How to Dab: Four Ways to Consume Concentrated Cannabis

Fahad Basser
June 23, 2021

What you will learn in this post:
(Click any of the section titles below to jump right to it)

What Are Dabs?

Dabs are a very concentrated form of cannabis, usually ranging from 70% to 99% THC. They are manufactured using solvents like carbon dioxide or butane to extract cannabinoids from flower and sugar leaf. The resulting concentrates go by many different names, depending on their consistency, including shatter, wax, and BHO. These concentrates are usually smoked by heating them on a hot surface, usually called a nail, and then inhaling the resulting vapor through a dab rig, much like taking a hit from a bong.


Most novice smokers and casual MMJ users find dabbing too strong for their tolerance; but for many medical marijuana users, dabbing offers significant symptom relief to patients that have an unusually high tolerance for THC.

How to dab cannabis.

How Strong Are Dabs Compared To Smoking Flower?

Marijuana flower generally contains about 15% to 25% THC. It can be smoked or vaporized and results in a mild high that usually lasts around 90 minutes to 3 hours. Dabs are concentrated marijuana extracts that can come in many forms, including:
* Shatter,
* Crumble,
* Wax, or
* Oil.

Dabs are generally about 70% to 90% THC, and not recommended for the novice user at all. They produce a very potent high that comes on strong and fast and peaks over the course of a half hour to 45 minutes. People have been known to pass out or get "couch lock" when they dab the first few times.‍

Dabs are much stronger than flower. Experienced users only!


What Tools Do You Need to Dab Cannabis?

Dabbing tools are still improving and developing as more people adopt this method of consumption. In general, you'll need the following tools:

Dab Rig - A dab rig looks a lot like a bong, but instead of a fitting for a bowl, it has a fitting for a nail. 

A Nail - This looks a lot like a bowl for a bong, but it's smaller. It could be made of quarts, ceramic or metal. Manual nails are heated up with a torch, but you can find electric nails that don't need torches as well.

Wand or Dabbing Tool - This is a glass, ceramic or metal stick with an end specially shaped to dab into the concentrate and then hold over the nail to heat it up. The end of the tool can be shaped like a spoon, paddle, scoop or other shape to best fit a certain type of concentrate. 

Torch - If you don't have an electric nail, you'll need a torch for heating up the nail.

Some Good Concentrate - Life's too short for bad concentrate :)


How To Dab With A Dab Rig

There are many different ways to dab, but the most common is to use a dab rig. Dabbing with a basic rig is a three step process:

1) Get your concentrate ready.

2) Heat your nail.

3) Apply the concentrate to the nail and inhale.

You should dab from a rig ONLY if you have a fairly high tolerance AND know what you're doing. If you have no clue, find someone who does—seriously. For many, a single hit from a monster rig is equivalent to smoking an entire blunt in one sitting.

But what is this “dab rig”? Below, you see a custom rig in-action with the use of a blow-torch. The picture displays the four main components of a typical dab rig: oil rig, torch, nail, and wand(also known as a dabber tool).

dabbing rig instruments and oil rig, torch, wand and nail.
These are the basic tools you need to dab cannabis.

1. Apply Marijuana Concentrate To Your Dab Tool

Apply just a tiny amount of marijuana concentrate directly onto your dab tool (wand).The amount that you scoop onto the tool, whether it's shatter, wax, crumble or oil, will directly affect how high you get. So if it's your first time, use a very small amount, like the size of the head of a pin. You'll be surprised at the potency.

Scoop your concentrate onto your wand or dabbing tool.


2. Heat The Nail

Next, you'll turn on your blow torch and heat the nail so that the flame is directly applied to the nail. It will become red hot after a few seconds. Most people recommend you wait about 8 to 10 seconds before moving on to the next step, just to let the nail cool a little. Be sure to turn off your blow torch BEFORE you inhale. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR TORCH ON.

Heat the nail.


3. Dab Your Concentrate

Touch your small, very small piece of concentrate against the nail and inhale very, very slowly. Rotate the nail as you inhale so you don't waste any of your concentrate. Don't go too fast because the size of the rig affects how much the vapor cools before it hits your lungs. You don't want to inhale the vapor while it's too hot because you could hurt your lungs. You'll be able to adjust your pull once you have a feel for your rig.

Put the tool on the nail and inhale slowly.

Make sure you don’t use too much concentrate for a single hit and please sit down before you inhale. Again, this hits very fast and can take the user by surprise. People have been known to pass out from a dab hit, so it's absolutely essential that you have someone with you the first few times you dab. You need to sit in a safe place with no sharp corners that could hurt you, and make sure that your blowtorch is OFF before you inhale.

Other Ways to Dab Cannabis

Now that you know how to dab using a dab rig, here are three other methods for dabbing concentrates. The method you use is a matter of personal preference. You may find that you prefer one method over another because it's easier or more convenient, or because it's action is a little mellower than using a rig. Whichever method you choose, remember to start low and go slow if you're a first time user.

And most importantly, safety first. Remember:

  • Don't use concentrates from untested sources. Untested concentrates can contain dangerous contaminants.
  • Find a buddy to help if you're a first time user
  • Always sit down first
  • Never leave your torch on
  • Use a small amount and wait before taking more.‍

Electric Nail

an electric nail is an alternative way of dabbing cannabis
Electric nails eliminate the need for a torch.

An electric nail and dab rig. Electric nails replace the blow torch traditionally used with a dab rig.

If using a blowtorch to get high is too maniacal for you, then the electric nail is the way to go. The process is similar to your typical dab rig, except instead of blow-torching the “nail,” it’s already plugged into a separate power source!

This means you have full control over the temperature (which helps ensure that you’re vaporizing your concentrates instead of combusting) and you’ll never have to worry about third-degree torch burns.

Health Stone

a health stone sitting inside of a pipe for dabbing weed
Some dabbers prefer to use health stones.

A health stone is essentially a porous rock that slips into your bowl-piece. Unlike using a nail or e-nail, this method requires you to place your marijuana concentrate directly onto the health stone. You don’t even need a dab tool!

However, you’re still going to need that scary blowtorch. The great thing about this dabbing method is that you don’t need to use densely packed marijuana concentrates like shatter. Shatter is best used for dabbing with a rig & nail because it sticks easily to your dab tool, but dabbing with a health stone allows you to explore other cannabis concentrates like hash or crumble!

T-waxing

dab mixed with weed close up image
You can also dab by mixing concentrate with flower in a joint.

You don’t need any fancy devices to consume super-potent cannabis—it’s really as simple as mixing the concentrate of your choice with some dry herb. Admittedly, the quality of the hit is sub-par compared to an oil rig or dab pen, and you just don’t get as high.

That being said, adding concentrates to flower is a great way to enhance your smoking experience, just be warned it might not be the best bang for your buck. Note that when smoked alongside flowers, concentrates like shatter, crumble, wax or oil often burn slower, so you'll need to puff more when you take a hit.

twax close up image
Concentrate can be mixed throughout the joint, or drizzled on the outside.

There are many other ways to dab not mentioned in this article, but these methods are most commonly used, and should be a great starting point for anyone new to the dabbing game. It really is all a matter of preference.

And, don’t forget, once you decide on how you want to dab, you need to decide what type of cannabis concentrate you want to dab with.


How to Clean a Dab Rig

Once you're done enjoying your dab rig, it's important to clean it. Cleaning your rig ensures you will always get the best flavor out of your concentrates and that your rig will function properly every time you use it. 

Dab rigs collect a lot of resin over time and need to be cleaned frequently.

Basic Method

Most of the time, if there's not a lot of buildup, a basic cleaning is all you need. You can use a stove or kettle and water. 

Heat up a couple cups of water till it's warm but not so hot it would hurt your hands. 

  • Soak your rig in the water.
  • Rub away the gunk with a q tip or pipe cleaner, 
  • Rinse and repeat.

Alcohol and Salt

If this method isn't getting the gunk off, you can try alcohol and salt. For this method, all you need is a container with a tight lid, enough isopropyl alcohol to cover your piece, and a few tablespoons of salt to add some scrubbing power.

Now, put the lid back on the container, tight, and shake, shake, shake. A plastic container is a better idea than glass so you can shake it vigorously without breaking the container. 

When it's nice and clean, and this method can make it look like new with enough elbow grease, rinse it thoroughly in clean water and let it fully dry before using it. Make sure you get ALL of the alcohol and salt off of your rig before using it or you will irritate your lungs. 

Where to Find Concentrates for Dabbing

If you’re a California medical marijuana patient or recreational user, check out the Nugg Club box which provides $225 worth of full-priced products for a mere $99, including shatter, wax, flower, edibles, vape pens and many other products you'll love.


browse top concentrates button
Fahad Basser
Fahad Basser is a writer at Nugg, focused on helping more people find reliable access to cannabis.

Save on Every Marijuana Purchase

Get your medical marijuana card today!

Learn More