What Makes “Activated” Charcoal so Special?

If you’ve come this far, you’ve likely read an article, web page, or Pinterest link that extols the rewarding benefits of using activated charcoal in everyday life. This is all well and good, but what does it mean for the charcoal to be “activated?” A surprising number of people believe that they can simply use the same charcoal that they use out on the grill in the back yard. Well, let’s get something right out of the way: Though they usually start out the same way, they are not the same thing.

Activated charcoal owes its usefulness to its high porosity. Through activation (which we’ll talk about later), the charcoal is riddled with microscopic pores that increase its surface area exponentially, allowing the charcoal to bind toxins, gases, and other impurities to itself through the process of “adsorption.”

Charcoal is formed, for the sake of simplicity, by burning something. For our purposes, charcoal is formed by burning wood. What is left behind is a mixture of carbon and ash that burns easily and with great intensity. For this reason, it’s perfect for keeping a low flame for cooking, or even for melting iron in industrial factories. It is not perfect for home use or ingestion, however. Especially modern charcoal briquettes, which are often compacted with sawdust, additives like coal or coke, and other various binding agents which, needless to say, are not good for you.

In this, most simple form, charcoal is already a fairly porous substance. But that porosity changes greatly when it is activated.

Activation occurs through steam or chemical oxidation, which increases its internal surface capacity and makes it up to three times as effective as regular charcoal. As charcoal binds with chemicals such as harmful toxins (poison, tannins that yellow teeth, etc.), this extra surface area is what makes it so effective at doing just that.

So, can you go grab a bag of Kingsford charcoal, smash it up and drink it, and detoxify your body? The short answer is:


The long answer is also no. And whatever you do, don’t rub that stuff on your teeth! Enamel, from what I understand, is important.

Quality charcoal makes all the difference in the world when it comes to practical application. Activated charcoal is the best charcoal you can get, and activated charcoal derived from hardwood is the most effective type of activated charcoal.

Didn’t know there were multiple kinds of activated charcoal? That’s okay, it can get pretty confusing. Don’t worry, we won’t let you navigate all this information alone! Stay tuned for more information on precisely this subject. Meanwhile, you wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you paid a visit our store.

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