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How to use a bong: Step-by-step instructions

How to use a bong: Step-by-step instructions

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If you’ve ever been in a headshop or a college dorm room, you’ve probably come across a bong. While you may have thought “that’s really not for beginners,” a bong is actually a very straightforward, enjoyable, and effective way to consume marijuana. 

Also known as a water pipe, a bong is a water-filtration device almost exclusively used for smoking cannabis. It usually consists of one primary vessel which is air- and water-tight, along with a bowl and stem, and some sort of mouthpiece. Most bongs have a hole somewhere above the water level, known as the “carburetor”, “carb”, “choke”, “bink”, “rush”, or “shotty,” which helps to clear the smoke when released. 

Skip to what you need

Bongs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are simple and functional, others are handmade, stained-glass works of art.

What you need to smoke a bong

  • A bong
  • Cannabis 
  • A grinder (you can also use your fingers or scissors)
  • Water
  • Lighter

How to use a bong: Step by step instructions

Step 1: Prep your bong

Pour water into the mouthpiece until the waterline is above the base of the stem but below the bowl. You can also put ice cubes in the water if you’d like. 

Step 2: Grind your marijuana

Take a small amount of marijuana, grind or break it up and fill the bowl, without packing it too tightly.

Step 3: Place your lips inside the mouthpiece

Place your mouth inside the mouthpiece, creating a tight seal. 

Step 4: Use a lighter or hemp wick

Hold a flame over the bowl and inhale strongly, and steadily. 

Using a lighter can result in low levels of butane inhalation, which is non-toxic but may present health problems in large quantities. 1

Step 5: Start inhaling

When the chamber starts to fill with smoke, pull out the bowl or take your finger off the carb and inhale forcefully, clearing the smoke into your lungs. 

Step 6: Exhale

Exhale, and if desired, repeat steps 3-5. 

Step 7: Clean your bong

It’s not a must every time you use the bong, but make sure to keep it clean and change the water regularly. 

A bong can produce large hits of thick smoke that can make it a more potent option than most other smoking methods. 

Also known as a “water pipe,” a bong consists of a bowl attached to a stem that descends into a basin of water. This fits into a down-stem, which feeds into an airtight vertical chamber that’s open on the top, on which you place your mouth. They can be made out of plastic, silicone, bamboo, and a variety of other materials, but most bongs sold today are made of glass.

Bongs will usually have a “pull-out carb,” which is used by pulling the bowl out from the stem once the chamber has filled with smoke in order to quickly clear and inhale the smoke inside. 

Why use a bong?

A bong allows you to get a strong, full-bodied hit that can often do the trick without a follow-up. The water in the basin of the bong can also cool down the smoke and make it less harsh. 

In addition, you can put ice cubes in the basin of the bong (or in the chamber, if it has an “ice catcher”) to cool down the smoke even further. You also don’t need to worry about any ash or plant matter getting in your mouth when you use a bong. 

Is smoking from a bong cleaner?

While it’s widely accepted that using a bong makes the smoke smoother to inhale, because of the water filtration, it’s not entirely clear whether this is cleaner – or healthier. Some claim that the water in the bong can trap toxins from combusting cannabis flower, but this has not been scientifically proven. 

Woman lighting marijuana in a glass bong.
Most bongs are made out of glass and can be held while inhaling (Shutterstock)

Pros and cons of smoking a bong

The main advantage of smoking a bong is the experience – the smoke is less irritating than smoking a joint or blunt, and it’s also cooler thanks to the water. 

But there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind. The water in the basin can become very smelly if it’s not changed regularly, and if you accidentally spill this water — especially on your couch or carpet — it can take some serious cleaning to get rid of the smell.

Glass bongs also have a tendency to get knocked over and shatter. Finally, even when they are small, bongs are not the most discrete or portable way of smoking cannabis.


  • Can add water and ice to cool off and filter the smoke  
  • Can create much bigger, more potent inhalations 
  • A nice, practical piece of glass work for the coffee table or bookshelf
  • No risk of getting ash or plant matter in your mouth 
  • Doesn’t require burning any paper


  • Can fall and break fairly easily 
  • Can smell bad if you don’t clean and change the water regularly
  • Not the most discreet way to smoke


  1. Committee on Acute Exposure Guideline Levels; Committee on Toxicology; Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council. Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Selected Airborne Chemicals: Volume 12. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012 Apr 27. 1, Butane: Acute Exposure Guideline Levels. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK201460/
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