How to Make Activated Charcoal

What is Activated Charcoal? You may be familiar with what charcoal is, but have you ever heard of activated charcoal? 

 

Probably you’ve heard the term somewhere before but weren’t interested enough to understand how it works and what it can be used for.


In this post, we will discuss further what activated charcoal really is, along with the benefits you can obtain from using it and how exactly you can make some.

 

Let’s jump right into it!

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is an “active” charcoal which can be “activated” by going through a heating process at high temperatures in the presence of gas. Basically, it is an another form of active carbon (carbon-rich wood or coconut shell that has been burnt). This is commonly made from materials such as coal, coconut shell, bamboo, petroleum, sawdust and many more materials that may otherwise be treated as byproducts of manufacturing.


To dig deeper, before a charcoal can be “activated,” it will need to undergo a number of processes. During these processes, it will create a large volume of microscopic pores (holes) on its surface area which eliminate and filter out impurities existing on the charcoal. The tremendous porous nature of activated charcoal give it its purifying strength, being able to absorb all those toxins and impurities.


Thus, it will also have an enormous increase in size of the overall surface area. As a result, it becomes a fine charred black porous granules, sometimes (if store-bought) with some additional material such as chloride salts to obtain that porous texture which makes it an excellent agent for surface binding or adsorption.

How to Make Activated Charcoal

What You'll Need

Sorry, no coconuts here. It’s easier to get some store-bought charcoal and start from there. Maybe in another post we’ll do a step-by-step on making activated charcoal from scratch using coconut or bamboo.

 

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

 

  • Charcoal
  • Hammer, blender or mortar and pestle
  • Calcium Chloride or lemon juice
  • Gloves or mitts
  • Coffee filters or cheesecloth
  • Stainless steel or glass bowl
  • Mesh strainer

Step By Step Directions

  1. Grind your charcoal until it becomes granules or powder. To begin with, place the charcoals into a resealable plastic bag and smash it with your hammer repeatedly. To grind it more, you can use a blender (using mortar and pestle can take longer time to grind the charcoal but is perfectly acceptable to use).

  2.  Next up, filter it using a strainer separate the granules from chunks. You can repeat first step to all the chunks you collect, so that it won’t be put to waste.

  3. Take the charcoal powder and put it in a stainless steel or glass bowl.

  4. Wear you gloves or mitts, make a solution by combining 4 parts water into 2 parts calcium chloride. The goal here is to have enough solution to cover all the powder in the next step.

  5. Be extra careful when you are mixing the solution. You don’t want to get your hands scalded due to the heat caused by its chemical reaction when combined. Be careful, your bowl will get hot.

  6. Pour the solution to the charcoal powder slowly and mix it until it turns into a sticky-like paste texture.

  7. Cover the bowl and set it aside to dry for 24 hours.

  8. After 24 hours, drain the mixture into a coffee filters on top of the mesh strainer. Then, rinse it with distilled water. Repeat this step at least three times.

  9. Once all the moisture has been drained out, the last step is to either put it in the over or cook it on a stove. Using the oven, 230F is the suggested temperature to set—then, leave it for 2 to 4 hours or until you feel no wet or damp sensation on the charcoal. Using the stove, set it to the lowest heat for the same hours as well. The primary goal here is to remove any existing moisture on the charcoal.


  10. You are finished! You now have activated charcoal powder. We recommend you store it in a waterproof airtight container.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

To be precisely clear, activated charcoal and charcoal used for grilling are two COMPLETELY different things.


Activated charcoal has been through a process that grilling charcoal simply has not gone through. They are structurally different at a microscopic level. To put things simpler- in what was mentioned above, activated charcoal helps trap toxins and any harmful chemicals using its porous texture. At a molecular level, the porous texture literally creates a negative electrical charge that attracts toxins, which are conveniently positively charged molecules. So activated charcoal is truly a “magnet” for toxins. 

 

And since activated charcoal is not normally absorbed by our body, it carries the toxins and kicks it out of the body during the next bowel movement.

What Activated Charcoal Can Be Used For?

Poison Treatment

Having the toxin-binding properties, activated charcoal is widely known in the medical field and is quite often the first choice to treat mild poisoning—it is even being utilized in hospitals. And it has been popular to cure poison since the early 1800s. It is also used as a folk remedy to alleviate the stomach pains that some drugs cause.

Water Filters

Activated charcoal is no stranger in the kitchen as it is also used for water filtration. We are all concerned about our family’s health these days (especially when it seems like any day could be SHTF day). Almost everyone no longer trusts their tap water, so we all go out and buy nice water filters to get the best quality water possible. BUT- You ever check out what’s inside your top-of-the-line water filter cartridges? Well, it’s mostly just activated charcoal and a plastic screen. Activated Charcoal may not be able to eliminate bacteria, viruses or any harmful substances, but it does eliminate odors, particulates, contaminants, and unwanted flavors in the water. Remember, though: Activated Charcoal is recommended to be only used as the final filter layer after you’ve taken care of microbes and other nasty stuff.

Promotes Kidney Functions

Here at Prepper Base we are concerned about your health and well-being too! All parts in our body play an important role for us to maintain good health. Kidneys, specifically, act as the body’s filtration system. Good thing activated charcoal is a friend to our kidneys.

 

It helps with the elimination of toxin levels in our body, so kidneys won’t have to expend extra effort to filter out toxins. Furthermore, it helps to diminish unpleasant urine odors- which could attract animals in outdoors.

Hangovers

We know you’ve been waiting for this one!

 

Activated charcoal is a terrific alcohol absorber. So much so, that activated charcoal tablets are sold in package stores, corner stores, nearly anywhere you can find alcohol as a “hangover-killer.”

 

People figure that the toxin-absorbing ability of activated charcoal will help them pre-empt the pain of the next morning’s hangover. Some folks take a small amount of it while drinking or before sleeping to help prevent hangover the next day. 

 

Remember: activated charcoal is NOT an excuse to drink more than you can handle. We couldn’t find much research or science about this, so don’t put too much faith in these magical activated charcoal pills.  But let’s get back on topic.

Teeth Whitening

Looks like pretty nasty stuff, right?

 

There are some toothpaste products made from charcoals while others do DIY activated charcoal toothpaste. Activated
charcoal, despite its looks, really does promote good oral hygiene. It helps to improve the color of the teeth by absorbing plaque and has the right amount of abrasiveness to fight staining.


Other products that sometimes use activated charcoal are respiratory masks, gas and cholesterol levels reduction, healing salve and ingredients for skincare products.

 

Some of these products are trying to catch on to a trend, and thanks to this page, you already know the truth.

Side Effects of Using Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is generally well-tolerated to be used by adults, but for short-term uses only. Remember that there will always be a potential of different reactions for one another who uses it. To begin with, the common side effects may be nausea, vomiting, constipation and blackening of stool. Your body can’t digest activated charcoal, so sometimes it gets a bit angry when you ingest it.

 

In some rare cases, it can be but not limited to dehydration, lung problems and slow or blocking of intestinal tract.


Before anything else, we recommend to consult your general physician first! It may trigger allergic reactions to some. Always prioritize your health over everything.

Some Final Thoughts on Activated Charcoal

Now that you know how to make your own charcoal powder, you can start making this at your home any time. But if you are afraid that you might not get it right, it can also be purchased in stores.


Since activated charcoal powder is used by most people due to its multiple benefits, it is still advisable to consult your attending physician first. Yes, activated charcoal powder does promote our wellness but it also may have side-effects. There are still some case studies about charcoal powder that’s being conducted by scientists/medical personnel. It’s largely safe for filtering water, but consuming it is another thing altogether. You can do your own research or ask people who are fond of it. Just always be sure that you know what you are doing and what you are putting in your body.


It is better to be safe and informed than sorry and clueless!

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Kevin Fitzpatrick

I'm Kevin, the founder of Prepper Base. Ever since I discovered Prepping, embracing the Prepper Mentality became my full-time job. I started Prepper Base as an information resource for anyone and everyone interested in Prepping, Survivalism, and Off-Grid Living. I have combed the web and realized that there's a lot of garbage out there related to Prepping. So I want to help you save time with no-BS information that can truly help when SHTF. I've combed through a lot of books and websites and dove head-first into the things that interested me. I hope you can find some useful prepping information here. I am always looking for new things in the Prepping world. Please drop me a line through any of my social media accounts if you have a current event, an idea, or new Prepping-oriented product that you think I should write about. Thanks for visiting!

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