CAUSES & SOLUTIONS FOR A STUCK DOWNSTEM IN A BONG OR BUBBLER
Ok, let’s be honest. How many of you really clean your bong after each and every sesh?
Ok, now how many of you remove the downstem completely each time you clean your tube or beaker bong?
If you’ve still got your hand raised, that’s great! But sadly, you are probably one of the few. Most bongs, bubblers, pipes, and heady dab rigs might get thoroughly cleaned once every five, or ten, or fifty seshes.
Even when downstems are removable, they are often ignored as long as they work. But long before the buildup of resin causes a problem with percolation, it may have already created an issue further up the stem.
MY DOWNSTEM IS STUCK – HOW DID THAT HAPPEN
It doesn’t take much sticky residue buildup between the joint on your glass bong and the glass downstem seated inside of it to cause the downstem to become stuck.
During regular use of your bong or bubbler there is a certain degree of heat transfer between your glass bowl or slide and the glass joint and the glass downstem. That heat can activate and re-activate resin buildup in the area creating a dangerously tight seal that can prevent you from being able to remove the downstem without fear of breaking any of the glass parts.
Another common cause for a stuck or jammed glass downstem, ironically, often occurs just after doing the right thing by cleaning your glass bong or bubbler often and removing the downstem to clean it separately.
What can cause a problem is if the glass joint on the bong or bubbler and the outside surface of the glass downstem are not thoroughly dried before reinsertion. Even if they are both perfectly clean, the residual moisture can form a difficult seal making removal a nerve-wracking event.
The third most common cause for a stuck downstem is when it becomes jammed downward by some incidental contact with a table, or elbow, lighter, or anything you can think of really.
DOWNSTEM IS STILL STUCK – NOW WHAT
We asked around on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and more on what to do and here are a handful of methods that we came up with for freeing up a stuck downstem on your favorite glass bong or bubbler.
METHOD 1: PIPING HOT WATER
Start by trying to run the hottest tap water from your sink directly over the area where the downstem enters the bong or bubbler. If your hand can stand the temperature of the water momentarily, reach in and firmly (but cautiously) pinch the sides of the exposed portion of the downstem and gently try to twist and pull. With any luck, that combination of heat and water lubrication will do the trick.
METHOD 2: KILL IT WITH FIRE
If that downstem is still stuck due to resin, you can try your dab torch or a triple flame torch. Just quickly apply moving heat to the affected area with the very tip of the flame of your torch. You do not want to hold the flame to the glass for long as you could damage the glass. If there is visible resin or reclaim buildup, you will see it begin to activate from the heat.
Knowing that the glass downstem will be hot from the torch, use a pot holder or heat resistant gloves to try the same technique as above, gently trying to twist and pull the downstem up and out of the bong while the buildup is still boiling a bit.
METHOD 3: SCIENCE!
If the gunk has caked up so bad that those two methods didn’t even make a dent, don’t give up yet! There are some great glass cleaners on the market these days, like Dark Crystal, Grunge Off, or Formula 420. Just fill the water chamber of your bong enough that the downstem and joint are in contact with the cleaning solution and let everything soak.
With any luck the muck will break down and within 24-48 hours you should be able to gently twist and pull your downstem to freedom.
METHOD 4: TAP, TAP, TAP
When your stem is stuck from moisture being trapped between two glass pieces, the ideas above (hot water, tip of the torch) may come in handy. But another option gets brought up often enough by those who know such things that we think you ought to know too.
It sounds a bit strange at first but bear with us. You’ll want a large spoon, preferably wooden. Some folks wrap the spoon in a towel, some use it bare, but the idea is to gently tap-tap-tap the head of the spoon all around the joint where the downstem is stuck.
Surprisingly enough, the subtle vibration from the spoon’s impact can be just enough to shake loose a seemingly stuck stem and this simple yet effective technique has saved many heady bongs and daily driver bubblers from being scrapped.
METHOD 5: LAST RESORT
One final trick that cames in particularly handy when a downstem is just jammed a bit is to find a pair of pliers with the rubber coated handles. You do not want to apply metal to glass with any amount of force, but using the soft grip rubber handles you may be able to grip the neck of the downstem just where it meets the glass joint of the bong or bubbler. If so, slowly and carefully tilt the head of the pliers downward creating a lever action to (hopefully) raise the downstem up/outward.
Of course, all of these methods require extreme caution so you do not damage your glass or yourself.
Not every situation has an easy solution, but based on the causes that we discussed above these tips and tricks might just get that downstem unstuck.
If you managed to loosen things up enough to get your downstem out, congratulations, not everyone is so fortunate. If not, hopefully it will continue to function until, well, it doesn’t. Just clean it up the best you can with the stem in and keep on rippin!
Thoroughly cleaning and drying your downstem and your bong, bubbler, or dab rig often can go a long way towards prevention.
At The Dab Lab we carry a great variety of scientific glass bongs and bubblers as well as some really heady and affordable glass pieces as well, many of which have the useful option of the removable downstem.
If you recently had to retire a piece due to a jammed up joint we’re sure you can find a new favorite at TheDabLab.com – your one stop shop for all smoking and toking needs.