Cannabis enthusiast and student of the art of solventless extraction
Regular use of your rig leaves residual oil buildup, it’s all part of the game. Taking the perfect dab is only possible when you’re using a clean rig and banger, so staying on top of regular maintenance and cleaning pays dividends.
Even premium rosin and bubble hash leaves a little something extra behind after vaporizing in the bowl. Much of this is the waxy encasing of the trichome heads, which are resilient to the temperatures used for dabbing. They remain in a puddle or thin oil smear along the bottom and sides of the bowl, potentially turning to a carcinogenic crust if not regularly removed.
Vapor that travels through the rig also deposits oil throughout the chamber, stem, and joint. This oil leftover oil found throughout the rig is known as reclaim. Some people like to reclaim this oil for dabbing, and there’s nothing wrong with getting the most from your medicine as possible. Others discard the oil, choosing not to actually reclaim it.
Reclaim catchers are attachments that fit between the nail and main stem of the rig, and they act as mini chambers to catch reclaim for easy collection. This is a nice option if you want to recycle your dabs and make the collection process easier.
Why Keeping a Clean Rig and Nail (Bowl) Is Important
The number one reason to keep things clean, especially your bowl, is your health. Charred and black chalky layers of burnt crust at the bottom of your bowl are filled with carcinogens, and we release these into our lungs by doing fresh dabs over the burnt dabs.
Another reason to clean your bowl is to optimize the flavor of your dabs. You’ll only taste full and unimpeded flavor on top of quartz that’s completely clean. Hits are a lot smoother with freshly-cleaned glass.
Minimizing buildup also also maintains quartz for the long term. Quartz bangers that aren’t cleaned will not last.
Finally, regular cleaning gives you some frequent reclaim. If that’s your thing, it can definitely help stretch your medicine.
How Often Should I Clean My Rig and Bowl?
Your nail/bowl should be cleaned after every use. It’s quick and easy and sets you up nicely for the next dab. It’s satisfying to sit down with a nice dab and fresh glass!
As for the rest of the rig, cleaning is more of an as-needed task. With heavy use, once a week is a good cadence that will keep your setup sparkly clean.
As with every process, choosing the right tools for the job is key. Luckily for us, no specialized tools or formulas are required to clean your dab rig and banger. But, a few basic supplies will set us up for success.
What Tools and Supplies Do I Need for Cleaning?
- Q-tips (cotton swabs)
- Isopropyl (ISO) alcohol
- A Q-tip and ISO holder is a nice extra to keep in your collection, as it allows you to keep the cotton swabs organized and the ISO ready at hand
For cleaning the rig itself, hot water and salt can be useful, as well as ISO and cotton swabs. There are also special formulations targeted for cleaning bongs and rigs, which often include salt already mixed in. These are convenient, but you can replicate the solution at home with ISO and salt.
Keep a couple of paper towels handy. And if you’re collecting your reclaim to dab, a dabber tool and a gram size glass container will be useful.
Steps To Cleaning Your Bowl after Every Dab
Before taking a dab, prepare Q-tips or cotton swabs and have ISO (90% or higher) close by. Try to source premium Q-tips with the wooden centers, or another variety that has good rigidity. Some more flimsy varieties will bend too easily and make it hard to apply enough pressure to properly clean in the edges of the nail.
A nice technique is to lightly pull on the tip of the cotton swab to stretch out and fluff-up the cotton, which will help you get thoroughly into the edges of the bowl where leftover oil collects.
After the dab is finished and there's only a small amount of liquid residual oil left in the bottom of the bowl, grab a Q-tip and prepare for the first wipe down inside the bowl. Let the nail continue to cool off. Remove the terp pearl if you’re using one and keep it aside to clean separately.
You want to let the bowl cool enough so that it doesn’t scorch the ISO and leave a burnt film on the quartz.
- The first round of cleaning involves scrubbing a clean cotton swab along the sides and bottom of the bowl. Get around the edges and soak up as much oil as you can. Use both sides of the cotton swab and possibly more, until there is no more oil getting soaked up into the cotton.
- Next, take another clean Q-tip and soak it in isopropyl alcohol. Then scrub the bowl in the same way with the alcohol, which helps to release the residue for absorption into the cotton swab. Try to scrub every bit of surface area inside the bowl. Use caution not to let ISO creep down into the stem of the banger. ISO getting trapped in the stem will show up in the taste of your next dab.
- Once the bowl has been diligently scrubbed with ISO, use a fresh Q-tip (or 2) to absorb all the alcohol and ensure there’s no remaining solvent on the glass.
- For the last step, give the bowl a quick once-over with the torch to ensure all the alcohol has evaporated away. Keep the heat to a minimum to avoid charring the ISO inside the bowl.
Check out our article about how to take the perfect dab here.
Steps To Cleaning Dab Rig (Weekly or As Needed)
Throughout the process of cleaning your rig, warm water will be your friend.
- Remove banger and reclaim catcher (if you’re using one)
- Empty old water from the chamber
3. Heat up the glass by running warm water through the chamber. Try to maintain a flow of warm water through the rig for about 10 seconds. This is often enough to remove a large portion of the stuck-on wax
4. Once the rig is warm, pour a bit of ISO alcohol into the chamber. Using a more modest amount of ISO will help ensure the alcohol thoroughly evaporates away before your next dab. So, less you’re able to use, the better (no more than filling the chamber halfway)
5. For super dirty and caked-on jobs, adding salt can help break apart the wax that’s coating the glass
6. Using your fingertips, plug the mouthpiece and the stem, and shake the rig vigorously for about 30 seconds
7. Pour out the ISO and wash the inside of the rig thoroughly with a running stream of warm water. Rinse and rinse some more
8. Use cotton swabs to reach into the stem to clean away any remaining wax
9. Next, use your dabbing tool to scrape inside the joint of your banger and collect any reclaim. Do the same thing with your reclaim catcher. The reclaim is ready to dab again, or it can be used in edibles. If you’re not saving the reclaim you can use cotton swabs instead, to clean all surfaces and soak up as much wax as possible
10. You can soak the banger and any other accessories in ISO for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water
11. Anything you clean with ISO should be thoroughly rinsed, then rinsed again. Any remaining alcohol inside the rig will be offensively obvious next time you dab, so avoid the shocker and be sure to fully rinse away.
12. Place everything on a dry towel in a sunny windowsill. The warm sun helps evaporate away any stubborn remaining ISO. Since alcohol is flammable, and vapors can easily collect inside the chamber, it’s best not to use a torch to evaporate ISO from your rig. You can also use a heating pad to achieve the same results.
It’s better to err on the side of cleaning too much than not cleaning enough. Cleaning your banger after every dab is easy to incorporate into your routine, and if you’re using the correct process and the correct gear, it can actually become a satisfying aspect of your dabbing ritual.
When you take the time to clean your entire rig every week or so, you’ll notice a newfound smoothness to your dabs. If you’re making the effort to drop quality solventless concentrates inside your bowl, then it’s worth the effort to keep a clean rig. Only clean quartz lets you enjoy the experience to its fullest potential.