Why is There Water in a Bong? the Science Behind Filtration

Why is There Water in a Bong? the Science Behind Filtration

If you've ever smoked a bong, you've probably wondered why there's water in it. It's a common question, especially for first-time smokers.

The answer is simple: water filters the smoke. As you inhale, the smoke passes through the water, which cools and cleans it. This makes the smoke smoother and less harsh on your throat and lungs.

But there's more to it than that. Water also traps some of the harmful chemicals and toxins that are produced when cannabis is burned. This means that smoking a bong is actually less harmful to your health than other smoking methods, such as joints or blunts.

In addition to filtering the smoke, water also helps to cool it down. This makes the smoke more comfortable to inhale and prevents it from scorching your throat and lungs.

Why is There Water in a Bong?

As we just briefly mention in the introduction to this topic, the main purpose of water in a bong is to act as a filter. When you use a water bong, you inhale while lighting the bowl - which pulls smoke across the water, up the tube, and into your lungs. When smoke is pulled across the combination of water and bubbles, it leads to a cooler, smoother hit - and thus, a more enjoyable experience for the smoker. This is why in the pipe vs bong debate, the bong tends to win. The filtration capabilities of a water bong are two-pronged:

  • Water cools the smoke before it reaches your lungs
  • Water traps particulate matter from the smoke

To truly help you understand the key purpose water serves in the bong, let's take a deeper look at each of these forms of filtration.

Water cools the smoke before it reaches your lungs

This is perhaps the most important function of water in a bong. By the time the smoke passes through the water and reaches your lips, it will have cooled off significantly. This makes for a much smoother hit that's easier on your lungs.

Water traps particulate matter from the smoke

As the smoke passes through the water, any particulate matter (such as ash) will be trapped in the water. This means you won't be inhaling any harmful particles when you take a hit from your bong.

The Relationship Between Water & Percolators in Your Bong

If your bong has been designed with percolators, you'll have an added level of filtration as the water collects in them. Wait - what exactly are percolators? And how do they work? Different types of bongs may require different amount of water as well. 

Percolators are small, disc-shaped pieces of metal or glass that are placed inside the bong's water chamber. They have a series of small holes in them that help to filter and cool the smoke even further.

As the smoke passes through the percolators, it is diffused and cooled even more than it would be without them. This results in an incredibly smooth hit that is gentle on your lungs. Certain types of percs hold extra water in them - you can think of these as "mini bongs" within your bong that just add another layer of filtration to your hit. The more filtration you have, the smoother and cooler your rips will be.

There is a fine line, however, as some people steer away from bongs with too many percs. They can be harder to draw, making it more difficult to get the thick rips many have come to know and love from the water pipe. We'll talk about this a bit more later on when we talk about how much water should be in your bong - as too much water leads to too much filtration. For now, we want to address another common question we get - can you use a bong without water?

Can You Use a Bong Without Water?

As you can see, water serves two very important purposes in a bong. One is two cool the smoke itself for a more gentle, smooth hit. The other is to prevent particulate matter from making its way into your lungs. Together, these two benefits of a water pipe results in an enjoyable experience. This is why the bong is one of the best ways to smoke weed.

However, maybe you've found yourself in a remote location with no access to water. Or perhaps you're just curious. Can you use a bong without water?

While you can technically use a bong without water, we don't recommend it. This is because you won't get the benefits of filtration that water provides. The smoke will be harsher on your lungs and you'll likely inhale more harmful particles. If you're stranded with just your bong and some bud, you can dry hit the bong as a last resort. It won't damage the glass or anything - but it certainly won't feel good on your lungs! Even the best water bongs - with the most sophisticated percolators - lack filtration without the presence of water.

Can You Use Other Liquids in Place of Water in a Bong?

We know you've seen people on social media - or perhaps in your circle of friends - use things other than water in their bong. This can range from colored liquids purchased at a smoke shop, or other types of drinks like gatorade, soda, and even milk. This begs the question - can you really use other liquids in place of water in a bong?

Let's get one thing out of the way - you should absolutely not put anything like sports drinks, sodas, or milk in your bong. There are a few reasons why. For one, they will leave a residue in your bong that is difficult to clean. Cleaning a water pipe is a chore - don't make it harder than it needs to be.

Second, they can actually encourage the growth of bacteria which can be harmful to your health. Many of these will also start to really stink up your bong - which leads us to our next point. Using liquids other than water will alter the taste of your weed in a way that is probably not desirable. If you're buying higher-end cannabis, you want to be able to appreciate the unique flavor notes of different strains. Flavored liquids will just get in the way of that - so, stick with pure water.

But what about those other liquids you see people using - the colored water you can buy at a smoke shop? While we don't recommend it, some people do use these colored waters as a form of water filtration. This is because they often contain glycerin - which acts as a natural lubricant and can help to make the smoke smoother. However, these liquids are typically more expensive than just using water and don't offer any real benefits over good ol' H20.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bong Water

Now that we've answered the question "why do you put water in a bong?", let's take a look at some frequently asked questions about bong water in general.

How often should I change my bong water?

Ideally, you should change your bong water after every smoking session. If you're using it multiple times per day, you may need to change it more often. However, if you notice the water starting to turn brown or cloudy, be sure to change it immediately. You can learn more in our article discussing how often you should change bong water.

How much water should I put in my bong?

This is a matter of personal preference, but we recommend filling the bong up about halfway if you have a beaker style bong. To get more specific, fill your bong with enough water so that all the slots in your downstem are underwater. This will provide enough filtration without making it too difficult to draw from the bong. Test the bongs function to ensure they're covered when you actually take a hit. If you notice that it's very hard to suck you likely added too much water.  Remember - you can always add more water if you find that it's not filtering enough!

Should I add anything else to my bong water?

No, there's really no need to add anything else to your bong water. Remember - you're just using it for filtration, not flavor. Anything you add is likely to just alter the taste of your weed in a way that's not desirable.

Why is There Water in a Bong? Wrapping Things Up

Now that we've answered the question "why do you put water in a bong?", and addressed other commonly asked questions about bong water in general, it's time to bring things to a close. In summary, water serves as a form of filtration. This is the beauty of the bong - huge, knockout rips without the chest pain and coughing attacks you would expect.

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