Shatter vs Wax: Is one better than the other?

Posted 7 years ago by Ian Shutts

It’s probable that every dispensary – every cannabis consultant, every weed friendly doctor and every dealer – has been asked the question: “shatter vs wax?” I can’t even imagine how many emails must have been sent to weed distributors asking that very question. If you’re a little bit shy about seeming stupid in front of the cute budtender, you probably asked Google – which is how you might have arrived at this article.

The differences between shatter and wax are not all that complicated, and choosing between them is a matter of preference. We’ve taken the time to explain a little about how your leafy buds actually arrive at a shatter or a wax. Which one you choose will be entirely up to you.

What is BHO concentrate?

In order to understand a little bit about shatter vs wax, you first have to know something about Butane Hash Oil (BHO). Butane is the most popular way to extract the oils and cannabinoids from marijuana. There are extracts on the market that are solventless (such as rosin), but butane is the most likely candidate for solvent extractions.

The short story is that cannabis plant material is packed densely into a tube and is essentially “blown” with butane. The pressurized force of the butane removes all of the oils and resins from the buds. These are the most cannabinoid-concentrated parts of the marijuana plant; the parts that make you high. The oils are then collected, and by a process of evaporation, all of the butane is removed. What you’re left with is BHO.

This is the basic way to explain what concentrates are without getting too jiggy with chemical jargon. There are other solvents that can be used, but somehow butane is extremely effective at removing all of the essential oils from the plant. If all of the butane is successfully evaporated, what’s left is a highly concentrated form of cannabis, which makes you really high. If it isn’t done correctly, traces of butane can be found inside the concentrate – which is a big NO NO for human consumption.

Don’t try this at home folks, because butane is extremely flammable. Actually, I don’t think anybody has died or injured themself from ingesting a poor batch of BHO. But many disasters have happened as a result of people trying to make BHO in their kitchens. Save this one for the professionals.

The difference between shatter and wax

Now, both shatter and wax are at their essence, BHO. It’s what has happened after the extraction that makes them different from one another. The important point to remember is that they are essentially the same. It is the exact same method of extraction that has been used to create both shatter and wax. So, I’ll break it down for you one by one.


cannabis shatter

As the name suggests, the texture of this extract is something like a very fine peanut brittle. It looks almost like glass, as though it would shatter if you dropped it. It is also transparent like shatter, and this has something to do with the way that the molecules are arranged after extraction. The molecules of the BHO are stacked up on top of each other, as if they are bricks. It is like a very neat little wall of BHO molecules. This is why it is neat, brittle and transparent.

The reason shatter is produced has to do with the temperatures that are used during the extraction process as well as in the finishing. There are other environmental factors which contribute it to becoming shatter, such as the way it is cooled. In general, shatter isn’t the easiest concentrate to produce, and for that reason it is generally a little bit harder to find than wax.


Wax looks just like earwax, and has the same kind of consistency, too. The same liquid is produced in the extraction process to make wax. However, it is agitated and shaken around after extraction. This is how it becomes opaque in color and having a waxy texture.

You only need a dab!

If it’s the first time you’re holding shatter or wax, you might be confused about what to do with it. I don’t blame you, because it doesn’t exactly look smokeable. This is where the dabbing culture enters. There are finely designed bongs (called rigs) made specifically for smoking extracts. By putting a small amount of shatter or wax on the end of a glass pen and into the rig, it gets vaporized and can be smoked through the bubbler. This is called taking a dab. Of course, you only need to use a small amount because the extract is extremely powerful. Make sure you dab responsibly! This stuff is way more powerful than the herbal material we were once used to smoking!