How to Make Activated Charcoal

WHAT IS ACTIVATED CHARCOAL?

Activated charcoal is a fine, odorless, black powder used frequently in emergency rooms to treat overdoses. According to a study, activated charcoal has been used in many medicinal and cosmetic practices because of its toxin-absorbing qualities.

Activated charcoal comes in three main forms; 

  1. Powder Activated Carbon (PAC) – a pulverized carbon of a size less than 0.18mm. These are used primarily in liquid phase applications and for flue gas treatment.
  2. Extruded Activated Carbon (EAC) – cylindrical and extruded with diameters ranging from 0.8 to 5 mm. These are primarily used in gas phase applications because of their low pressure drop, high mechanical strength, and low dust content.
  3. Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) – comes in different shapes and sizes and can be used for both liquid and gas phase applications.
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Those charcoal is different from charcoal bricks and food from the heat of a fire.

The manufacturing process of activated charcoal makes it highly absorbent, allowing it to bind to molecules, ions, or atoms.

Activated charcoal is made by heating carbon-rich materials (such as wood, peat, coconut shells, or sawdust) at high temperatures.

WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL?

Activated charcoal has a larger surface area than regular charcoal; its increased surface area proves far more beneficial than traditional charcoal. 

The ‘activation’ process removes previously absorbed molecules and frees up binding sites again. This process also reduces the size of the pores in charcoal and makes more holes in each molecule, thus increasing its surface area. One teaspoon of activated charcoal has more surface area than a football field.

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HOW TO MAKE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Activated charcoal can be used to purify contaminated water or polluted air. Activated charcoal can remove dangerous toxins and poisons from your body. First, you will need to create homemade charcoal by burning wood or fibrous plant material. Next, you will add activating chemicals, such as calcium chloride or lemon juice, and thus complete the activation process.

Steps in Making and Activating the Charcoal 

Part 1: Making the Charcoal

1. Build a medium-sized fire in a safe area. Typically, it is easier to make activated charcoal outdoors, although you can do it at home in your fireplace as well. The fire should be hot enough to burn the wood.

Use caution when lighting a fire and always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

2. Insert your hardwood pieces or plant material into metal pots and cover them with a lid. If hardwood is not available, you can substitute almost any dense, fibrous plant material, like coconut shells.

Your pot should have a vent hole on the top, but make sure that airflow to the inside of the pot should be kept low during this process. You can use a camp cookware kettle so the air can escape through the spout.

You should make sure that the materials are dry as possible before you put it in the pot.

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3. Allow the materials to burn in the pot for 3 to 5 hours. You should see steam and gas escape from the vent hole in the lid during this process. This will burn everything inside the pot except the carbon (charcoal) in it. Once no gas or smoke comes out of your pot, it’s likely done cooking.

4. The charcoal in your pot will burn hot for a while, so give it a chance to cool down completely. After cooling it down, transfer the carbon to a clean container and rinse it with cool water to get rid of the remaining debris and ash; after that, drain the water.

5. Transfer the rinsed charcoal to a mortar and pestle and grind it into a fine powder. Another option is to put the carbon in a plastic bag and crush it into a powder using a tenderizing mallet or a hammer.

6. Let the charcoal powder air dry completely. If you used a plastic bag, place the powder in a clean bowl; otherwise, leave it in the mortar for 24 hours.

Ensure that the powder is dehydrated before moving on to the next part.

Part 2: Activating the Charcoal

1. Mix calcium chloride and water in a 1:3 ratio. Be careful not to overheat the solution. Make sure to prepare enough of the solution to cover the charcoal completely. For small batches of charcoal, 100 g (3.5 oz) of chloride mixed with 1.3 cups (310 ml) of water should be adequate. You can buy calcium chloride in most hardware stores, home centers, and general retailers.

2. Bleach or lemon juice can be used instead of the calcium chloride solution (if calcium chloride is not available). You may replace the calcium chloride solution with either 1.3 cups (310 ml) of bleach or 1.3 cups (310 ml) of lemon juice.

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3. In a stainless steel or glass bowl, add the calcium chloride solution to the charcoal powder and stir. When you add the calcium chloride solution (or lemon juice or bleach) to the powder, mix it continuously with a spoon while adding it in small increments. The mixture should reach paste consistency when the solution is added.

4. Cover the charcoal bowl and let it sit for 24 hours. Let the charcoal sit untouched. At that point, drain as much of the remaining moisture as possible. The charcoal should be wet but not saturated.

5. Cook the charcoal for another three hours to activate it. Place it back in your (clean) metal pot and put it on the fire. Once the fire is hot enough to boil water, the charcoal will become activated.

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IMPORTANT REMINDER IN USING ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

1. Some medications can interact with activated charcoal

It’s essential to double-check whether any prescription medications might interact with activated charcoal. 

Although charcoal is excellent for detoxification, you should make sure you are taking care of other aspects of your health as well.

Activated charcoal has been known to interfere with several drugs, but it is best to talk to your doctor if you are taking prescription medication or have ongoing health problems.

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2. Charcoal stains like crazy.

Some prefer using charcoal capsules since they eliminate the risk of staining anything (unless opened). It makes it easy to know what dosage level you are using for a given remedy or compound.

3. Make sure to consult your doctor or a vet before using activated charcoal-based medicinal products for yourself or your pets.

4. Safety is the most crucial factor when considering additional treatments to your regular routines. 

Now let’s get into the things you can do with this remarkable substance.

USES OF ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Charcoal is helpful for removing bad smells, bacteria, pollutants, and allergens from air and water. It accumulates these substances and odors into the pores within the charcoal.

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Benefits of Activated Charcoal for Oral Health and Skin Care

1. Teeth whitening and oral health

Many teeth-whitening products contain activated charcoal. People who use activated charcoal as an oral health aid state that it contains various benefits such as:

  • antiviral
  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • detoxifying

For teeth whitening, activated charcoal’s toxin-absorbing properties may be helpful, but there’s no significant research supporting its use.

A 2017 review concluded that there were not enough laboratory or clinical data to state whether activated charcoal is effective for teeth whitening.

2. Skincare

Research indicates that activated charcoal can help attract microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the skin’s surface, making them easier to remove.

How to make a clay-charcoal masque: 

In a small mixing bowl, combine two tablespoons (30 ml) of bentonite clay, 1⁄2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of activated charcoal, one tablespoon (15 ml) of turmeric, two tablespoons (30 ml) of apple cider vinegar, and one teaspoon (4.9 ml) of honey. Add water gradually to the mixture until it is smooth.

This masque is known for pulling out toxins and unclogging pores.

The natural ingredients used in this masque are safe for nearly all skin types.

Apply the masque in a thick layer to your face for 10 minutes, then rinse it off.

3. Natural Deodorant

Activated charcoal deodorants are widely available. The ability of charcoal to absorb odor and harmful gases makes it an ideal underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant.

Additionally, activated charcoal is said to absorb excess moisture and regulate moisture levels at a micro-level.

4. Skin infection

Traditional medicine practitioners worldwide use activated charcoal powder made from coconut shells to treat soft tissue conditions such as skin infections.

The antibacterial action of activated charcoal is attributed to its absorption of harmful microbes from wounds. Several types of charcoal are available commercially.

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The Uses of Activated Charcoal in Medicine

1. Kidney health

It is possible that activated charcoal can help with kidney function by removing undigested toxins and drugs through filtering.

Activated charcoal seems particularly effective at removing toxins derived from urea, the main byproduct of protein digestion.

Although more research is needed, results from animal studies suggest that activated charcoal may improve kidney function and reduce gastrointestinal damage and inflammation in those with chronic kidney disease.

In a 2014 study by Trusted Source, rats with induced chronic kidney disease were given four grams (g) of activated charcoal per kilogram per day. The researchers found that the animals demonstrated a reduction in intestinal inflammation and damage.

It was also found that when rats (with induced chronic renal failure) were fed mixtures containing 20 percent activated charcoal, it resulted in  improved kidney function and a reduced rate of kidney inflammation and damage.

2. Intestinal gas

Intestinal gas is thought to be disrupted by activated charcoal powder, although scientists still do not understand how.

Liquids or gases trapped in the intestine can easily pass through millions of tiny holes in activated charcoal, neutralizing them.

In a 2012 study, controlled individuals with a history of intestinal gas took 448 milligrams (mg) of activated charcoal three times a day for two days before they had intestinal ultrasound exams performed. On the morning of the test, they took another 672 mg. In the study, the medical examiners were better able to see certain parts of some of the organs they intended to identify with the ultrasound. In contrast, intestinal gas would have obscured this part before the treatment.

Additionally, 34% of the participants who took the activated charcoal had improved symptoms.

During a study conducted in 2017, participants who took 45 mg of simethicone and 140 mg of activated charcoal three times daily for ten days reported a significant reduction in abdominal pain (with no side effects). Although there is limited evidence to support the use of activated charcoal to reduce excessive gas accumulation, a panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported enough evidence to support activated charcoal.

Although there is no universal way to use activated charcoal for intestinal gas, the EFSA recommends taking at least one gram (at least 30 minutes) before and after each meal.

You can also try this activated charcoal remedy to lessen your bloating: 

  • Add 500 milligrams (0.02 oz) of powdered activated charcoal to 12 fluid ounces (350 ml) of water. Drink this mixture before gas-producing meals or when you feel gassy and bloated to relieve those symptoms.
  • Taking charcoal with non-acidic juice (like carrot) will be more pleasant than taking it plain. It is recommended not to consume acidic liquids (such as orange or apple juice), which will make the charcoal less effective.
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3. Activated charcoal may treat diarrhea.

Due to its use as a gastrointestinal absorbent in cases of overdose and poisoning, some people might suggest activated charcoal to treat diarrhea.

According to a 2017 review of recent studies on the use of activated charcoal for diarrhea, researchers believe that it might be able to prevent the bacteria and drugs that cause diarrhea from being absorbed into the body (this is done by trapping them on its porous, textured surface).

The researchers noted that activated charcoal is a suitable treatment for diarrhea and that it has relatively few side effects compared with common antidiarrheal drugs.

4. Treat insect bites and stings, including particularly venomous ones!

During a survival situation, you may be exposed to stinging and biting insects and other animals. Mix a capsule of activated charcoal with 1/2 tbsp coconut oil and apply it inside a covering to create a charcoal poultice.

You can also treat snake and spider bites. Spider bites, such as those from the Black Widow and dreaded Brown Recluse, can be treated by combining coconut oil and capsules in a larger quantity. This will require a large bandage, like an Ace Bandage. After two to three hours, rinse the area well, apply a fresh mixture again, and wrap.

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5. Dosage for poisoning treatment and supplemental use

Some people take a spoonful or a few capsules of activated charcoal every day as a health supplement. However, you should avoid taking a large dose every day because of the risk of blocking the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Usually, I give activated charcoal a day off every three days when I take it regularly.

Here are the dosage guidelines if you suspect someone has ingested poison, drugs, or too much alcohol.

For a single dose, mix ¼ to ½ gram per pound of body weight for adults or children over one year. This measurement converts to 2.5 to 5 grams per 100 lbs. When in doubt, go with the higher dose. Mix with juice or water.

If you suspect primary poisoning, give 50 grams of activated charcoal to a child and 100 grams to an adult. Follow up with 25 grams every two hours.

Call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222 in the US) first in the case of a known or suspected poisoning. They provide excellent assistance and advice. 

Although activated charcoal can help, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. The advantage of activated charcoal is that it starts the detoxification process and prevents some damage, buying you some time.

6. Making activated charcoal capsules

Capsules contain activated charcoal, but they are expensive. A capsule machine, filling spoon, and capsules are relatively cheap, and you can use them to make your own charcoal capsules, thus saving you some money. Many apothecaries sell bulk powder. You can make 100 capsules at a time using any of the basic capsule setups. Just be sure the capsule size you buy matches the machine’s capacity.

You can buy activated charcoal powder online and make your capsules at home in no time, and you won’t be left with a ton of unused pill bottles. We take many supplements in our house and throwing a bottle away every 60-90 capsules gets annoying. They don’t fill them as much as possible, so a lot of medicine cabinet space is wasted.

7. Treatment for Rashes

Activated carbon can also be used as a treatment for poison ivy and poison oak treatment. These plants secrete a poison that some may react to, and activated carbon can provide a natural remedy. The toxin-binding properties of activated charcoal in combination with coconut oil will draw out the toxins.

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8. Activated Charcoal Mask Filter

Due to the severe pollution caused by toxic, disposable stuff, we can look to Asia for all kinds of creative mask designs. In addition to the indoor air pollution caused by the stuff, harmful fragrance chemicals are also everywhere. These activated charcoal masks (and other masks) can only offer a bit of protection. In the end, we need regulations that guarantee a healthy environment.

Note that DIY masks also only offers minimal protections, but this is better than no protection at all. So, we need respirators with proper filters for whatever pollutants are present in the air. Meanwhile, you can try making this DIY activated charcoal mask filter:

Step 1: Make a mask from a plastic 2 L (68 fl. oz.) bottle. Use scissors to cut off the bottom of a 2 L (68 fl. oz.) plastic bottle. Remove a 3″ (7.5 cm) wide section from one side of the bottle. The area should extend from the cutoff bottom up to where the bottle’s neck starts to curve.

When the plastic is cut with scissors, it may be jagged. Use medical tape along the cut edges of the bottle for protection.

Step 2: Make a filter chamber using an aluminum can. Poke breathing holes into the bottom of an aluminum can using scissors or a screwdriver. Next, cut off the top of the aluminum can with a kitchen can opener. Handle the can carefully when handling the cut metal of the can. It is often sharp enough to cause cuts easily. A piece of duct tape can be used on sharp edges as padding.

Step 3: Load the gas mask with activated charcoal and insert a cotton layer into the bottom. Add a layer of activated charcoal on top of the cotton, then sandwich the charcoal with another cotton layer. Tape cotton over the cut top of the can then cut a small hole in it. When loading the aluminum can with charcoal, use caution if you have not taped its sharp edges.

Step 4: Insert the spout of the 2 L (68 fl. oz.) bottle into the cotton hole at the top of the canister — tape the aluminum can to the 2 L (68 fl. oz.) bottle to make a mask. By breathing through the spout, you can breathe cleaner air. Store the mask in a clean dry place and use it when needed.

Ta-da! That’s how simple a charcoal mask can be made at home. If you run out of other types of masks or there is a cloud of smog in your area, you can always use this charcoal mask for protection. 

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Activated Charcoal for Home Use

It may surprise you to find out that activated carbon also exists in many common household products. One perfect example is toothpaste featuring activated carbon, an excellent whitener. The addition of finely ground-down activated charcoal to toothpaste renders it antiviral and antibacterial.

Activated carbon acts as an excellent water filter because it will remove any toxins from the water. Commercial settings use activated carbon filtration systems, and many of our home water dispensers employ activated carbon as a cleaner for our drinking water.

As a skincare product, activated charcoal draws out fine microparticles such as dust, dirt, and toxins from the pores of your skin. As a result, the process makes the pollutants easy to remove, giving you beautiful, clear skin.

1. Air purification

Cleanse the air in your home by wrapping some activated charcoal in a linen sheet or cloth, then placing the charcoal wherever it’s needed. If you don’t have linen, choose a tight-weave, breathable fabric, like cotton.

Do not use fabric that has a detergent or bleach smell. The charcoal will absorb these smells and lessen its effectiveness.

A fan can significantly improve air purification by blowing air over charcoal. As air passes over the charcoal, and it will be cleansed.

Steps to Make a Passive Activated Charcoal Air Filters

Step 1: Place a few tablespoons of activated charcoal in wet saucers or ashtrays. Place the activated charcoal on tables or other surfaces around the room and let it sit overnight.

Step 2: Put activated charcoal in a small cardboard box approximately 6 inches wide. Leave it in a secluded place in your room.

Step 3: Cut a piece of lightweight cotton into an 8-inch circle. Place two tablespoons of activated charcoal in the center. Gather the edges of the cloth circle together and tie with ribbon. Hang the sachet in a closet or bathroom cupboard.

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Making an Active Charcoal Air Filter:

Step 1: Cut a standard 20×20-inch air filter into four 10-inch squares. Glue the pieces to the inside of a 10x10x10 cardboard box.

Step 2: Place the fan on top of one side of the box with an interior filter. Trace the base of the fan on the box. With the razor cutter, cut and remove the section you outlined from the cube.

Step 3: Cut out a slightly bigger circle than the section you just removed on the side of the box opposite from where the fan will be placed. Be careful not to damage the air filter when cutting the box.

Step 4: Attach the fan to the side of the box, where you cut a segment to accommodate it. Use two-part 5-minute epoxy. The fan must be positioned to blow air away from the cube, not into it directly.

Step 5: Seal the bottom of the box with duct tape. Fill the container with activated charcoal from the top. Seal the lid and reinforce the other edges with duct tape — plug in the fan.

2. Water filtration

Activated charcoal has long been used as a natural water filter. Just like it does in the intestines and stomach, activated charcoal can interact with and absorb a range of toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungi, and chemicals found in water.

For instance, all commercial waste-management centers often include activated carbon granules in their filtration process. Dozens of home water filtration products utilize carbon cartridges to purify the water from toxins and other impurities.

According to a study conducted by Trusted Source in 2015, carbon filters can remove up to 100 percent of fluoride in 32 unfiltered water samples within six months of installation.

Shop bought water filters can be costly, but you can achieve the same water purity for less. You can make your own water filter by following these simple steps:

  • Cut off the bottom of an old plastic soda or juice bottle using scissors or a knife.
  • Place the bottle upside down into the vase or tall drinking glass.
  • Place cotton balls, cloth, or a coffee filter inside the bottle as the first layer. The first layer should be about one to two inches thick.
  • Add an inch of activated charcoal as the second layer on top of the cotton layer.
  • Over the charcoal, add about two inches of gravel or small stones as the third layer.
  • Add about three to four inches of clean sand on top of the gravel.
  • Add gravel to the bottle as the final layer. Leave about a half-inch of space from the top of the upside-down bottle.
  • Add dirt to a glass of water to create muddy water. Alternatively, you can get creative and add other things like glitter, beads, cooking oil, or other materials to make dirty water.
  • Pour the glass of muddy water on top of the homemade water filter and watch the water drip clean into the glass below.
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Activated Charcoal for Garden Use

You can use activated carbon in your soil by adding small amounts in the area where you intend to plant.

Because activated charcoal is absorbent, it will absorb fertilizer and slowly release it into the soil; consequently, you may produce a better crop since it is gradually released into the soil.

When you use activated charcoal with compost, it may keep the mixture sweeter, but the soil may become sour if you grow crops in containers. The activated carbon will help the compost last longer and absorb any nutrients added to the plant to release them slowly back into the soil.

Adding a layer of activated charcoal to the bottom of your plant pot, underneath the soil, can help your plant’s health in many ways. It gets rid of impurities in the soil, repels insects, and prevents mold. Due to the porous nature of activated charcoal, when you accidentally drown your leafy friends in water (just me?), it will absorb the excess, preventing the roots from rotting.

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Activated Charcoal Uses with Pets

If you have pets like dogs or cats, then activated charcoal might prove to be a beneficial natural remedy to have on hand. Activated charcoal helps treat many conditions affecting our animals.

1. Parvo and vaccines

Puppies may suffer from a severe condition called Parvo, which can lead to dangerous levels of dehydration. Activated carbon is an effective tool in the treatment of the disease.

Vaccination is usually used to protect our pets, but some animals may react to the vaccine. Activated charcoal may help to reduce the effects and draw out the toxins during the vaccination process.

2. Stomach troubles

Most of us who own a pet know the effects of upset stomach all too well. The condition can lead to stinky, unpleasant accidents at home.

Activated charcoal capsules can help with upset stomach in pets and reduce the incidence of diarrhea.

3. Pet attacks

In some cases, your pets may find themselves susceptible to insect and snake bites. An activated carbon poultice can draw out the poison and any resulting infection.

Handy tips for pets

Activated charcoal is completely non-toxic when ingested. Therefore, your pet cannot be hurt by overdosing on it. However, your pet may experience constipation as a side effect as well.

Be sure your pet drinks plenty of water when you treat them with activated charcoal. The extra water will help the pet’s bowels to function correctly.

Incorporating activated charcoal in your chicken feed will result in healthier chickens, as well as good quality chicken manure.

Activated carbon is beneficial around the homestead as it helps to cure upset stomach that affect our animals. Chickens and ducks will respond exceptionally well to activated carbon.

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FINAL REMINDER BEFORE USING ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Activated charcoal decreases the absorption of vitamins and medications, thus reducing and eliminating their effectiveness. If you take charcoal, do not take medicines for at least two hours afterward.

Milk and dairy products can prevent activated charcoal from working because they coat the intestines and stomach. Mix charcoal with juice or a drink mix to make it more palatable. This is the reason some people just take charcoal capsules. Charcoal does not taste good!

Take activated charcoal with  eight ounces of water. If you are administering a considerable amount to someone, you may need more water to mix it properly.

Children under the age of one should never be administered activated charcoal.

There are some poisonings that activated charcoal doesn’t treat, such as acids and chemicals poisoning.

It is essential to give charcoal as soon as possible after poisoning is suspected. If it is given more than an hour later, it will lose its effectiveness.

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Conclusion

Activated charcoal is an excellent product to keep on hand for survival and SHTF situations. It’s cheap and can be used for many things. The process is messy and time-consuming, but it would be worth it during a survival situation. In the meantime, it is more practical for most to spend $25 or less and buy activated charcoal.

The excellent news about charcoal is that it is generally safe, as long as the dosage guidelines are followed and not taken simultaneously with other medications.

Have you ever used activated charcoal at home or in an off-grid survival situation? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!

Let me know your thoughts on this topic!