bong water, it’s bound to collect some gnarly stuff on the biofilm,” says Ivanna Navarro, a budtender at Canada-based cannabis lifestyle brand Burb. “You wouldn’t reuse the same paper filter on your joint, right? Well, the same rule applies to your bong water. That same bacteria and mildew can cause you to cough more than needed and can even cause lung issues, which sounds pretty wack to me, so be obsessive about regularly cleaning your bong.”
Yvette Reyna, training and education coordinator at California-based cannabis brand Wonderbrett, reminds us that “everything we smoke goes into our body. Bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses can quickly grow inside your bong overnight and cause respiratory problems down the line or even in your current state of health. Just like we test and check to make sure our flower is clean, we should be making sure the items we use to smoke them in are clean, too.”
To both experts’ points, there are still potential health risks no matter how or what you smoke, so keep that in mind as you’re enjoying responsibly. (You must be age 21 or over in most states where cannabis is legal.)
When Is It Time to Clean Your Bong?
“You know it’s time to clean your bong if a ring starts to form around the waterline of your bong or when you pour purified water into it and see some little floaters of weed, resin, or residue in there,” explains Reyna. Those particles, combined with bacteria and mildew, “is what results in that really specific bong smell,” adds Navarro.
Both experts suggest cleaning your bong or pipe once a week. “A lot of connoisseurs clean their bong every day,” says Reyna. “If you want to keep it clean and prevent things like this, just dump the water when you are done using your bong every single time and clean it anyway.”
Navarro adds: “While we clean bongs (hopefully listening to some good tunes or a podcast at the same time!), it’s important to reflect on all the sacrifices made by Black and Brown people in order to achieve legalization. The legalization that allows you to clean your bong free of worry!”
How to Clean a Bong, According to Experts
When it comes to the best ways to clean your bong, Reyna and Navarro maintain that you don’t need fancy solutions. The classic rubbing alcohol and salt mixture is still the best way to keep your piece looking brand-spankin’ new, they say. “Those are two things [are things that] people have in their homes already. Let’s keep our community inclusive by using accessible products,” suggests Navarro.
To clean your bong, first take out all removable pieces (like the mouthpiece and pipe). Pour 91% or 99% isopropyl alcohol into the bong and add some coarse salt, such as Epsom or rock salt, as an abrasive. Shake your piece for about five minutes, then rinse with water and soap. Vinegar and rice will also work, but Navarro and Reyna prefer the former method.
You can also buy commercial pipe cleaners, but Navarro points out that many “aren’t necessarily the best for the earth. I find, for the most part, isopropyl alcohol and rock salt always do the trick. I love this method, not just because it works,” she says, “but because it supports the idea of conserving the legacy of cannabis, and continuing what has been working for so long. But please keep in mind the conservation of our planet and our waterways. Don’t be wasteful with water you use to clean.”
What Are the Best Bong Cleaning Products?
Whether you’re looking to save yourself a trip to the head shop, or prefer to restock from your own couch, we’re rounded up some of the best bong cleaning products inspired by our experts’ recommendations.
1. Solimo 99% Isopropyl Alcohol
“I would suggest a 99% as it cleans everything,” says Reyna. Lower percentages of alcohol “can leave other bacteria somewhat dormant if not left in for a certain amount of time.”
2. Member’s Mark 91% Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol, the effective ingredient in rubbing alcohol and homemade sanitizers, sold out during the pandemic. If you can’t get 99% alcohol, Reyna says 91% will still do the job. “Just soak it longer to be safe,” she recommends.
3. 365 Everyday Value Epsom Salt
4. Formula 420 Pipe Cleaner
“The first product I ever used to clean my pipes and bongs was from Formula 420, so I still use a lot of their cleaning accessories because they have worked so well over the years,” says Reyna. The brand’s cleaner formula is non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for glass, ceramic, and metal.
5. Formula 420 Universal Cleaning Caps and Plugs Set
These reusable soft plugs and caps by Formula 420 will ensure a spill-free cleaning session. “I really like to use their accessories when I dump all the salt and alcohol in so nothing can come out when I’m shaking it up,” says Reyna.
6. Organyc Chlorine- and Plastic-Free Organic Cotton Swabs
“Cleaning your bowl on each side with a Q-tip after every other use really helps keep your bowl fresh and easier on the cleaning process as you will have less junk to clean up,” Reyna says. “A friend suggested it to me once and it really helps as the alcohol is less dirty and can get another use of it.”
7. Public Goods Dish Soap
Reyna and Navarro suggest washing your bong and mouthpiece with some regular dish soap — just make sure your equipment is rinsed out thoroughly.
8. If You Care Organic Unbleached Cheese Cloth
“If you’re running low on alcohol, which is still kind of hard to get at stores, depending on your location, you can save it in a mason jar to reuse,” suggests Reyna. Secure cheesecloth over the jar with a rubber band or a metal lid band and pour your used alcohol through to remove any particles.
9. Large Straw Brush
For those hard-to-scrub places, a straw brush can scrape away any grime that’s tough to reach.
10. Higher Standards Heavy Duty Beaker
If you notice that your bong has permanent stains, Reyna says it might be due to low-quality materials. “Don’t buy cheap glass and don’t smoke that resin, no matter how tempting it may be! Cheap glass is more porous and the sticky icky gets stuck in and never comes out,” she says.
For those looking for a high-end upgrade, we’re fans of Higher Standards’ sleek glass bongs. This one is made of heavy duty glass and is reminiscent of a beaker.
11. Summerland The Land Yacht
This sleek glossy white bong by Summerland is made of lead-free, food-safe ceramic and glaze. The handmade piece comes with a high-grade silicone grommet “to ensure clean hits and airtight carbs,” says the brand.