How to Make Activated Charcoal

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Nowadays, many people realize the importance of using activated charcoal to ensure water clearness and many other ways of using this substance in everyday life. But in 2023, you never know when you might use all the amount of activated charcoal that you have had. In this case, you may want to try making it yourself.

If you are wondering how to make activated charcoal in this article, you will find detailed instructions. We will go through the whole process step by step. However, we should warn you that activated charcoal is actually not easy to make. It will take quite a lot of time and effort to do. We will recommend trying to do it yourself only if you cannot purchase it.

But when you are curious about the process and ready to learn how to make activated charcoal yourself, we will provide you with all the essential instructions.

What is Activated Charcoal?


Activated charcoal is also known as activated carbon and is created in a special way of processing carbon. As a result of a chemical reaction, the surface area becomes bigger. Sometimes it is also called active charcoal, and it is a must in many a medical kit worldwide.

This substance comes in the form of powder. The main feature is the high absorption quality that enables it to help with overcoming serious air and food poisoning or overdose. Activated carbon is used for tacking as medicine and in air and water filtration systems. After applying charcoal powder, all the dangerous toxins are removed.

Since charcoal’s ingredients are easy to find, it is not necessary to buy activated charcoal, and you can try making it yourself, which is a great survival skill in itself. It is made from wood, but for it to become activated surface area should be expanded. Usually, a chemical reaction starts at high temperatures. Activated charcoal works only after mixing it with an actifier that starts the reaction.

Uses of Activated Charcoal

The charcoal is a must on your prepper’s list for its usability. Nowadays, there is a wide range of activated charcoal uses:

Zerowater 10 Cup Water Filter The majority of water filters are based on activated carbon because it is perfect for absorbing heavy metals, toxins, and other chemicals from contaminated water. Moreover, all the important components like minerals and salts are not removed. Therefore activated charcoal is a perfect water filter that is widely used.


Nature'S Way Charcoal Activated In a case of emergency, when people are poisoned by dangerous gas, activated carbon can absorb it and fresh the air in the room. If you want clean air in your house, you will need to use capsules with activated charcoal. The smell will be eliminated within minutes.


  • Medicine (in the form of fine powder, pills, or capsules)

The original way of using activated carbon is taking it as medicine. For instance, when it comes in the form of powder, it will be mixed with cool water. In the body, the substances can treat poisoning by absorbing all the toxins, and it helps a human organism to get rid of them.

Activated carbon can also help when it comes to drug overdose, food or alcohol poisoning, hangovers, high cholesterol, flatulence, and cholestasis.

Another way to use activated carbon is by adding it into the bandage and applying it to the place that was wounded. The same thing helps to treat insect bites.

  • Food coloring

Recently, activated charcoal has become very popular for coloring food. You might have seen black ice cream, lemonade, pizza, and other food. In most cases, activated carbon is used for coloring food black. In small amounts, it even has a healing effect, but it does not mean that you should eat a lot of colored food.

It is not necessary to buy activated charcoal because you can make it yourself but be prepared to spend your time on this challenging process.

Activated Charcoal Elements

Some of the elements that you need to make activated charcoal yourself might seem extremely hard to get. However, some alternatives to them are much easier to find in your house or purchase in shops. Here is a list of ingredients:

  • To begin with, you need charcoal itself. If you do not have it ready, we will teach you to prepare charcoal from hardwoods at home;
  • Another element is calcium or zinc chloride. Not many people have it at home, so that you can replace it with lemon juice;
  • Last but not least, you will need water. Prepare enough of it in advance.

Tools for Making Activated Carbon

In this part of the article, we will cover which instruments you will need to prepare activated charcoal.

  • A place to burn wood (you can use a grill);
  • A metal pot that has to be big enough for the wood you have and have a lid that fits perfectly;
  • A hammer that is essential for crushing prepared charcoal and making a powder out of it;
  • A few plastic bags for keeping prepared charcoal inside;
  • A food processor that you should use for further shredding the powder into the dust (a mortar and pestle are also good if you do not have a blender at home);
  • A strainer is irreplaceable for getting rid of major particulates in the prepared powdered charcoal;
  • Two or three pans for the solution made of the charcoal and the actifier;
  • Distilled water is needed for separating the charcoal from the actifier;
  • A coffee filter (or a few coffee filters) for clearing activated charcoal multiple times.

Before starting making activated charcoal, prepare yourself for long and hard work. Be patient and do not hurry with the following steps.

The Process of Making Activated Charcoal

Now when all the tools are prepared, we are ready to start making charcoal.

  1. To make activated hardwood charcoal, you need to follow all the safety precautions such as wearing gas masks;
  2. Purchase some wood pieces. It is better to find ones also known as lump charcoal because they are absolutely natural; Chunks-Of-Wood-Ready-To-Be-Turned-Into-Charcoal
  3. The first process you have to complete is burning wood. It is crucial to have a big pot to put the wood in it as well as a loose-fitting lid to release heat and oxygen and end up with a pure carbon; Wood-Chunks-In-The-Covered-Pot
  4. Suspend a pot over the fire or put it on the grill and leave it for at least three hours; Chunks-Of-Wood-On-The-Fire
  5. A temperature should be from 600 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit; Chunks-Of-Wood-Covered-For-The-Burn
  6. We recommend using a gas mask while burning hardwood charcoal not to poison yourself;
  7. Be extremely careful when moving a lid. All your actions should be fast; Finished-Charcoal
  8. Access the wood, take it from the pot, rinse in water, and put it on the ground for some time;
  9. Wait for the wood to become completely dry;
  10. Take a hammer and some bags. Place the wood into a durable plastic bag and start grinding them into a homogeneous mixture; Charcoal-In-2-Plastic-Bags-Before-Hammering-For-First-Breakup
  11. If you want a perfect result, use a mortar and a pestle or a blender after; Mortar-And-Pestle-To-Grind-Charcoal-Into-Dust
  12. Separate the powder from some extra pieces using a strainer; Screening-The-Charcoal-Through-A-Strainer Final-Pluverized-Charcoal-Before-Actifying
  13. The next step is the most important one. It is called an activation reaction. To start the reaction, a person has to add calcium chloride or zinc chloride solution. Both will be easy to replace with lemon juice if you are afraid to use chemicals. However, you can trust us that you should not be afraid of these mixtures. Even table salt is just a form of calcium chloride; Charcoal-Getting-Actified-With-Lemon-Juice
  14. Buy calcium chloride solution at hardware stores or search for it on the Net;

Liquid Calcium

  1. Take one liter of water and add calcium chloride or zinc chloride in a ration 4:1. Carefully stir them together;

Zinc Chloride

  1. Wear gloves and carefully take a jar for this solution since it is scorching;
  2. Leave the solution for soak into the activated charcoal powder in a pan for the whole day;
  3. When the activation process is finished, you will have to rinse the prepared solution with drinking water;
  4. For the next step, please find a glass bowl and a coffee filter. They are needed to replace too much actifier that is not needed anymore with the use of water. Repeat the process three times;
  5. When you are ready with the final filter, leave powdered activated charcoal to dry outside or use an oven for this case. The temperature should be 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait for approximately three hours;
  6. The last step is replacing activated charcoal into a jar. Pay attention to that no volatile organic compounds must accidentally be added to it. Therefore search for a tight-fitting lid;
  7. If you want to take activated charcoal as medicine, it might be a good idea to purchase gelatine caps.

Now Supplements

After becoming familiar with this instruction, you are well-prepared to make your own activated charcoal and can enjoy all its advantages.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between charcoal and activated charcoal?

To begin with, it should be mentioned that charcoal and activated charcoal are pretty similar substances. The origin of both is carbon. The way of making both substances is also pretty similar and is based on burning carbon elements.

Charcoal is created by burning wood without oxygen. Unlike this method, an activated version can only be created at much higher temperatures. Moreover, some additional components must be added to start a chemical reaction.

The uses of these substances also differ. Charcoal is often added to toothpaste, used as a water filter, and can help people who suffer from diarrhea. In contrast, activated carbon is added in products for skin (both face and body), can absorb toxins in the body, and helps in gas escaping situations. Activated carbon is more powerful because it is more porous and, therefore, the surface area is increased.

Can I use charcoal instead of activated charcoal?

Actually, you can use regular charcoal instead of activated carbon in most cases. For example, concerning water filters or air purification, both substances can be used. However, since activated carbon is more porous, it can remove more toxins and dangerous chemicals.

If you want to drink clean distilled water, we will recommend using filters with activated carbon because the chances of 100 percent clearness are much higher. Activated carbon is better since it has been created as a result of a chemical reaction. The activation process leads to the surface area that absorbs toxins becoming bigger. But you can use regular charcoal for cooking and eliminating smells.

If you want to check how well both substances work, you will need to take the same ratio of activated and regular charcoal. Expectedly, activated carbon will act more effectively than regular one during the same process.

Does activated charcoal absorb bacteria?

The most outstanding feature of activated carbon is fighting ingested poison and making air or any liquid solution chemical-free. This unique ability has been known for many years. Doctors advise taking it when a person has a drug overdose, a hangover, food poisoning, or dangerous bacteria inside their body that can cause diarrhea.

Nowadays, some new uses of activated charcoal are being studied. For example, scientists have found out that this substance can also stop aging because this process is also connected with toxins slowly filling our bodies. Surprisingly, it can be taken as pills and applied to wounds and other skin damages.

It is also a good idea to use a water filter that is also based on activated carbon to remove chemicals and toxins from the water you drink every day.

What is vegetable charcoal?

Vegetable charcoal is usually made from the following materials:

  1. Coconut shells;
  2. Plant residue;
  3. Wood bark;
  4. Kernels.

To make vegetable charcoal, these components should be burned at extremely high temperatures. The main thing is that no oxygen must not get into the wood-burning pot. After that, carbon is crushed with a hammer until it looks like a powder. The final step is an activation that is obtained as a result of a chemical reaction with some additional components.

Vegetable charcoal is usually used in cooking and is mixed with flour. Vegetable carbon is safe and can help to get rid of toxins and recover from poisoning. You can purchase it in the form of powder to mix with water, granules, pills, and capsules.

Is bamboo charcoal safe to eat?

When taken in small amounts, bamboo carbon is absolutely safe to consume. Moreover, activated charcoal is good for your health since it removes toxins and chemicals from your body.

However, we do not recommend consuming bamboo carbon or food with added activated charcoal every day since it can lead to some negative effects. The thing is that activated charcoal can absorb dangerous chemicals and nutrients that we cannot survive without. It can affect your health seriously, and you will end up with malnutrition.

What is more, please pay attention to the side effects such as cough and problems with the respiratory tract. Obviously, you will not get these symptoms when eating food dyed black by adding activated charcoal in it. But if you take too many activated carbon pills regularly, it can cause serious problems. The bad feeling might be caused by mixing activated charcoal with other medications you take. It is a good idea to consult your doctor first.

How to make charcoal from bamboo?

You might wonder how to make activated charcoal from bamboo. We have prepared detailed instructions for you.

To begin with, you should check if you have all the necessary tools. You will need bamboo, a fire pit and a cover for it. After everything is ready, you can start the process step by step:

  1. Burn the wood until it turns into coals;
  2. Wait for them to cool, put the coals in bags for grinding. Take a hammer for the process to be faster;
  3. Rinse these small coals in the water;
  4. Now it is crucial to start a chemical reaction that activates charcoal;
  5. Carefully stir calcium chloride and water in one container (the ratio is 1:3);
  6. Calcium chloride is quite risky to add if you are not a professional chemist. You always have an opportunity to choose a bleach instead or even go for lemon juice that almost every homeowner has;
  7. Instead of calcium chloride, start adding lemon juice. The amount you need equals 1.3 cups;
  8. Slowly mix an already prepared liquid based on calcium chloride solution plus charcoal;
  9. Try your best to find a stainless steel bowl or purchase a glass jar because there are no components in these materials that can affect a chemical reaction;
  10. Mix the ingredients until it reaches a paste consistency;
  11. After the liquid has been mixed successfully, cover it and leave for 24 hours;
  12. After the whole day of the mixture staying untouched, check it and get rid of some liquid that remains to stay in the container;
  13. To end up with high-quality activated charcoal, we would recommend adding another step. Rinse it with the help of water as well as a coffee filter;
  14. As a final step, heat-activated charcoal in an oven or over the stove (the temperature will equal the one which is used when you boil water). The process might take from half an hour to three hours;
  15. Now you are ready with your own charcoal.

A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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