If you are a bong smoker, it is inevitable that eventually, the day will come when you get an acrylic bong. Maybe you’re like me and keep smashing your glassware.
So are acrylic bongs safe to use? For the most part, yes.
Acrylic, as it turns out is less toxic than most water bottles as it doesn’t contain harmful BPA nor does it release any harmful chemicals unless it’s heated above 300°C (572°F).
As a result of the latest breakage, I found myself going to get an acrylic bong as I couldn’t bring myself to spend any more on glass. Yet when I went to buy the bong I picked out, the guy in the head shop said I was better off smoking glass as acrylic, being a plastic, is bad for my lungs. This got me thinking, so I did some research.
Is Acrylic Safe To Smoke Through?
It turns out that acrylic bongs have been known to do some strange and alarming things, which have prompted people to question their safety.
Two common reports that keep showing up about acrylic bongs are people’s bong water coming out dyed by the acrylic bong, and acrylic bongs cracking or even shattering when cleaned with alcohol.
Yet these things can be explained once you know a little bit about the nature of acrylic bongs.
It turns out that the pigment from some acrylic bongs can run with time and seep into water held for a long time in the bong. This pigment, however, shouldn’t find it’s way into the smoke as it can take weeks to run, but if you wanted to be safe, you could make sure to regularly change your bong water and keep it empty between sessions as this will minimize the pigment absorbed and lower any risk of consumption.
The bongs cracking when being cleaned with alcohol comes from a simple chemical reaction where the alcohol used to dissolve tar, also dissolves the adhesive holding the acrylic in the bong together, resulting in the bong falling apart.
Acrylic, as it turns out isn’t very toxic in itself and doesn’t begin to release potentially harmful monomers or vapours until it’s heated past 300°C (572°F), so unless you’re planning on making an acrylic dabbing rig we doubt that’s very likely to happen.
But don’t run off to get your acrylic bong just yet, because it’s not as simple as it seems. Even though the acrylic might be safe, the bowl might not be.
Acrylic bongs are usually made cheap and as a result, can have metal downpipes made from cheap materials which may be coated in all kinds of nasty things which the heat from smoking could potentially expose you to. However, this is unlikely as most bowls are from harmless metals like stainless steel making the biggest downside of a metal downpipe the metallic taste users often report.
It turns out the main issues people have with acrylic bongs is more to do with how they perform compared to glass and other materials.
This is down to lots of things, like how acrylic bongs are tedious to clean as you can’t just soak them in alcohol, or how they usually come with a standard metal downpipe and bowl which can’t be easily modified or removed. When you can get a glass piece for only about $5 more than an acrylic one in most places, it’s worth spending the extra money to get a vastly better experience.
Are There Any Benefits To Smoking From An Acrylic Bongs?
Acrylic is a thermoplastic renowned for its shatter-resistant properties, UV tolerance, impact tolerance and heat tolerance amongst other things, making them perfect for carrying with you for hikes, camping, parties, road trips, just about anywhere you wouldn’t want to risk taking glass go as they are much less likely to break.
They are also great for any stoners with pets or who are just plain clumsy as it is almost impossible to break an acrylic bong by knocking it over.
Not to mention the UV tolerance which will stop your bong water getting too icky (although it may change colour).
Unlike other plastics, and silicone, acrylic is see-through giving you a good view of the hacks you’re taking, allowing better breath control.
Essentially acrylic does offer many of the benefits of a glass bong without any of the drawbacks usually associated with glass, yet it’s what it lacks compared to glass that people notice.
How Do You Clean An Acrylic Bong?
As anyone who has ever owned a bong knows, they get gross fast.
With glass, this isn’t much of an issue as you just rinse it out with alcohol a few times and the tar melts away like magic.
As we’ve learned acrylic and alcohol don’t go well together, so how do you get rid of the inevitable tar rocks?
The answer? Hot water and salt.
Now be careful when cleaning your acrylic bong as I have had one of mine develop cracks due to rapid temperature changes while washing it out this way, and this eventually led to the bong developing cracks so deep it even began to lost suction power!
But what you’ll want to do is boil some water, pour it into your bong and add as much salt as possible (the chunkier the salt, the better). Add so much salt that you saturate the water and physically can’t dissolve any more.
The reason you’ll want to add so much salt to the water is that this will help scrub the inside of the bong, and unlike grit or sand it won’t get stuck in any remaining tar and risk inhaled with a hack.
Lastly, you’ll want to shake it like a rainmaker. This will start to melt some of the tar, making it easier to dislodge. Then rinse the bong thoroughly and let it cool down slowly, as rinsing it under cold water could cause cracks.
You could even go to the hardware store and purchase a brand new toilet brush, as most would fit down a bong tube and will do a remarkably good job cleaning it too.
Having said all of this there is another part of the acrylic bong cleaning process, and this is the downpipe and bowl.
Most acrylic bongs usually come with the same cheap bowl and downpipe design. Cleaning this can be a task and a gross one at that. First, you’ll want to get some gloves as the tar inside the downpipe can be extremely sticky and hard to wash off your hands!
Next, you’ll want to use some elbow grease and pipe cleaners, like the kind you used for arts and crafts when you were a kid. This will clean the downpipe, but for the inside of the bowl I recommend carefully heating a pen knife or flathead screwdriver and using this to scrape the inside clean.
If you want to get a more thorough clean, there is another method, but it is a little harder and will run the risk of breaking the rubber grommet which keeps the downpipe airtight.
This method requires you to slowly and carefully pull the downpipe out of the bong. You will then want to unscrew the bowl and boil it with the downpipe for ten minutes on the stove. The bubbles from the boiling water with the heat will help dislodge the gunk built up inside.
Once you think the bowl/ downpipe are clean enough you can take them out of the water (I recommend using pliers to stop you from burning yourself) and give them a good tap on the counter. You could even hold the downpipe in the pliers and pour the boiling water through it.
Then once it’s nice and clean (and cool) you can put it back in your bong and enjoy!
The final point to make about cleaning, and in my experience, the most crucial point is to make sure you regularly change and maintain your bong screens.
Most acrylic bongs take the same 10mm disposable screens. These screens are usually only good for maybe four or five hacks but can be used for many more if maintained properly. The best way to keep your screens is to avoid compacting your ash in any way, and this means either unscrewing your bowl and tapping the ash out or blowing it (although I don’t recommend this as it can go in your nose and eyes!)
I’d also recommend changing your gauze the second it gets wet as it will clog up and will be more hassle than it’s worth to clean if you could change it.
It is also worth changing the gauzes regularly as they can get blocked, wind up with holes burned in them, and even clog your downpipe.
The main reason I chose an acrylic bong before was out of convenience as that was what the growshop had the most of, but if I had to buy an alternative to glass now would it be acrylic?
I used one of these on and off for almost two years, and it gave me some of the best hacks I’ve ever had and was one of the best smoking pieces I have ever had, period.
Probably not, because even though acrylic is a great, relatively non-toxic plastic, it has been blown out of the water by the silicone bong.
This is something of a favorite of mine as it takes a look at the problems most acrylic bongs have and annihilates them. For example, silicone is incredibly heat resistant and won’t release any toxic chemicals, even if burned directly. It’s also entirely non-toxic for humans and even used in some medical practices and can handle being cleaned with alcohol too.
The cherry on the top though is the fact that most silicone bongs come with a glass downpipe and bowl giving you just about all the benefits of smoking glass with none of the downsides. As far as I can tell the only downside to using silicone is that silicone is opaque, but many silicone bongs have an acrylic window to show the hack, so this is hardly an issue.
You can find silicone bongs just about anywhere you can find acrylic ones, and when you consider the pros and cons I would recommend one over an acrylic piece.
How Much Do Acrylic Bongs Cost? In most places, acrylic bongs can range anywhere from $20.00 to $35.00. Having said that I wouldn’t pay more than $30.00 maximum on a premium acrylic bong.
What Is Acrylic?
Long story short acrylic is a thermoplastic, meaning it’s a plastic moulded to shape by heat.
It’s non-toxic and doesn’t release any toxic chemicals unless it’s heated directly above 300°C (572°F).
Interestingly though, it is technically considered to be a type of glass as it’s a non-crystalline vitreous substance (whatever that means); hence it’s common sale under the name Plexiglas.
It’s usually molded then cut using a laser cutter, then glued into shape, occasionally being moulded with hot air or in a kiln.
Is Glass Safer Than Acrylic?
Most glass pieces are made from borosilicate glass, which has an extremely high resistance to heat allowing it to withstand temperatures of up to 500 °C (932 °F).
That’s not to say that glass doesn’t come with its own set of risks.
Usually you have to pull the bowl out of the downpipe to clear a hit when using a glass bong. Because of this you can find yourself throwing hot embers and dropping hot glass bowls onto your lap.
There is also obvious risk of broken glass, though long as you are careful with your bongs, and can put them somewhere safe before you get too meditated you should keep them intact for a while, but unfortunately broken glass is inevitable.