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Disinfecting Your Dab Rig

05/8/2020 All About Cannabis

Maintenance is an important part of any device, especially when that device is a dab rig. Dabbing is a “smoke-free” way to enjoy cannabis and has become the go-to method of consumption for those looking to extract the most flavor from their cannabis experience. A dirty dab rig can ruin an otherwise flawless concentrate. Cleanliness is paramount these days, so we’re going to get into the various ways to clean and disinfect your dab rig while dispelling some myths about cleaning products.

Cleaning your nail or banger

Just like with a pipe, the business areas of a dab rig can collect a decent amount of residue. This residue is the first culprit to an off-flavored dab. There are a few different ways to clean a nail or banger on a dab rig. They can be made out of glass, quartz, ceramic, or metal. If you have a metal nail that you heat with a torch, the best way to clean it is by removing it from the rig, throwing it in the trash, and buying one made out of quartz since it’s easier to control the temperature. Electric nails are the exception since the temperature is preset and consistent. Here are a few methods for cleaning a nail.

  • Heat – The residue that collects in the nail or banger is just leftover concentrate and can be heated with a torch to loosen it up. It doesn’t need to be heated much, just enough to heat the residue without risk of burning yourself. Be careful about drastic temperature changes when working with glass and be careful to not burn yourself in this process.
  • Scraping – This method is also taken from the old school ways of cleaning pipes. Residue can be chiseled away by a dab tool or a paperclip. In cases of stubborn residue, the combination of heat and scraping can be extra effective.
  • Soaking – Soaking the nail in isopropyl alcohol or vinegar is the method that requires the least amount of effort, but takes the longest amount of time.Simply pour enough alcohol or vinegar to fully submerge the nail into a container or plastic bag and allow it to sit overnight. When it’s done soaking simply rinse it with water. While this method isn’t recommended for electric nails, you can use alcohol to clean a nail without submerging it.

Deep cleaning the dab rig

This part of cleaning will vary depending on the size and design of your rig. Some rigs are more intricate and therefore harder to clean. For more artistic pieces we recommend asking the store or artist for tips on keeping your piece clean. For those of you looking to clean a more straightforward piece, here are some ideas.

  • Reclaim – The residue that collects inside the rig is called reclaim. Some people like to reuse it because it does still have some cannabinoid content, but many are put off by the flavor. Reclaim can be collected by heating up the rig and letting the reclaim pour out. It’s a good idea to purge the reclaim between deep cleaning, but it isn’t possible for some pieces.
  • Deep cleaning – Deep cleaning a rig is similar to deep cleaning a bong. The easiest way is by following the soaking method from above. In some cases soaking isn’t enough to get all of the residue out, so you can add salt crystals to the alcohol or vinegar. After the piece has been soaking, give it a good and secure shake. The salt will chip away at the areas of the rig that you can’t reach with a paperclip or dab tool. Don’t forget to thoroughly rinse out your rig with water when you’re done.

Disinfecting your dab rig

Good hygiene and disinfection practices are more paramount now than ever before. If you’re looking to disinfect your rig for sanitation purposes, there are a few ways to keep your rig clean. These can go for the mouthpiece or the whole exterior of the rig.

  • Soap and Water –  A dab rig is like a dish in how it touches the mouth, so if possible, wash the mouthpiece with soap and hot water like you would a glass. Soap won’t clean the residue from the inside of the rig, but it will disinfect the mouth piece and exterior.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol is a great disinfectant and is the most popular product used for cleaning the mouthpieces of most smoking accessories.

Disinfectant Myths

Alcohol wipes are effective – We’re not saying that they don’t work at all, but alcohol is useless as a disinfectant unless it’s used correctly. Alcohol has to sit wet on a surface for a minimum of 25-30 seconds to disinfect. Alcohol can be problematic since it evaporates so quickly. Alcohol based wipes can be problematic because people wipe a surface once and the area is dry before the alcohol can work its magic.

Vodka is a substitute for rubbing alcohol – Vodka isn’t strong enough to disinfect. It has to be between 60%-95%  alcohol in order to kill germs, so don’t use vodka to disinfect your dab rig.

Vinegar works just as well as alcohol – This is tricky because vinegar works as a cleaner in many ways as mentioned in this blog, but it isn’t considered a disinfectant according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC).

Good dab rig practice

Cleaning your dab rig and nail or banger regularly is part of being a responsible cannabis consumer. To extend the time spent between cleaning many will wipe their nail or banger out with an alcohol soaked cotton swab. It’s a good idea to keep alcohol and paper towels handy to clean off the mouthpiece if multiple people are using the same piece.


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