'Sticky' is often used to describe a desirable attribute of your buds, but when it comes to cleaning, the 'Sticky' residue left behind from grinding or smoking weed is much less desirable. Cleaning your cannabis accessories can be a pain in the ass. It's one of those tasks that can be an intimidating, tedious endeavor for some. Luckily, there are a few tools and cleaning solutions that can make it easier to clean your pipes, bongs, grinders, and other accessories. But first, it's important to know what you should and shouldn't clean with.
Below I’ve listed the two most important things to remember:
- Not all bong cleaners can be used universally. Certain products are only safe to apply to glass. Ceramic bowls, such as those found in handheld vaporizers, and quartz bangers can be damaged by certain bong cleaning solutions. Make sure the cleaning product you are using specifically mentions these accessories before using them.
- Never clean your accessories with bleach and other household cleaners. If you need to use something in a pinch, stick with isopropyl alcohol or a combination of lemon juice and water, although the latter is not nearly as effective.
Dirty bong water poses the most obvious health risks.
Why Bother Cleaning?
While most accessories, from grinders to bongs, will continue to function long past the time they should be cleaned, there are many reasons why you should clean them regularly, especially smoking accessories like bongs and pipes as they have a great impact on the taste and can even pose health risks.
For Your Health
Dirty bong water should pose the most obvious health risks. Stagnant water is a magnet for various types of fungus and bacteria. If you’ve ever seen black spots on a ceiling tile in a less than ideally ventilated room, then you’re familiar with the types of mold that thrive in damp areas. Breathing in mold can cause a variety of illnesses, and a mold-filled percolator is a very effective delivery method. As you inhale, you’re not only taking in the smoke from your weed, but also the spores of the mold.
If you’ve ever spotted a pink film in your bong, that’s likely called Fusarium. No, it’s not a variety of mold, but like mold, this fungus has the potential to make you ill when inhaled. If anyone ever dares you to drink the bong water, please don’t. Fusarium also has the potential to cause Mycotoxicosis when ingested.
Bacteria and fungus are not static, if left to their own devices, they only spread, increasing the health risks associated with their existence. They can also lead to other, more difficult to deal with substances, such as white mold, which even bleach struggles to kill. It also grows back if not properly dealt with.
For the Taste
When you apply heat to fresh weed in a dirty bowl, the previously left-over and caked-on residue burns off with the new stuff. If you’ve ever butted out a joint to save the roach, you’ll be familiar with the awful flavor of old resin. If you’re inhaling that, it won’t matter how good your latest batch is supposed to taste, you won’t be able to tell. When you take a hit from a bong, the smoke is passing through the water to cool it down, and while the water is taking heat, it's also passing flavor, wouldn’t you rather the smoke be passing through a clean water supply?
Any accessory that comes in contact with your buds has the potential to be caked with the sticky residues that weed loves to leave behind. Over time, this can prevent any product from working at its best; when you just want to smoke a bowl and relax, you're spending time getting frustrated with your grinder when it jams, or your pipe when it feels like you're trying to suck a golf ball through a garden hose.
Pipes and bongs need to be cleaned more frequently than grinders and vaporizers.
The frequency of cleaning varies based on the accessory in question and how often it is used. Any products that are in contact with cannabis when it is smoked or vaporized will need to be cleaned far more frequently than a grinder that only touches dry product. A grinder can go months without needing to be cleaned; if it functions properly and isn’t getting stuck, you’re good to go.
Pipes and bongs, on the other hand, should be cleaned much more frequently, but the exact frequency will vary depending on how heavily they are being used. If you’re a real stickler for cleaning, you might clean your bong after each use, though this is probably a little overboard. We’d recommend cleaning bongs every few days or at least once a week. Pipes can wait a bit longer as they don’t pose the same health hazards as bongs, but if you care about taste, you might want to consider cleaning your pipes while you clean your bongs.
Vaporizers are a special case; they deal with very high heat and take a lot more manual work to get clean. It’s best to follow the manufacturer's recommended cleaning schedule. There is no such thing as ‘over cleaning’; the longer you wait, the harder it is to remove residue, the longer it takes, and the less time you can spend doing other things – like having a toke.