What Is a Dab Mat, and How Do You Use It?

Published August 01, 2023
What Is a Dab Mat, and How Do You Use It? - Secret Nature

You might have heard about dab mats or come across them in the course of your online travels. What do these devices do, however, which seem so useless at first glance?

For many dabbers, dab mats may, in fact, be entirely without value. For those who swear by them, however, dab mats make the difference between a smooth dabbing experience and disaster. Discover what dab mats are and what they do in this guide.

Dab mat overview

  • A dab mat is a silicone pad designed to rest under a dab rig
  • It can also be used as a dabbing surface with a nectar collector
  • Dab mats come in all different shapes and sizes
  • They are often emblazoned with “stoner art”
  • There are options that look more low-key, though
  • Some dab mats are even high-tech
  • Dab mats usually aren’t a necessity
  • They can be very useful dabbing accessories, though

What are dabs?

In cannabis culture, a “dab” is slang for a dose of cannabis concentrate applied to a heating element, resulting in inhalable vapor. Thusly, multiple doses of cannabis concentrate kept together in a container (usually silicone or acrylic) are usually called “dabs,” and the process of heating up and inhaling dabs is called “dabbing.”

Dabbing is considered to be one of the most potent forms of cannabis use. Dab concentrates commonly contain 60-90% THC, and inhalation through a conventional water-pipe apparatus allows for maximum lung expansion and blood absorption of cannabinoids.

What is a dab rig?

“Dab rig” is the term used to refer to the type of apparatus most commonly used to take dabs. In most ways, dab rigs resemble conventional bongs or water pipes. The main difference is the bowl — in place of the conventional bowl piece used with cannabis flower is a nail surrounded by a glass dome, or sometimes just a nail hooked up to an electric wire with no dome at all.

While there are many different kinds of dab nails, they all serve the same purpose — vaporizing cannabis oil instead of burning it, and then funneling that vapor into the attached water-pipe system. Dab rigs can be so varied that it can be difficult to even see that they all serve the same purpose at a glance.

What is a dab mat?

Dab mats are thin, silicone coasters that are primarily used to cushion dab rigs. Especially when placed on glass or stone tabletops, dab rigs have a tendency to shatter or otherwise sustain damage. Dab mats prevent this possibility while also providing a collection surface for any cannabis oil that may drip or fall during the dabbing process. Dab mats can sometimes also serve another purpose, though.

What do dab mats do?

Dab mats primarily exist to prevent damage to dab rigs and allow easy collection of concentrate drippings. For this purpose, a dab mat should be roughly the same size as the footprint of the dab rig, but with enough overhang to catch drippings.

You can also use a dab mat as a heat-resistant surface when using a nectar collector. Similar to dab rigs but incorporating all the components into a handheld straw, nectar collectors are heated at the tip the same way as dab rig nails, and then they are applied directly to cannabis concentrate.

Rather than put their nectar collectors directly in their concentrate jars, many users choose instead to remove a dose first and place it on a dab mat. It is then easy to apply the nectar collector to the mat, removing the risk of damaging surrounding concentrate or melting the container.

How do you use a dab mat?

When simply using a dab mat as a cushion for a dab rig, clear the area of any detritus, set the dab mat down, and then situate your dab rig on top of it. If you plan to use your dab mat as a surface for your nectar collector, however, it’s best to take some care when cleaning it before use. Then, follow these steps to use a nectar collector with a dab mat:

  1. Remove a dose of cannabis concentrate from its container using a dab pick
  2. After making sure it is clean, place the dose of concentrate on your dab mat
  3. Heat your nectar collector with a torch (for nectar collectors with e-nails, begin heating the nail)
  4. Place the mouthpiece of the nectar collector in your mouth, and place the heated end on your cannabis concentrate dose
  5. Inhale deeply until all the cannabis concentrate has fully evaporated
  6. Repeat as desired

Are dab mats necessary?

In some cases, dab mats are optional accessories, but they can really make the difference between a pleasant dabbing sensation and a disaster depending on the situation. Compare and contrast the different times a dab mat might be useful below:

Do dab rigs need mats?

It is not strictly necessary to supply your dab rig with a dab mat. If it is your goal to prevent your dab rig from coming to harm, there are dozens of other surfaces you can use to cushion it. You don’t need a stoned, silicone version of SpongeBob covered in reflective rainbow holograms to keep your dab rig safe.

All the same, you may find that resting your expensive dab rig on a mat designed specifically for that purpose provides you with valuable convenience and peace of mind. It’s an optional accessory to be sure, but some dabbers swear by dab mats.

Do nectar collectors need dab mats?

If you are going to invest in a nectar collector, it is a very good idea to get a dab mat as well. Technically, it is often possible to apply a nectar collector directly to a jar of cannabis concentrate, but this approach is far from ideal in many situations.

Cannabis concentrate often comes in acrylic plastic containers, for instance, a substance that is highly toxic when heated. You shouldn’t have to always choose dabs that come in silicone just because you don’t have a dab mat handy.

Do dab pens need mats?

The only dabbing situation in which you can be almost certain to not need a dab mat is when using a dab pen. Dab pens are small, portable devices that usually look like vape pens and are used to vaporize small doses of cannabis concentrate on the go.

Since doses of cannabis concentrate are placed directly in the bowl of the dab pen after being removed from their container, there is no conceivable situation in which a dab mat might be useful. You might enjoy looking at it on your coffee table while you hit your dab pen, though, if the design is entrancing enough.

The bottom line: Do I need a dab mat?

For most people, a dab mat will never be necessary. They’re mostly used for putting glass on glass, and if you have a wooden coffee table, there’s really no need to cushion your dab rig.

If you own a nectar collector, though, that’s another matter. While still not strictly necessary, dab mats make using nectar collectors quite a bit safer and easier. You’ll also waste considerably less concentrate by dabbing off of a mat instead of directly out of the jar.

In the end, the debate around whether or not to buy a dab mat doesn’t need to take up much of your mental load. These simple, silicone mats cost around $10, and even if you don’t use it, you’ll enjoy staring at that Dali-esque portrait of Homer Simpson or Patrick Star in a rasta hat whenever you take a dab.

Dab mat FAQ

Still curious about the arcane mysteries of the dab mat? Learn related trivia in the FAQ section below:

Can you use a nectar collector with a dab mat?

Yes, you can use a nectar collector to take dabs off a dab mat, and in fact, this is one of the most-recommended ways to use a nectar collector. If you apply a heated nectar collector to the container your cannabis concentrate came in or any other surface, you risk the chance of melting the surface unintentionally and inhaling the toxic fumes.

Silicone is heat-resistant, though, making it an ideal surface for dabbing. To dab with a nectar collector on a dab mat, simply apply a dab somewhere on the dab mat, heat your nectar collector, and apply it directly to the part of the mat where the dab is located. Inhale, and repeat as desired.

What types of dab mats are there?

Dab mats all serve the same purpose, but there are plenty of different types:

  • Graphic dab mats: Often depicting fan-favorite cartoon characters in various states of cannabis use, these dab mats are fun and inexpensive.
  • LED-lit dab mats: Yes, you can get plug-in dab mats that light up in any color of the rainbow. And no, you don’t need a reason.
  • Custom dab mats: Some companies online will make custom dab mats to your specifications. Provide a desired image and other info, and they’ll make a dab mat just for you.

How do you clean a dab mat?

Dab mats are usually easy to clean since they simply consist of slabs of silicone. Wash it with soapy water, soak it in isopropyl alcohol, or even put it in the oven for a while. Whatever makes residual oil come off will work. The only issue is with electronic dab mats, which generally can’t be submerged in liquid during cleaning.

What is the point of dab mats?

Dab mats are designed to either provide a cushioned surface for your dab rig to rest on or a heat-resistant surface for dabbing with a nectar collector — or both. These multipurpose silicone mats come in all shapes and sizes, and they have many more uses than just the two we listed.

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