You may have heard of adding ice cubes to your bong to create a chill hit, but have you tried adding warm water instead? Despite sounding a little against the grain, there are many fans of this approach on the internet.
First, a point of terminology. The difference between warm and hot water is subjective. This article uses warm water instead of hot to make it perfectly clear that you should NEVER use water that’s too hot to drink in your bong. Warm water is any temperature that’s comfortable for you to touch and sip. Warm does not mean room temperature water. That means that the water will generally be between 80 and 110 F.
The importance of water in a bong
Hot smoke can irritate the back of your throat, or even your lungs, but adding water is well known to create a smoother, more pleasant smoking experience.
The water in your bong is best known for its ability to cool the smoke between the time it leaves the bowl and when you inhale, making your hits easier on your throat and lungs. Water can also filter ash out of the hit by trapping it at the bottom of your bong, but it doesn’t filter everything, including much of the small, harmful smoke particulate. 1
While many smokers would argue that using warm water wouldn’t work as effectively to cool this smoke, this isn’t necessarily true. Warm water is still far cooler than the temperature of the smoke coming off of a lit bowl, and therefore can still make the smoke much easier on the lungs.
Should you use hot water in your bong?
If you want to go the opposite direction from adding ice to your bong, try adding warm – not hot – water to your piece.
The water mustn’t be too hot for a few reasons:
- It could crack your bong. Glass can fracture or break at temperature extremes, and going from cool or room temperature to hot in a short amount of time creates the perfect conditions to crack your favorite piece.
- It could burn your hand. Glass will get as hot as the water you put in it. Boiling hot water immediately heats up the glass, but cools down slowly. If the water you use is too hot, you can burn your hand on the bottom of the bong. (Meaning you could easily spill it and burn or scald your skin.)
- It could burn your lungs, throat, or face. If extremely hot water was used in a bong, then it’s not just hot water to worry about, but also steam. Contact with hot steam can burn or scald whatever it touches, including your face, throat, or lungs. Hot steam is actually more dangerous than hot smoke because when the steam touches your (relatively) cool skin, it drops in temperature and transforms back from a gas into liquid form. During this process of condensation, energy is released in the process and has nowhere to go except be transferred to your skin, leading to more severe burns than from water. 2
Benefits to hot water in a bong
So why use warm water in a bong? For one thing, the novelty of it. If you’re a long-time smoker, you know that using the same piece day in and day out can get a little… boring. Adding warm water creates a new smoking experience, one that some claim makes hits even smoother and stronger.
There are also a few purported, but thoroughly untested benefits. (Don’t expect to see peer reviewed papers on the temperature of bong water and its effects anytime soon.)
You may not typically think of the humidity levels in your bong, but the temperature of the water can affect this. Humidity is a measurement of how much water is in the air and in this case, the air that is mixing with your bong smoke.
The smoke coming out of your bong is different from steam – one is made of weed and combustion particulates, while the other is made of small particles of hot water. So adding extra water to your bong makes the hit more humid and (allegedly) smoother.
Viscosity is a liquid’s resistance to flow. Water is typically low viscosity, which means it flows easily and the warmer water is, the less viscous it is. And while the effect of the viscosity of water may be small, when you use a bong all the time it’s easy to pick up on nuanced differences.
In layman’s terms, warm water flows more easily than cold. Warm water also produces more bubbles and smaller bubbles than cold water. Think of a pot just about to boil- it’s full of tiny bubbles. More bubbles in your bong water exposes the smoke to more water surface area, leading to better filtration, creating an overall smoother hit. The water molecules in warm water also move at a faster rate than in cold water, meaning they are actually working harder to diffuse smoke byproducts and filter the smoke.
Stoners who use warm water in their bongs claim it creates silky smooth hits, akin to being inside a steam room or sauna. Of course, others claim that using ice cubes give smooth hits so this one is subjective (and anecdotal).
Does the bong stay cleaner with warm water?
Some tokers suggest that using cold water in a cold bong can increase resin buildup in the bong and decrease the cannabinoids in your hits. Science may be on their side – the sudden change in temperature from the lighter to the inside of the bong may cause the vapor to condense on the inside of the bong, rather than continuing its journey up and into your lungs. Using warm water softens the temperature change from inside the lit bowl to the bong to your lungs, allowing the vapor to make it into your lungs and hypothetically getting you higher than if you had used ice.
What about warm water and lemon? Does that do anything?
Sure, you could add lemon to your bong water if you wanted. Whether it has any benefits is questionable, but it will make your water (and thus your bong hit) more acidic, which would affect the solubility of chemicals in the water, although the scale of the effect is entirely unknown. It will also make it taste more like lemon, and you’ll get an extra boost of lemony terpenes. It’s likely not harmful to add lemon to your bong water, but there’s probably no real benefit either unless you just like the taste.
Potential downsides of using hot water in a bong
If you use water that’s too hot, you put yourself at risk of scalding or burning your face, throat, or lungs. Use water that is warm, but not undrinkable. If you would cool it down before you sip it, don’t add it to your bong. If you can’t use the tap water where you live, this means you have to heat up water and let it cool down in advance of the smoke session – and who wants to plan that much to hit a bong?
Warm water can increase the risk of microorganisms growing. Bongs are already at high risk for bacterial growth and those tiny organisms love warm conditions. Letting a warm bong sit out after use is a recipe for creating bacteria soup. Always, always rinse out your bong between uses and clean it regularly. 3
Is there a right temperature for bong water?
No, there’s no “perfect temperature” for bong water – it’s dependent on each smoker’s preference. Some people swear by the cooling ability of ice cubes while others feel they make the bong hits more harsh, not smoother.
Whether warm or cold water in your bong is better is really up to you. Don’t use hot water, as this could lead to issues with hot steam, but other than that, it’s mostly subjective. Perhaps someday there will be studies examining whether the temperature of the water truly does have an impact on how a bong hits and the high experience, but don’t expect that anytime soon.
The bottom line
If you want to use warm water in your bong, go for it.
There are no studies saying it’s better to use warm water or cold water in a bong – only anecdotal evidence from stoners happy to share their (strong) opinion. If you’re curious about using warm water in your bong, make sure it’s a drinkable temperature and rinse it out when you’re done. Happy toking!
- Nguyen PK, Hammond SK. Fine Particulate Matter Exposure From Secondhand Cannabis Bong Smoking. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(3):e224744. Published 2022 Mar 1. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.4744
- Baartmans M, Kerkhof E, Vloemans J, Dokter J, Nijman S, Tibboel D, Nieuwenhuis M. Steam inhalation therapy: severe scalds as an adverse side effect. Br J Gen Pract. 2012 Jul;62(600):e473-7. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X652337. PMID: 22781995; PMCID: PMC3381273.
- Kumar AN, Soo CI, Ng BH, Hassan T, Ban AY, Manap RA. Marijuana “bong” pseudomonas lung infection: a detrimental recreational experience. Respirol Case Rep. 2017;6(2):e00293. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10.1002/rcr2.293
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