Beginner's Guide To Using a Bong Waterpipe
Love your herb, but haven’t yet explored other ways to smoke it?
If you have never smoked from a bong (or waterpipe as they are sometimes called) and are intrigued by the idea, but not quite sure how they work, you’re not alone.
Everyone that has ever smoked from a bong has had to learn the basics of use for a waterpipe. And despite its sometimes complicated appearance, they are not all that difficult to use.
This guide will break down what a bong is, how it works, and how to maintain one. So the next time you’re feeling like lighting up, a bong might be your weapon of choice.
Anatomy of a Waterpipe
It’s easy to imagine why some users might find a bong intimidating at first glance. But once you understand the individual components and how they work together, it can help make sense of how to use it.
A bong is made up of five parts: the carb (sometimes), the bowl/slide, the downstem, the mouthpiece, and the chamber.
Each part of the device has a specific function detailed below:
- The Bowl/Slide: Long story short: your weed goes in here. But really, it’s where any marijuana, tobacco, etc. is placed and lit during the process of filling the chamber with smoke.
- The Downstem: This is a tube that acts as a conduit for the smoke to go from the slide into the water.
- The Mouthpiece: The mouthpiece is the space at the end of the elongated tunnel of glass at the top of the water pipe. The user places their lips just inside the rim of the mouthpiece and forms a seal with the outside of the lips in order to draw up the smoke once the user is ready to inhale.
- The Chamber: The chamber is the section of the water pipe where the smoke develops and sits until it is released by the user inhaling the smoke in a quick motion.
- The Carb: This is a hole on the side of the water pipe which is kept covered during the lighting of the bong and released when the user is ready to take in the smoke. A lot of bongs do not have this feature.
Preparing the Bong for Your Next Herbal Session
The first thing you need to do when prepping your bong is adding water to the pipe. It’s important to make sure that your downstem is covered with water. The holes in the downstem must be submerged. A general rule is to make sure the water level is 1-1 ½ inches above the downstem.
PRO TIP: Make sure to dry off any residual water that might have gotten on the outside of the bong. Glass, when wet, is quite slippery, and the last thing you want to do is see your bong shattering into a gazillion pieces when dropped.
The next step is to place your ground marijuana or tobacco into the bowl/slide and place the bowl/slide into the downstem. Make sure you place the bowl/slide gently into the downstem and do not forcibly shove it into place. You want to form an airtight seal, but not cause the pieces to become jammed or break.
At this point, you are ready to light the bowl and enjoy!
A Word on Lighting Up, Inhalation and Technique
Once the herb of your choice is packed in the bowl and the bowl is securely placed into the downstem, it’s time to place your lips over the mouthpiece to form an airtight seal.
Taking this step prior to lighting up, will ensure you’re ready to quickly inhale the smoke once its released from the chamber and readied to initiate suction as soon as your flame hits the herb.
PRO TIP: Juggling holding the bong, lighting the bowl and preparing to inhale with your mouth over the mouthpiece can be a bit awkward. Try to grip the waterpipe with your non-dominant hand and use your dominant hand to light the bowl and pull the bowl/slide out when ready to inhale.
To light the bowl, simple position the lighter just above the end of the packed bowl and ignite the herb while inhaling at the same time. If your water pipe has a carb, at this point you are also going to want to be sure your non-dominant hand is covering the carb so the smoke does not escape from the chamber.
Once the chamber has filled with smoke, the smoke is released by pulling out the bowl/slide gently and inhaling sharply to draw the smoke up through the mouthpiece.
Make sure your bong is on an even, hard surface as you go through the steps, or secured between your legs to prevent the waterpipe falling and sustaining damage.
If you are smoking with another person or a group of people, it is nice to clear any residual smoke from the bong by gently blowing into the downstem to send any leftover smoke out of the mouthpiece. You don’t want to blow into the mouthpiece, because that usually gets messy and ends up sending water out of the downstem.
Keeping it Clean
Once all the herb is reduced to ash, you should clear the ashes from the bowl and tap them off into an ashtray. Make sure your ashes are no longer smoldering when you clean out the bowl and don't put any hot ashes into trash cans or other containers as this can pose a fire hazard.
Periodically, you are going to want to give your waterpipe a deep cleaning. There are a few different solutions that are often recommended to use to clean your bong. Some users like to use a mixture of 91% isopropyl alcohol and salt. The combination of the alcohol and salt acts to loosen residual resin from the individual pieces of the pipe.
The best method is to disassemble the bong and place each piece in its own plastic zipper storage bag and allow it to sit in the solution to that the solution can penetrate the crevices of each piece. Others use just hot water (with or without denture cleaning tablets) or a selection of other cleaners. A little research online can guide you to additional methods that can be implemented in order to keep your bong and nice and clean.
Once a week is the recommended cleaning schedule for regular smokers, but that time can be adjusted depending on how much the resin builds up in your bong.
That’s it for this guide. Bongs offer a great way to smoke your favorite herb and once you get the hang of them, are not all that difficult to use and enjoy. Bongs are often touted for their ability to produce more smoke, a purer experience and offer improved natural water filtration for a smoother session. So the next time you get a chance, try it out and see why the bong is a long-time favorite among both armature and regular smokers alike.
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