If you’ve seen Grandma’s Boy, Half-Baked, or the TV Show Weeds you’ve seen a bong. It’s that gurgling thing that makes a lot of smoke. A bong is different from other smoking tools in that it utilizes water to filter the smoke prior to inhalation. Bongs are also known for their unique burble-burble sound as the smoke travels through the liquid and smoothly into the lungs. In my youth it was taboo to say “bong” in certain parts of the country so you’ll hear many millennials and older refer to them as “water pipes.”

Whatever you decide to call them, your other choices for consuming cannabis, tobacco, and other herbal concoctions is in paper (like a cigarette), pipe, one hitter, and/or vaporizer. Smoking through a bong is a convenient way to get a quick and concentrated hit of smoke. It’s convenient in that you don’t have to roll it up, you don’t have to lick it to seal it, it’s an all-natural water filtered inhale. The flavor of the smoke is significantly better tasting than smoking through a vaporizer, pipe, or really any other mechanism. The water filtration allows the product to maintain its unique flavor qualities. Mouth-feel is another quality you might hear individuals refer to! When smoking through a one hitter or a light handheld pipe, you might notice a warm burn on the back of your throat from the heat of the inhale. When smoking through a bong the smoke has the opportunity to maintain its potency and taste while providing a cooler mouth feel by literally chilling it down.


In order to know how to use a bong we have to go over the basic construction of it. Once you’re familiar with the anatomy of a bong it will all make sense.


  • Your bong will have a “neck”, which is a long tube that leads to where your mouth goes so you can inhale.
  • The “bowl” is the little cup that you put cannabis or tobacco in. Inside the bong and attached to the “bowl” is a downward stem.
  • The “chamber” is the place inside the bong where there is some liquid covering the bottom of the downward stem and space for smoke to collect.
  • Often times there is a “clutch” or sometimes called a “carb” or “carburetor.” Long story short it’s a hole that you cover with your finger, and don’t release until you’re ready for the final full inhale of smoke. If there is no “clutch” then you might have to slide the bowl out and use that as a clutch. I’ll explain further momentarily.


  1. In order to use all of these anatomical pieces to inhale water-purified smoke you load the “bowl” with your tobacco, cannabis, or herbal mixture. Don’t over-fill it. Keep a lighter in reaching distance.
  2. Seal the top opening by placing it around your lips. Keep the bowl upwards so the tobacco doesn’t fall out and so water doesn’t come in contact with the tobacco.
  3. Once your lips are sealed you will flick your lighter, and bring the flame in contact with your bowl. Once the flame and herbal mixture in the bowl come in contact, you will keep the clutch covered with your finger and inhale slowly. Once the cannabis is lit you can set the lighter down.
  4. The smoke will filter through the water and collect in the chamber and neck (producing the popular burble-burble sound).
  5. After collecting a fairly thick cloud of smoke, you may release your finger off of the clutch, or lift the bowl out so you may take your final deep inhale.
  6. If you removed the bowl, you will want to put it back into the bong.



Don’t purchase a bong with a metal bowl and no clutch/carburetor. Metal doesn’t cool down as quickly as glass; therefore you heighten the chance of burning your fingerprints off when you’re ready for the inhale. I’ve done it and it’s not only embarrassing but painful. Glass bowls are designed so it can be utilized as a clutch without burning your fingertips when you touch it. Glass bowls can also be easily removed for cleaning or replacing. Often times glass bongs don’t have a clutch placed into its construction for this specific reason.


If you don’t have enough water you’ll notice the smoke quality drop quickly, and if you have too much as soon as you release the carburetor water splashes up into your mouth. If you haven’t been in that situation, trust me when I say it’s gross.  The short answer is that there should be just enough for the downstem and its slits/openings to be completely submerged in water. If the downstem on your water pipe does not have slits, then make sure that the bottom of the downstem is about a half inch or so into the water. Feel free to add more water if you prefer, but know that adding too much increases the risk of water splashing up into your mouth.

The perfect amount of water will change with each individual bong since each piece has its own unique shape and functionality. If you’re smoking out of a percolator, the situation is the same in that you need to add enough water to submerge all of the different percolator holes.

Most bongs are easy to load with water. You can pour it down the neck of the bong or through the downstem hole. To pour the water out you would use those two same openings. When it comes to a percolator-bong it’s more complicated because you have to get water into each percolator chamber. If the water doesn’t get all the way where it needs to, you can try blowing through the mouthpiece to shove the water down to the lower perc-chambers, or you can try softly tilting the bong sideways to move it through the openings.

Once you’ve got the water in your bong I recommend wiping the mouthpiece off so it’s dry for use. It’s extremely easy to use and maintain once you get used to using it.


Bongs can be constructed out of many different materials but the most popular has always been glass. The second most common is plastic because most of us know how clumsy we can get with glass. I have many sad stories I could share about many beautiful pieces I had to sweep up and dump into the garbage. Plastic can be dropped with no major repercussions and are typically cheaper to purchase than any other material. Unfortunately, plastic materials can become warped and potentially leak BPA (bisphenol A) into the liquids that should be filtering your smoke. Even if the plastic used for your bong doesn’t have BPA there is still a chance that it will affect the taste of your product when compared with a glass or crystal bong. Plastic is a porous substance when broken down to its molecular structure.

Despite human clumsiness, there is a very good reason why glass is such a favorite. Glass allows the independent features of your herbal mixture’s taste and scent to remain true to its roots. In other words, nothing will affect your smokes flavor. Because glass is easy to see through you won’t have any problem discerning when it’s time to clean it. Many glass bongs are also made out of chameleon glass so slowly over time with use of the glass bong the coloration of its glass will slightly change since its original purchase without ever affecting the flavor of your smoke. Also, because glass isn’t porous it can be sterilized ensuring you remove all bacteria from its surface.

Your options don’t stop there though; bongs can be made out of almost any material including metal, ceramic, bamboo, and others. I’ve even witnessed a bong be made out of a 5 gallon bucket and tubing. I don’t recommend the 5-gallon bucket contraption but bongs can be creatively constructed and uniquely designed to fit your lifestyle and personality.


Either way, glass or plastic, they’ll both get dirty and require cleaning. You’ll be amazed as how much stuff a glass bong will keep away from your lungs and mouth. Glass can easily be placed in a dishwasher or even cleaned with any long-handle bottle brush or tube brush and a small bit of dish soap. In my home there is a glass bong and a plastic bong. The glass bong is my favorite but it stays in one place and has rules centered on it to avoid breakage. The plastic bong is the one I don’t mind being shared, passed around, and used. I always clean one at a time so I have one available to be used while the other one is laying in the dishwasher getting cleaned.

If you don’t have a dishwasher you’ll want to use a long-handled bottle brush, preferably one with a bendable end so it can be customized to the piece your cleaning. Cleaning your bong is important because bacteria and viruses like to hang out in wet environments and if it isn’t maintained can spread or cause disease. The more often you use your bong the more often you’ll have to clean it. Keep yourself safe by keeping a clean bong. You don’t have to wash it with every single use, but keep an eye on the water appearance; it will signal you.


The creativity behind bong construction never ceases to amaze me. I’ve seen bongs shaped into animals, cartoon characters, geometric shapes, mermaids, and the list goes on and on. There are a few standard or common-place bong types that you’ll encounter when perusing the glass shop.


This is the simplest and most common design in both glass and plastic. It’s one long straight tube with a base. Inserted through the side of the tube will be the stem and bowl.

The sizing will vary depending on the individual piece.

A feature you might see added to the straight tube, or ANY bong design is the “ice pinch” which is a narrowing that allows you to drop ice into the neck without it soaking into the water. Some smokers have noticed a cooling sensation when inhaling smoke through water and ice.


Just like the straight tube except the bottom spreads out to create the base, thus creating the beaker shape. These bongs are more stable than the regular straight tube bong because of its wide-flat base.


Like the beaker bong, except its round or spherical in shape. These are slightly less stable because the curvature simplifies dropping if placed down at an angle.


Also known as the recycler bong, it has two or more chambers that hold water so the smoke is filtered twice or more times. From this smoking device you can get a super clean-smooth smoke that will differentiate in taste and mouth feel. Many people generally avoid these pieces because they’re bulky and difficult to properly clean. I have seen plastic tubing variations of the multi-chamber bong which are connected by resin-sealants. Cleaning the pieces are easier but they easily lose their quality-sealing with time and must be tossed and replaced.


Percolators are harder to clean and harder to fill properly with water but they produce a high quality smoke that can be identified and differentiated from the traditional bong or pipe it.

The percolator is an additional filtration chamber and is much more enjoyable to smoke out of than the traditional pipe or bong. It produces a very cool smoke that is softer on the lung tissue.

Percolators can come in a large variety of shapes and sizes; the more complex the design the more filtration ability it possesses. Percolators are much more difficult to blow and construct; they make the top of the list when it comes to price for its complexity. For smoking connoisseur a percolator can better assist in defining the flavor notes and the scent notes than any other bong type.