How To Use A Bong
6 min

What Is A Percolator And Why You Should Use One

6 min

'Percolator' is a term that's used a lot in the cannabis paraphernalia industry. You’ve probably already seen a percolator bong on Instagram or at a friend’s house. Let's take a look at how a percolator can improve your bong-hitting experience.

What is a percolator?


In lay terms, a percolator is a class of glass bong. This is described as a piece where the smoke is forced to break up into smaller streams. Most percolator bongs will have multiple chambers along the main shaft, with more water and smaller holes.

This works so that your smoke will take longer to reach your mouth, leading to a smoother experience. If the percolator also has multiple water chambers, it will filtre more of your smoke and help it cool down even further.


How It Works And How To Use One

If you’ve never seen a percolator bong, then it’s easier if we take it back to physics class. What the percolator essentially does is force the air coming from the bowl to go through tiny holes. This breaks the smoke into tiny bubbles in the water. Having multiple small bubbles of smoke instead of a couple of huge bubbles will make it so that more surface area of the smoke is in contact with water. With more surface area in contact with water, the temperature will decrease faster.

This, combined with the added time the smoke takes to travel, leads to an overall cleaner and fresher smoke. Most people stand by this as their preferred method of smoking. It definitely isn’t just another useless contraption.


Does It Affect The High?

The quick answer is no. There is nothing that backs the loss or gain of cannabinoids just with the use of a percolator. Although some people claim it gets them higher, this is probably just because they find it easier to take larger hits with a percolator piece. If anything, you could imagine there being a slight loss of THC because of the added filtration. But this highly unlikelyl as THC isn’t water-soluble.

Related article

Top 10 Strongest And Most Potent Cannabis Strains


The benefits are obviously notorious. Once you have smoked out of a percolator piece, you will not feel content smoking out of a traditional bong. The smoking experience is dramatically improved. The smoke is smoother and tastier. With the lower temperature, terpenes are more easily identified by your tongue. Other than a percolator piece being more expensive, there are really no negatives to think of in regards to the percolator.

How to clean a percolator bong

How to clean a percolator bong

Cleaning a percolator bong is a little more involved than a regular bong, but it needn’t be a cause for fear. To get started, you’ll need a few items:

Bong cleaner or isopropyl alcohol

Coarse salt

• Resealable plastic bag (ziplock bag)

• Paper towels, pipe cleaners

• Bucket or tub (for the bong)

Now, you basically just need to soak your bong in an alcohol and salt-rich solution. The alcohol will help to separate the resin from the components, and the abrasiveness on the salt will assist.

Take all of the removable pieces of the bong and place them in your ziplock bag with a salt and alcohol solution. Place the body of the bong in the tub, also in the solution. Make sure to distribute the salt and alcohol throughout the chamber and percs as much as possible, even if this means pouring some isopropyl into the neck of the bong so it runs directly through the percs. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Using the paper towels and pipe cleaners, clean the hard-to-reach places as best you can. You can also plug/cover the mouthpiece and downstem and give the whole thing a shake to loosen up the grime, but you'll need plastic wrap or dedicated bong plugs for this. But remember, the more effort you put in now, the fresher your smoke will be after!

Like all things involving sticky resin, acting sooner rather than later will make your life easier. A regular cleaning schedule will end up being less effort than waiting till your bong is all blocked up and you can barely get it clean. Note that more elaborate perc systems will also be harder to clean, so keep this in mind when making a purchase.

What types of percolators are there?

What types of percolators are there?

Despite percolators being a fundamentally simple concept, there is a surprisingly wide variety available. While each performs a similar function, there are some minor differences between them. Below, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the percolator world.

Inline percolator

These are the most common type of percs, and you will find them both as standalone features in simple bongs and as part of a wider network of percolators in more advanced models. They run from the base of the downstem horizontally into the chamber of the bong. Containing a bunch of tiny holes, they diffuse the smoke as it first enters the water, offering cooling and filtration.

Tree percolator

Though it can vary, tree percs tend to have between one and eight flow-paths, or arms. Some smaller models may have multiple tree arms, often two or three, whereas elaborate models go all out with eight. As the many arms mean there’s greater complexity inside your bong, these models are often intricate and more expensive. The upside is that, as well as looking cool, you get a whole lot of diffusion.

Within the body of the bong is a series of “branches”, each with multiple slits, and these hang beneath a canopy-like dome. It is this feature that gives them their name. The downside of this complexity is that they can be very difficult to clean, so it’s important not to let them get too gross. If you do keep them clean, though, they can offer drag-free diffusion.

Showerhead percolator

These get their name from their shape, and work in much the same way as conventional shower heads. The smoke goes up a tube, at the top of which is a disc featuring many holes. The smoke is forced through these holes in a fine, diffused spray, making your hit smoother and cooler.

Popular as they are effective, easy to make, and simple to clean, you can find showerhead percs all over the place, and for reasonable prices.

Matrix percolator

This cool name is given to what is basically a stack of showerhead percs. By placing one on top of the other, you get multiplied diffusion and some incredibly smooth hits. These are among the most effective percolators available.

The downside? They are hell to clean, and so it’s well worth making sure they don’t get blocked up with resin in the first place!

Diffused downstem

Diffused downstems have the percolator within them, rather than inside the bong itself. So the smoke is diffused immediately, and essentially sprays out of the downstem and into the water chamber where it is filtered and cooled.

Honeycomb percolator

These are about as good as percolators get. Offering an incredibly smooth experience, and looking beautiful while doing it, they’re the cream of the crop. Unlike other advanced percs, they’re pretty simple—a honeycomb-shaped disc fits into (or is built into) the bong’s chamber. The complexity comes from the size and density of the holes. One disc can have 100 or more tiny holes, offering unparalleled diffusion. What’s more, you can stack multiple honeycomb percs, one on top of the other, multiplying your diffusive capacity.

Due to the small size of the holes, they block easily—going from no drag to total blockage. And they can be hard to clean once they're blocked. So if you’re going to use a honeycomb perc, it’s essential to clean them very often!

Fritted disc percolator

These percs are, essentially, ready-stacked honeycomb percolators. They offer powerful diffusion, but can be incredibly difficult to clean if you let them build up with resin. So once again, a consistent cleaning regimen is essential if you want one of these in your life.

Turbine percolator

These are potentially the coolest percs available, and offer plenty of aesthetic joy while taking your hit.

Due to the way they're shaped, they actually pull the water up the sides of the bowl and create a cyclone, or whirlpool, in the middle of the bong. As well as looking epic, this helps to expose maximum smoke to the cooling effects of the water, achieving a visual spectacle and smooth hits!

Spiral percolator

In terms of functionality, spiral percs (also called coil percolators) work much like tree percs. The main difference is the shape. As the name suggests, these percs coil up through the body of the bong, like a snake about to strike, and offer not only great diffusion, but some of the smoothest pulling power about!

Faberge egg percolator

These percs are, as the name suggests, rare, and have a little mystery surrounding them. Often containing Swiss cheese-like holes, these "fab egg" percs essentially act like a bong within a bong, preventing the smoke from making contact with air, allowing for greater smoke filtration before the hit reaches your lungs.

Fab egg percs tend to work alongside other types of percolators, as opposed to standing alone; nevertheless, get one of these as part of your setup and you’ll have one of the most decadent rigs around!

Percs: what are the perks?

Percs: what are the perks?

If you’re new to bong smoking, you might be wondering what the point is in all of these different types of percolators. You might even wonder if a perc is necessary at all.

While by no means necessary, they will certainly improve your smoking experience. This becomes much more pronounced if you’re smoking or dabbing top-quality weed and concentrates. The smoother you can get your hit, the more you’ll be able to unleash the myriad flavours contained in the terpenes of your chosen smoke.

As for all the different types of percolators available, the best way for you to find out is to try them. If you’re starting out, start simple and cheap, and get one you’ll be able to clean easily. If you’re not willing to put the work into looking after them, the more complex percs will offer diminishing returns very quickly. But all in all, if you like ripping bongs, you’ll love percs.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
Headshop Products
Search in categories