How Do Bongs Work? [EXPLAINED for the Newbie]

Everything you need to know


If there is one object that perfectly symbolizes the time-honored tradition of smoking marijuana, it is the bong. A simple, elegant piece of glass (or more commonly, plastic) that looks somehow both uniquely graceful and a little bit criminal all at the same time.

This simple instrument is the key to one of the most comfortable and most convenient methods of imbibing marijuana that mankind has yet devised; however, for many people, it is still somewhat of a mystery. Just how does a bong work? How are you supposed to use one?

Let’s take a look at the inner workings of a bong and explain exactly what it is and how to use one, simple enough so that a complete novice can understand it.

What Actually is a Bong?

Every single person can imagine what a bong looks like – a tall, shimmering piece of transparent material, with a big pipe sticking out of it that is wonderfully stuffed with iridescent green weed. It sits there, looking somehow both illicit and ornamental, a sure sign that the owner of the bong is an experienced weed user.

However, despite its easily recognizable appearance, it is incredibly unlikely that many people could reliably tell you how a bong actually works, nor even what each of the composite parts are.

Additionally, a bong is actually an incredibly ancient, traditional method of smoking that has been used since mankind first discovered that they could enjoy the smell of burning leaves and buds.

While the exact meaning of the word bong is likely lost to time, it is thought to have originally belonged to the Thai word for circular bamboo smoking pipes. However, its origins aren’t necessarily explicitly tied to Thailand; bongs have been showing up all over the world, from China to Africa. Wherever there is weed, there are usually bongs to be found.

The most common similar product to a bong is probably the Turkish Hookah, which is, in a sense, a gigantic bong that allows users to share their smoking leaf of choice all at once through multiple hoses. However, there are flavor implications with Hookahs that can sometimes mean you don’t get the ability to enjoy the taste of your marijuana fully.

For an individual looking to imbibe weed easily and conveniently, the bong is one of the most popular options, while also being the most recognizable. Although the original bongs were likely rough and made of bamboo, these days most bongs are usually artisanal pieces of art, crafted from freshly blown glass or using a hyper-rigid type of fireproof plastic; instead of being utilitarian, they have become an artistic point of pride.

However, that doesn’t really help you to understand what a bong actually is or how it works.  To be able to cover how exactly a bong works adequately, it is going to be necessary to cover each of the different parts; only by understanding what each of the composite parts does it truly become easier to understand how it works.

All the Different Parts of a Bong

A bong has a few composite parts that are going to be the same regardless of the bong:

Component #1 – Tube

The tube of the bong is perhaps the most identifiable part; it is the chamber wherein the marijuana smoke resides before you breathe it in. The smoke that is held here has been cooled and filtered by the water in the bowl, making it easy to intake the smoke whenever you are ready. This is the one component that doesn’t really ever change from its straight, cylindrical appearance.

Component #2 – Bowl

The bowl of the bong is, as the name might imply, where you hold your marijuana as you are using it. The weed sits there, held in the internal divot, allowing you to light it without having to hold it in place easily. The bowl is then connected to the stem, which allows the smoke to pass down into the tube, where it can be safely and easily imbibed.

Component #3 – Stem

The stem of the Bong is the small, clear tube that connects the bowl and the tube. While this might seem not worth mentioning, many Bongs actually have special stems that allow them to serve as more than just the simple holding device that they appear.

On some bongs, the stem is the part which holds the water, freeing up the bong from having to have a wider, flared bottom in the base. Additionally, by removing the stem from its hole, the next key component of the bong is exposed.

Component #4 – Carburetor

The carburetor, or carb, is the hole that is created by lifting up the stem. This hole allows pressurization to take place, making it far easier to breathe in the smoke within the tube, thanks to the rush of air that enters the bong through the carb.

Component #5 – Base

The base is the bottom part of the bong that contains the water used to cool your weed smoke. The design of this part of the bong varies between different products, but they are most generally shaped like a beaker, with a flared bottom that makes it easier to stand it up while using it.

So, now that we understand the precise mechanics of the bong, how does it actually work? How do you actually go about using your bong to smoke your weed?

The Mechanics of the Bong

Many people think the act of using a bong is inherently simple; that the moment your lips touch the tube, everything will become crystal clear and you will know precisely how to use it.

Well, it actually requires a little bit of knowledge beforehand.

The first steps to using a bong and making it work are grinding up your weed; you need to use a coarse grind, one that isn’t going to be too big that it struggles to be lit, while at the same time one that isn’t so small that it falls into the stem and ends up lost in the bong water.

Additionally, you need to fill the bong base up with water, stopping just short of the carb hole; this hole will either be on the side of the bong or be actually a part of the stem, accessible once you actually take the bowl out of the bong.

From there, it gets a bit easier – you just need to light the weed!

As you light the weed, you need to breathe in as the weed catches gently. This allows the smoke to pull into the tube through the stem. As it passes through the water, the weed smoke is both purified and filtered, while also being cooled.

Due to the fact that the water is cooler than the hot weed smoke passing through it, a good deal of the heat is passed to the water, making the resulting smoke that you breathe in that much cooler. It also gets rid of residual plant matter that would otherwise clog up your lungs, making the whole experience more pleasant.

Once you have pulled all the smoke you want from your burning weed, you then need actually to inhale it.

To do so, you either uncover the carb or remove the stem, depending on your particular type of bong, and then inhale. The reason this works so well, and why the weed smoke doesn’t merely get inhaled when you were breathing it in to light the weed, is because it didn’t have any air to push it through.

To best illustrate this, imagine sucking air through a straw; it is essentially just like breathing in normally, right? Now imagine that you put that straw up against an empty glass and try and do the same – because there is no air to rush in as you breathe in, it is difficult to get the air into your lungs without massively forcing it through deep breaths.

By uncovering the carb, you can breathe in, and air will rush in to fill the gap, due to nature’s tendency to abhor a vacuum. This rushing in of air helps push the weed smoke into your lungs, making the smoking experience painless and seamless.

One Slight Warning When Using a Bong

The only thing that you need to keep in mind when using a bong is that, because all of the smoke created by the weed is inhaled at one time, it can be pretty overwhelming for those not used to it.

As all the smoke enters your lungs together, it is very common for inexperienced weed smokers to burst into a coughing fit. This can actually hurt your throat quite a bit, so it is best to keep some cool water on hand to help calm your inflamed throat if you start violently coughing. It does get a lot easier, however!

Additionally, make sure that you do not, under any circumstances, drink the bong water! The water fills up with plant matter, burning residue and other acrid substances, making it incredibly foul tasting and smelling.

Simply throw it down the drain when you are done, and you don’t need to worry about it.

Final Thoughts on How Bongs Work

A bong works through pretty simplistic science; nature dislikes vacuums, so by creating an opening for air to rush in as you breathe in the filled tube, the bong is able to get all of the marijuana smoke into your lungs incredibly quickly.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be more people that don’t understand how a bong works than actually have used one themselves, so it is always helpful to have an easy-to-follow guide that shows you the ropes.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to use a bong, as well as how it works, so find yourself a bong and some weed and enjoy one of the very best methods of imbibing marijuana ever created – it is cooler, smoother and a lot easier, even if it does cause a bit of unpleasant coughing.