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article water pipes | Water Pipes 101: A Buyer's Guide

Water Pipes 101: A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide

Water pipes are popular smoking devices used for smoking tobacco, herbs, or in some states, legal cannabis. A water pipe can cool and purify smoke resulting in a remarkably smooth hit that is easier on the throat and lungs. They can come in various shapes, sizes, and designs; they are also made of different materials including glass, silicone, acrylic, and ceramic.

The fundamental components of a water pipe include a water chamber, the down stem, the slide, and the mouthpiece. The water chamber is where the water goes that is used to cool the heated smoke and filter out any debris that was pulled down from the slide. The down stem is the tube that connects the slide to the water chamber. The slide is where the material is placed for smoking. The mouthpiece is where you put your mouth and inhale the smoke. During the simultaneous act of lighting the material in the slide and inhaling through the mouthpiece, the smoke travels from the bowl, through the down stem, and into a water chamber where it undergoes a transformative journey.

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take a closer look at water pipes and what you should consider when purchasing one.


Water pipes are commonly made of glass, which is durable, easy to clean, and offers excellent flavor. Silicone pipes are also becoming increasingly popular as they are more durable, lightweight, and easy to transport. Acrylic pipes are the most affordable option and are easy to clean and maintain. Ceramic pipes are unique, and decorative, and offer excellent heat resistance.


Water pipes come in various designs, including straight tubes, beakers, bubblers, and recyclers. Straight-tube water pipes are the most common and straightforward design, while beaker-bottom water pipes have a wider base for added stability. Bubblers are small hand pipes that use water they are also more portable. A recycler water pipe is designed to recycle the smoke and water for a smoother hit. There are even more sophisticated styles of water pipes called rigs, designed to consume oils, waxes, and concentrates. There are many unique custom artisanal water pipe designs made by very talented artists that are worth getting if you are a serious collector.


Water pipes come in different sizes and styles. The size you choose will depend on your smoking preferences and where you plan to use the water pipe. Larger water pipes offer bigger hits but may be less portable, while smaller water pipes are more portable but may not provide the same hit intensity. Some people prefer the beaker style because it offers more stability than the straight tube. Straight tubes are designed to be hit straight up and down while beakers are optimally hit at an angle meaning you can be leaned back in a chair or couch while smoking. Glass thickness typically starts at 5mm and can go up to 9mm which gives the pipe extra durability. Acrylic, silicone, and ceramic pipes are affordable alternatives to glass. In the past, these pipes were designed as throw-away pipes but with the advancement of cleaning solutions, you can keep these pipes for a lot longer.


There are various accessories that you can use with your water pipe to enhance your smoking experience, but they are typically only for pipes that are “glass on glass” meaning the slide and down stem do not use a rubber grommet for a seal. They include ash catchers, slides, down stems, and percolators. Ash catchers go between the slide and the down stem. They typically come in a 90-degree angle or a 45-degree angle depending on the angle of the down stem. The purpose of an ash catcher is to catch ash and debris from the slide before it passes into the main water chamber of your pipe. This is extremely helpful when it comes to keeping your pipe clean, especially if you have multiple percolators or water chambers. Down stems can be a simple design of just an open hole to more elaborate designs. Those designs can be a single hole with slits on the side or multiple holes along the side instead of slits. Percolators or percs can come built into the pipe or can be added as part of an ash catcher. They cause the smoke to go through additional water which cools it even further allowing for a smoother hit. Slides are the most changed-out part of a water pipe. They come as either 14mm or 18mm with 14mm being the most common size. To save on costs a lot of pipes come with a basic clear slide. There isn’t much fun in a clear slide, so people often switch it out to one that has color, a larger hole, or a built-in screen. The built-in screen is typically 3 to 4 small holes instead of one hole. This helps have a more even burn of the material as the air will pull evenly instead of just one side. Accessories are a great way to increase the functionality of your pipe or to add a personal touch to your pipe, whatever your reason have some fun with it!


Maintaining your water pipe is crucial to ensure it continues to function correctly and provide you with an enjoyable smoking experience. Regularly changing the water will help keep buildup from developing inside the water chamber but ultimately you will need to clean your pipe. We recommend one of the top brands like Formula 420, Grunge Off, or Bear Quartz Pure ISO. Some people use isopropyl alcohol and salt, but this can cause micro-abrasions and cause a cloudy effect on the glass. You should also replace any broken or damaged parts. If you notice any issues with your water pipe, such as leaks or cracks, have them repaired or replaced immediately.


Consider your smoking preferences and where you plan to use your water pipe when choosing the size and design. Accessories can enhance your smoking experience and add a personal flair to your water pipe. Regular maintenance is crucial to a pleasant smoke experience and to ensure your water pipe continues to function correctly. The prices may vary depending on the provider or the pipe material and design, but there is a water pipe for every budget. Finally, it’s important to check for functionality but don’t forget to appreciate water pipe designs by your local artisans when making your choice.


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