All about cannabis water pipes

Published Sep 13, 2019 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / razyph

There are so many new and exciting ways to consume marijuana products that there is something for everyone these days. However, the most popular method of ingestion has always been and continues to be smoking. Though persons who are comfortable with the act of smoking are lucky, as they have the largest variety of cannabis smoking tools to choose from including tobacco leaf, rolling papers, weed pipes and bongs.

Bongs often offer a decorative design that is ideal for those who are looking to stand out, or for anyone who spends most of their time at home, but for everyone else, something smaller, more affordable and easier to take on the go is a necessity. Regular weed pipes can be found in nearly any variety store, head shop or dispensary, but water pipes offer some advantages that are enough to convince most cannabis smokers to make the switch after just one try.

If you haven’t heard of water pipes, or just don’t quite understand the concept, you are not alone, as they are still far from one of the most popular options amongst tokers. That is mainly due to their higher cost and lack of availability in stores, but water pipes offer an enhanced and upgraded experience that you won’t find with your average pipe. Here you will find an explanation of what water pipes are, including how they work, how to clean one, and the pros and cons of this next evolution option.

What are water pipes?

Marijuana water pipes are little more than an upgraded version of your average weed pipe with one major difference, and that is an additional chamber meant to hold cold water. The point of the water chamber works off the same principles as the bong, using a cold fluid to cool the smoke before it is inhaled by the user. Water pipes are typically made of different types of glass and will probably appear like any other pipe until further inspection reveals the extra chamber. These devices are meant for smoking dry cannabis but can also be great for combination mixtures that include marijuana concentrates.

How to use a water pipe

The great thing about choosing this type of upgrade is that you don’t have to learn an entirely new skill, as long as you are versed in how to use a pipe without a water chamber. Just in case you don’t, here are some easy to follow step by step instructions for how to use a water pipe.

  1. Locate the opening that is meant to fill the device with water. Some options force you to add it through the bowl which can be detrimental as you will have to dry the bowl after it’s filled and before you use it, or the additional liquid will only extinguish any attempt you make at lighting your cannabis grind. Other, better models come equipped with an entirely separate opening which makes filling it and keeping your bowl dry, easy.

  2. Once you have found the filling hole, it is time to fill up your water pipe. Do so slowly and carefully, ensuring that no water enters the bowl section of the water pipe. It can help if you choose one with a fill line or one that you can see through to cut out guessing how full it might be.

  3. Once you have filled the water chamber, set the water pipe aside for now, and prepare your cannabis with a herb grinder.

  4. Pack and fill the bowl to your liking with either marijuana bud flowers or a combination of weed grind and your favorite cannabis concentrates. Just remember to place the concentrates on top, to avoid difficulty cleaning the device and clogging during use.

  5. Cover the carb (if applicable) and use a lighter or match to ignite the cannabis products inside of the bowl, and at the same time press your lips to the mouthpiece and draw.

  6. Uncover the carb just before you are finished taking your hit to empty the chamber so that every toke is just as smooth as the last.

How often to clean a water pipe

Smoking comes with a sticky side effect due to the resins within the marijuana plant, which is the reason why it is always recommended to wash any type of toking tools regularly, and between each use whenever possible. The longer that the grim sits and the more you wait, the harder it will be to return your water pipe to a like-new condition.

How to clean a water pipe

Cleaning a water pipe is a relatively simple process, and the only trouble is finding a downtime when it isn’t needed for soaking. Though there are some excellent bong and pipe cleaners on the market, it is always recommended to make your own water pipes cleaning solution using all-natural ingredients that are much less hazardous to your health.


You will need:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Vinegar (or alcohol)
  • Small container (that snugly fits the pipe)
  • Paper towels
  • Salt (any type)


  1. The first thing that you will need to do is mix up an effective cleaning solution for your water pipes. To do this, add 1 cup of vinegar or alcohol and one tablespoon of salt to the container.

  2. Now mix the two together and gently place your water pipe into the container. At this point, there should be enough cleaning solution to completely soak the device. If there isn’t, then you are going to need to add more of both ingredients until it is. Don’t worry if your measurements aren’t precise, as the salt is just a tool that helps to scrub away at the surfaces of the inside of your pipe, so more is fine, especially if your water pipe is extremely dirty.

  3. Leave the pipe to soak for anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on how dirty it is. More stuck on grime may take longer, whereas a regularly cleaned pipe will only need a quick bath in this cleaning solution.

  4. Once you are satisfied with how long the water pipe has been soaking, take some cotton swabs, and use them to scrub and rub away any resin and ash that is still holding on.

  5. Next, rinse the water pipe thoroughly with warm water, and ensure that all of the cleaning solutions are washed away or it might affect the flavor of your weed.

  6. Set the pipe on a layer or two of paper towels to dry and use a cotton swab to get to hard to reach crevices that might hold water longer.

  7. Leave the pipe for an hour or so to dry, and it should be good as new and ready to use.

Can you freeze water pipes?

If you’ve purchased a water pipe that is meant to be frozen, then that means it is likely designed for that, including the addition of glycerin that works in place of regular tap water. All other water pipes should never be frozen, as doing so might lead to scratches, cracks, and breaks in the glass when it is suddenly heated to high temperatures, which can be dangerous for the consumers, and void any possible warranty that might be on the device.

Pros and cons of water pipes

There is not a single cannabis smoking device on the market to date that doesn’t come with at least a few drawbacks in exchange for whatever benefits it has to offer. Here you will find a few of the most loved and least liked aspects of marijuana water pipes.


  • · Can be used dry (though it might influence the harshness of the smoke)
  • · Cooler, smoother more enjoyable tokes
  • · More affordable than water bongs
  • · Compact and perfect for travel
  • · Easy to use


  • · More expensive
  • · Typically made using glass which lacks durability
  • · You must wash and refill water pipes between each use
Why you should only use water in bongs and pipes


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