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Thursday August 19, 2021

By Paul Barach


To anyone dipping their toe into cannabis concentrates, dabs can seem a little complicated. Anything involving a blow-torch usually is. Even once you channel your inner blacksmith, it takes a bit of practice to master the technique of high and low temp dabs with a rig. 

As many cannabis consumers are simply looking for the easiest way to get THC out of hash oil and into themselves, dab straws are becoming a popular choice in the cannabis community. Dab straws — or Nectar Collectors if you wanna get all name-brand about it — provide a simplicity of use and a portability that’s appealing to your average dab fan. However, just because dab straws are simpler doesn’t mean there isn’t a learning curve or scalding surfaces to beware of. 

For any dab fans who could use a simpler, more on-the-go option, Potguide is here with some tips and tricks for how to use a dab straw.

What Is A Dab Straw/Nectar Collector?

To clear up any confusion, Nectar Collector is a brand name of dab straws (also called honey straws). The terms are also used interchangeably, in the same way that you’d call any adhesive bandage strip a Band-Aid or facial tissue a Kleenex. We’ll be using both terms in this article. 

Dab straws are a long cylindrical tube made of borosilicate glass. On one end is the dabbing tip, which can be made from materials like borosilicate glass, quartz, or titanium. Of the materials, titanium will last you the longest, while quartz and glass will give you the purest terpene flavors.  

On the other end of the straw is the mouthpiece where you inhale your vaporized concentrates. Some dab straws will also have a water chamber wrapped around the tube to cool down your dab. 

Note: If you have the cash on hand to make it even simpler, electronically heated dab straws now available. For this guide, we’ll be discussing the more commonly used, analog dab straw.

How to Use A Dab Straw

Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to use a standard dab straw. There are countless iterations on the basic design out there, but this should hold true for most models.

Step 1a: Gather your materials. You’ll need: A dab straw, a container or dish of concentrate, and your dab torch. With dab straws, you can leave the concentrate in the container.

Infographic: Dab Straw Basics - Dab Straw, Torch, and Concentrate

Step 1b: If your dab straw has a water chamber, fill it up (with water), then tighten all the connections securely. Check that all the connections are dry, then attach the dab tip. This prevents any thermal expansion that could damage your straw. All connections should be tight and secure.

Step 2: Hold your dab straw in one hand. The tip should be angled down (especially if you have a water chamber).

Step 3: Grab your dab torch with your other hand, light it up, and touch the end of the flame to the tip of your straw. Dab straw tips both heat and cool faster than dab rig nails so tip to tip is the only contact you need. Try to keep the flame from heating the body or grip.

Step 4: Turn the dab straw beneath the tip of the flame so that the heat distributes evenly. Once the dab tip starts to glow, you’re good to go. Any hotter and you risk charring those delicious terpenes and cannabinoids instead of vaporizing them, resulting in a harsh hit. Higher temperatures can also damage your straw.

Step 5: Wait a second or two for the tip to cool down. It will take some trial and error to see exactly how long your specific straw should cool for, but red-hot is almost always too hot.

Step 6: Put down the torch and pick up your open concentrate container.

Step 7: With your dab straw in one hand and your concentrate container in the other, gently draw from the mouthpiece while touching the tip of the straw to your concentrate. Don’t dunk the straw into your hash or drag the tip through it. You want to gently brush the tip across the edges of the hash, like you’re adding detail to a watercolor painting (put some leaves on those happy little trees.)

Step 8: Repeat until you get where you need to go. 

Step 9: When you’re done dabbing, find a place to rest your dab straw on a flat surface with the tip elevated so it can cool. A silicone dab mat is one good option. Set it down carefully, holding it by the mouthpiece end. Watch out to not burn yourself on the tip. While this seems obvious, it happens more often than you think.

Clean Up

Just like with a dab nail, leaving dab residue on your straw will harsh the flavor of future dabs and eventually damage the tip. Luckily, cleaning is a breeze.

Simply remove your dab straw’s tip and soak it in isopropyl alcohol for 15-30 minutes. Give it a once over with a Q-tip (and a second or third over for any stubborn residue) and leave it out to dry.

To keep your dab straw in tip-top shape, do a full cleaning every 3-6 months. If you’ve ever cleaned out a glass piece, you know the drill. Disassemble your nectar collector, place the pieces in their own bag or tub filled with isopropyl alcohol and salt. Let them soak for a half-hour, give them a shake, then go to work with some Q-tips, paper towels, and pipe cleaners. Dab straws in general are known to be a little more delicate than other glass, so be gentle.

The Wrap Up

For any dab fans looking to take their dabs on the road (or wherever your dabbing takes you), dab straws are ideal. Just follow our simple steps, avoid the hot end when setting it down, and add it to your spring cleaning list. Then you’re good to go.

How long should I heat my nectar collector or dab straw?

Heating times will vary depending on the straw's thickness and material. What you’re aiming for is a soft-glowing orange tip that is fully heated. Once this glow is achieved, no need to heat it much further, another second or two should suffice. It can be a good idea to time your heating as you do it to get a feel for how long it takes on your specific piece and torch. Doing the same for your cooldown periods can help dial in the perfect dab temperature

Can you use a cigarette lighter to heat up a dab straw?

Dab straws are typically heated with a brulee torch or cigar torch to supply the kind of sustained high heat required to reach adequate dabbing temperatures. You’re unlikely to be able to achieve that with a standard lighter, and even if you were, it’s not recommended. Opt for a proper torch instead; you can find them in most head shops and dispensaries.

How do people get burned from dab straws?

Accidents with dab straws tend to occur from touching the tip of the straw before it has cooled. Many holders or stands don’t do much in the way of shielding the tip after it has been used, and so the result is a hot glass or metal tip hanging out in the open. Dab straws can also be difficult to set down comfortably, so either the hot tip touches a surface when it is set down, or it is again sticking out where it can be accidentally touched. Always cautious and aware when using a 

How do you know if a dab is hot enough?

The dab should sizzle lightly and evaporate on contact with the heated straw. If there is bubbling or melting with no vaporization happening, the daw straw has not been heard enough.

How do I hold a nectar collector?

Each unit may be a little different, but there is typically a middle section that is somehow reinforced or separated from the heated tip. Be careful to only grip the straw from the handle, regardless of the material. With any dab straw, be cautious not to overheat the tip, as this can damage yourself or other parts of the straw.

What do you like about dab straws and nectar collectors? Share in the comments! 


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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