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So you’re trying to de-stink your home the most natural way possible and you stumble across this idea of using charcoal.

But you’ve got some questions.

I hear ya.

One of the first that popped in my head was…how long could charcoal absorb odors?

I, for one, don’t want to waste time or money on something that doesn’t work…or that doesn’t work for very long.

But I was pleasantly surprised with charcoal, and I think you will be too.

Can Regular Charcoal Absorb Odors?

Like the kind used in grills (briquettes), regular charcoal is a popular choice by DIYers everywhere. But many don’t agree with the effectiveness of this solution.

As you might imagine, there are many techniques out there that explain how to use regular charcoal to remove odors. A popular one is taking a small bag of charcoal briquettes, cut the bag open lengthwise and place it inside your refrigerator. 

After one week, replace the bag with a new one. As you collect the used charcoal, use it in your grill for cooking.

Another technique is to place several briquettes in an aluminum pan and place inside your refrigerator or anywhere else they’re needed overnight. 

With each of these methods, it’s important not to reuse regular charcoal because the food will take on the odor of the charcoal, reversing the effects.

Others claim this technique works great, minus the possible mess from contacting charcoal. If you do go this route, make sure the charcoal is natural and without additives like kerosene.

But regular charcoal briquettes aren’t my go-to, and let me explain why…

What Kind of Charcoal Removes Odors?

While regular charcoal can remove odors, it’s not the best for this application. 

The ideal type for odor removal is activated charcoal. 

The high heat used during manufacturing removes impurities, creating a larger micropore area, which then traps more odors than regular charcoal.

Over time, the micropores fill up, and the charcoal becomes inactive. When the odors don’t go away, it’s time to reactivate the charcoal by cleaning out the pores (more on that later).

Aquarium filters contain activated charcoal, too. The pellets inside the filters are an excellent source and come in handy when making your own activated charcoal air purifier bag. 

Other air purifying bags available contain activated bamboo charcoal.

The activation process for bamboo charcoal uses high-temperature steam to increase the micropores as in activated charcoal and absorb odors. 

A prominent feature of bamboo air purifier bags is a two-year useful life, after which the used bamboo makes excellent fertilizer.

Tips to Help Charcoal Absorb Odors Even Longer

After some time, charcoal loses its ability to absorb odors. You can help extend charcoal’s useful life by using plenty where only a small amount will work. 

The objective is to increase the odor-absorbing surface area, providing better (and longer) absorption.

Another way to increase the lifespan of charcoal is more frequent reactivating.

It is more work, but the results are worth the extra time, and the absorption is more effective. As the micropores begin to fill up, you should notice a slight decrease in the charcoal’s ability to absorb odors. 

When that happens, it’s time to reactivate or replace the charcoal.

Here’s how…

How to Reactivate Charcoal So It Keeps Working

Some people say it’s not a good idea to reactivate charcoal because when the pores fill up, the charcoal no longer can absorb odors. 

But really, it’s a simple process of placing the used charcoal outside in the sun or on a partially cloudy day for an hour every month or so.

This process uses the UV rays from sunlight for reactivation and expands the pores. Expansion releases trapped odors, reactivating the charcoal for future use. 

Another technique that uses UV light is to leave your charcoal air purifier bag outside under direct sunlight for several hours every 60 to 90 days to extend the charcoal’s working life up to a full year.

How to Use Activated Charcoal for Stinky Smells

Most of the time activated charcoal in packed in small fabric bags placed around the house in discreet locations where odors persist. Only your imagination limits their use!

Place them in closets, trash cans, litter boxes, shoes ,and yes, your refrigerator. 

If you’d like to make your own charcoal air purifying bags, learn how to make bamboo charcoal here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does charcoal get rid of the musty smell?

Yes, but activated charcoal works better than regular charcoal. For several days, place plastic containers with perforated lids containing activated charcoal in problem areas to remove the smell. Learn more about how bamboo charcoal helps with mold odors.

Are my pets safe around charcoal?

Yes. Vets use charcoal as a treatment for a variety of issues. Talk to your vet about its many uses.

What is an activated charcoal air purifier bag?

Activated charcoal placed inside of a cloth bag or pouch is useful for purifying air because of its large surface area and more micropores to absorb odors. Activated bamboo charcoal is the most popular kind. 

And these are some of my favorite brands:

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