How Does a Bong Work?

January 12, 2018 4 min read

How Does a Bong Work?

NOTE: This post was getting a bit dusty, so we made you a brand spankin' new up-to-date version. Check it out here. 

To the long-time smoker it may seem impossible that there are people who don’t know how to work a bong, but to those new to smoking, a bong can seem complicated and intimidating. This article will help the newbie feel confident buying, setting up, and using a water pipe and may even have some handy tips or information for the pros.

A bong, or water pipe, is a glass vessel used to smoke tobacco or other herbs. The advantage of a bong over a rolled cigarette or traditional glass pipe is the use of water to cool and filter the smoke for a smoother toke. Bongs and other water pipes, like hookahs, have been used for centuries by civilizations from China to Turkey and everywhere in between to achieve the best smoking experience. Modern bongs are typically made of glass. Bongs come in a wide variety of shapes, but the two main bong shapes are the bowl and thebeaker.


Bong Parts

Here is a short list of typicalbong parts.

  • Mouthpiece - Where you put your mouth to inhale smoke.
  • Neck - Long straight glass section connecting the chamber to the mouthpiece.
  • Chamber - Where the water goes and smoke gathers.
  • Bowl - Where you pack your smoking material. 
  • Downstem - Connects the bowl to the chamber. 
  • Carb - A small hole on some bongs which when uncovered allows fresh air into the bong to force smoke out of the mouthpiece.

Basics of Smoking With a Bong

Step 1 - Put water into the chamber. Water should fill the chamber to a level above where the downstem enters the chamber.

Step 2 - Grind your smoking material. If using agrinder, be careful not to overgrind your herb. Your final product should resemble breadcrumbs. If your material is too small, it can slip down the downstem and land in the water which will waste good material. Be sure to remove and seeds, stems, or leaves that may appear in your herb.

Step 3 - Pack your bowl. If your bong has a removable bowl and downstem, take them off the bong to avoid the risk of knocking over your bong while filling your bowl.  You should pack your bowl to a medium density. If you over pack it, air will not travel through your smoking material and if you don’t pack it tightly enough, herb could fall out.

Step 4 - Place the bowl into the downstem.

Step 5 - Light your herb. Place the bong on a flat surface and hold the neck with your non-dominant hand. Put your mouth on the mouthpiece with your lips inside the mouthpiece and light the bowl with your dominant hand while simultaneously drawing air through the bong. At this point, your goal is not to inhale smoke, but just light the bowl and let smoke gather in the chamber. You can use atraditional lighter for this or consider ahemp wick which allows you to light your wich ahead of time. For beginners, this can mean one less thing to think about while trying to use the bong. It should only take one or two seconds of direct flame to light the bowl. Once it is lit, you can remove the flame, but continue to draw air through the bong.

Step 6 - Inhale. Remove the bowl or take your finger off the carb hole and inhale in one short, but deep breath. Exhale immediately. There is little benefit to holding the smoke in your lungs.

Step 7 - Clear the chamber. Blow gently into the downstem to clear any remaining smoke from the chamber. Never blow back into the mouthpiece. This can cause bong water to spill out of the bong.

Step 8 - Change the water. Water should be changed anytime it gets brown or smelly. The more often you change the water, the better your smoking experience will be.

More Advanced Bongs
Some bongs have extra parts like percolators or ice pinches to further filter and cool the smoke. If your bong has a percolator, make sure it’s full of water before you begin smoking. If your bong has an ice pinch, which is a spot in the neck that looks like it was pinched together. This is to hold an ice cube.

Be a Good Smoking Partner
Here are a few pieces of advice when it comes to making sure you get invited back to smoke with friends again.

  • Don’t slobber on the bong. Never put your lips around the mouthpiece. Wipe your mouth before taking a hit and the mouthpiece after taking a hit.
  • Don’t hog the bowl. If your friend packs a full bowl, try to only light a small corner of it for your hit.
  • Clean the bowl if your you get the last hit. When there is nothing left to smoke, gently tap out the ash and hand the bowl back to whoever was packing it.

Cleaning Your Bong
Keeping your glass clean is essential to having a pleasant smoking experience. You can useindividual alcohol wipes to keep the mouthpiece germ-free between hits and anall purpose glass cleaner to keep your bong clean between smoking sessions.

Selecting Bong Parts
Not allbong parts are interchangeable. There are different sizes of bowls and downstems. To measure for your downstem, put a straight object like a straw or a pencil into the opening on the side of your bong until it reaches about ½ inch above the bottom of the bong. Mark where the object leaves the bong. Pull the object out and measure it. This is the length of downstem you need. To find the diameter you need, measure the inner diameter of the opening on the side of your bong. Standard sizes are 10mm, 14mm, and 18mm (the diameter of a dime).

Once you have selected the right downstem, make sure the bowl will fit with the gender and size of the end of the downstem. If your choose afemale downstem, you’ll need amale bowl, and vice versa.