4 Non Toxic Ways to Clean Your Cannabis Rigs
If you prefer “smoke over water” and using a glass pipe, you’ve probably noticed that it gets dirty quickly. The same thing holds true for any glass tool that you use to incinerate cannabis flower or concentrate, including a dab rig.
Because bongs can be intricate, with many channels for smoke (and debris), it can be difficult to clean them. This is probably why some people don’t clean their dab rig regularly or their bong(s). But did you know that a dirty cannabis rig can cause health problems?
Read on to learn what is actually inside those stains on your glassware or pipes. And why bong and dab rig maintenance is important to protect your health.
What is Bong Lung?
Instances of people getting a lung infection or allergic reaction to mold in the respiratory tract is common. In fact, it has a name: Bong Lung. And there are some symptoms to watch out for if you haven’t been regularly cleaning your paraphernalia.
The symptoms of “bong lung” may include:
- Excessive coughing.
- Increased phlegm, or sputum (thick mucus in your throat and sometimes nose).
- Wheezing and shortness of breath.
- The feeling of dryness or inflammation in the lungs.
In severe cases where someone has been using unsanitized bongs or dab rigs, there is a risk of developing serious lung infections, such as Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Necrotizing Pneumonia. It is a bacterial lung infection that can, in the worst cases, create necrosis in the lungs by killing off healthy lung tissues. The damage from necrosis is not repairable, and it can be life-threatening.
Why Does Your Bong Look Dirty?
If there wasn’t a health risk associated with dirty dab rigs or bongs, they probably would be made from dark glass because those stains are definitely nasty to look at. And they only get worse as the bong or dab rig is used over time without a regular cleaning process.
When you incinerate cannabis flower or concentrates, the fats and natural waxes found in cannabis create a burnt resin. And that resin sticks to every surface inside your piece. This starts happening the first time you use a new pipe.
But the stains are not only caused by the resin. In fact, the resin provides a surface for other things to stick to; bacteria and mold. It is easy for mold and bacteria to grow inside a cannabis pipe that contains water. All it needs is an enclosed environment and moisture to propagate. And the bacteria introduced from your lips when smoking is enough to start the infection inside your bong.
If you do not properly clean and disinfect your bong regularly, bacteria and mold multiply in your glass piece. And every time you inhale smoke from your pipe, you will also be inhaling toxic bacteria and mold, which can lead to respiratory infections.
Is It Important to Regularly Clean Your Cannabis Pipes and Rigs?
Protecting your health is the first priority. But there are many other practical reasons why cleaning your glassware or pipe matters. When you smoke from a sanitized device, you can actually get better results, including improving the quality of the vapor you inhale.
Here are some of the best reasons to make sure your cannabis rigs are clean:
Increased Flavor and Aroma
Dirty pipes taste bad. The buildup of the ash and resin alone can alter the flavor and aroma of the medical marijuana you use. You aren’t tasting the full flavor of the terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids if you are smoking from a dirty bong or dab rig.
Improved Airflow and Combustion
Would you like to waste less cannabis when you smoke? A clean dab rig or cannabis pipe allows for better airflow. That means it is easier to draw in smoke and inhale. And that provides a few important benefits.
When your pipe gets clogged, the airflow is obstructed. You get less draw through the stem of your pipe, and you may end up burning through more of your bowl than you would with a clean rig. You could also accidentally inhale a coal (a lit piece of cannabis), which can cause a burn injury.
When your pipe is dirty with resin buildup, it can also block the flame and make it harder to light your bowl. That can contribute to an uneven distribution of flame over your bud or concentrate. And that can result in burning more of your cannabis without getting a satisfying draw on your pipe. A clean pipe or dab rig can help you reduce waste.
Avoid Bacterial Infections
Many patients who are registered for medical marijuana have complex medical conditions. Some, like individuals living with diabetes or undergoing cancer treatment, may have compromised immune systems. Which means they are more susceptible to bacterial infections.
A dirty dab rig or cannabis pipe is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. You can significantly reduce your risk with regular maintenance and a cleaning process that sanitizes your glassware at least 2-3 times per week for daily users.
Prevent Toxic Mold From Growing Inside
Mold is a serious health risk for everyone, not just people who have an allergy to mold. Exposure to mold can make asthma symptoms worse and create problems with breathing, wheezing, or coughing for people who have allergies.
Mold can trigger an allergic reaction called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). This type of fungus can establish within your lungs and cause serious and sometimes life-threatening symptoms, including:
- Chest pain.
- Coughing up blood.
- Shortness of breath.
For people who regularly use water pipes, ABPA is a real risk if cannabis paraphernalia is not disinfected regularly. The ABPA mold can spread to other areas of the body. It is particularly threatening to patients who have existing respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema, COPD, and cystic fibrosis.
Extend the Lifespan of Your Rig or Cannabis Glass Pipe
We all know someone who has used the same bong for a long period of time. If the glass of your cannabis paraphernalia is dirty, the buildup of resin can compromise your pipe. And cause cracks or breaks. This is also true for metal pipes.
When you clean your rig regularly, you prevent damage and can extend the lifespan of your bong or dab rig. And save money on replacement costs.
Cleaning Methods That Can Harm Your Health
If you ask someone about the best way to clean a dab rig or cannabis pipe, they will probably tell you rubbing alcohol and hot water. After all, rubbing alcohol can kill any bacteria or mold growing in your pipe.
Rubbing alcohol is toxic. While it is very effective at removing pipe stains and residue, consider that some of the alcohol solutions will remain behind, even after thorough rinsing. Other popular chemicals like acetone, ammonia 2-butoxyethanol, and sodium hydroxide are also harmful to your health.
The most popular methods of thoroughly cleaning glassware can cause organ damage and respiratory problems with asthma and bronchitis. And you will be breathing those chemicals in when you go to use your clean pipe.
Some of those chemicals can cause corrosion on plastic pipes. That means, in addition to inhaling chemical carcinogens, you are also inhaling heated plastic into your lungs. Many types of plastic pipes can release BPA, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals.
Safer Ways to Clean Your Cannabis Rigs
If you are a patient that uses smokable cannabis on a daily basis, the choices you make for sanitizing your equipment matter. There are many solutions you can find online that claim to be “all-natural” but may contain carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals.
Here are the best and safest methods for cleaning your paraphernalia:
1. Boiling Water
If you have a quality bong or dab ring, it will not crack or break when you pour hot water into it. Boiling water is clean and effective, as it actively loosens and removes resin. Hot water is also very effective at killing bacteria and fungi.
2. Coarse Salt and Dawn Dish Soap
If you are using a plastic rig, you’ll want to avoid using coarse salt, which can create divots in the pipe where resin, bacteria, and fungi can collect. But for glass rigs, some coarse rock salt or kosher salt can help exfoliate debris from the inside of your pipe. Dawn dish soap is non-toxic and may work well with coarse salt to remove lodged resin and stains.
3. Vinegar and Baking Soda
Vinegar and baking soda create a foaming chemical reaction. When used together, it can help you sanitize your pipe quickly and easily. And it is less expensive than some store-bought cleaning solutions and is kind to the environment.
4. Natural Lemon Juice
Hot lemon juice may sound strange, but it is one of the best methods that can help strip your pipe of both leftover resin and pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. You can find the juice in the baking aisle of your local grocery store. You can also combine hot lemon juice with coarse salt to safely room tough stains.
Natural Non-Toxic Cleaning Solutions You Can Buy
If you prefer to use a cleaning solution instead, there are many to choose from. But be careful and read the label. Some contain an isopropyl alcohol solution, which is another name for rubbing alcohol.
Beware of a bong cleaning solution that “works fast.” Typically, they are solutions that have harsh chemicals. While some chemicals are rated “safe” for occasional exposure, if you use your pipe(s) daily, that counts as regular exposure. And you could be risking health complications.
Are There Special Brushes You Can Use to Clean Your Bong?
There are many different types of brushes you can order online or find at your local smoke shop. They look like smaller versions of bottle washers and are just as easy to use. Presoak your glassware or dab the rig in your solution. Then use the brushes to help remove the remaining debris for a thorough cleaning.
I am a Chief Marketing Officer at DocMJ, a leading provider of medical cannabis health services to qualified patients. I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing and communications, with a proven track record of delivering impactful and compliant campaigns that educate, inform, and empower patients to make better choices for their health and wellness.