How To Use A Bong
7 min

How To Use A Bong

7 min

No doubt, one of the best ways to smoke cannabis is with a bong. With our step-by-step guide on how to set up and smoke a bong, you will become a bong-ripping pro in no time!

Here’s how to identify, pack, light, and toke from one of the most famous pieces of cannabis paraphernalia: the almighty bong.

What makes a bong special? If we had to choose one thing, it would be the unique way that smoke is filtered and cooled through water—this is chiefly what makes a bong, a bong. This is also why bongs are called water pipes. As the smoke moves through the water, it results in a smoother hit, and allows for bigger hits, than you could get with a regular pipe.

What Types Of Bongs Are There?

What Types Of Bongs Are There?

You can find all kinds of bongs that differ not only in their shape, but also in their materials and features. There are bongs that come straight up and down, those with wider bases, and those that look like fancy vases. Similarly, bongs can be made from silicone, acrylic, glass, or ceramic. The most simple don't contain any special features, while some of the more complex come outfitted with designer touches that make for a better, or at least fancier, smoke.

How Does A Bong Work?


The main function of the bong is to filter out particulates and to cool the smoke. It is easy to see when using a transparent bong, that the smoke comes into contact with the water and all the heavier elements, such as ash and unburnt green material are easily caught and filtered out.

When organic matter is burned, tars and other nasties, like poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are created and released, that you don't really want in your lungs. Unlike tobacco smoke, which is riddled with hundreds of man-made chemicals that can't be filtered. Properly flushed when grown, cannabis on the other hand is simply dried and cured organic plant material. Burning it is an efficient way to release compounds like terpenes and activated cannabinoids. The unwanted side effects being hot smoke, particulate matter and tars.

A bong performs similarly to a gas washing bottle or wet scrubber in a laboratory that is used for removing pollutants and dust from various gasses.

When a person draws on a bong, the negative pressure forces smoke to bubble through the water from the lit cone via the stem. A small hole known colloquially as a shotty, choke, carby or just hole is uncovered to clear the pipe of smoke once the cone is spent. Alternatively there is no hole and the cone itself can be lifted clear of the stem to facilitate a sluicing rush of clean air.

The desirable elements from cannabis, such as cannabinoids and terpenes are not water-soluble, so pass throught the bong in the cooled smoke as vapours which the lungs then absorb. Left behind in the water and the reason for it eventually turning brown and sickly, are ash, fine unburnt organic matter and some tars.

Related article

Does Bong Water Filter Out THC?

The cooling and filtration effects are relative to the volume of water used and the bubble size. Some bongs have more than one water chamber, while others have diffusers to create more bubbles. More bubbles means more surface area of the smoke touching the water before reaching the lungs.

Filtration preferences aside, bongs are generally used to provide a rapid hit of cannabis. The effects come on quicker and are more pronounced sooner, but wear off faster, than other methods like joints.

Anatomy Of A Bong

For those who’ve never used or seen a bong before, it may seem confusing. After all, most people are well-aware of how to smoke a joint, but bongs are a little more sophisticated. To help you learn how to use this piece of equipment, let’s first take a look at the different components of a bong and what they’re used for. Don’t worry—it’s not as complicated as it might seem!

Anatomy Of A Bong

  • Base: The base is the foundation of the bong—it supports the chamber and everything above. Depending on the shape of the bong, the base can be wider than the uppermost part of the piece, though not always. Some bongs come in a streamlined tube shape where the base and chamber are the same size.
  • Chamber: This is where the water is held and does its magic, cooling the smoke and filtering out tar and fine particles.
  • Uptake: This is the (usually) cylindrical tube that extends up from the chamber and leads to the mouthpiece, and then your lungs.
  • Mouthpiece: This is the opening at the top of the tube where you place your lips to inhale the smoke.
  • Bowl: The bowl is what holds your ground herb. Depending on your bong, the bowl can be made from the same material as the bong itself (e.g. glass), but it can also be made from metals such as steel or copper.
  • Stem: The stem (or downstem) is a tube that attaches to the bowl. This tube extends into the chamber of the bong, with the lowest part submerged in water. The stem (with the bowl) normally fits through a hole in the front of the bong, and can be removed for cleaning, etc. The stem can also be made from steel, copper, or glass.
  • Carb hole: The carb is a hole on the side of the bong that’s located above water level. You cover the carb hole with a finger as you light the bowl and fill the bong with smoke. Once you’re ready to draw the smoke into your lungs, you take the finger off the carb and suck in. This allows you to gather more smoke, and to control its journey into your lungs. Not all bongs come with a carb hole. Those that don’t usually have you remove the bowl once you’re ready to suck in.

How To Use A Bong

OK, so you've got your bong, laid out your favourite strain, and you're ready for a smoke—but where do you begin? Don't worry; we've all had to start somewhere. Whether you're entirely new or reading this section as a bit of a reminder, you'll learn invaluable information on how you can successfully prepare your bong. While it may seem a little daunting initially, our handy steps will lay any doubts or uncertainty to rest.

1. Fill the bong with water

How Use Bong: Fill bong with water

Fill your bong with fresh water before you sit down with it. With most bongs, you pour the water in through the large mouthpiece opening at the top. You want to fill your bong with enough water that the end of the dowstem is submerged about 2–3cm.

Some elaborate bongs have percolators in the shape of discs, spirals, round domes, etc. inside the chamber or on ancillary parts of the bong. These “percs” can provide extra filtering and cooling for your smoke. Fill these percolators with water as well and make sure that all air holes are covered—depending on how “fancy” your bong is, you may want to check your bong’s instructions to see how to fill it properly.

Optional: Fill your bong with ice

If you want, you can add ice cubes to the water. This will cool down the smoke even more so it’s easier on your lungs. Some bongs also have special compartments or notches inside to hold the ice cubes.

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What Is An Ice Bong?

2. Grind up your weed

How Use Bong: Grind weed

Before you fill your bowl, you need to grind your buds. Take a weed grinder, fill it with a couple buds, and grind them to a medium-fine consistency. If you don’t have a grinder, you can also use your fingers or small scissors, but the result will not be as good.

3. Put a screen in the bowl

How Use Bong: Put screen in bowl

Your bowl will very likely need a screen, so make sure that it has one, as this will prevent pieces of your ground bud from falling into the stem. If you’re using a bowl without a screen, it can be good practice to put larger pieces of ground bud at the bottom, just above the hole. This helps prevent those fine pieces from falling through.

4. Fill the bowl with weed

How Use Bong: Fill bowl with weed

Take some of your ground weed and loosely pack the bowl. The ideal way to pack is to fill the bowl to near-full capacity, but loose enough that you can comfortably draw in air. If you have to really pull, you’ve packed it too tight.

You will likely want to remove the bowl for packing and then place it into the bong once you’re ready to light up. Some choose to pack with the bowl already attached to the bong. Whatever is easier for you.

5. Take the bong in your hand

How Use Bong: Take bong in hand

Grab the chamber of your bong firmly with your non-dominant hand. Rest the base of the bong on a flat surface if you want a little more support. If you’re more experienced, you can rest the base on your thigh or between your legs if sitting. If you’re brave, you may even hold the bong without support, but you should be particularly careful.

6. Cover the carb hole

How Use Bong: Cover carb hole

If your bong has a carb hole, cover it with one finger. If you don't, you'll just be sucking air into the bong, not smoke.

7. Put the bong to your mouth and light the bowl

How Use Bong: Put bong to mouth and light bowl

Place your mouth against the mouthpiece of the bong and apply light pressure so it forms a seal. It is best when you pucker your lips a bit, like when kissing. Make sure that the seal remains tight, otherwise it’ll be harder to draw the smoke.

With your free hand, light a match or lighter. Tilt the lighter down near the edge of the bowl and inhale at the same time. As you’re inhaling, this pulls the flame downward and will ignite your weed.

Tip: If you want to reduce the amount of chemicals you're exposed to when smoking cannabis, you can use natural hemp wick instead of a lighter. Use the hemp wick to light your bong, and you won't inhale any unhealthy substances like butane!

8. Remove the flame

RHow Use Bong: emove flame

You will only need to put the flame to your weed for a second or two as you inhale slowly. Once your weed is lit, remove the flame, but do keep inhaling. Your bowl will stay lit as long as you pull air through it. Keep it cool and relaxed. You don’t need to inhale until you’re out of breath to fill the bong with smoke.

9. Release the carb hole and inhale

How Use Bong: Release carb hole and inhale

Now, remove your finger from the carb hole. If you have a bong without a carb, you’ll want to remove the bowl so you can inhale the smoke.

10. Exhale without holding

How Use Bong: Exhale without holding

Exhale. You don’t need to hold the smoke in your lungs. Research has shown that the active substances in cannabis are absorbed right away, so there is no benefit to holding the smoke, contrary to what some stoners may tell you.

11. Pass the bong!

How Use Bong: Pass bong

Before you pass the bong, you should clear the stale smoke that may be left inside the chamber. You can now pass the bong or put it down on your desk.

Good Bong Etiquette

Good Bong Etiquette

If you’re sharing with others, it is polite to wipe off the mouthpiece with a tissue or towel after each hit. Even if you’re smoking with friends, they may not be delighted if they’re getting a bong with drool on it.

Do not light the entire bowl when it’s your turn, only a small corner of it; this is called “cornering”. Place the flame ever-so-slightly above the edge of the bowl so that only a small portion of weed is licked by the flame. This will prevent unnecessary scorching, and will instead allow everyone in the circle to get a fresh section of bud. Someone lighting the entire bud to a pile of ash like a Neanderthal is normally seen as rude—and their chances of getting invited the next time may be up for debate.

It is also good bong etiquette to clean the bowl if there is nothing but ash left. In this case, you shouldn’t pass the bowl, but give it to the person who is packing the next one.

Tips & Tricks

How Use Bong: Tips & Tricks

Smoking a bong will quickly turn the water brown, and it will start to smell unpleasant. For the best taste, replace the water every 10 hits or so. Replacing your bong water frequently will also make your bong much easier to clean when the time comes, as less resin will accumulate.

If you’re smoking a bong and you’re coughing, chances are you’re inhaling too fast or too much. Try to keep things more relaxed and inhale and exhale more slowly, or take smaller hits. It may take some time to get used to smoking a bong without coughing, so don’t fret. It may also help to use ice water to reduce the harshness as much as possible.

What about using something other than plain water in your bong? Some folks add lemon peels or spices to their water, or they use tea, Gatorade, or even red wine with low alcohol content to get an extra flavourful experience. But know that not all things are safe and healthy in a bong. For example, you shouldn’t substitute your bong water with drinks that are high in alcohol as this can be dangerous and bad for your health. Also, if you use sugary drinks to flavour your bong water, you will need to clean your bong thoroughly before next use.

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Top 10 Bong Water Alternatives

Bongs are nothing to be afraid of; despite their somewhat intimidating appearance, they exist to make the smoking experience smooth and enjoyable. So go out there and find the right bong for you!

Steven Voser
Steven Voser
Steven Voser is an independent cannabis journalist with over 6 years of experience writing about all things weed; how to grow it, how best to enjoy it, and the booming industry and murky legal landscape surrounding it.
  • Huestis MA, Henningfield JE, & Cone EJ. (1992 Sep-Oct). Blood cannabinoids. I. Absorption of THC and formation of 11-OH-THC and THCCOOH during and after smoking marijuana. - PubMed - NCBI -
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