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Do You Need a Downstem For a Bong?

 

Bong Downstems: Everything You Need to Know

While not the most glamorous of bong pieces, the downstem for a bong is essential to making a water pipe a water pipe. Underrated and often overlooked, downstems play a vital role in filtering and purifying smoke for an all-around smoother smoking experience. 

Read on to learn all about the downstem, why it’s necessary, and how to find the right one for your piece. 

What is a bong downstem?

A smoker’s best friend: bongs play a vital role in the history of dry herb smoking. Bongs are made up of four distinct parts: a mouthpiece, a bowl for your dry herb, a chamber for water, and a downstem that connects the chamber to the bowl. 

This downstem is the connecting piece between the bowl and water: it pulls the smoke from the lit herb into the water in the chamber. Through this process, some tar and other toxins are filtered through the water, making way for a cleaner, smoother, and better-tasting smoking experience.

A downstem may be removable, or it may be a fixed part of your glass piece. 

Do you need a downstem for a bong?

A downstem is what makes a bong a bong. Without it, a bong is a big fancy dry herb pipe with disconnected water at the bottom. 

The downstem does the work of pulling the smoke through the water. Sometimes, downstems are fixed or part of the bong’s structural integrity: they cannot be removed from the bong. Even so, if your bowl is connected to water, your bong technically has a downstem.

Using a downstem greatly increases the quality of the smoke produced by your pipe. When the user pulls air through the mouthpiece while lighting the dry herb, the downstem forces the smoke into the water chamber. When the smoke passes through the water, some of the tar and toxins are filtered from the smoke. Therefore, using a downstem results in a smoother, more purified hit. 

What are the bong stem sizes, and how do you know what you need?

Almost every bong is different, but that doesn’t make finding a downstem impossible. 

When measuring for a downstem, you have to make sure you consider two factors: the dimensions of your bong and the size of your bowl. 

Bong bowls generally come in three sizes: 10 mm, 14 mm, and 18 mm. These measurements refer to the diameter of your bowl’s connecting joint. Grab a ruler, and determine how many millimeters across this piece is. 

These joint pieces fit into the top end of your downstem and are the first pieces of information you need when buying a downstem. 

The next measurement you have to take is the length of your downstem. To figure this out, stick a pen or pencil inside your bong until the tip is completely submerged in water or until it is about half an inch from the bottom of the bong. Mark where the pencil leaves the bong, and measure the length from the mark to the tip. This length is how long of a downstem you need. 

Once you figure out the preferred length of your future downstem and the size of your bong bowl’s joint, you’re ready to go find your perfect downstem. 

How do you clean a downstem?

Whether it can be removed from your bong or not, cleaning your downstem is essential. 

For removable downstems, follow these steps to ensure a sparkling result.

    1. Remove the downstem from your bong. Take your downstem out of your bong and carefully place it in a Ziploc bag. 
    2. Submerge your downstem. Pour enough isopropyl (ISO) alcohol into the bag to cover the downstem. 
    3. Add salt and hot water. Eyeball in some coarse salt and a couple tablespoons of hot water. The salt helps to break down the grime, so coarse is important.  
    4. Shake. Mix it all around. Make sure your solution gets into every cranny of your downstem. 
    5. Soak. If necessary, let the downstem soak in the ISO solution for a couple of hours or overnight. 
    6. Rinse. Once your downstem is a satisfying level of clean, rinse off the solution and loose debris with warm water. 
    7. Replace. Place your downstem back into your bong and smoke as you please. 

Cleaning a fixed downstem is a little more difficult but not impossible. Follow the same steps as above, but pour your ISO solution directly into your bong until your downstem is submerged. 

With a fixed downstem, it is also helpful to regularly wipe your downstem free of debris and resin with a cotton swab or pipe cleaner. 

Can you replace a bong downstem if it breaks?

Never fear. Though oftentimes fragile, downstems are easy to replace if they break. 

Once you know the size of the downstem you need, consider which material you prefer. Because silicone and acrylic bongs often have fixed downstems, if you’re replacing a downstem, it’s likely that you need one for your glass piece. Luckily, downstems of various sizes can be found online or at your local smoke shop. 

If you’re someone who is constantly breaking downstems, ask the associate at the head shop about borosilicate glass. This is a stronger, tempered glass that is more shatter-resistant than your average bong. 

Though seemingly such a small part of the bong, downstems can be a customizable part of the smoking experience. Many come with their own set of small percolators and are designed to filter and purify smoke even further. 

If glass just isn’t your thing, consider a titanium downstem. These downstems are easy to clean and unlikely to break. Many also come with adjustable features to fit any bong and bowl. 

To sum it up

Without a downstem, bongs aren’t bongs at all. Though it’s probably the least discussed part of a bong, downstems are an essential piece of the water pipe experience. As the bridge between the bowl and the water, these slim little guys are key players in filtering your smoke and making your experience as smooth—and as tasty—as possible.