How to Use a Bong - Instructions from the Experts

Water bongs, the gravity bong type, plus cool features like the ash catcher and percolator are all explained in this information post. We break down the popular glass pipe with best use practice plus other smoking tips.

by: Nathaniel C. | 12/04/17 2:30PM


Bongs have long been a tool of choice for many dry herb connoisseurs. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from a variety of material. In addition to traditional bongs, there are gravity bongs and beaker-style bongs, both of which have a wide range of material, design and quality. Of the hundreds of thousands of unique bongs that exist, they all serve the same purpose: to get massive rips softened by water filtration. True bong enthusiasts would argue there is no substitute.

A Guide to Using a Bong with various Dry Herbs

Regardless of shape, all bongs have a neck or chamber (possibly with a diffuser) that opens into a base where the water filtration occurs. Coming up from the base is the downstem which holds the bowl piece for dry herbs. This can often be substituted with a dab nail for consuming waxes.


Basic use

1. First, remove the bowl piece and fill your bong with fresh (and cold) water through the downstem. The water level should be just above the bottom of the downstem and always below the connection point between base and downstem.

2. Next, grind your dry herbs for the most efficient bong rips. You don’t need to grind too fine when using a bong and if you don’t have an herb grinder, breaking your herb up by hand will function.

3. Load the bowl piece with dry herbs. Bowl pieces also range in size, I prefer smaller bowl pieces used for one-hitters, but larger ones work better if you don’t want to load it each time. You can pack the bowl with a bit of hand pressure so you don’t lose any herbs but don’t compress it too much.

4. Slide the bowl piece into your downstem. On some cheap bongs, downstems are connected to the bowl piece so you’ll have to load it while attached. Side-note: Glass-on-glass downstems and bowls are great because of their quality, usability, and customization options. Plus, it’s easy to replace or change out either piece if you have an unfortunate accident.

5. For extra smooth hits, drop a couple ice cubes down the neck if your bong is designed to catch them.


6. Now that the bong is loaded and ready to go, grab a heating device. This could range from a simple lighter to a ceramic heating element. If you want an effective but economical option, head to your local hardware store and pick up a soldering iron with a removable tip. Most will have a ceramic heating element under this metal tip perfect for getting a smooth burn on dry herbs.

7. Slowly inhale as you burn your dry herbs. Once lit or ‘cherried’, you can remove the heat from your dry herbs as you continue to burn. Tip: Just use enough heat or flame to pull the heat through the herbs. You don’t need to hold a flame over them.

8. After taking the initial hit and pull, remove the bowl piece and take a slightly faster pull, clearing the base and neck of smoke.

9. Hold the smoke in for as long as possible before exhaling if you’d like.

10. If your bowl is done, clean it out with a small tool like a paperclip. You can always flip over the bowl piece and suck any leftovers into the water. However, your bong water will get dirty quicker using this method.

11. We recommend changing your bong water often. It’s easy for nasty bong water to ruin a delicious hit - don’t let it get in the way of enjoying tasty herbs.


Tips for Using a Water Bong

These simple reminders will make sure you have a great bong experience:

1. Don’t use too much water - keep the level just above the bottom of your downstem (at all angles).

2. Right after you’ve finished lighting a bowl and while taking a pull, use the bottom end of lighter to re-pack the bowl, preventing herb from unnecessarily burning off.

3. Milk the bong by taking slow, even pulls to get big hits.

4. Remember to leave space in your lungs to clear the base. With unfamiliar bongs, start small - base size can be deceiving.

5. If you can’t completely clear the bong, cover the top with your hand to avoid losing the smoke and finish it when you’re ready.

6. Never leave stale smoke in the base or neck. If you can’t finish it off quickly, remove the bowl and blow through the downstem to clear that nasty, stale smoke.

7. Keep bowl piece clean. If residue builds up, your herbs won’t taste as good and it’ll be more difficult to get strong airflow.

8. Change your bong water often. It tastes bad and if you do have an accident and spill old bong water on the carpet or couch, you’ll never get the smell out.

9. Throw a few ice cubes down the neck for extra smooth hits.


Using a Gravity Bong

A slight variation to the traditional style, gravity bongs use the force of gravity to push smoke into your lungs.

The average gravity bong is homemade and can be made from a wide variety of materials. A simple gravity or silicone bong can be made with tinfoil and a soda bottle. A quick Google search will return plenty of options. My personal favorite is the one-hit wonder made from a five-gallon bucket and a water jug, but I have to admit it is a bit overkill. Otherwise pick up an actual grav bong like the Bukket Pipe Gravity Bong. Sometimes it’s nice having something that doesn’t require assembly.

Gravity bongs differ from other bongs in that the chamber changes size as you milk it. After filling the base with water, start with the chamber closed (using gravity). As you heat the bowl, expand the chamber by lifting it slowly against gravity. This will pull the heat through the bowl, filling the chamber with milky smoke. Once your chamber is full, pull the bowl, exposing the mouthpiece. Let gravity do the work, dropping the top of your grav bong back into the water, compressing the chamber and forcing all that smoke into your lungs. While gravity bongs are a bit of work for everyday use, it’s a fun experience that all dry herb enthusiasts will enjoy.


Common Bong Accessories

One of the great things about bongs is they are very customizable. Downstems typically come in three sizes: 10 mm, 14.5 mm, and 18.8 mm and will fit different bowl pieces, respectively. The larger two will have the most accessories so keep this in mind when picking out a downstem.

Ash Catcher

This is a variation of a bowl piece that acts as a mini water filter. It prevents small particles and ash from getting pulled through the downstem.


This allows smaller air pockets to run through the water, reducing drag and enhancing filtration. Diffusers can be built in to bongs through percs or added through various accessories. Diffused downstems are probably the easiest way to reduce drag and there’s no reason not to have one.


Often termed ‘perc’ or ‘precooler’, a percolator is an additional water chamber. These can be built in to the neck of a bong or can be added on as an extension between the bowl and downstem. These can also be built with diffusers. It’s basically a beastly ash catcher that acts as an additional filter and cools down the smoke even more.

Bong Bowl

Worth a mention, you can customize your bong with a wide variety of bowls. They usually come in cone or bowl shape. In addition to a variety of bowl sizes, colors and shapes. Some will have glass fingers at the bottom and others will have a screen to prevent any small particles from falling through. Many bowls will also have a handle attached so you don’t have to worry about burning your fingers when pulling the bowl.

Honey Pot

This is a bowl with a small inner bowl that acts like a nail. This is a great way to utilize a bong for enjoying waxes.

Cleaning a Bong

Even if you change bong or smoking pipe water often, resin will still build up in the chamber, downstem and bowl. We suggest regular cleanings to enjoy the tastiest hits. Plus regular cleanings will go much quicker as the resin doesn’t have time to build on itself. If you use your bong everyday, clean it every week or two. Read this Rolling Stone guide to cleaning a bong and clean like a rock star.

First off, you need a cleaning solution of some sort. 420 Cleaner is efficient and easy, however you can easily make your own version with a mixture of 90+% isopropyl alcohol and epsom salt (available at most drugstores, Target, etc). Here are a couple easy steps to cleaning a bong:

1. Pour a bit of solution into a ziplock bag - enough to cover your bowl and downstem. First, shake your downstem for about 20-30 in the mixture, allowing the salts to pull all the resin off.

2. Repeat with the bowl. If any residue is left on either downstem or bowl, let them soak a few minutes and shake them up again. Make sure not to clean the downstem and bowl together to avoid cracking either.

3. Rinse both downstem and bowl in warm water and secure the downstem back into the bong.

4. Pour more mixture into the base of your bong. If you have a built-in perc, pour through the downstem in the base. You don’t want to get salt or leftover alcohol stuck in the perc. Also, if you have a diffused downstem with a sealed bottom, you can pour the solution in before replacing the downstem.

5. Holding the neck, move the base in small circles to wash the solution across the entire base. After 20-30 seconds, it should be nice and clean but you can always continue this process as long as it takes.

6. Once clean, pour the dirty solution out (into the toilet is best) and rinse with warm water thoroughly. If there’s a perc in the neck, pull out the downstem again so you can pour the solution out through the base.

7. Fill the base with clean water and enjoy tasty hits out of your clean bong!

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