A communal smoke session, whether it be at a social event with strangers or with your closest confidants, is an amazing experience for several reasons. It sparks laughter, deep conversation, and ultimately creates a bond between like-minded people. But truth be told, depending on your view of germs, it can also be pretty disgusting.
As legalization breaks the long-held stigma surrounding cannabis consumption, more people are starting to warm up to the benefits of this multifaceted plant. One aspect of smoking cannabis that usually goes unexamined, however, is the germ exchange that comes with sharing a bong or passing a joint.
In a study conducted by Moose Labs, a Los Angeles-based cannabis accessories company co-founded by brothers Dan and Jay Rush, the duo was able to quantify the number of germs found in a shared cannabis piece, joint, or vape pen. Their findings were quite jarring, to say the least.
“We found that the average public toilet seat is cleaner than the average bong that we tested, and that’s horrifyingly disgusting,” said Jay Rush. “The average gas station toilet seat was about 900 bacteria per square inch, whereas the average bong was 3,000 bacteria per square inch.”
According to the research, the average cannabis pipe has as much surface bacteria as 2 1/2 dirty gas station toilet seats or 25 dog food bowls. As Jay Rush puts it, people don’t usually share the same glass at a bar or fork in a restaurant, so why are we so comfortable going to cannabis events or social gatherings and sharing the same cannabis piece?
“There are so many different viruses and types of bacteria that can be spread by sharing pieces and pipes,” he explained. “The more people that are starting to smoke as legalization becomes more prevalent, the more people you’re going to be sharing with.”
1. Keep Your Piece Clean
The most effective way to avoid bacteria and germs from infringing upon your session is to keep your pipe, bong, or dab rig clean. There are several methods that can be used to clean the resin off your glass piece, but perhaps the most popular practice is using 99% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and coarse sea salt.
Although it’s not quite feasible to give your bong a deep cleaning in the middle of a session, keeping your glassware clean will go a long way in eliminating bacteria and improving the overall cannabis experience. The exact step-by-step process will depend on whether you’re cleaning a small glass pipe or a larger bong, but the overall procedure is largely the same.
Although you’re not coming into direct contact with the leftover residue or used bong water, a dirty piece has a major impact on the overall consumption experience. For instance, the flavor of your cannabis will be significantly hindered by a dirty piece, as the residue from past sessions could negatively impact the current session. Thankfully, there are certain pieces coming to the market that are designed with flavor and easy cleaning in mind, such as the Genius Pipe.
“It’s very hard to distinguish the difference if you’re smoking the same bowl or bong that has not been cleaned, you’re basically tasting the same thing you smoked months ago even if you’re smoking else,” Dyan Ferman, CEO of Genius Pipe, told Weedmaps News. “Being able to distinguish between the taste is very critical to the experience.”
2. Purchase an Accessory to Help Keep the Germs Away
If you’re smoking in a social setting or don’t have time to scrub off the germs after each hit (and let’s face it, who does?), there are a variety of attachments you can use on almost any device.
For example, to help cannabis consumers enjoy their weed products in a cleaner, more enjoyable way, Moose Labs created the MouthPeace, a universal cannabis smoking accessory that fits onto pipes, bowls, and vapes. Not only does this silicone-made attachment act as a middleman between your mouth and germs, it also has a built-in filter to reduce the amount of tar and residue that enters your lungs, while still allowing THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes to be inhaled.
The MouthPeace is available in various sizes, making it suitable for anything from towering bongs to an average-sized joint. If you want to be germ-free in a more stylish way, there are also a number of joint and blunt bubblers that will filter the smoke and keep your lips away from any germs collecting at the mouthpiece area. Just be prepared for your friends to ask whether they can use this nifty attachment as well.
3. Be Mindful of How Many Hits Are Going Around
It’s also important to keep in mind how much bacteria may be present on a particular glass piece, vape pen, or joint.
For the Moose Labs study, for instance, the company set up booths at a couple of cannabis events in Southern California, offering free hits from a dab rig to 200 total participants, half of whom used their MouthPeace and the other half who hit the piece without any device. Despite the fact that this long line of strangers were repeatedly taking hits from the same rig, only about 5% of the participants used the free alcohol wipes to clean the piece before consuming.
It may seem difficult and time-consuming to scrub down a piece after every single hit, but nonetheless, it’s important to be mindful about how many people have put their mouth onto a piece before it ends up in your hands. Whether that be at a cannabis event, a consumption space, or even among a small circle of friends, remember that there’s likely an unnerving amount of bacteria on the mouthpiece area.
“Using a light flame is not as effective as thoroughly cleaning with alcohol, but it does reduce some of the bacteria,” Rush explained. “We tested a lighter pass and T-shirt wipe and both of them reduced bacteria, but not to a sanitary level, more like from 1800 to 1100 bacteria per square inch.”