How to Dab

Scott Jones

If you want to learn how to dab, it’s easy. You just thrust your head into the crook of your elbow while simultaneously thrusting out your other arm in the opposite direction.

Oh. Not that kind of dab? Using a rig to rip a cannabis dab can be an intimidating prospect, but there’s nothing to fear. Learning how to use a dab rig is not as complicated as it seems. It’s mostly a matter of having the right supplies, the right equipment, and the right know-how. In this article, we’ll arm you with all the knowledge you need to dab like a pro, from what dabs are and how they are made, to the types of dab rigs and how to safely use them. Let’s get started.

What is a Dab?

If you want to know how to dab, you should probably know what you’re working with first. Dabs are relatively new to the cannabis scene, but they are increasingly popular, especially amongst experienced users. That’s because dabs are a type of cannabis concentrate, which means the compounds in hemp and cannabis that cause therapeutic and psychoactive effects are separated from the plant matter and distilled into a more condensed substance. This means that concentrates can offer a more intense euphoric experience.

Dabs are not the only cannabis concentrate, there are a variety of others like kief, hash, rosin, or resin. Even the oils and liquids in vaporizer pens are concentrates. Dabs get their names from how they are ingested, because a dab of the concentrate is scooped up and ‘dabbed’ onto a superheated surface so that the cannabinoids can be converted and inhaled. 

The active compounds, known as cannabinoids, are concentrated by separating glands known as trichomes from the flowers of the cannabis plant. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it’s typically done with a chemical solvent like butane or carbon dioxide. Depending on the solvent used and how the resulting concentrate is processed, dabs can come in a variety of forms and consistencies.

Types of Dabs

When you’re new to dabs, you’re going to hear a good handful of terms or nicknames for the different concentrates you can use with your rig. Generally, these names refer to the different textures and consistencies that dabs can have. You can read a more thorough breakdown of the different types of dabs here, but we’ll go over the key differences here.


Shatter is thin, hard, and glassy. It breaks apart easily, hence the name, so pieces can be snapped off and used to dab. It has a golden or amber color, like hardened honey. Shatter is a popular choice among dab enthusiasts.


Another popular option in the dab world and is sometimes purported to be the strongest of the wax concentrates. It has a fudgy consistency and gets its name from the thick crumbles that it makes when broken up. Crumble comes in a wide range of colors, from light orange to brown, which is determined by the plants used and the way they are processed.


Budder or badder has a self-explanatory name. It’s a concentrate with the consistency of cake batter or soft butter. It has a rich gold or amber color, and its soft texture makes it easy to scoop up with a dabber tool.

Sugar Wax

Sugar wax is another concentrate that is easily scoopable with a dabber tool. It has a consistency like slightly melted brown sugar, but with bright golden or amber hues. Sugar wax is known for its rich flavor and smooth hit.


Sauce is a goopy, rich concentrate that is more viscous than the others, giving it its name. Sauce is also sometimes called ‘terp sauce’ because it has a high concentration of terpenes. Terpenes are the essential oils created by the cannabis plant that give strains their unique aromas and flavors, so sauce is known for the vibrancy of the flavor when dabbed.

These are some of the most popular types of concentrates used for dabbing, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Concentrates like rosin or resin can be smoked or vaped but can also be dabbed. Arguably, a dab is less about the concentrate used and more about the way it’s inhaled. So, if you’re going to rip a dab, you’re going to need a rig.

What is a Dab Rig?

Because of the concentrated nature of the extracts used when dabbing, you need a special pipe known as a rig. If you’ve smoked a bong before, you should be able to conjure a pretty accurate idea of the anatomy of a dab rig. If you’ve never smoked flower before, no worries, you can learn all about it here. The primary difference between a bong and a dab rig is the use of a nail and dome instead of a bowl and slide. Let’s break down the parts of a rig as well as the other tools you’ll need to use one.


While not technically a part of the rig, you’re going to have a hard time using one without a torch. A butane torch is used to superheat the nail so that when the concentrate is applied, it is instantly vaporized.


The nail is the element of the rig that is superheated by the torch, before the concentrate is applied to it. Nails are usually made from ceramic, titanium, or quarts. They have the shape of concentric circles, the outside circle being where the concentrate is vaporized and the inside circle an opening so that the vapor or smoke can be pulled through the rig.

Dabber Tool

Because the nail must be so hot, you’re going to need a tool to apply the concentrate to it. A dabber tool is just that, a ceramic or metal rod with a small scoop or spoon that can lift the concentrate and safely apply it to the nail.


The nail sits inside a dome or hood that keeps the vapor confined as the dab is heated, making it easier and more efficient to inhale. 

Carb Cap

A carb cap is not an essential element of a dab rig, but it is recommended. After the concentrate is applied to the nail, the carb cap is place over the top, containing the resulting vapor so that it does not escape while the concentrate cooks down. When you’re ready to complete your hit, the cap is lifted allowing air to clear the vapor from the rig and into the lungs. Some dabber tools also have a carb cap on the opposite end, allowing it to function as both tools.

Down Stem

While inhaling, the resulting vapor is pulled through the down stem into the body of the rig. The down stem acts as a bridge from the nail to the rig and allows the smoke to percolate and cool.


The chamber is filled with water so that when the vapor comes through the down stem it can cool down, allowing for a smoother hit.


The mouthpiece is where the user inhales as the dab is lowered onto the nail, pulling the vapor into the lungs where it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. 

How to Use a Dab Rig

The steps involved in using a dab rig follow a straightforward path from the anatomy of the rig. You’re going to want to make sure you have all the elements ready; your concentrate of choice, a torch, a rig, a dabber, and a carb cap (if you’re using one). Make sure your rig and nail are clean and you’ve put the right amount of water in the chamber to ensure you get the smoothest, most flavorful hit possible.

Step 1: Heat the nail.

Heat the nail with the butane torch by aiming the flame directly at the nail until red-hot. The amount of time this takes depends on the material of the nail, but this will generally take 30 to 45 seconds.

Step 2: Briefly cool the nail. 

The exact temperature of a nail is difficult to know, and the ideal temperature for a dab is a matter of preference, but you’ll usually want to allow the nail to cool a little. Waiting 10 to 20 seconds will get the nail in the range of 500 to 650 degrees, which will handle even the most robust of concentrates. Softer or smoother wax may be ideal at even lower temperatures.

Step 3: Dab the concentrate on the nail. 

Using the dabber tool, scoop up the desired amount of concentrate. Remember, a little bit goes a long way. If you’re new, it’s best to start small. An amount the size of a peppercorn or grain of rice is a good-sized hit even for experienced users. Apply the concentrate to the nail while inhaling. Cover the dome with the carb cap if you’re using one.

Step 4: Rip the dab.

Inhale from the mouthpiece smoothly but firmly as the concentrate is vaporized by the nail. When the chamber is full, remove the carb cap and breath in the vapor. If you’re not using a carb cap, inhale until the concentrate burns out. 

Step 5: Exhale and enjoy.

Exhale the vapor. While the water in the chamber will help smooth out the hit, exhaling smoothly and slowly can help you to avoid coughing. Because of the concentration of the cannabinoids, you’ll likely feel the onset of the effects very quickly.

These five steps are how you’re going to enjoy a dab from most rigs, and there are a variety to choose from. But as we’ll see, there are also other ways to enjoy the concentrates we call dabs.

Types of Dab Rig

Dab rigs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. While they generally function the same, they have slightly different qualities and advantages. We’ll also look at e-rigs and other options for using dabs.

Glass vs. Silicone

The first decision you’re going to want to make when choosing a rig is the material, and the two most common options are glass and silicone. Glass rigs have more interchangeable parts and can have more elaborate internal designs, but are generally the more expensive option, as well as more fragile. Silicone rigs are more durable, portable, and can in some cases be disassembled, making them easier to clean. The downside of silicone is that they are less customizable and simpler in design, so the user has less control over the quality of the hit.

Standard vs. Mini

When breaking down the sizes of a rig, they are all lumped into either standard rigs or mini rigs, with the dividing line being about 7” in height. Standard rigs have more space for things like recyclers or percolators, but they are more difficult to store or transport. The compact design of a mini rig allows for the same impact in smaller package. They are convenient, easy to store, and easier to move but their compact design can make them more difficult to clean.

Recycler Rig

For those looking for the smoothest hit, a recycler rig might be the way to go. The internal design allows the vapor to pass through the chamber multiple times before being inhaled. This cools and filters the vapor more thoroughly than a standard rig. You may be sacrificing flavor in the process, however. Recycler rigs are typically somewhat larger and more expensive than other rigs and can be more complicated to clean. 


While ripping a standard rig is visceral and satisfying, it lacks convenience. That’s why e-rigs (or e-nails) are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to enjoy dab concentrates. E-rigs are devices that use a battery and heating element to vaporize dab concentrates, rather than a torch. E-rigs are portable, convenient, user-friendly, and take less time to heat up than standard rigs. Because they are electronic, you can also choose a precise temperature, allowing more control over the smoothness of the hit. They can be expensive and difficult to clean, but most agree the advantages outweigh the disadvantages if you are regular dab user.

The Takeaway

If what you’re after is a rich hit with an intense high, then dabs might be just right for you. They come in a range of styles and flavors, so you’ll never be short on variety. Enjoying a dab is easy once you have the necessary equipment and proper knowledge. Remember, because using a rig typically involves high temperatures and an open flame, it’s important to always exercise the utmost caution. Or you can bypass the flame altogether and use the modern option of an e-rig. Or maybe you’re still not sure what’s right for you. If you have questions about which type of concentrate or style of rig is best for you, we’d love to hear them. Get the conversation started in the comment section below or reach out to us through our contact page. We’ll have you dabbing in no time.

How to Dab
Using a rig to rip a cannabis dab can be an intimidating prospect, but there’s nothing to fear. We’ll arm you with all the knowledge you need to dab like a pro.
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The Green Dragon CBD
How to Dab
October 31, 2023
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