How to Keep Your Dab Rig Clean

Keeping your dab rig at its cleanest might not always be easy or convenient, but it is simple. With a few techniques under your belt, some regularity to your process and a trusty stash of pipe and nail cleaning supplies, you should be able to keep your rig looking sparkling new.

Use Fresh Water

The first step is easy and right in front of your eyes. Lots of people don’t think about it, but one of the most common causes of a dirty rig is dirty water. It’s super important to do two things: use fresh water in your rig every session and don’t leave water in the body of the dab rig for more than about an hour. It’s not an exact science and frankly the world won’t end if you don’t time this right, but the water can end up leaving stains on the bong: hard water stains from unfiltered clean water or, even worse, resin stains from dirty water. At its most extreme, dirty water can even become moldy, which for obvious reasons is a huge health risk. You can reclaim a moldy dab rig to be sure, but no one wants to go through a cleaning process out of Hash Hoarders.

Cleaning Fluids

A good practice is to occasionally fill the dab rig up with warm water, swish it around, and dump it out. This can clear out the early stages of residue, but it won’t get things perfectly clean. For that, you need to turn to cleaning solutions. You can buy premade bong cleaners, things like Grunge Off, which work with just about any type of dab rig body. All they really require is a little bit of pouring and patience (and possibly a bit of shaking). You can also put together your own cleaner using 91% isopropyl alcohol and either Epsom or Kosher salt for roughing up and cleaning out any caked-on resin. Generally, the pre-mixed cleaners work faster.

Some people use acetone to clean really grime-caked pieces but the jury is out as to whether this is really a good idea or not, so it’s best to stick to known entities like mass-market bong cleaners or iso.

Cleaning Dab Nails

Even though they can often get away with looking a little dirtier than the body of the rig itself, dab nails need to be taken care of and cleaned just as often. If you’re working with a titanium nail, the best course of action for a cleaning is to just heat the nail and scrape off the residue with a dab tool. For a deep clean, pop one of these guys into a container of 91% isopropyl alcohol and then scrape off what remains.

Ceramic nails just need to be heated enough for the resin to liquefy and can then be wiped down with a cotton swab. It’s important to use tongs or forceps to remove the nails in order to clean the side where the joint meets the rig because of how hot the nails can get once they’ve been hit with a butane or propane torch. The last thing you want to do is have to douse yourself with cold water and sit around with an ice pack. Not a good look.

Owners of quartz bangers usually employ a special cleaning method that is also meant to “season” the nail the way you would a cast-iron skillet. Lovingly referred to as Q-Tip Tech, the Q-Tip Technique involves taking a cotton swab to a banger after hitting a dab and swirling the cotton around to soak up the remaining, unvaporized concentrate. While this doesn’t completely clean the nail, it does do a solid job of removing the bits of oil that would otherwise burn off or form a crust. Not cleaning the nail can even lead to devitrification, or the growth of additional layers of crystal on the surface of the nail. Devitrification can make the quartz cloudy and more prone to breaking and is therefore naturally something to be avoided. Some people put good old 91% isopropyl alcohol on the cotton swab before scooping it around, which provides a deeper clean—especially when used along with some pointed cotton swabs, which can reach into the nails’ crevices. Once it comes time for the big clean, you can use either a homemade or store-bought solution to clean the piece the same way that you would the body of a dab rig. Usually, popping the piece into a Tupperware or film container with some solution and gently moving the closed container around will do the trick if it’s followed by some soaking time.

Start A Cleaning Habit

Both deep and regular, light cleanings of dab rigs are important to keep things looking shiny—or at least not gross. But they’re basic enough to perform and definitely worth the minimum effort needed to keep things clean.