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Water Pipe vs Bong: What's the Difference?

by Angel Ferrer 7 min read

is a water pipe a bong

Is the “water pipe” and “bong” lingo confusing you?

A water pipe is a bong but also a water pipe is any type of pipe that uses water to filter and cool smoke. This includes bongs, bubblers, recyclers, and dab rigs, regardless of whether they’re made from glass, silicone, ceramic, or acrylic. Water pipes enhance the smoking experience by diffusing, cleaning, and cooling smoke for a smoother, tastier hit.

In this article, we clarify the terminology between water pipe, bong, and dry pipe, and explain the differences between these terms regarding filtration, cooling, and how it affects the overall impact of the bong rip.

Short Answer:

  • A bong is a water pipe, but a water pipe is any pipe that uses water to filter smoke
  • The words bong and water pipe can be used interchangeably
  • If you don’t put water in your bong it’s considered a dry bong or dry pipe
  • Water is used in pipes to filter, diffuse, and cool hot smoke
  • Learn: Why do bongs need water?

Is a water pipe a bong?

Yes, a water pipe is a bong. While “bong” and “water pipe” are often used interchangeably, a water pipe includes any pipe that uses water, such as a bong or a bubbler. Nowadays, “bong” and “water pipe” are nearly synonymous due to the bong’s popularity as a dominant method for consuming cannabis.

Water pipe: A water pipe is any pipe that uses water, no matter the type or shape of the bong. A bong, bubbler, glycerin, recycler, and dab rig are all considered water pipes, when water is added to the bong.

Bong: A bong is a water pipe when water is used, but it’s considered a dry bong or dry pipe if no water is used.


Dry bong vs water bong - what's the difference?

what is a dry bong


The biggest difference between dry bongs and water bongs boils down to one word: water filtration. A water bong uses water to give you a cooler, smoother hit, thanks to its ability to filter and diffuse hot smoke.

If you use your bong without water it becomes a dry bong. Without the water, the percolator doesn’t function and no filtration takes place, which means the smoke is denser and hits your throat harder. While this means a rougher hit, on the bright side you’re getting unfiltered smoke with no worries about losing any THC during water diffusion.

Up next, we’ll break down the main differences between the words: water pipes, bongs, and dry pipes when it comes to how they impact your experience when smoking a bong.


1. What happens when you hit a dry bong

Hitting a dry bong is like skipping the middleman and going straight for the full force of the smoke. Without water to cool and filter it, the smoke is hotter and harsher, which is rougher on your lungs and throat.

This can result in coughing because you’re taking in much larger volumes of hot smoke called “bong rips” which bongs are notorious for delivering. The lack of a percolator or water diffusion makes the experience much more intense physically than it needs to be.

Dry hits also don’t get the benefits of filtration, so you’re potentially drawing in more ash and resin. While water filtration makes for a smoother, cleaner session, some smokers prefer the raw, unfiltered punch that a dry bong delivers, similar to blunts and steamroller pipes.


2. What’s the point of water in a bong?

The water in a bong is the secret sauce that makes your smoking experience smoother and much cleaner. It acts as a filter, catching ash, plant bits, and some less desirable water-soluble compounds, resin, and tar. The percolator works hand-in-hand with the water to break hot smoke apart with thousands of smaller bubbles, cooling and cleaning hot smoke further.

Water pipes produce bubbles increasing the surface area for the smoke, giving it more time to cool as it passes through the water. Water also absorbs heat from the smoke, helping to smooth down and make the hit gentler on the throat. This cooling and filtering action allows you to take bigger, more comfortable hits, which is why using water in a bong (a water pipe) is the preferred method over smoking it dry.


Every type of water pipe:

every water pipe


Water pipes are a type of pipe that uses water to filter, cool, and smooth out hot smoke. Bongs fall under this category, as do bubblers. The main difference between a bong and a bubbler is their size and functionality. Below is a breakdown of all the different types of water pipes:



A bong is a larger water pipe. It’s perfect for shared settings, larger hits, and if you want to increase water filtration for much smoother hits. The size of the bong can dramatically affect how well the water pipe filters and cools, along with many other factors. Check out our guide on learning how to choose a bong that is perfect for you.


A bubbler is like a cross between a hand pipe and a bong. It’s slightly bigger than a hand pipe but features a smaller water chamber and percolator than a bong. Bubblers provide pretty minimal filtration and are considered the smallest water pipe.


A recycler is a bong or rig that has additional external tubes that allow you to refilter and recool smoke much more than a bong would. It’s one of the most powerful water pipes that puts a focus on delivering the smoothest and cleanest experience and is very popular with dabs.

Dab rig

A dab rig is also considered a water pipe because it uses a percolator and water to diffuse the vapor from concentrates. Both a dab rig and bong share a very similar structure, where in most cases you just need to switch the glass bowl with a banger to convert a bong into a dab rig.


Every type of dry pipe:

every dry pipe


Any pipe used for smoking without the use of water is classified as a dry pipe. This category includes well-known classics like the spoon pipe and chillum. If you were to use any water pipe, such as a bubbler or a bong, without water, it would also become a dry pipe. Essentially, the only difference between a dry pipe and a water pipe is whether or not water is used.

Weed pipe

Weed pipes are small hand pipes, also called spoon pipes. They feature a bowl, a pathway for smoke to travel, and a carburetor to control airflow, but offer no water filtration. This is why it’s common to smoke and inhale a bit of ash and excess resin with spoon pipes.

Steamroller Pipes

Steamrollers are similar to weed pipes, but they have a longer pathway for smoke, and also position the carb at the opposite end of the mouthpiece. The carb is usually much larger, so when you remove your finger or hand, the flow of smoke shoots much faster and stronger than a carb from a hand pipe. This makes steamrollers one of the strongest dry pipes, especially the extra-large models.

Glass blunt

Glass blunts are relatively new and allow you to hold a large quantity of cannabis similar to a blunt but require no paper making it a much healthier alternative to blunts. Glass blunts force you to inhale the smoke directly without filtration, and as the cherry stays lit, you can continue to smoke it in a shared setting, just as you would a blunt.

One hitter/chillum

One hitters and chillums are the smallest dry pipes on the market. Originally called “Tasters” for testing strains, these small dry pipes are great for beginners and discreet on-the-go smoking. The lack of water filtration is why you’ll often inhale small plant debris which is called “scoobys” or “scooby snacks”.


Benefits of Water Pipes vs Dry Pipes

While smoking isn’t the healthiest habit, water pipes do offer some perks over dry pipes. The big win is water filtration, which helps trap and filter out some of the nastier byproducts of smoke combustion. This means that with every hit, you’re getting a smoother, cleaner, cooler, and tastier experience.

The con of having water filtration is when the plant particles sit in your water chamber untouched, you run the risk of growing mold in your bong in as little as 48 hours.

Beyond the bong rips being much smoother, water pipes prevent you from inhaling ash, tar, and so much more, which is why some believe bongs are the healthiest smoking option when compared to dry pipes and joints.


The Role of Percolators in Water Pipes

Percolators are the secret weapon in water pipes that takes the experience to another level. Percs are filters located in the water chamber, designed to break hot smoke apart with tiny water bubbles. This process, known as water diffusion, cools and smooths hot smoke, making the inhaling process much more comfortable.

If you don’t put water in your bong the bong is no longer a water pipe and becomes a dry pipe and the percolator no longer functions. In order for the perc to work you need to fill your bong with water. There are different types of percolators, such as tree percs, honeycomb percs, and showerhead percs, each with its own level of filtration and diffusing power.

For example, honeycomb percs have multiple small holes for thousands of microbubbles, while tree percs have multiple arms that create larger bubbles that shoot downwards. Buying a water pipe with a powerful percolator can dramatically provide a cooler, smoother, and filtered smoke.


Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that water pipes are known for being less harsh to smoke with than dry pipes. This naturally makes them a popular choice, and it also makes the water pipe a great option for beginners, too.

Once your herb combusts into smoke, a water pipe naturally filters, but also acts to cool the smoke before inhaling, resulting in a smoother hit that is easier to handle and results in less coughing. This cooling process also slightly modifies the concentration of “active” compounds in your herb and can influence the effects and the taste.

In the end, there is no wrong way to consume cannabis, whether you decide to use water filtration or not, but for a smoother, cleaner, and tastier rip you will want to pick a water pipe over a dry pipe, especially for much larger volume hits.