t goes without saying, we hope, that whether you're a casual weekend smoker or an everyday bong toker, your favourite piece is going to require some degree of cleaning in order to continue providing that silky smooth hit. You might however, as we were, be surprised at just how important it is to regularly clean your bong. A 2019 study by Moose Labs concluded that 'an astounding level of bacteria was found on cannabis pipes, vaporizers, and joints; significantly higher than what was initially expected.' In fact, alarmingly, their results showed that the average cannabis pipe '...has on average, almost one and a half times more bacteria than a public toilet seat.'
Pretty disgusting eh! Thankfully, as we'll explore in more detail in our 'how to clean a bong' tutorial, this can be easily avoided by following these simple cleaning techniques.
Bong too far gone? Or just fancy a new piece? At ICE Head Shop we stock an extensive range of glass, acrylic and silicone bongs, from pocket sized rockets to giant percolators, as well as all of the spares, accessories and cleaning products you could ever need.
How to clean a bong
Dirty bong water and residual resin buildup are just some of the unavoidable outcomes of any smoke session. These potential health hazards are not just unsightly and unhygienic, they're guaranteed to compromise the taste of your favourite strain.
What you'll need
There are numerous ways by which you can clean your bong, utilising a variety of cleaning products and techniques, typically dictated by the material your bong is made from. Dependent on just how dirty your bong is, it may be possible to skip stages, or necessary to repeat them. Before we go in to the details of how to clean a bong, let's look at what you'll need before you get started;
- Latex gloves: optional but advisable as some cleaning products are mildly acidic
- Clean warm water
- Plastic resealable bags or plastic container(s)
- Cleaning product: Isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, lemon juice or Formula 420
- Abrasive: coarse salt, uncooked rice or baking soda
- Stoppers, bungs, cotton balls or dish towels
- Pipe cleaners or plastic q-tips
- Bowl, basin, or sink large enough to submerge all parts
Step by step guide to cleaning a dirty bong
1. Empty any remaining bong water
We're sure you don't need to be reminded to do this, but just in case - empty out any remaining bong water before starting the cleaning process! Once done, give your bong a good rinse to remove any debris and partially fill with warm water. Adding dish soap at this stage will help to soften any tougher stains or build ups.
2. Disassemble your bong
Remove all movable parts from your bong including bowls, downstems, extenders and removable chambers. Once your bong has been broken down into its most basic form it's worth a check to ensure that there are no damaged, chipped or cracked parts.
Once you're satisfied you can begin to separate each part of your bong into the plastic bags or containers before submerging them in warm water and leaving them to soak.
3. Add the rubbing alcohol and salt solution
Partially fill your bong with your chosen cleaning solution and abrasive - alcohol and coarse salt (or epsom salt) work very well but you can also use vinegar, lemon juice or an alcohol free PH neutral cleaning fluid such as Dr Greens' bong and pipe cleaner combined with rice or baking soda.
Plug the holes of your bong using the stoppers, bungs, cotton balls or dish towels and SHAKE vigorously. For the best results we find shaking your bong for a period of 5 minutes or longer to be most effective - put some elbow grease into it!
TOP TIP: test your bungs for water tightness before committing to the shaking process - it might just save you a whole heap of cleaning!
5. Rinse and repeat as required
Using the pipe cleaners or q tips ensure that the hard to reach spots of the bong and removable parts are cleaned thoroughly and free from dirt and hard water stains. Rinse your bong and components with clean water before reassembling and, if required, begin the process again and repeat as necessary.
The benefits of cleaning your bong regularly
So now that we're all familiar with how to clean a bong, let's look at exactly why it's so important to do so regularly…
Taste is just as important as smell when it comes to smoking. There's nothing worse than eagerly awaiting the sweet sensation of your favourite strain only to be confronted by the awful taste left behind as a result of a poor or non-existent cleaning routine. By ensuring that your bong is always clean you can be sure that you'll enjoy a delicious smoke, every time.
Improve filtration for a smoother hit
A clean bong with fresh bong water and zero resin buildup allows the bong to do its job properly - removing the contaminants and cooling the smoke - resulting in a cleaner and smoother hit.
Reduce the risk of bacteria growth build up
The levels of bacteria, fungi and mould that are potentially able to accumulate on a dirty bong are, or at least should be, a cause for concern. These potentially dangerous levels of contamination increase exponentially in the event that your bong is used communally! Some of the more common microbial organisms that have the potential to thrive in your bong include:
- Aspergillosis - when burned releases mycotoxins which can cause chest pain, coughs and even lead to pulmonary disease if inhaled.
- Pseudomonas - has the potential to cause acute pneumonia and sepsis
- Flavobacterium - found in stagnant water, an infection can lead to pulmonary symptoms and diarrhea
- Streptococcus species - a common bacteria that can cause strep throat and pneumonia
- E. coli - exposure to E.coli can lead to diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
How often should you clean your bong?
There is no black and white answer to this question. Some people may only clean their bong once a week, whilst others may meticulously rinse and clean their bong after every session. Our rough guide to how often you should clean your bong is as follows:
Thoroughly clean bong after every use.
Our classification of a casual smoker is that of someone who smokes between 1-3 times per week. You may have imagined that a casual smoker would need to clean their bong far less often than a heavy smoker. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong.
Due to the long periods of time between sessions any bacteria, fungi or mould accumulating within the bong has the potential to form what's known as biofilm - a film that serves to protect these organisms. Once this biofilm forms these bacterial and fungal contaminants may persist even after a basic washing of the bong.
Thoroughly clean bong every 48 hours.
Because the heat and smoke from regular smoking slow the growth of harmful bacterial and fungal contaminants a heavy smoker may only need to clean their bong once every 48 hours or so. This is just a guideline, however, so it's important to recognise the signs that your bong is due a deep cleanse.
Signs that your bong needs cleaning
Dirty bong water
The water in your bong is there to filter out any contaminants, as well as cool the smoke before it's inhaled. Over time those contaminants will build up causing the water to turn brown or dirty looking, and if left over any period of time will stagnate resulting in a breeding ground for bacteria. Changing your bong water after every use is an easy yet effective way to keep your bong cleaner for longer.
Build up of resin or sticky residue
Sometimes you can find a sticky, or tar like resin residue which will coat the interior of your bong. As well as being less than pleasing to the eye this build up adversely affects the taste, smell and overall smoking experience of your bong. Left for too long this residue can become impossible to remove - meaning you'll either have to grin and bear it (inadvisable) or replace your favourite water pipe.
Ash build up
Indicated by a buildup of white and / or black specks coating the interior of your bong, ash buildup is as equally detrimental to your smoking experience as resin buildup. Again, if left to form for long enough ash buildup will result in 'chunks' of ash which can be dislodged and subsequently inhaled - not very nice we're sure you'll agree!
Are all bongs easy to clean?
Not all bongs are created equally, and some bongs are far easier to clean than others. For example, a silicone bong can be cleaned in the dishwasher, or through a process of freezing and squeezing out of the frozen remnants. Glass bongs by comparison are far more fragile and require a more delicate approach.
The more complex the bong, the more potential there is for a buildup of contaminants and as such bongs comprising numerous chambers, reclaims, ice and ash catchers typically require a more meticulous approach to cleaning.
What can you use to clean a bong besides alcohol?
If you want to use something other than rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to clean your bong try an alternative such as boiling water, vinegar, lemon juice, acetone or even denture cleaning tablets. Always ensure that you rinse your bong thoroughly before use after cleaning.
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