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How to Use a Dab Rig

It’s been the talk of stoners and opponents of legal cannabis alike for years now. Yup, we’re talking about dabbing.

With a reputation as being “the strongest form of cannabis possible”, a lot of the language surrounding dabbing relegates it to the mega-potheads, the guy who can smoke an ounce of flower in a day and still not even be high. “Crack weed”, it’s even been called.

The truth is, that mega-pothead we just mentioned? That person doesn’t exist. Sure, cannabis concentrates are stronger than other consumption formats in terms of numbers (i.e., THC and CBD percentage). But their effects can be as potent or as mild as you desire, so long as you know what you’re doing.

Instead of talking about dabbing being “the strongest form of cannabis possible”, we like to see it for what it really is: concentrated cannabis.

Think of dabs the same way you would vanilla extract: all the big flavor and effects of a strain, in a tiny package. If you dab a lot of it at once, then yes, it’ll be too strong, the same way a batch of chocolate chip cookies would be ruined by dumping half the bottle of vanilla extract into the batter. Bad experiences with dabbing can almost always be attributed to poor technique, or overconsumption.

So if no one else will say it, we will! We think dabbing is for everyone, regardless of prior cannabis experience. And in the interest of making it a less intimidating concept, we’re sharing everything we’ve learned about it, so you don’t have to learn the hard way.

A dabbing tool and a Nastee brand banger sit on an outdoor table.


What do I need for a dabbing setup?

A dabbing setup can be as unique and individual as the dabber themselves. With more and more experience, you’ll figure out how to fine-tune your setup to match your preferences. But to start out with, every dabber needs a few basic tools in their toolkit.


A DAB RIG: This is the water pipe that you’ll take your dabs out of. Similar in structure to a bong, but typically much smaller.

BANGER/DAB NAIL/E NAIL: This is an attachment that you’ll put the concentrate on when you take a dab. It connects to your dab rig where a bowl piece would on a bong. Bangers can be ceramic, titanium, or quartz, but we ALWAYS recommend using quartz. (More on that later!)

This component can also be called a “dab nail”, although technically a dab nail is a titanium, nail-shaped fixture with or without a glass dome around it. True dab nails aren’t very common anymore, likely because quartz bangers are the clear frontrunner between the two.

An E nail, or electronic nail, is a dab nail with electric coils around it that heat it up to the optimal temperature. Having an E nail eliminates the need for a torch, and they can be adjusted to your exact specifications. Lots of dabbers still favor the classic torch and banger setup, though. E nails have to be plugged into an outlet, and having cords in the way is too big of an annoyance for some.

DAB TOOL: This is the tool you’ll use to get the concentrate into your banger. They come in a variety of forms, but the most commonly used dab tools are made of metal, and look a lot like dental tools. You can use a lot of different things around your house in the place of a dab tool, so feel free to get creative with this one. Just make sure whatever you use is heat resistant!

BUTANE TORCH: This is what you’ll use to heat up your banger or nail before you take a dab. There are “dabbing torches” out there, but you can also use a culinary torch. Just make sure it has a big enough flame to heat your entire banger; having to remember which part of the banger is hot enough for you to dab from is no fun. 

Also, NO PROPANE, BUTANE ONLY! Propane throws off the flavor of the dab, and it’s much more dangerous to use in your home.

CARB CAP: This is a disk or cap that you’ll put over the top of your banger after you put the concentrate into it. It keeps the vapor from escaping out of the top of the banger, but it also has a small hole in it that air can pass through so you can comfortably inhale. 

ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (97% or above) & COTTON SWABS: Not absolutely necessary, but highly recommended. Keeping these things with your dab setup for cleaning makes it easy to keep your banger good as new.

A complete dabbing setup and a triple-beam scale sit on an outdoor table, surrounded by cannabis plants.



AN E RIG: This is a rechargeable, wireless, electronic all-in-one dab device. Popular E-rigs include the Puffco Peak, Puffco Peak Pro, and the High Five Duo.

E-rigs have more than a few benefits over the classic dabbing setup. They’re transportable, and you don’t need an open flame to use them. They take the guesswork out of dabbing at a lower temperature. And they’re also great for a group dab sesh! With E-rigs, you can take a bunch of dabs back to back without having to stop and reheat.

ISOPROPYL ALCOHOL (97% or above) & COTTON SWABS: E-rig kits usually come with a carb cap and a dab tool, so the only other thing you need with a setup like this are supplies to keep it clean. E-rigs are pricey, so you’ll want to take no chances on gunking them up.

A High Five Duo e-rig sits on the rung of a ladder, with plants in the background.

What makes a dab rig good?

A lot of the qualities that make a good dab rig are the same qualities that make a good bong: durable glass and easy cleaning, to name a few. But when you’re shopping for a new dab rig, keep in mind that there are a few areas where good rigs and good bongs diverge.

A good oil rig should be as small as safely possible. Don’t go too small, otherwise you’ll have a piping hot piece of quartz two inches from your face when you go to take a dab!

But keeping your rig on the small side means there’s less surface area for the vapor to pass through. That means there’s less time between when you put your wax on the banger, which means less time for the dab to lose its potency and flavor. Remember, there’s no combustible material in concentrate the way there is flower. Your dab rig doesn’t need to be able to filter out ash and resin.

You also want your dab rig to be able to function with a small amount of water. Unlike THC and CBD, terpenes are water soluble. The more water your rig needs in it to function, the less flavorful and potent your dab will be.

A dab rig sits on an outdoor table with cannabis plants visible in the foregorund.


How do you dab with a dab rig?

If it’s your first time dabbing, or it’s been awhile and you need to brush up on your skills, listen up! Here’s how you dab with a dab rig like the best of ’em. 

Taking a dab, step by step


Grab your torch, and heat your banger or nail with it for about 30 seconds, or until it gets red hot, whichever comes first. (If using an E-nail, skip this step and 2.)


Now, time to wait! Set a timer for your determined wait time (see section on wait time below).


While you wait, take your dab tool and scoop up a little bit of concentrate. If it’s your first time dabbing, START SMALL. A little goes a long way! A lot of “dabbing horror stories” are the result of someone taking too big of a dab their first time.


Once your temperature is right, take your dab tool and, while inhaling, set the bit of concentrate you scooped up on the hot surface of the banger or nail. Immediately after it’s off your tool, place your carb cap over the top of your banger or nail, and continue to inhale.


YOU DID IT! Wasn’t that fun? Now that you’re done, dip one end of a cotton swab into your isopropyl alcohol, wipe down the surface of your banger or nail, and use the dry end of the swab to soak up the excess.

A recycler-style dab rig, torch, carb cap, and several grams of cannabis concentrate sit on an outdoor table.


How long should I let my banger or nail cool down before dabbing?

You may have just read that heading, and realized you’ve been missing a crucial step in the dabbing process. 

If you’ve been taking red hot dabs this whole time, we’re not judging! Now you know: letting your banger or nail cool down is a CRUCIAL step.

Dabbing at a high temperature is much harsher on your throat and lungs, and compromises the terpene profile of your dabs.

This is why we always recommend dabbing off of quartz! It has a cool-down process that’s much more gradual than other materials, giving you a bigger window to take your dab at a comfortable temp.

As for the amount of time you wait, that’s less concrete. It’s going to depend heavily on how much heat your banger or nail retains.

If it’s brand new, then we recommend heating it up til it’s red hot and waiting anywhere from 1 minute to 1 minute 45 seconds. Your banger or nail will always retain the most heat when you first start using it. Make sure you set a timer, especially if you’re high already. Estimating is harder than it seems!

With more wear and tear, you’ll want to decrease your standard wait time every so often, by about 5-10 second intervals. You’ll be able to tell when your banger’s heat retention isn’t what it used to be. Your dabs won’t produce as thick of vapor clouds as they once did. 

Once you get to a point where your nail or banger isn’t retaining heat for more than 30 seconds, it’s time to replace it.

A carb cap, dab tool, and several bangers laid out on an outdoor table.


Does using a dab rig smell?

Using a dab rig isn’t smell-free by any means, but it’s certainly less pungent than smoking.

Cannabis concentrates don’t contain combustible organic materials, or, as you may know them, the substances in dry herb that produce smoke. So when you’re dabbing, you aren’t burning anything. You’re vaporizing it.

What you’re left with is quick-dissipating vapor that’s less harsh, less odorous and doesn’t travel as far. Someone who walked into the room right after would probably be able to tell you took a dab. But someone just outside the room may not smell it at all. 

In contrast, if it were flower you were smoking, everyone in the building could probably catch a whiff.

And even if it were to stink up your whole building (really, really unlikely, but it could *maybe* happen if you dab too hot), dabbing smells different than smoking flower does. Someone probably wouldn’t recognize the aroma unless they’re also a dabber…in which case, new friend!

An individual faced away from the camera climbs a ladder and holds a High Five Duo e-rig in one hand.


Do you have to clean your banger or nail after every dab?

“Have to” is debatable. But yes, cleaning your banger/nail with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol after each dab you take is highly encouraged.

Cleaning gets rid of residual cannabis concentrate, or “reclaim”. If you don’t clean it off, then the next time you heat your nail, you’ll heat up a bunch of reclaim in the process.

Hot reclaim sitting in your banger or nail is bad for multiple reasons. For one, it shortens its lifespan . Over time, your banger will go from clear and smooth to cloudy and crusty, covered in a white substance some refer to as “chaz”. When you start to see chaz forming, it’s only a matter of time before the heat retention of your banger takes a nosedive.

It’s also a smart idea to clean up after every dab because you won’t be re-dabbing old material. If there’s reclaim from the last dab you took mixing with your new dab, the flavor is usually compromised.

A recycler-style dab rig with a carb cap sits on an outdoor table. Cannabis plants are visible in the background.


Still having trouble?

Fear not! Our friendly staff is always happy to help with any of your dabbing conundrums. If you need some guidance or clarification, feel free to stop by the store or give us a call anytime between 8am to 11pm, 7 days a week.




Veronica White

Veronica White

Writer. Cannabis extraordinaire. Master mushroom forager. Reality TV connoisseur.