Survival essentials: How to make activated charcoal at home
10/26/2022 // Zoey Sky // Views

Activated charcoal has many survival uses, like filtering water and detoxifying. But while you can buy it in stores, when SHTF you might not be able to buy more activated charcoal for your stockpile.

This highlights the importance of knowing how to make activated charcoal at home, especially if you need it for a medical emergency.

Read on to learn more about activated charcoal and how to make it when SHTF. (h/t to

What is activated charcoal?

Regular charcoal is a great filter because it has many small pores. These tiny pores can capture debris and other molecules via adsorption, not absorption.

But regular charcoal's filtering potential is limited because not all of the pores on its surface are completely open.

Meanwhile, activated charcoal is regular charcoal that has gone through a particular process to open as many of those pores as possible to make it a more effective filter.

To make activated charcoal, charcoal made from hardwood or coconut shells is subjected to high temperatures over 1,000 F, sometimes in the presence of a gas or steam. While this is often done on a large scale, you can make activated charcoal at home using common ingredients and tools.

To better understand this, think of charcoal as a mesh filter with many tiny holes.

In charcoal, some of those holes are covered with tar and other debris. If you cover half the holes on the mesh filter and try to pour a liquid through it, the filter will still work, but not as well as you might want it to. (Related: Prepper projects: How to make activated charcoal, a natural detoxifier.)


When the charcoal is subjected to the activation process, the stuff covering up some of those holes is removed. Once the process is done, you get activated charcoal, which has a lot more surface area.

If you remove what is covering half of the holes in the mesh filter, it will work much better.

Survival use of activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is used as a medium for water filters and air filters. It has also been added to toothpastes as a whitening agent and soaps for a deeper, more natural cleaning agent due to its increased surface area.

Activated charcoal is also consumed to aid with poison control.

Other survival uses of activated charcoal include:

For removing toxins

Activated charcoal is a natural remedy that can help remove toxins from the body before they are absorbed.

For example, if a child accidentally ingested substances like pesticides or a bottle of bleach, you can use activated charcoal to counteract the effects. Poison control also acknowledges that activated charcoal can be extremely helpful and even lifesaving during a drug overdose.

For relieving digestive issues

If you experience gas or bloating after a meal, you can take activated charcoal to relieve these uncomfortable and irritating symptoms. Activated charcoal works by attaching to the food elements that are causing these digestive problems and helping you eliminate them in the bathroom easier.

Take note that if you use activated charcoal to treat digestive issues, you should drink lots of water so it is pushed through your system quickly.

Natural deodorant

If SHTF and you need deodorant, use activated charcoal to keep things smelling fresh and clean. Since charcoal can help with smells and harmful gases, it can also help with controlling humidity and absorbing moisture.

Use activated charcoal on your underarms, smelly shoes or even with odors in your refrigerator.

Treatment for insect bites

Insect bites can get itchy and cause a lot of irritation on your skin. Thankfully, you can apply activated charcoal over the irritated area to soothe itchy insect bites.

Simply add half a teaspoon of activated charcoal to one tablespoon of coconut oil to create a mixture. Apply the activated charcoal mixture every 30 minutes until the pain and irritation goes away.

How to make activated charcoal

Follow the guide below to make DIY activated charcoal.

You will need:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Coffee filter
  • Cookie sheet
  • Distilled water
  • Hammer
  • Hardwood charcoal
  • Kitchen scale
  • Lemon juice
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Oven
  • Stainless steel mesh filter

First, you need to prepare the hardwood charcoal before "activating" it. Use premium hardwood charcoal or any charcoal that has zero additives.

Avoid using charcoal that contains chemicals that may ignite it, like lighter fluid.

If you can make your own charcoal, do so. To make charcoal, you need to burn wood, fibrous plant material, or a coconut shell.

However, you can make things easier for yourself by buying charcoal.

To prepare the lump charcoal, you need small pieces so carefully smash the charcoal between a towel with a hammer. After collecting the pulverized charcoal, use a pestle and mortar to grind it up further.

Once the regular charcoal is the size you want, sift it through a mesh screen until you have roughly eight ounces. Use a kitchen scale to weigh the charcoal, distilled water and lemon juice.

You need eight ounces of charcoal, which will then be added to a solution of one ounce of lemon juice and three ounces of distilled water.

Combine the charcoal, lemon juice and water, then cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Set the mixture aside for 24 hours.

Next, pour the mixture into a stainless steel fine mesh coffee filter lined with a paper coffee filter. You can also use a stainless steel bowl or a metal pot for this recipe to separate most of the liquid from the solids.

After draining it, the charcoal may still be wet so you need to dry it further.

Spread the charcoal paste onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place the cookie sheet into an oven that was preheated to 250 F.

It may take one hour or longer to dry the charcoal, depending on your appliance. Use a clean spoon to sift through the charcoal powder and make sure there weren't any wet spots.

Once the charcoal is completely dry, use a funnel to transfer the charcoal powder into another container. You finally have activated charcoal.

When SHTF, make DIY activated charcoal to use as a natural remedy for digestive issues.

Visit to read up on other natural remedies that you can use after disaster strikes.

Watch the video below for more tips on how to make activated charcoal at home.

This video is from the Truth or Consequences channel on

More related stories:

Prepper must-haves: 7 Medicinal uses of activated charcoal.

Emergency preparedness: How to make your own activated charcoal.

7 Reasons why preppers love activated charcoal.

Sources include:

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