Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal, granular activated carbon, granular active carbon – all different terms which just so happen to refer to one specific type of charcoal. Or, more accurately, it is charcoal reheated and oxidized, making the charcoal highly porous. Even though charcoal on its own is known for being a fairly porous substance, when oxidized (or, in some cases, carbonized with other inert gases) the amout of porous spaces increases significantly.

Activated Charcoal Uses

One of the common utilizations of this porous carbon is to filter gas. Not as in fuel, but the gaseous substances that are either naturally produced or expelled from various machinery. Take, for example, air filters. Air is technically a gas, and when the air contains impure elements, a purifier in the form of a filter will help remove these impurities. In a slightly different form, the activated charcoal will perform the same function with water—a use common in fish tanks.

Yet one of the long-standing functions of activated charcoal is oral ingestion. Companies make pills that contain activated charcoal which dissolve in the stomach, allowing the granular carbon to remove toxins. You can find a ton of claims on the Internet about the magic that taking a dose of activated charcoal performs, many of which aren’t medically confirmed, however, it is common for hospitals to use activated charcoal for this use. It is widely known to be safe to ingest and acts as a poultice.

Another use gaining momentum is using activated carbon as a teeth stain removal device. Your teeth’s health is important, and the way activated charcoal works also helps to bind plaque, making it an effective whitening tool. Put some of it on your toothbrush with liquid water. It will be weird to brush with at first—seeing the black get smeared on your teeth will feel counterproductive. However, it will rinse off your teeth easily enough and you’ll love the results. Just be careful to avoid staining your sink—keep soap handy to quickly clean up any messes which ensue. Many people swear by this method to whiten their teeth, and its use on teeth as a cleaner and whitener goes back for centuries.

Activated Charcoal Tablets: Buying The Hype?

The cure-all claims made by home remedy purveyors would make you think that the effects of an administration of an activated charcoal dose would have angels alighting, blasting their trumpets, heralding in an eon of well-being. Temper your expectations from that. However, despite the lack of scientific support behind (many of) their claims, there is a lot of anecdotal support for them. And, as previously mentioned, it is safe to use, whether you’re looking for an alcohol hangover cure or something to stop that diarrhea, or a general body detox, you might as well give it a try.

One thing to note before you buy activated charcoal pills: In addition to toxins and poisoning issues, the effect of the pills will also trap nutrients. Also note that the product has contraindications in situations where patients have unblocked airways.

What Is Activated Charcoal; Or, Can I Make My Own?

Homemade, do it yourself activated charcoal pills are much cheaper than even buying bulk quantities of pills. Or you can create the activated charcoal to use as a filter. Whatever your need, many people activate charcoal in their own home or backyard. You can find various methods via an Internet search, although keep in mind that a lot of people don’t realize there is a difference between regular charcoal and activated charcoal. Make sure the instructions not only explain producing the charcoal, but have a second step to make the charcoal more porous.

The steps involve putting a non-toxic wood (willow is a good choice) or the matter of plants (like bamboo or a coconut shell) in a mostly air-tight container and placing that container over a fire, stove, or in a furnace. The lack of oxygen makes sure the organic matter won’t actually burn, but instead char. After it has charred, you have successfully made charcoal. Activating the charcoal, on the other hand, is where you are likely to encounter a variety of suggestions. Basically it requires recooking the charcoal with an added substance to greatly increase the porosity of the charcoal. (You may want to use an MSDS to help ensure you are getting good advice.)

Once you’ve activated the charcoal, break it down to tiny granules. You may want to wear a mask for this part; little coal bits can create a cloud you don’t want to breathe in. With the granulated activated charcoal powder you can, if making a pill tablet, put it in empty capsules. Or follow the instructions on how to utilize it for filtering systems.

Activated Charcoal As A Deodorizer

One of the things that using active charcoal as a filter does is the loss of odors in gasses. Odors, and any other prone elements of the gas, get trapped in the activated charcoal through a process called adsorption. Through adsorption the particles bind to the surface of the activated charcoal—which is why it is imperative that activated charcoal actually be activated; the greater the available surface, the better the grade it gets for trapping.

It is effective enough that there are underpants available for purchase which make use of activated charcoal for moments of flatulence. Let’s face it—suspension of flatulence detection would do everyone a world of good. If only they could make activated underwear for dogs and cats; the media would have a field day!

It has also been harnessed for use in a refrigerator as an alternative to baking soda to keep your fridge smelling fresh.

So, whether you’re looking to filter water for your terrarium (terrariums are terribly popular in the UK) or wanting to keep some pills handy for your first aid kit, activated charcoal makes an excellent choice. Feel free to consult a wiki for further science behind the activated charcoal and its uses! If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.