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The best Step by Step guide on how to make activated charcoal

Last updated on July 18, 2021
Do you know how to make activated charcoal? If you don't, this article helps you find out how it can help you stay alive in survival situations.

Making the Charcoal

Our guide on how to make activated charcoal begins with making the charcoal itself. The process starts by burning wood or other materials of your choice. Materials that will yield the same result are sawdust, peat, or coconut shells burned at extremely high temperatures.

Building a fire pit

It all begins by digging a fire pit. A fire pit in the backyard will do just fine, or you can dig up a medium-sized firepit in an open location. Do not do this on the kitchen stove or a fireplace. It is simply because the fire needs to be at a scorching internal temperature to burn the wood.

However, before you grab the shovel and start digging, take safety precautions for safety. Wear a helmet with a face shield, heat-resistant gloves, and goggles. Dig the fire pit at a safe distance from where you are standing.

Pot meets wood

After the pit has taken its shape, choose a metal pot to get to work. The next step involves gathering wood. Go for hardwood, if readily available. Otherwise, choose a type of wood with a fiber-filled density. Coconut shells are also an excellent alternative. Gather the wood pieces in a metal pot and cover them with a lid.


One of the things you must consider is selecting a lid with a vent hole. This will guarantee proper airflow and limited access. You can choose a kettle as a pot alternative so the air can escape through its spout. Also, remember that the material you choose to burn must be as driest as possible to work correctly.

Hang the pot above the fire for at least three to five hours. The lid must stay in place so the wood or shells cook correctly. The smoke and gas will escape from the hole in the vent. The hole will also ensure everything leaves the pot except for carbon.

Once the wood has finished cooking, no more smoke exits the pot.


After the wood has been reduced to carbon, it is time to cool it. The charcoal is extremely hot in the pot, so wear heat-resistant gloves. Otherwise, the extreme heat will burn your hands. Leave the burned carbon in the pot to cool down completely.

When the coal is cooled, remove it from the pot and place it on a baking sheet. This way, it settles nicely. After you are satisfied with the cooled charcoal, rinse it with cool water. It will remove the ash present on the surface. Drain the water afterward.

Preparing charcoal dust

Now grab the cooled-down charcoal, a mortar, and pestle from your kitchen. It is time to grind the prepared charcoal into a bag of very fine dust. The finer the charcoal powder, the better the result will be. Putting charcoal in a Ziploc back and crushing them with a rolling pin or a rock will provide the same result. In fact, any heavy-weight object will crush the charcoal.

Now you must leave the charcoal powder to air dry. Transfer it into a bowl and leave it in the sun if possible. Do not cover it with anything. The goal is to allow the moisture to evaporate from the charcoal. This drying process will take at least a day. When you rub the charcoal dust in between the fingers, you must not feel any moisture in the residue.

Charcoal Activation

The activation part of our guide on how to make activated charcoal involves stripping the outer layer of the burned material to bind the molecules together and form a paste. The chemical used in the process significantly reduces the pores, which further binds the molecules together.

Chemical composition

In a separate glass, combine three parts of water with one part of calcium chloride. The intended solution must cover the charcoal powder completely. Do not attempt to make your own mixture based on personal preference. Doing so will overheat the solution.

The ideal measurements involve 100 grams of calcium chloride mixed with 310 milliliters of water. You can purchase calcium chloride at any department store, general store, or hardware store easily. If you cannot find calcium chloride, use bleach or lemon juice as a substitute.

Making the Mixture

Begin with pouring the charcoal dust into a large bowl. Either glass or stainless steel will do. Now slowly begin adding the calcium chloride, lemon juice, or bleach. Do not add it all at once, or the solution will curdle.

Pour it slowly and increase volume as you continue stirring. Stop adding once the solution has reached the consistency of a fine whipped paste.

Let the paste rest

Making activated charcoal is a very complicated and time-consuming process. Therefore, commit to it before digging the firepit in the very first step. There is no going back after that.

Moving on, you must leave the paste untouched for another 24 hours in the bowl. This time cover the bowl with a sheet of paper or cloth. Check it the next day and drain any excess moisture. The result must leave a damp charcoal paste. This happens because the charcoal dust has absorbed the entire bleaching solution.

Cook the paste

The final step in our guide on how to make activated charcoal involves cooking the paste for three hours. Use the same pot you used for wood burning but clean and dry it thoroughly before filling it with charcoal paste.

The fire needs to be hot enough that it will boil water. Constantly cook the tempered paste for three hours at the same water-boiling temperature. If the water is boiling, the temperature is right.
Your activate charcoal is ready. You can store it in jars, tiny bottles or use a capsule stencil to turn it into charcoal pills or tablets for later consumption.

How to use activated charcoal?

Now that you know how to make activated charcoal, it’s time to learn its uses and advantages.

Removes toxins from the body

The most popular use of activated charcoal involves removing unwanted inhaled or digested toxins. These harmful substances may include bleach or pesticides. Activated charcoal offsets any harmful effects from these dangerous substances. It can even assist in countering drug overdoses.

Anti-aging Properties

There is a massive market for anti-aging products. This particular market segment leaches off its customers by claiming to remove fine lines, smile lines, sun spots, and other skin defects. However, these products rarely work. Instead of using products that only improve the exterior, why not use activated charcoal. It seeps into your skin to freshen up your entire body.

Using activating charcoal in cosmetics will remove the toxins of harmful chemicals present in the body. Digestive charcoal capsules can improve the digestive system. It can also reduce kidney damage or liver issues.

Cures hangovers

Activated charcoal is the secret cure to a lingering hangover. It completely absorbs the alcoholic content present in the stomach and blood. This way, you get rid of nausea and dizziness. The activated charcoal enters the bloodstream and works its magic. It is also an antidote that you can use when someone is unconscious.

Improves oral hygiene

Another well-known benefit of activated charcoal is that it whitens teeth. When applied to the teeth as a paste, it sticks to the contaminants on the teeth. It may not work if you are wearing braces, veneers, or retainers.

When you use activated charcoal you should brush rigorously to ensure that it gets into the teeth outer layer. Therefore, if you wish to brush with charcoal, take off the retainer or wait until the braces have been permanently removed.

Just a friendly reminder, the activated charcoal is not intended to replace your oral healthcare. You must still visit the dentist regularly and consult if using activated charcoal on your teeth is the best option for you.

Helps you pass gas

Another digestive advantage of consuming activated charcoal is that it helps remove bloating and discharges stomach gas.

Gas is a common occurrence in many individuals who suffer from stomach problems or IBS. Activated charcoal binds the troublemaking toxins in the intestines so they are passed easier.

Removes mold

Mold is not necessarily visible in the objects around us. However, this is not true for houses or buildings that have suffered from recent floods. Apartment buildings constructed near rivers, streams, or bodies of water are highly prone to mold build-up because of high humidity levels.

The mold can enter our bodies through breathing. Inhalation of contaminated air can cause depression, respiratory issues, and extreme nausea. Activated charcoal is a proven remedy in this case.

Improves the digestive system

Charcoal is also a great option to cleanse your digestive system. Numerous nutritionists have incorporated activated charcoal into their daily diet. Be sure to consume lots of water afterward, so the charcoal does its job. By cleansing your body, you boost your immune system and help cells regenerate.

Lowers cholesterol

High cholesterol can be deadly when it soars at an above-average level. Therefore, it is wise to keep it in check. Activated charcoal absorbs excess cholesterol before it enters the bloodstream. It significantly reduces the risks of heart failure and blood thickening.

Final Thoughts

Activated charcoal can do wonders if you use it properly. If you wish to incorporate activated charcoal in your diet, you must consult your doctor or family physician. In emergencies, follow the instructions to the T, and you should be fine.

Besides its cleansing properties and medicinal uses, activated charcoal can also be a great item for trading. If you want to learn more about survival trading, check out our article on the best items to barter in survival situations.

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