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Best Uses For Activated Charcoal & How To Make It

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: May 24, 2021
Best Uses For Activated Charcoal & How To Make It

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Activated charcoal or carbon has a lot of valuable uses for preppers. From treating poisonings to making black drawing salve and treating skin conditions, this post will show you why you need activated charcoal as part of your preps.  Let’s start with some common uses and move on to some recipes for creating your own products.

Water Filtration and Taste Improvement

Activated charcoal is the main component in many popular water filters like Brita. Activated charcoal could be used to help replenish your water filters and remove unwanted tastes and odors. The Katadyn Vario is an example of a water filter that uses activated charcoal as part of the filtration system.

Treats Alcohol Poisoning and Prevents Hangovers

While I am not advocating using charcoal so you can drink more, it is important to remember that it can help treat alcohol poisoning.  What if a kid gets into something they shouldn’t have? Also, think about scenarios during a SHTF scenario.

During hard times people drink more. Sorry, but it is a fact.

I used to live in Ketchikan, Alaska as a marketing director for a local shopping center and I was told by the owner of a popular liquor store that after the logging and paper industry went downhill their sales went up dramatically. Also one has to consider that during a SHTF or post apocalyptic style scenario the quality of drink may be lacking. This means more potential toxins. Charcoal helps prevent alcohol from entering the bloodstream and helps toxins to pass from your body.

Toothpaste and whitener

A lot of people are ditching tooth whitening strips and treatments and switching to using a paste of activated charcoal. While it might seem messy when using, when you rinse it away you will be amazed how great your teeth look. Regular use will maximize the brightness of your teeth. This is particularly useful for those that like to eat and drink foods that have a high potential for staining tooth enamel. Check out the recipes section for a DIY toothpaste recipe!

Prevents gas and bloating when consumed before a meal.

Take capsules as directed to reduce painful gas and bloating. Considering how many foods preppers have put back that contribute to gas, perhaps activated charcoal should have a place. It is no big secret that beans, in particular, have a tendency to produce some painful gas. It might not be something everyone wants to talk about but if your diet has to be limited or you have to survive a long time on beans and rice, then there is no use being in pain and miserable.

Instructions For Treating General Poisonings

Activated charcoal ideally should be given within 30 minutes of toxins being consumed. The longer you wait the more time the body has to absorb toxins. Activated charcoal is safe to use with children as long as they are over a year old.

Adults should take 50-100 grams of activated charcoal in water as soon as possible after a poisoning. As you can see the range of safety is great so you don’t have to be super precise in your weighing.  50-100 grams is equal to 2-4 standard tablespoons. The does for a child is 1-2 tablespoons.

If poisoning is severe then you may need to do a course of treatments to fully remove toxins. In this case, you should give adults 1 tbsp every 2 hours or 2 tbsp every 4 in enough water to get it down. For kids, up to 13 give 1 tbsp for every 25 lbs of body weight every 2-4 hours.

This is not a substitute for seeking medical attention. Charcoal can save a life but you should still get to a doctor if you can.

Never give charcoal in milk or ice cream. Sure it doesn’t taste good going down but thick foods like dairy can affect how well it absorbs toxins. 

Prevents Spider and Insect Bites From Spreading

There are indications that activated charcoal can prevent poisons from spreading. This means that if you get bit by a spider you can benefit from spreading a mixture of powdered charcoal and coconut oil on the affected area.

The theory is that this will absorb toxins and prevent the bite from spreading further on your body. This means the tissue death that can occur due to spider bites can be prevented with quick action. You will need to cover the area to prevent the charcoal from getting all over the place.  Make sure to cleanse and reapply several times a day until symptoms are gone.

If symptoms worsen always seek medical attention. Those with compromised immune systems and children can have a harder time fighting and healing from toxins. Pregnant women should also seek help promptly.

Vita Coco Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

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Recipes To Use For Health and Beauty

Peel Off  & Clay Charcoal Face Masks

I have suffered from acne for many years. This has led to me seeking out a lot of different treatments. I have to say one that has worked the best for me is a charcoal peel off mask. It pretty much takes everything out of the pores of your skin so that acne really doesn’t have a chance.

There are countless versions of this mask out there at all different price points. The less expensive are made in China and contain polyvinyl alcohol which is one of the main ingredients of Elmer’s School Glue.

If you want some of the fancy extracts then you can do that for far less. Here are two recipes for a charcoal face Make sure to just apply these masks where you don’t mind jerking out hair because they pull a lot out.

Peel Off Mask

1 tbsp gelatin or ½ tbsp xanthan gum if you do not use gelatin products

2 tbsp water

4-5 capsules of activated charcoal or 1 tsp of activated charcoal powder.

½ tsp bentonite or kaolin clay

Heat gelatin and water together until hot and gelatin has dissolved. Mix in the charcoal powder. Let this cool well and then apply with a face brush and allow to dry. The thicker you paint it on the longer it will take. You want good coverage and make sure to avoid the delicate areas around your eyes and any hairs near your hairline. Carefully peel on the corner and work your way slowly until you peel it all off. It might hurt a little but it really helps if you have a lot of clogged pores and blackheads.

Charcoal Clay Mask

Mix the following in a small plastic bowl with lid. This way you can store a few uses worth of mask.

1 tbsp bentonite clay

3 capsules or scant ½ tsp activated charcoal powder

6 drops tea tree or lavender oil

Enough organic apple cider vinegar to make a spreadable paste.

Apply and allow to dry. Rinse well. Anything you don’t use can be stored in the container so you will have a few uses already mixed. If it gets a little dry you can add a little water and then use.

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal

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Drawing Salve Recipe

This is used to get out splinters and other small embedded objects that can cause irritation and infection if allowed to fester. This is sold in stores but can be hard to find in some areas. This is a very old remedy that is still used in a lot of rural areas.

To make a basic drawing salve

4 tbsp activated charcoal powder

3 tbsp bentonite clay

2 tbsp beeswax pastilles

½ cup coconut oil

½ cup olive oil (Some infuse calendula into the oil before using. This is optional)

Optional: 1-2 tbsp honey

Essential oils like tea tree or lavender. There is a lot of room for variation here but don’t add more than 40 drops of any combined essential oil or you will lose some firmness. Essential oils are very concentrated so be sure you don’t add too much.

Calendula Infused Olive Oil Prep

Use 6-8 tbsp dried Calendula flowers and simmer in the olive oil on very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Strain off the oil and reserve for your salve.

Melt all oils together. For easy prep you can just use a pan with some water in it and set your jar in it. When oils are melted, stir in the charcoal powder until well blended and add any honey or essential oils. Put a lid on it and store it in this same jar. You can also do all this in a double boiler and then use the pan to pour into smaller tins. This salve makes a great gift and when you put it in small jars you can stash it a lot of different places.

Tip For No Mess Application Salve

While you are going to want to cover anything you put the drawing salve in so you don’t stain anything, you can pour it into lip balm containers and label so no one mistakes it for lip balm.

The twist tube means you don’t have to get your hands messy when applying. Of course, this is only sanitary if you are just using that as your personal tube of balm since you would be rubbing it over wounds and your skin but it might be a handy way to store some.

Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

Use a small 4 oz jelly jar and mix the following:

1 tsp activated charcoal

4 tbsp baking soda

4 tbsp coconut oil melted

Optional For Flavor: 2-3 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix together well and use 1-2 times per week in place of your normal toothpaste. This is a lot less expensive than buying premade activated charcoal toothpastes or buying cumbersome to use whitening strips.

Gets Rid Of Mold In Your Body

If you have heard about how mold growing in your home can make your sick then you should also know that activated charcoal can eliminate these molds from your body. Mold in homes can occur rapidly. A small leak can cause big problems down the road and that means mold. Taking activated charcoal caplets can help eliminate symptoms.

While I know that mold within the home is supposed to be taken seriously. I also understand that it can take some time and some money to get to the source of the problem and clean up any messes. Charcoal tablets can help keep you and your family healthier if you have to stay in a home or area where mold is a problem.

Powdered activated charcoal is easier to use and measure but if you have the larger chunks you can powder them yourself with a mortar and pestle or grinder.

Food Grade Activated Charcoal Powder 

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Making Your Own

It is possible to make your own activated charcoal but unless you want to make a lot or plan on using it a lot then it is probably not worth it when you can get 2 lbs for $25 or less. Of course in a SHTF situation, you may not be able to just go online or go to the drug store and pick some up so let’s briefly go over how to make your own.

Supplies Needed

  • Pickle Crisp or Calcium Chloride. This is best bought in bulk. Whatever you have left you can keep on hand for canning projects.
  • Half gallon Mason jar or any other non-aluminum container with lid. Plastic is not a good choice. This container is used for mixing the calcium chloride. This produces heat and a chemical reaction that means you want something that is not aluminum.
  • Water and measuring cup
  • Make your own lump charcoal or buy a bag of hardwood charcoal that has not been treated with any flavoring agents or lighter fluid.
  • Cheesecloth or a clean white t-shirt you don’t care about ever using again.

The Process

Powder Charcoal

If you are using bags of charcoal briquettes you will need to powder them. Use your method of choice. A towel and a hammer can work if you put the charcoal in it and hit until powdered. A mortar and pestle is another option.

Make a 25% Calcium Chloride and Water Solution

You need to mix up a 25% solution of calcium chloride. This means dissolving 200 grams of Calcium Chloride in 600 mL of water. This equals about 7 oz of calcium chloride and 2.6 cups of water. Put the lid on the jar and shake. The jar will get hot so use a towel or gloves to protect hands. You may want to loosen the lid to release some heat.

Mix charcoal powder and 25% Calcium Chloride solution in a non aluminum bowl until a paste is formed.  A glass bowl woule be best. Discard leftover solution or powder enough extra charcoal so there is no leftovers. Leave the paste for 24 hours.

Hoosier Hill Farm Pickle Fresh

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Spread on multiple layers of cheesecloth or clean white t-shirt. Rince with cool water. You can catch the water if desired and filter it through a coffee filter to retrieve any residual carbon but it is not necessary.

Spread on cookie sheet and bake at 250 F for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then store your activated charcoal in a jar or other container. Plastic is fine for storage at this point.

Making your own activated charcoal means making it for about $1 an lb instead of the $12-$15 you will pay for. It takes some time though so you will need to decide if it is worth it to you.

What do you use activated charcoal for? I use a peel-off mask regularly and it has cleared up the cystic acne I was suffering from. Do you have any other uses, not on this list?

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4 Responses to “Best Uses For Activated Charcoal & How To Make It”

  1. Activated Charcoal Powder is widely used for medicinal purposes, it is nothing short of a miracle for food poisoning. It attracts and binds with the toxins in your body, leaving them inactive and then flushing them out of the body.

    Sources (i.e. coconut hull charcoal used in fish aquarium filters) 1/8 to1/4 teaspoon in full glass of water stir and drink. If the Diarrhea is caused by bacteria (i.e. food poisoning), Instant relief! Take activated charcoal or white clay to absorb toxins in the GI system. Actually, activated charcoal is a powerful adsorbent, which is a substance that attracts things to its surface, as opposed to absorbing them into itself. Charcoal will stop the diarrhea quickly by adsorbing the toxins that are causing the problem.

    Various over-the-counter capsules and tablets are readily available at drug stores. Keep them handy and take 1 or 2 tablets/capsules if you feel nauseated due to food poisoning. Repeat after 1 hour if the symptoms persist.

  2. How does this make activated charcoal? I visited Johnny Walker distillery, saw them making activated charcoal to use in their process, they made the charcoal in a huge vessel and then dumped it out on to the concrete slab while still hot, and then hosed it down with a garden hose. They said the steam opened the pores in the charcoal thereby activating it.

  3. i have in the past made my own forge charcoal and will be setting up to do so again though in a more efficient way than previously. would be easy for me to turn some of it into activate charcoal when needed

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