Tar vs. Resin

What is the difference, really, and why is it important?


First things first, we should define the terms so we’re clear on what we’re talking about here.

Tar (noun)
1a: a dark brown or black bituminous usually odorous viscous liquid obtained by destructive distillation of organic material (such as wood, coal, or peat)
1b: a substance in some respects resembling tar
especially : a condensable residue present from burning tobacco that contains combustion by-products (such as resins, acids, phenols, and essential oils)

Resin (noun)
1: a sticky flammable organic substance, insoluble in water, exuded by some trees and other plants.


As long as people have been smoking cannabis, there seems to be a tendency to misidentify the residue left over if said cannabis is enjoyed via a pipe or bong or other such smoking utensil.

Most seem to refer to this annoying, air-flow blocking gunk as resin – which would be absolutely incorrect. There is a very distinct, very important difference between the two that all smokers should be aware of.

You see, when you take hit after hit from a bowl, the organic material you burn is reduced to the most basic element it is made of – carbon. The fact that this carbon is malleable and sticky and able to be liquified to a point upon introduction of heat means it is TAR.

This is tar. This is not good.


This TAR becomes layered over time and each smoke session or use adds a layer which builds up over time to the point it blocks air flow & then you are forced to resort to the age-old practice of using a toothpick or needle or even a straightened out coat hanger to chip away the black gunk just to get a hit. We’ve all been there, done that, have we not?

The thing most of us do not consider is the effects of this gunk over the time it takes for it to become annoying enough to actually do something about it, to remove it from the bowl. You’re smoking that stuff.

Every time you put new bud on top of this TAR (that is what it is after all – read the definitions at the top), you are also reheating this tar. This is why your nice, delicious new flower may have a nasty, bong-water type aftertaste. While you still feel the effects of the smoke, you’re also taking in the bad effects of reheated, re-burned TAR.

Ask yourself: What’s one of the worst things about cigarette smoking that makes it so unhealthy for you & is the ingredient in cigarettes that make it a known carcinogen? That’s right…it’s the TAR that does it. It is no different when it comes to smoking cannabis if you smoke from a tar-covered piece.

This is why it is a good idea to get into the habit of regularly cleaning out your smoking piece of choice on a regular basis with ROOTS Eco Tonic or other such cleaner to get the tar off.

It only takes a couple minutes and there are several benefits:
1. It’s healthier to not smoke tar.
2. You don’t waste as much of your bud due to restricted air flow.
3. It just tastes better. This should be reason #1.
4. It extends the life of your piece so you don’t have to buy new glass every few months/weeks.
5. You don’t drink from a dirty glass, why would you smoke from a dirty bowl?

This is what was intended…now, we smoke.


On the other hand, RESIN is where it’s at. That’s the good stuff. In cannabis, the ‘resin’ of the plant is found in those awesome little things we call trichomes. When you touch a beautiful bud that looks like it’s covered in dew and smells amazing & come away with sticky fingers…you’ve popped many of those trichomes and gotten their awesome little secret on your fingertips. RESIN!

The technical definition of a trichome is “a fine, filamentous growth; an epidermal hair structure on a plant.” Merriam-Webster goes on to use examples that read, “Hemp’s sativa is taller; the shorter indica has RESINY TRICHOMES accounting for its psychoactive power.” (emphasis mine)

Handle with care – trichomes are FRAGILE! 😉

In cannabis, these little mushroom-looking wonders produce hundreds of known cannabinoids, terpenes (smell) and flavonoids that make this plant as special as it is. These trichomes and the resin substance they produce & contain are what make the medicinal properties so great in the cannabis plant. This is what we want to smoke when we put that bud in our pipes. This is all we want to smoke – not the tar.

So from now on, when you see a dirty pipe or filthy bong or clogged bowl….call it what it is – it’s TAR. Don’t make the mistake of saying that it’s resin that is blocking the flow of air and making your bud taste like crap. RESIN = GOOD. TAR = BAD.


And when you clean your piece, do yourself a favor and never use rubbing alcohol – also known as Isopropyl Alcohol. This does work but it’s a suspected carcinogen in its own right. It’s also toxic and highly flammable. It’s 100% VOC (volatile organic compound) so it’s a very effective air pollutant & smog producing agent. It is made from crude oil.

IPA or Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol) is nasty, nasty stuff.


If ANY of the tar you try to clean from your piece is left behind, it acts as a sponge for IPA so you’d be smoking that in addition to your bud and whatever tar remains. Rubbing alcohol is poison…not something you want to be inhaling, in any quantity. I have over 25 years in the chemical industry that makes it hard for me to verbalize just how nasty most petrochemicals (products made from crude oil) are for people & the environment.

All ingredients in ROOTS Eco Tonic come from things with roots. It’s 100% plant-based. It is inherently biodegradable. It is non-toxic, non-flammable and less than 0.5% VOC. We made this product to fix a problem. That problem is TAR and the other problem is RUBBING ALCOHOL. Two wrongs do not make a right in this case.

Choose better for yourself & the environment when you are looking for a tar remover.


That being said, you’re probably wondering why we call it “Tar & Resin Remover”. This is because there are resins and resin-like substances that are not what trichomes in cannabis contain. Some are downright annoying and very difficult to get off surfaces.

I live in an area with lots of pines & one type of tree that I park under quite often. Every so often, this tree puts off this resin substance that coats my car to the point it looks like I just drove out of a volcano eruption. It’s black, it’s sticky and it does not come off in a car wash.

ROOTS Eco Tonic and a $1 spray bottle from Dollar General with a scrubby sponge I use to do dishes & about an hour or two of detail oriented work gets my car looking like-new again. It doesn’t even take much work-work…it’s more of just making sure I’ve sprayed all affected areas, letting it sit for a few minutes & going over it with the sponge as I would a dirty plate – it doesn’t even take much scrubbing.

Other applications ROOTS is extremely effective for:
• Brake dust on wheel rims/hub caps
• Permanent marker removal
• Toner leak on label machine rollers (don’t ask LOL)
• Glue/Adhesive remover
• Stainless steel cleaner/sealant
• Kitchen sink cleaner / rust stain remover
• Grill grate cleaner (this one does take a bit of time/effort)
• Bug remover – on front of car headlights/bumper
• Sticker glue removal from glass (good for reusing food jars that were labeled)
• Sliding door rail cleaner (creates a lubricating effect to make it slide GREAT)

ROOTS Eco Tonic just works….click the GIF to watch the video with the awesome hand model.