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For as many people on the marijuana chat boards who chime in that they clean their bongs and pipes after every use, there must be at least a dozen true pot users who don't want to admit they usually only clean their bong or pipe when they get a new batch or the stem gets clogged.
There are various reasons for this, the two most obvious being:
- Stoned people are not very motivated, and
- The leftover resin (pot tar) can be repurposed for further use (more getting high).
While I definitely understand that feeling of disgust at the idea of people needing a high so badly that they smoke or eat burnt marijuana resin, if you've never been broke and truly sick or in pain (symptoms of cancer treatment and fibromyalgia are commonly relieved by pot smoking), then you might not be able to relate.
That said, not cleaning your bong in order to save up the resin does allow bacteria and mold to build up, and it truly affects the taste horribly if you let it go long enough.
The simplest and cleanest way to treat your bong is to rinse it with boiling water after each use (daily) or put it in the dishwasher—not unlike cleaning a glass after you use it.
But I know some people are not interested in the simple cleaning and want to know how to collect and use their resin—so I'll go ahead and share my tips on how to clean your bong and repurpose marijuana resin.
Resin is basically the sap (sticky moisture) extracted from a plant and turned into a sort of glue or adhesive substance that hardens when dried, such as amber.
When you smoke marijuana, the resin in the plant seeps out and sticks to the sides of the pipe or bong.
This, along with the smoke, turns bong water a yellowy brown and eventually builds up into a black and tarry (sticky, smelly, and thick) layer if your bong or pipe is not rinsed out directly after use.
If you try to use soap and water on resin build-up, you will notice it actually gets stickier—it really only responds to solvents such as alcohol, acetone, and paint thinner.
Allowing it to dry on the surface and scraping it off with a razor is popular because it can then be put back into the bong or pipe and smoked again—or potentially used to make an ashy pot butter (check out my recipe for Cannashbutter right here on Vocal Media).
But if you let it build up too long, cleaning your bong or pipe with a razor and paperclips alone can be a long and grueling task, and it tastes pretty awful, too.
I prefer to use a high-proof alcohol, such as Vodka or Ever Clear, to clean my bong as it immediately releases the resin from any surface while keeping it consumable.
(Note: if you are not going to consume your resin, then rubbing alcohol works just as well and is much cheaper than vodka. I used rubbing alcohol for the most part in the pictures below, but both work equally well. Just don't smoke or eat something that has been cleaned with rubbing alcohol—that should go without saying.)
This past year I got a silicone bong that allows me to take it apart for cleaning—so much easier than glass—and I've been able to more than triple the amount of resin and pot residue I can repurpose from the build-up inside.
I've also noted that the build-up is much more disgusting than I ever imagined and sometimes I don't even want to repurpose it after looking at it.
I can't even imagine what I might have been smoking all those years in the glass bong without having seen the bowl.
If I'm low on funds and trying to make my pot last, I generally let my bong build up for about two weeks before cleaning it out (ew gross), although I do change the bong water daily and rinse gently with warm water as the sitting water and surface dampness is where a lot of the bacteria can collect and I actually taste mold if I don't.
Putting ice in your water will also help to prevent bacteria, and some people like it to cool down the smoke and lighting the hacking cough.
When I'm building up in order to repurpose, I am not as concerned with bacteria on parts that get burned as 99.9 percent of it will not survive that level of heat and my body has proven it can handle the other .1 percent over the past five years of smoking.
Take a look at the inside of my bong after just two weeks of smoking a few times a night and not fully cleaning out the bong.
Keep in mind it may have included a hot box session or two.
The first time I saw that, I just about projectiled my stomach contents across the room.
It looks gross.
Some of that build-up is resin, but a lot of it is actually pieces of ash and pot that get sucked in (too small a grind for the bowl) and stick to the resin.
This is a lot of smokable content that I generally don't want to waste because it can still be used to get high and relieve pain.
If you don't want to consume it (which is understandable due to the disgusting nature of it), you do also have the option of using it to extract hash oil.
In either case, the basic steps would include:
- Use alcohol to soak, rinse, and swipe any resin and build-up.
- Collect it all in a glass bowl as you clean.
- Drain the bowl, sifting out the particles.
- Spread the leftover particles out to dry—I usually just put them on some baking paper on a sheet pan and leave it on top of the fridge for about 24 hours.
- Once the resin is dry, you can grind it up and smoke it.
For small pipes you will still probably need a paperclip or pipe cleaners to get the inside, and for glass bongs you can use a skewer and a microfiber towel to push everything down into the bottom and then dump it all out into your glass bowl.
Sometimes the smoking bowl will have hard burnt parts on it that will still need to be scraped off with a brush or razor, but this is much easier after you've soaked it in alcohol.
Keep in mind, any tools you use for this will be absolutely ruined for any other purpose—keep a dedicated little cleaning bag for your marijuana so you don't get tar on your nice things because it will make them essentially useless.
I use microfiber cloths from the 99 cent store because the tar doesn't stick to them and it's easy to rinse into my bowl to collect all the pieces.
I hope this makes sense and offers a bit of a guide to bong owners new and old.
Here are some more pictures to further demonstrate.