How Does a Bong Work and How to Use It (Stoned Science)

Bongs have been around in different shapes and forms for quite a while, as there have been accounts of water bongs being used in Thailand, Laos, Africa and several other places around the globe for a few centuries now.

However, today we’ll be talking about bongs that we know today, so stay tuned to find out how does a bong work and how to use a bong in a proper way.

If you had a chance to use a bong already then you probably know the basics: pour some water, pack the bowl and light up – not much to it, right?

Well, you might be wrong.

What are the different types of bongs?

Today we really only recognize 2 distinct types of bongs:

  1. Standard bongs — can be made from glass, wood, plastic and several other types of material. These are the ones you will instantly think of once someone mentions the word bong: long neck, water in the bottom, and smoke clustering and gathering in its neck.
  2. Gravity bongs — these are usually handmade and crafted from whatever you can find in your house at the moment.

It is important to keep this in mind as this article will be talking mostly about standard bongs.

Do bongs get you higher?

In short – yes. Bongs do get you higher than several other similar means of smoking such as smoking through a pipe, smoking a joint, or even a blunt.

Here’s why:

  • Bongs allow you to get a huge hit due to the chamber they have, even though you can theoretically get more THC from a glass pipe.
  • Inhaling a bigger hit “straight to the head” is really one of the easiest way to get an instant high. Bongs will get you high after just 1-2 hits while a joint will take a while to kick in.
  • Smoking cannabis with no additives (for instance, join packed with both tobacco and pot) will also get you there a bit quicker.

So, as you can see, there are quite a few things that give bongs an edge over other styles of cannabis consumption. Plus, they can be extremely fun when smoking with a group of friends.

Water from the bong will usually turn brown over time, thus helping you smoke a bit healthier. Cannabis smoke is harmful (just like any other smoke really) as it contains ash, tar and several other harmful compounds which get partly filtered by the water.

How to use a water bong?

Water bongs use a system in which the majority of work is done with some simple suction. As you may know, a bong is composed of usually 3-5 parts:

  • Mouthpiece — this is where your lips are pressed onto the bongs
  • Chamber — the place where all the smoke goes once the weed has been burned
  • Bowl — a place for holding your weed and lighting it
  • Downstem — some bongs with sliders don’t have this

Bong details

So, here’s how you use a water bong:

  1. Pour water in the bong. There should be enough water so that the downstem is completely submerged.
  2. Pack the bowl with about half a gram of freshly ground buds.
  3. Place your mouth on the mouthpiece, light the bowl and slowly inhale.
  4. Once the chamber is full of milky-white smoke, release the carb (or pull the slider) and inhale the remainder of smoke from the chamber. Exhale and return the slider.

How does a bong work?

Bongs work on several basic principles of physics, all of which are very simple to understand. First one is the vacuum.

When you light up the bowl and weed starts getting lit, it releases smoke.

Once the weed is lit and you slowly start inhaling you create a quasi-vacuum which sucks in the smoke from the bowl and stores it in the chamber.

The bubbles that you see appearing once you start inhaling are actually the “lungs of the bong” as they create micro-vacuums that suck smoke into the chamber.

If you take your lips off the mouthpiece you will see that the smoke actually won’t leave the chamber in huge amounts. As it has cooled down going through the water it tends to stay inside the bong.

When you pull the slider or remove your finger from the carb, make sure to quickly inhale the remaining smoke from the chamber. Releasing the carb will make it so that you can easily swoop the smoke, as the pressure outside is larger than the pressure in the bong.

If you are a conservative smoker, getting a bong can be a great way to drop down your consumption even more. If you’d like to get high instantly, not spend a lot of your weed and not have to deal with rolling and such, then I strongly recommend you get yourself one of these.

Check out my list of best bongs in 2019 and beyond.

Read more on weed basics

Decarboxylation: How to Decarb Weed for Maximum Potency — this article explains how to decarboxylate your weed so that you can make edibles, like cannabutter and pot brownies.

What Is the Healthiest Way to Smoke Weed? — in this post, we go over 3 cannabis consumption methods that are proven to be a healthier alternative to smoking.

20 thoughts on “How Does a Bong Work and How to Use It (Stoned Science)”

  1. Wow this is way more science than expected. Didn’t realize such a simple contraption could be so sophisticated. Awesome read. Thx. Keep up the good work Alex 🙂

  2. Love the article… Really solid stuff, and the “science” behind it is quite well described. I would add, however, that most glass water pipes in the classic “bong” form do not use a carb, but instead achieve the same effect with the slide (or lifting the bowl, obviously).

    One tip I would add is newer smokers may want to “test” their chamber to determine just how much smoke they are comfortable with! This may include adjusting water levels or simply NOT filling the chamber up completely.

    Go slow, new smokers, and your lungs will thank you for it!

  3. Great article! The history of bongs and water pipes is fascinating and the science behind them is interesting. One thing to note is that some people do think the quality of the water does matter (there are now several brands selling water to use for bongs). And brands from Grav to Mothership make bongs with ice pinches so that users can add ice to their bongs, providing for a nice, chilly hit. Keep up the good work!

    • Hey J, can you tell us exactly what you mean by this? Gravity bongs we’ve used always involved two bottles, usually used at home parties and was always DIY type of contraption.

  4. J, I’ve seen waterless gravity bongs that were factory made. They look kind of like accordions. But when I hear gravity bong I’m usually thinking about a bucket full of water and a plastic jug with the bottom cut off. Companies make “gravity bongs” but I’m pretty sure the the term comes from the home made setups we all loved to build in highschool

  5. This article talks about whether a bong gets you higher or not. The reasons given are good. Inhaling a bigger hit “straight to the head” is really one of the easiest way to get an instant high. Bongs will get you high after just 1-2 hits while a joint will take a while to kick in. Hence this is an informative article.

  6. Loved the article. I was wondering one thing with the round based bongs. I have different bongs and the 2 of them have chambers that is skew. This is how they were made. Does it make any difference compared to the regular ones? And the carb part… If it gets bigger does it make a difference as well? Thanks in advance!


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