Bongs 101: Breaking down the Water Pipe

Bongs - or billy’s, bing’s, or moofs (apparently – we just learned these terms too!) are a great way to consume your favorite flower or concentrate. Bongs have actually been a popular choice among smokers for centuries. In fact, over 2400 years ago, tribal chiefs used gold bongs to smoke cannabis and opium; these pipes were the most popular way to consume tobacco during the late Ming Dynasty in the 16th century.

Unlike traditional Dry or Hand Pipes, bongs use water to filter ash and particles from smoke, while trapping some heavier particles and water-soluble molecules. The water filtration and increased airflow of a bong also helps cool the smoke to a more comfortable temperature that's a little less harsh and offers a more refreshing and uplifting experience. Some of the more advanced bongs feature built-in percolators to diffuse the smoke. Percolators force the smoke to pass through tiny holes submerged under water, breaking it up into tiny bubbles and further cooling it on its way up the chamber. Some bongs have ice catchers, or bumps that are built-in to the neck of the pipe to allow you to place a few ice cubes or snow into the chamber, making for a super chilled-down smoke.

Bongs have been around for a long time, but it wasn’t until recent decades that they’ve started to evolve into the variety of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, attachments and designs available today. You can get a heady rig or scientific glass; a straight tube or a classic beaker shape; a no frills, heavy-duty glass pipe (like this GRAV Labs Wide Base Water Pipe) or a highly detailed, themed pipe designed and handcrafted by skilled glass blowers (like this Spaceship Mini Rig by Empire Glassworks). Whatever your preference, you can find it on

What are the different types of bongs?

Beaker Bongs – Beaker Bongs get their style and name from the glass beakers used in laboratories. The large base on a beaker bong is one of the major benefits of that shape; it provides a sturdier center of gravity and stronger support at the base.

Straight Tube Bongs - Straight tube Bongs offer a simple, straightforward design that’s indicative of their name. Unlike Beaker Bongs, Straight Tube Bongs maintain the same width from the base, all the way up the tube. This style usually has a diffused downstem for percolation. Straight tubes are the most common and popular style of bongs because of their simplicity and ease of use. They’re also very easy to clean because of their shape and minimalistic features.

Silicone Bongs – Silicone bongs are relatively new to the market, though they are becoming an increasingly popular choice among some smokers. This is most likely because unlike glass, silicone bongs are more durable and difficult to break. Silicone also offers a wider range of colors, shapes and sizes at a more affordable price point.

Ceramic Bongs – Although not as popular as their glass counterparts, Ceramic Bongs have always been a viable choice within the smoking community and are among the oldest type of bong in the world. Although you won’t get the same filtration through percolators or fancy attachments like you would on a glass bong, you’ll still get a cool, clean hit every time. Ceramic bongs are also extremely durable and are rarely affected by quick temperature changes, or fractures to intricate or smaller parts like with glass.

Themed Bongs – Themed bongs are hand-crafted by skilled artisans and contain intricate details and fun aesthetics that are sure to be a focal point during your sesh. These bongs often feature a variety of themes such as nature, food, animals, characters and more. Because they are handmade, each piece is totally unique, giving the owner a special one of a kind piece they can really be proud to show off.

How to Clean a Bong

Keeping your bong clean is imperative to ensuring a healthy, “high” quality smoke. Smoking out of a dirty bong is not just unsanitary, it’s GROSS. It may seem like a daunting task, but cleaning your glass, silicone, or ceramic bongs is easy. One option is using isopropyl alcohol (at least 90%) and coarse sea salt (like in our Higher Standards Cleaning Kit). Non-toxic glass cleaners like Resolution Gel and 420 Cleaner also work extremely well too.

Parts of a Bong


glass beaker bong parts luxury lifted

A typical glass bong or water pipe is made up of several components:

  • Mouthpiece –The mouthpiece is located at the top of the neck and is where you inhale from. There are many different mouthpiece styles and shapes on different types of pipes. You can also use the mouthpiece to add water to your pipe. Don’t forget to clean it frequently! 
  • Dry herb bowl –The dry herb bowl, or slide, is where you pack your herbs. These bowls can either be "fixed" (welded permanently into place) or "removable" which means you can pull the slide out of the bong, like the one in the image above. If a bong has a “fixed” downstem, it most likely has a carb, or small hole, similar to a hand pipe, for you to clear the smoke out of the chamber. To get a nice consistent burn, make sure to grind your herb with a good grinder (like this Kannastör GR8TR V2 Series Grinder) and use a quality hemp wick (like this Bee Line Hemp Wick) to light it. Most bongs come with a standard bowl, but you can change them out and upgrade to one of our glass bowls, or any specific style you like.
  • Downstem –The downstem is the long tube that connects the bowl to the bong and directs the flow of smoke into the bong’s water chamber. Much like flower bowls, downstems can either be "fixed" (welded permanently into place) or "removable" like the one in the image above.
  • Percolator - Most downstems have a diffusion element, called a percolator that breaks the smoke up into smaller bubbles as it enters the water making for a smoother, cooler hit.
  • Joint – a joint is the connection, or opening, in a bong where the downstem is placed. Standard joints are usually 8, 10, 14 or 18 mm. You'll notice certain products refer to "joint sizes" and "joint genders" which tells you if the other components, like the downstem and the dry herb bowl, are compatible sizes to create an airtight connection. 
  • Ice Catcher –An ice catcher consists of glass divots that hold ice cubes in the chamber of your bong, providing a noticeably cooler, smoother hit. The ice eventually melts down into the bottom and gets emptied out with the water.

    Looking for help with your next bong purchase?

    Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at and we’ll help you find something special that you’ll love.

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