A Quick Guide to Pipes and Bongs: Maintenance and Management
So you’ve taken the plunge, stopped trying to turn water bottles and pop cans into smoking apparatuses, and finally bought yourself a bona-fide glass bowl for smoking. Regardless of whether you picked up one of the cheap pipes you see at the corner gas station or scoured the web to find the perfect online smoke store to buy a bong from, making the transition to glass is an exciting time in the life of any budding stoner. Your rips will be smoother, your lungs cleaner, and your high more enjoyable now that bowls and pipes are part of your world. However, before you go crazy tricking out your smoking pieces with insane smoking accessories, take a moment to familiarize yourself with your newfound pride and joy and learn how to treat it with the care it deserves.
Knowing Your Piece
To get the most out of your new smoking device, it’s important to know exactly what it is and what it does. Is it a steamroller? A color changing bowl? Did you get your hands on a glass bubbler or a 2’ tall bong? There are myriad different types of glass bowls for smoking, and for simplicity’s sake we’ll only cover the most common here.
This is your trusty, everyday piece; sometimes referred to as a spoon bowl. Made from glass, it is designed to fit and be smoked in one hand. This piece features a carb and a small reservoir for your flower. In addition, these hand blown glass bowls for smoking come in a variety of different shapes, colors, and designs, and are lauded for their portability.
This is the next step up in the world of glass bowls for smoking. While not as big and unwieldy as a traditional bong, the glass bubbler still packs a powerful punch. These cool pipes differ both in shape and function from traditional glass pipes for one key reason: they feature a reservoir that water is placed in to help filter and cool the smoke prior to you inhaling it. They range in size from mini bubblers to large bubblers, with the larger sizes providing more room for water and thus better filtration and a smoother hit.
While the other two smoking pieces mentioned above are entirely self-contained pipes made of a single piece of glass, the bong introduces a bit of complexity into the mix – and a ton of fun as well. There are a million and one different types of bongs and a million different ways to customize each one, but in its most standard form the traditional bong is made up of four parts: the bowl, the downstem, the mouthpiece, and the base. We’ll assume if you own one that you’re more than well-versed in how to smoke it, but for the uninitiated, flower is packed into the bowl, lit, the bowl removed via a slide, the smoke filtered through the water in the base and up through the tube into your mouth. It’s a powerful yet smooth means of smoking, specifically because of the cooling and filtering aspects provided by the water.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the chillum (also known as the chillem, chill em, one hitter, or “one-y”). This is a straight shot small smoking bowl that – while not as sexy as some of the other options – still has its place in every smoker’s kit. It’s shaped like a cigarette, with room at the end for flowers. No slides or water or anything fancy; just one hole for flower that’s tapered to prevent you from eating ash, and another for inhaling. It’s perfect in a pinch or when you need to smoke incognito.
Maintenance – Bongs and Bubblers
Smoking from water pipe is great for getting filtered, smooth hits. The smoothness and cleanliness of these hits are completely dependent on the cleanness of the water inside the smoking pieces. You’ve probably heard horror stories about spilled bong water, and those stories are almost guaranteed 100% true. Bong water is disgusting because it’s used as a filter every time you take a hit, and the longer you go without changing it, the grosser it becomes (and the less effective it is at doing its job). Don’t let it get to this point! You invested in a pipe to get a better smoking experience – don’t shortchange that by being lazy about changing your water.
Changing Bong Water
To change out your bong water:
- Remove the bowl, slide, downstem, and any other movable parts (like bangers) from the bong
- Tilt upside down over a sink or toilet so that the water flows out of the
- mouth of the bongRinse the bong with hot water a few times to ensure any debris is removed
- Replace with clear, cold water and fire up a celebratory bowl
Changing Bubbler Water
Changing bubbler water is a bit trickier, as most do not have removable bowls. This means that you’re left with a smaller opening to get water in to and out of – the carb. Locate it on the side of your piece, and gently maneuver your bubbler until water flows out of it. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Note: If the carb is too small to get the water out of effectively, you can always pour the water out of the bowl itself. If you do this, be sure to dry it thoroughly before placing any flower back into the bowl.
Cleaning Your Bong
Even if you change your water like a fiend, occasionally your bong will need to undergo a deep cleaning. To do so, remove all movable pieces, dump, and rinse as above, then proceed as follows:
1. Pour a healthy amount of 90%+ rubbing alcohol and salt (the coarser the better) into the bong
2. Allow to sit for a few minutes
3. Using your hand, cover both holes and shake vigorously. This ensures that the liquid is able to reach every part of the bong
4. Use a brush to scrub any dirty sections
5. Empty the rubbing alcohol and debris into the sink
6. Rinse thoroughly with soap and hot water
7. Continue rinsing with water only until all traces of soap and alcohol are gone
Cleaning Your Bubbler
The same steps can be used to clean the interior of your bubbler. To clean the bowl itself, you can either soak the entire bubbler in salt and rubbing alcohol, or you can simply use toothpicks and pipe cleaners to scrape excess resin from its surface.
Storing Your Bong or Bubbler
The biggest heartache a stoner will go through is breaking their piece. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap bubbler or a bong that would make Willie Nelson jealous – breaking a pipe sucks! To avoid any mishaps, make sure to return yours to a safe place immediately after using. You ideally want a flat surface out of the way of any foot traffic, pets, or anything else that might knock it off its perch.
Good storage spot: the bottom shelf of your bathroom closet
Bad storage spot: the coffee table
Maintenance – Handblown Glass Bowls and Chillums
While you don’t need to worry about changing water with these less intricate small smoking bowls, it’s still important to keep them as clean as you can. Therefore, if your bowl is covered in ash, resin, and other gunk, you can usually render it smoke-able again by simply scraping away some of the excess using a pipe cleaner or a toothpick.
If it’s crazy dirty, fill a ziplock baggie with rubbing alcohol and salt, and let it soak for a couple hours. Shake it to dislodge the resin, empty the bag, and while the resin is still wet, take your pipe cleaner or brush and get scraping. Voila! Good as new.
Storing Your Glass Bowl or Chillum
The great thing about these smaller smoking pieces is that they’re easy to travel with and easier to store. Keep them tucked away somewhere safe when they’re not in use. For example, place them anywhere where they’re not at risk of rolling onto a floor and shattering. If you find yourself constantly on the go, invest in a small padded satchel to keep your pipe and all your other smoking essentials safe and sound.
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