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Your Bong Is Filthy. Let's Clean It.

Publish Date 2015-06-21
Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check The Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.

You were great on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I really enjoyed the interview and loved your advice. You really know your stuff. I have a serious question that was not addressed during your interview: What is the best way to clean a bong? I have a glass bong that is really nasty after years of use. I've tried rubbing alcohol and nail-polish remover. Neither one did a very good job.

I thought it might be a job for denture-cleaning tablets, but wanted to ask your opinion. This is not a joke. I am a 52-year-old woman, mother, wife, and successful realtor in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I smoke pot. I have been since high school in the '70s.
Usually, I strip out the kind words with which you all tend to open your emails to me—I appreciate them so very much, but I don't need to share them with the world, because we've got Important Clean Person Business to Attend to, and time's a'wasting. In this case, I left in the part about hearing me on Fresh Air by way of explaining why she felt like she had to clarify that this was a serious question. Of course it's a serious question! None of you here reading this would even bat an eyelash at it, and are probably like, "Lady! Jolie writes for Deadspin, for crying out loud. She knows this is serious." But you've been with me for some time now and have gotten used to the fact that I take things like bong cleaning equally as seriously as I take window cleaning (more seriously, if I'm being totally honest about things); your average NPR listener maybe doesn't know that. Yet.

The simple answer: Yes, it's a job for denture tablets. But there are also plenty of other products you can use to clean a bong, so don't feel limited by my love of denture tablets. I'll take you through some of those options, though not all of them, because otherwise we'd be here all day, and we've got bongs to clean up and get back into rotation. But also, I'd love to hear what your preferred methods/products are for getting your paraphernalia clean, so by all means make mention of it in the comments! I'll also quickly note that, generally speaking, stuff like dish soap and other relatively viscous cleaning products aren't what you want to use to clean your glass smoking apparatus, because they can leave behind a residue that will affect the taste of your hits.

But back to the matter at hand. The first thing to do is to disassemble the bong, so: Remove the bowl and the slide, and set them aside.

Then dump out the dirty bong water and give the chamber a quick rinse with clean water. Technique-wise, it's best to fill from the top and dump from the slide opening—that will help to keep dirty water build-up from forming in the lip of the mouthpiece. Depending on the height of your bong, using a measuring cup or anything else that has a pouring spout may be the best way to fill it with water; if it's short enough, you can just fill it directly from the faucet.

If you're using denture tablets, drop one to three of them (again, depending on the size of your bong) into the chamber and then fill it up with hot water. Allow it to chill out a bit while the tablets do their fizzing thing, maybe 15-30 minutes or so. If you don't want to use denture tablets, some alternatives are salt and water, salt and vinegar, or baking soda and vinegar. I like the baking soda and vinegar best of those options because of the cool volcano effect, but really, these things are up to you.

While the bong is chilling with its cleaning solution of choice, grab the bowl and the slide and put them into their own containers—Tupperware or Ziploc bags are great for this purpose. Then do basically the same thing you just did, only on a smaller scale: Soak the pipe and the slide in whichever solution you choose, giving the bag or container a few good shakes to really get things moving (the shaking part is why you want to separate the two into their own containers, otherwise you risk breakage).

It is worth noting that the fizzing options—meaning the tablets, or the combo of baking soda and vinegar—are the best ones for the bong, while the salt options are really good on the smaller pieces. When it comes to those smaller pieces, you're likely to find that there's still a lot of build-up even after soaking them, which can be coaxed out fairly easily using a pipe cleaner, a narrow bottle brush, or even just a spare chopstick.

The last step is to rinse all the parts well with hot water before drying thoroughly and getting hiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

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