How to Use a Bong to Smoke Cannabis

There are few things in this world so closely associated with cannabis as the bong. In fact, it remains one of the most commonly utilized and admired cannabis accessories among members of the cannabis community. 

It is a common belief that the term ‘bong’ itself originates and is derived from the Thai language from the word ‘baung,’ meaning a cylindrical wooden tube, pipe, or container created out of bamboo. 

However, according to The Journal of African History, the actual invention and usage of bongs likely originated in Africa hundreds of years ago, if not longer. 

In the following article, we’ll expand on what, precisely, a bong is, why users choose to use them, and how they do so. 

What is a Bong?

A bong is a tabletop accessory that allows you to smoke cannabis using water as a filter. 

These items may also be called a ‘water bong’ or ‘water pipe.’ Bongs are commonly made out of glass. However, they can be made out of different materials as well. 

They can be purely functional or exquisitely ornate, depending on a specific user’s preferences. A bong is typically at least 6 inches tall but can be as tall as you want them to be.

Again, aesthetics typically revolve around particular inclinations, tastes and usage requirements. 

If you see a very small water-bong, it is likely a different smoking accessory commonly known as a bubbler. Bubblers look more similar to cannabis pipes, which can be made out of a variety of materials but are handheld and waterless. 

Unlike bubblers and pipes, bongs are designed to remove the bowl, an action we’ll discuss further when we will eventually describe how users take bong hits. 

Structurally speaking, the bottom of the bong is generally wide and flat, allowing them to stand on their own, which is why they’re typically described as a tabletop accessory, as mentioned above. 

The bowl is connected to the main body of the bong via a down stem, which is also generally removable. This detail is particularly pertinent in regards to cleaning a bong. The primary chamber is filled with water, and the top of the bong will have an opening or mouthpiece used to inhale the smoke. 

When users light the cannabis inside the bowl, the water in the chamber will filter the smoke before it enters their lungs.

Essentially, the water’s function is to cool and filter the smoke, making it easier and smoother for users to inhale. Some bongs have indents called ice-catchers inside the primary chamber used for precisely what their name suggests. 

If a bong has ice-catchers, users can drop in ice in the water-filled chamber. Of course, the water chamber inherently already helps cool the smoke. However, many users choose to incorporate ice to enhance their overall experience. 

What are the Advantages of Learning How to Use a Bong?

As previously explained, water pipes allow for the cannabis smoke to go through a filtration system prior to inhalation. Some research indicates that water filtration reduces the amount of particulate matter and toxic substances present in the smoke. 

In fact, both the number of different toxic substances and their quantities are reduced by passing smoke through water.

Another study performed by the pulmonary physician and university lecturer from Harvard, Dr. Gary Huber, discovered that passing marijuana smoke through water filtration effectively removed toxic substances. More specifically, it removes substances like acrolein and acetaldehyde, which are known to damage at least one type of immune cell in the lungs (alveolar macrophages).

In the eyes of many cannabis consumers, bongs are simple and efficient to use. 

All they require is a bit of water and some marijuana in the bowl. In this sense, some users view them as a safer alternative to other smoking methods through their filtration system while also being easily accessible and straightforward to operate. 

How to Use a Bong

how to use a bong guide

As previously described, using a bong is not complicated or difficult. Below, we will outline the process step-by-step.

Fill the Chamber with Water

The first task is filling the main chamber of the bong with water. If you are using a ready-to-go bong, you can skip ahead. Remove the bowl while you complete this step. 

It can be difficult to gauge how much is enough. One method for deciphering this is slowly filling the bong up while pausing to inhale through the mouthpiece. Once you see enough liquid to produce a bubbling effect, then the water level should be sufficient. 

There is a large margin of error here. Having too little water is the primary concern. Having too much water can impede proper airflow and make it easy to spill. If users prefer to, this step is the time to add some ice if the bong has ice-catchers.

Pack the Bowl with Cannabis

The next step is filling the bowl portion of the bong with cannabis. How much users pack into the bowl comes down to preference. Once you’ve determined the desired amount, gently pack it down. 

Once you pack the bowl, you can re-insert it into the downstem. Some users will also incorporate concentrates into the bowl to increase the potency. Additionally, some may grind their cannabis first, but others use entire nugs as well. 

Apply Heat

Whether you’re using a traditional lighter or a hemp wick, this is the stage to use it. Get ready to inhale by exhaling. Then, light the bowl. 

At the same time, begin inhaling slowly, drawing the smoke into the chamber. Put the lighter down and get your hand ready to take out the bowl. The cannabis inside the bowl should ignite and form what’s colloquially known as a ‘cherry.’

Applying heat to the cannabis in the bowl will perform the process of decarboxylation. Put simply, the cannabinoids present in cannabis, primarily the THC, must be exposed to heat in order to be ‘activated’ and convert the THCA in the plant matter into THC. 

For more information regarding this process, be sure to read our guide on why decarboxylation is crucial for cannabis

Pull the Bowl

Once the chamber is filled with enough smoke, you can pull the bowl. This act opens the choke, which provides fresh air as you are inhaling the smoke.

At this point, you should try to inhale all of the smoke inside the chamber. If it is too much, you can remove your hand from the mouthpiece so that you can exhale while covering the hole with your free hand. 

Once ready, remove your hand and inhale the remaining smoke. You have now taken a bong hit.

Practice Proper Bong Safety and Sanitization

Using a bong provides users with a quick and easy way to consume cannabis, whether using one alone or in a group. That said, if you are going to share, make sure you sanitize the mouthpiece before each new person takes a hit. 

Moreover, remember to start low and go slow when consuming cannabis.

Additionally, make sure you clean your bong frequently. You’ll want to replace the bong water often, maybe even daily. Depending on how much you use the bong, you will need to clean the bong regularly. 

You can do this by running hot water through the bong to loosen any excess debris. A mixture of rubbing alcohol and rock salt can help get those hard-to-clean spots. 

What Can be Smoked Inside of a Bong? 

As we described above, dry cannabis flower is the most commonly used product when using a bong. However, many also use bongs to smoke hashish, otherwise known as hash, a traditional cannabis extract created by compressing kief under low levels of heat. 

North American users may not be as familiar with hash. However, it is a particularly popular and widely utilized cannabis product amongst other countries. 

Some users may choose to incorporate various cannabis concentrates alongside the dry flower in their bong to intensify the experience and enhance the desired effects.

That said, it is not recommended to use a bong for consuming cannabis extracts solely. This act will dilute the flavour and potency of the cannabis extract leading to a compromised terpene and flavour profile. 

Additionally, the size of the bong plays a significant factor. Dabbing relies on the vaporization of cannabis concentrates. This vapour must travel a distance after being cooled by the water that’s relatively shorter than the traditional smoke from a bong. 

Dabbing requires users to stir their cannabis concentrates with a dabber or carb cap to facilitate movement for complete vaporization. Most bongs are too large and make it difficult for the vapour to travel up such a long distance without the assistance of a carb hole. 

For these reasons, for users who wish to dab concentrates, it’s most effective for them to use a dab rig. 

A Time Tested Way to Consume Cannabis

Bongs are one of the most commonly used cannabis accessories. Users appreciate them for their smooth, filtrated smoke and swift ease of use.

This straightforward water pipe utilizes water as a filtration system to provide a cool and smooth smoke that users can easily inhale. In this way, it is a common rite of passage for many novice users to learn how to use a bong. 

With this in mind, it is also crucial to remember to clean the bong regularly and replace the bong water daily if users are using them regularly to avoid any unhygienic or potentially unsafe situations. 

With the evolving increase of different accessories and devices entering the cannabis market, the bong, while traditional in both age and usage, remains one of the most respected and popular cannabis consumption methods. 

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