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How To Dab

Dabbing has been around since 1970. However, the dabbing we are familiar with today did not come into existence until the mid-2000s. The term “dab” can be used to refer to any type of cannabis concentrate, like wax, budder, sauce, shatter, and crumble. Concentrates are created by extracting cannabinoids (e.g., THC) and terpenes from plant matter. The final product is incredibly potent. “Dab” can also refer to an actual dose of concentrate.

In contrast, dabbing is the act of inhaling the vapors of cannabis concentrate that you vaporize at high temperatures. Dabbing has quickly become a favorite for cannabis connoisseurs as it offers a powerful “high” and a flavorful experience. It’s perfect for those who may have developed a tolerance level to THC. If you’re interested in dabbing, keep reading to learn what tools you’ll need and how to properly consume dabs without going overboard.

How is Smoking Dabs Different from Smoking Flower?

The first thing to note is that the high will be more intense. Dabs can contain anywhere between 50 to 90% THC. To put things into perspective, even the most potent flower usually only contains about 25% THC. Even the most experienced cannabis consumers can be caught off guard when dabbing for the first time.

The potency of dabs also changes how you consume the product. When you could typically smoke an entire joint, you may take one to two hits of a dab and be done, which makes dabbing the most effective way to experience a “high” typical with THC consumption.


First, always select a high-quality, medical-grade concentrate for dabbing from a trusted dispensary. This is not the time to be skimping on your product. You’re inhaling the cannabinoids, but also any residual pesticides and chemicals that may be leftover from the concentration process. Always buy top shelf when dabbing, so you know you’re getting the safest product.

Second, always start small. You can’t change the fact that you’ve consumed too much cannabis, but you can always smoke more if you want. A typical good starter size is about the size of the head of a pin. If you do find yourself getting uncomfortably inebriated, try using CBD products to counteract the THC in the dab.

Finally, dab somewhere you feel safe and comfortable, preferably in your own home. Make sure you’re sitting down, as your first dab can hit you harder than expected. Also, have a glass of water at the ready. It will help you clear your throat after you dab.

Dab Sizes

To explain how you should measure the size of your dabs, we’ll use an example. Say you purchase one gram of hash with 80% total THC (any medical-grade cannabis will tell you about this information on the container), and you want your dabs to contain 25mg of THC. That means this one gram of hash contains 800mg of THC. If you split that gram into eight equal parts, each part will contain 100mg of THC.

Remember, you want your dabs to contain 25mg of THC. To achieve this, you’ll have to break each of the eight parts into fourths (you should have 32 equal parts at this point). To put this in perspective, a whole gram is about the size of a thumbnail. So, one 25mg dab of 80% THC hash is about the size of a few grains of rice. Portions will depend on the potency of your dab. If it’s 90%, you’ll need even less than a few grains worth of rice.

What You’ll Need

For dabbing, you’ll need to compile several pieces of equipment. People commonly refer to all this collectively as a dab rig. A dab rig includes a:

  • Rig – a glass water pipe (much like a bong) that connects to a nail
  • Nail – the attachment where you place your dabs to be vaporized when heated (typically made from glass, quartz, titanium, or ceramics)
  • Carb cap – also made from glass, ceramics, titanium, or quartz; it is a cap with a small hole that covers the top of the nail (controls airflow)
  • Dabber – a tool used to place the dab in the nail (the dab will be sticky, and the nail will be hot, so you can’t handle the dab with your hands)
  • Torch – you’ll need a hand torch that runs on butane (propane creates a hotter flame that could damage your nail)
  • E-nail (optional) – allows you to set a precise temperature and then electronically heats the nail to the temperature you set; eliminates the need for a torch
  • Quartz insert (optional) – an insert you place through the hole in your nail; adds additional surface area inside your nail; best for cold-start dabbing

Traditional Dabbing Steps

  1. Turn on your torch and heat the bottom of your nail until the nail becomes red hot.
  2. Turn off your torch. For quartz nails, we recommend you let them cool for about 45 to 60 seconds before placing your dab in the nail. Wait about ten seconds for titanium nails. You may want to use a timer.
  3. Apply your dab to the nail using a dabber and begin inhaling slowly. Dabs require a long, slow inhale because most of the concentrate will not vaporize instantly.
  4. Using a carb cap, cover and uncover the nail while inhaling. This will regulate airflow. ALWAYS use a carb cap!
  5. Do not hold your breath. Once you are done inhaling, exhale immediately.

Cold-Start Dabbing Steps

In cold-start dabbing, the dab is placed in the nail and then heated. This means the dab will melt at a much lower temperature. Vaporizing the dab at a lower temperature creates a more terpene-rich, or flavorful, hit. Cold-start dabbing will also preserve your equipment better than traditional dabbing, as the lower temperatures will reduce the risk of breakage and reclaim buildup.

The only downside to this method is that it doesn’t tend to completely vaporize that dab, which leaves char, oil, and residue. You should remove and dispose of all those byproducts before your next dab. Overall, cold-start dabbing is an excellent option for someone who’s just figuring out dabbing, as it’s a bit easier to safely handle.

  1. Place a dab in a clean nail.
  2. Cover the nail with a carb cap.
  3. Light your torch and slowly heat the underside of the nail (keep the flame several inches away from the bottom of the nail). The dab will begin to bubble in about ten seconds, turning into vapor.
  4. Turn off your torch and start to inhale while rotating the carb cap to create convection.
  5. Exhale immediately and enjoy.

How to Clean a Dab Nail

Many dabbers prefer to clean their nail after every hit. You should aim to do this too, or at least at the end of every session.

  • Use Q-tips to soak up any residual oil while it’s still wet. You can even soak one end of the Q-tip in isopropyl alcohol to remove tiny bits of char.
  • Heat your nail using your torch without adding concentrate to it. This will burn off any residual carbon or reclaim. Once the residue dissipates, let the nail cool completely before finishing the process with a scrape.
  • Use a scrape (a sharp dabber) to remove minor buildup. Be careful not to chip any of the glass.
  • You can wash your nail by soaking it in 91% isopropyl alcohol for ten minutes. Follow that up by wiping it down or scraping it.

Can You Take Dabs Without a Rig?

Yes, you can. It might not be as effective, but if you find yourself without a dab rig to use, there are several alternative ways you can consume dabs and achieve the desired effects. Many users opt for these dabbing methods when looking for quicker and more convenient consumption options.

  • If you have a bowl and some flower, you can top that off with concentrate.
  • You can twax a joint (roll dabs into a joint).
  • Use a dab pen or e-rig.
  • Use a nectar collector (a portable dab rig).
  • Make some edibles with the concentrate.

Is Dabbing Right for You?

Only you can answer that question. Cannabis affects everyone differently. Your experience with it can differ based on how much sleep you had the night before to what you ate before a consuming. If you feel it’s something you want to explore, make sure you’re somewhere safe and comfortable and have all the proper tools to ensure you have the best experience possible.

If you’re still new to cannabis, perhaps it’s best to experiment with higher THC levels by smoking flower or trying edibles before jumping headfirst into dabbing. It’s all about knowing your limits and respecting them.

Go North for All Your Concentrate Needs!

If you are a medical cannabis cardholder looking for a reliable source of high-end cannabis products, North Dispensaries is the company for you. If you have questions about dabbing, give us a call or stop into one of our locations to discuss with our trained patient consultants. We’re dedicated to our clientele and do everything we can to ensure that their medical cannabis experience is not only enjoyable but also healthy. We offer top-of-the-line products for everyone’s interests. We have everything from concentrates to edibles, flower, and CBD products. Check out our menus for our Hillsboro and Pevely menus today!

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