Downstem For Bongs: Everything You Need To Know
What's A Downstem?
A downstem is referring to the "glass tube" that you insert it into a bong(the bong could be made from glass, silicone, acrylic, ceramic, doesn't matter what kind of material the bong is made from), to help direct the smoke and air into the water inside the bong for filtration and chilling the smoke for a smooth hit that's easier on your throat and your lungs.
The Downstem breaks the smoke down and mixes it with water to filtrate materials that are harmful to the human body like Hydrogen cyanide, Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Benzene, etc. And the downstem also help to filtrate the debris from your dry herb's combustion during this process.
What Are The Sizes Of Downstem For Bongs?
When we are talking about the sizes of a downstem for bongs, we are talking the length and the joint sizes(also sex), the length of a downstem is generally ranging from 2.5" to 5" and the most commonly seen downstem features an 18mm male joint for inserting into the bong and a 14mm female joint to put a 14mm male bowl piece on.
Please note that although more than 80% of the beaker bongs that requires a removable downstem on the market features an 18mm female joint, there are other types of bongs that also requires a downstem like a straight tube glass bong or silicone bong, you'll need to read the description of your bong, ask the vendor or staff of your online headshop to know the exact joint size and sex of your bong before you buy a replacement downstem.
How To Clean Downstem For Bongs?
There are two methods to clean your clogged or dirty downstem: The Ziploc Bag Method and The Boiling Method.
Just like when you're using a pipe or bong to smoke dry herb or using a glass dab rig to dabbing concentrates, you'll need to clean your downstem regularly to prevent the tar or other built-ups from clogging your downstem. A clogged downstem not only will obstruct the airflow from directing into the water for filtration, but it will also affect the taste of your favorite dry herb or concentrates.
We'll be explaining the detailed step of how you can use the Ziploc Bag Method and The Boiling Method to clean your downstem for bongs.
The Ziploc Method
The Ziploc method is for those who's got the time and the determination of making the downstem clean as new.
What You Need:
- A Medium-Sized Ziploc bag.
- Fine Salt.
- 90% Isopropyl Alcohol or Other Cleaning Agent.
- A Pipe Cleaner Brush(if you don't have one, some q-tips are fine).
Step One: Shake That Thang - Pour the 90% isopropyl alcohol into the Ziploc bag(be careful not to fill the bag too full, you still need to put the downstem in it), put a spoonful of fine salt into the bag, then put the downstem in. Shake the bag gently to allow the alcohol and the salt to mix, then wait about one hour for the alcohol and salt solution to break down the resin residues in your downstem.
Step Two: Clean Up - Take the downstem out from the Ziploc bag, the resins residues should be quite easy to come off at this point, use the pipe cleaner brush(or q-tips) to scrape the resins still sticking to the inner or outer walls of the downstem.
Step Three: Wash& Dry - After you are done with step two, open your tap and run tap water to rinse the inside and outside of the downstem, don't use your dishwasher to clean the downstem if it's made from glass, acrylic downstems and metal downstems are ok to be washed with your dishwasher. After rinsing, simply put it on a dry spot to let it be air-dried.
The Boiling Method
The boiling method is for those who don't have a Ziploc bag or 90% isopropyl alcohol or lazy stoners like myself, it won't make your downstem sparkly clean,
What You Need:
- A Stove.
- A Pot (pun not intended, make sure your pot is big enough to submerge the downstem in whole).
- Fine Salt
- A Pipe Cleaner Brush(Or q-tips)
Step One: Boil&Mix - Put some water (enough to submerge the downstem) into the pot, turn on the stove, wait for the water to boil then put two spoonfuls of salt into the boiling water, mix it using whatever you have at hand.
Step Two: Put Your Downstem In and Watch It Tumble - If you have a tong or something to hold the downstem and move it around in the pot that would be the best, it will help the resin residues sticking on the inner wall break down even faster. After you're done, take the downstem out and rest it on a towel.
Step Three: Clean It With Pipe Cleaner - Just like when you're using the Ziploc method, use the pipe brush(or q-tips)to scrape the residues from the inner and outer walls of the downstem.
Step Four: Wash&Dry - Use tap water to rinse the downstem then leave it on a dry spot to be air-dried.
Where To Buy Downstems For Bongs?
There are two major platforms in which you can purchase a downstem for your bong, from your local smoke shop or from an online headshop. We'll breakdown the pros and cons of buying from each of these platforms mentioned above.
But first thing first, there are many different types of downstems made from different types of materials and featuring different lengths and joint sizes, you'll need to figure out all of that before making a purchase.
Buying From Your Local Smoke Shop
Pros - You can bring along your bong with you(if you can bring along your old downstem that would be even better) to your local smoke shop and ask the staff to pick just the right one for you, and you get to learn about the basics of how to properly clean your downstem from a shop keeper or staff that know their stuff, buying from your local smoke shop will help your community as well.
Cons - Just like when you try to buy a pipe or a bong from a local smoke shop, there are, unfortunately, not a lot of options for you to choose from, bong accessories are not a local headshop primary concern when it comes to restocking, so there is a possibility that you won't find the downstem that would fit your bong. And there is the pricing, local smoke shops usually charge more than online headshops since they have utility bills, rents, and they have to hire staff as well, that's obviously the biggest downside of buying from your local smoke shop.
Buying From An Online Headshop
- Pros - If you're shopping online, online headshops like Puffing Bird would always feature a huge collection of downstems covering all lengths and joint sizes which you can easily find the right one for your bong, and the price would be very reasonable and you can always buy three or five downstems in a package deal so you don't need to worry about paying extra just to buy a new downstem in a short period of time.
- Cons - If you're new smoking dry herb with a bong, you would probably be confused and don't know the joint size and the length of your downstem, in that circumstance you could be buying the wrong downstem from an online headshop, but the good news is you can talk to the staff through social media PM or sending them an email with a picture of your bong so they can help you determine the size of the downstem you need and send you some buying suggestions, but the sure thing is the process won't be as straight forward and simple like buying from a local smoke shop.
How Much Does A Downstem For Bongs Cost?
It all depends on the materials that the downstem is made from and the brand. Generally speaking, a glass downstem for bongs would cost you around $7~$15, an acrylic downstem would cost your around $3~$7, and a metal downstem would cost you around $10~$20+.
Please note that some branded downstems could be priced unreasonably high, if you are not too big of a fan for a certain brand, we don't recommend that you waste money on them and frankly, all downstems works the same with or without the logo, so choose wisely.
What Are Downstems Made From?
There are three types of downstems on the market: glass downstems, metal downstems, and acrylic downstems. We'll breakdown the pros and cons of using each of these downstems.
Glass Downstems For Bongs, The Pros, And Cons.
- Pros - The glass downstem is the major type of downstems you could easily find on both online headshops and local smoke shops, they are easy to clean, looks good on your bong and they are super easy to buy and replace.
- Cons - Just like any pipe or dab rig made from glass, your glass downstem could be easily broken if you accidentally drop it on the floor when you try to take it out from the bong and clean it. Comparing to acrylic downstems, the price for glass downstems is significantly higher, and if you're buying from an online store, there is always a possibility that your glass downstem is broken upon arrival due to shipping.
Metal Downstems For Bongs, The Pros, And Cons.
- Pros - There aren't as many downstems that made from metal on the market like the glass downstems, the metals used for making downstems are mostly stainless steel, the more expensive ones are made from high-grade titanium. A metal downstem, obviously, won't break if you accidentally drop it on the floor like a glass downstem, it won't break even when you step on it. A metal downstem could last for a life-time use if properly cared for.
- Cons - You can't see through a metal downstem like you can with a glass or acrylic one, so it could be really hard to tell if the inside of the downstem is clogged with tar, whether it needs to be clean or not. Also, metal, especially titanium conducts heat really well, so if you're using your downstem with a titanium nail or quartz banger, the massive amount of heat could be conducted to the joint of your bong, if you're using a thin beaker bong, the heat could break the bong on the spot, so be very careful not to use a metal downstem for dabbing.
Acrylic Downstems For Bongs, The Pro, And Cons.
- Pros - What's not to love about acrylic downstems? If you are a lazy stoner like me that don't like to clean your downstem and just want to replace one every so often, one, or a pack of acrylic downstem would be perfect for you. Comparing to glass or metal downstems, acrylic downstems make a great bang on your buck, cost only 1/3 of the price of a glass downstem. Since acrylic is very durable, you don't need to worry about it breaking too easily. Acrylic downstems are made in molds so there are a lot of colored ones you can pair with your bong.
- Cons - Acrylic downstems are NOT for dabbing with a titanium nail or quartz banger! Although acrylic can withstand a fair amount of heat, too much heat will cause the downstem to deform and there will be a terrible burned smell when you inhale.
How To Get A Broken Downstem Out From Bong?
An old downstem could break inside of your bong if it's been exposed to a huge amount of heat, that heat could come from a scorching hot titanium nail or quartz banger, in this section we'll be talking about how to get shattered downstem debris out from the bong.
First thing you need to do is take the downstem's joint out of the bong's joint, you can use a piece of cloth as a buffer to prevent the sharp edges from cutting your hand, then you use the long tweezer to take the debris out piece by piece, if single debris is too big to come out from the bong's joint you'll need to use a chopstick or other hard and long objects to break the debris into smaller pieces first.