Restoring your bong to its once pristine condition may be something you thought impossible. That is absolutely not the case. We will break down all of the best methods for bringing your old glassware back to life. All of this without causing you financial or emotional stress.
A cannabis enthusiast friend comes for a visit and brings some choice flower. Greet any friend with a dirty piece and watch their enthusiasm drain away. A smoke-stained stem is going to ruin any nuance from the strain. Nobody wants to deal with a thick sludge ring living just where the clean water line is. Any bowl clogged with resin will detract from the strawberry coughing experience if there is no smoke from the bowl of Strawberry Cough. So, if this sounds like you, chances are, your bong is well overdue a quality cleaning and some TLC.
How Often Do You Really Need to Clean?
Cleaning your pieces is all about personal preference. Water in pipes, bongs, and bubblers should be changed after each smoking session. Worst case, at the beginning of the next, to avoid build-up of bacteria and mold. The pipe itself can be cleaned as frequently as you see fit. Cleaning after each session works for some. This helps ensure the purest taste for every bowl. Others wait—using resin build-up as their gauge. The laziest among us may wait until the need to clean and the motivation to do so align. This is strongly inadvisable. The more build-up within the pipe the higher the risk to your respiratory system. Accumulation of grunge like soot, tar, and possibly butane create an environment for a host of nasty things to thrive.
Consider making cleaning a habit just like brushing your teeth. Light users may find daily cleaning works for releasing the subtle flavors, oils and terpenes, the unique aromatic and flavor chemicals found cannabis. A heavy smoker might consider cultivating the habit of cleaning once a week, keeping the pipe ready for an unexpected enthusiast visit. If you have multiple pieces, a rotating schedule of overnight baths every week may suit. This near ritual cleansing not only makes your glassware pretty it will also help to prolong the pieces life (so long as you are careful while cleaning).
Resin: Keep it or Toss it?
By cleaning, we are removing not only soot and ash but also resin–resolidified oils from the plant– build up, which may be something to keep. We mentioned before the oils are where most of the terpenes and cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, are found. It is essentially a dirty dab. As this builds up and burns, the flavors of any flower become overpowered. As it may add to your high, it clogs up pipes so thrifty smokers may find use in some collection methods below. It’s best to reuse the resin after it has been removed from the pipe. Also note the danger of using resin that may have contaminants in it.
Quick Cleans for better Terpenes
Brush and Warm Water Rinse
What you need
- Paper towel on a stick/ Q-tips/ Bottlebrush/Pipe Cleaner
- Warm Water
- Resin Catch Cloth(if desired)
The resin from the cannabis plant, like most oils, is insoluble. It does not dissolve in water so water-only methods are best used to treat light build-up while the pipe is warmed. All you need do is after a smoking session give the piece quick rinse with the warm (not boiling) water and use the cleaning tool to brush any grunge along the side. You can use this before as well, but you will have to deal with a wet pipe and any remaining water will not be pleasant tasting.
Pokers, Scrapers, & Scratchers
What you need:
- Unfolded paper clip/ Nail
- Resin Catch Cloth (if desired)
Much like the last method, this is a scraping method. Be aware that metal can damage glass so use caution. Heating the end of your small metal tool, you can try to remove more resin. Shaking may cause larger pieces to fall out. Depending on the glass thickness you may be able to heat the outside of the piece to remove more residue.
Warm Water Bath
What you need:
- Large Pot
- Cup/bucket which fits piece or bowl
- Cloth or something to skim the resin
- A heat source
This is a nice method for resin collection. The method is low work intensive, however, it can stink up a kitchen. Simply bring the water to uncomfortably-hot-to-the-touch or where little bubbles are just starting to form on the bottom of the pan. Slowly place the piece to be cleaned in the water and let the resin rise up to the water’s surface. If you want to reuse the resin, use plain water. No Salt. No Vinegar. No Acetone. No Alcohol. The resin will separate and you can skim it off as you clean. Let this soak until the piece is at desired cleanliness then drain, and strain if you are collecting. Run a bit of warm water through it. Wipe it down if you like and let it air dry and enjoy.
The Classic: Alcohol and Salt
What you need:
- Alcohol 70% or higher
- Rock, Epsom, or Kosher Salt
- Plastic and rubber bands to cover holes
- Warm Water
- Lemon juice (optional)
This is the stoner standby for quick at-home cleaning because most have isopropyl alcohol in the medicine cabinet and salt in the kitchen. This method is great for cleaning all kinds of pipes, grinders, dab rigs, and containers of almost any shape or size.
The goal here is to get enough salt and alcohol to where the salt acts like a brush, scouring the resin off the glasses surface. Small pipes, stems, and bowls can be dropped into ziplock bags but for larger bongs and bubblers it takes some plastic and rubber bands to seal off the various holes. Washing everything one-by-one may be a bit more time consuming, but decreases the chances of accidental breakage.
Things in bags get one more good massage and shake, watching the particulates slide off and out. Things needing caps also need a good grip and a firm shake for a few minutes. Let this mixture sit. The longer the sitting the more resin and tar will break down to small particles and give a better clean. Give things another vigorous shake before discarding the alcohol/salt mixture. With the bong empty a good rinse with warm water will show if the bong needs a repeat or some of the quick clean solutions mentioned. Optionally for a last wash you can use an acidic lemon juice to leave a citrusy-freshness. Give things one last good rinse and let everything dry before use.
Variations on a Classic: Fingernail Polish Remover
What you need:
- Fingernail Polish Remover (Acetone)
Fingernail polish remover is a mixture of ethyl acetate and isopropyl alcohol. It is a powerful cleaner, breaking the chemical bonds faster, and best used for those who have taken longer to find the motivation to clean.
As with “The Classic” mix salt and the acetone in the pipe or pieces-in-bags, close off the openings, and shake it like you want it clean. Again give it some time to rest and saturate the gunk. Go for another shake, a very long rinse, and let it out to dry. Acetone may damage labels so use with discretion and rinse the bong well!
Store Bought Cleaners
What you need:
- Internet Connection
With the move of cannabis culture from the shadows to the mainstream, there is an ever growing market for accessories and the things to clean them. For this one, the best recommendation we can give is going to your favorite merchant and use their search bar. Whether you are looking for the biodegradable, non-toxic, eco-friendly sort or the quick industrial strength fix there are soaps, liquids, and powders to try. No matter what you end up trying, follow the written instructions and give it a very warm and very long rinse before use.
What you need:
- Denture tablets/ vinegar and baking soda
This is a variation on that science experiment with the volcano from elementary school, but for stoners. As with “The Classic” this is another method to separate, seal, shake, soak, and rinse but this time with fizzy chemical reactions! Jollie Kerr of the “Ask a Clean Person” podcast is an advocate of this method. Her advice is, depending on size, drop a tablet or two in each cleaning container or the inside of the bong, add warm water, and let it sit. After, give it a good rinse inside and out.
There is no reason to smoke out of a dirty bong. With a little preplanning, supply gathering, and a few minutes here and there you can treat yourself to the deliciousness of a clean piece of glass. Grab some things from your cupboard, put on some motivational music, finish up that active sativa, and get going.