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How to Avoid Bad Dabs: A Guide



We spend a lot of time talking about great dabs. However, in order to really appreciate the good, it is necessary to understand what makes a dab bad. Let’s explore some of the factors that make up schwaggy dabs, or schwabs.

Residual Solvents

Dabs are made with solvents—usually hydrocarbons like butane—and ppm (parts per million) is a measure of how much solvent remains in the final product you’re about to smoke. In black-market states, this is a complete crapshoot, since there’s no reliable way to know if your dabs are safe to consume. In legal-market states, it’s completely fair to ask your budtender for lab-testing information about the concentrates you’re considering purchasing. Many legal markets have established a mandatory minimum ppm level, and any reputable cannabusiness should be testing its inventory and sharing the data with its customers. That being said, there’s still no real consensus on what constitutes a safe—or dangerous—level of residual solvents in dabs.

Trim Run vs. Nug Run

A good question to ask when you’re about to drop some cash on dabs: Is it trim run or nug run? “Trim run” refers to dabs that are made from the trim left over when manicuring buds; “nug run” refers to concentrates made from the buds themselves. A fine end product can be made from either, but the likelihood of your dabs being schwabby goes up when only trim is used.

Incorrect Solvents

Not all butane sources are pure, and some brands of butane should never be used to create consumables. You should ask what sort of solvents have been used to make your dabs; if the answer is anything sold in a can over the counter, you might want to think twice about laying down cash for that hash. Ideally, concentrates should be made with pure butane purchased from a reputable gas distributor, such as Air Gas. While there are some canned supplies of butane that work well and produce high-quality dabs, in general, using cans is the sign of an amateur manufacturer.


This is a major issue: Nothing can make a dab as bad as mold, pesticides, dust, hair—all of which make for a terrible-tasting and possibly dangerous product. Hold your sample up to the light; if you see anything in it, don’t smoke it. The sample can be light or dark in color, but if light doesn’t pass through it, you certainly don’t want to smoke it.

Storage Issues

Good dabs can go bad if they aren’t properly stored. Dabs tend to have a shelf life, and they change over time. Store your dabs in a cool, dark, dry place. Dabs stored in a moist place can become moldy, and dabs stored in a warm place will eventually degrade in flavor and potency.