Do you ever think about what might be in the air you breathe? There are many things that can pollute the air in our homes, from dust and pollen to dangerous chemicals and bad smells.

So, activated carbon comes into play.

This powerful substance is a game-changer when it comes to cleaning the air, and you need to know all about it if you have an air purifier or are thinking about getting one.

In this article, I’ll dive into the world of activated carbon and explain why it’s a must-have for anyone who wants to breathe cleaner, healthier air.

Prepare to be blown away!

Activated Carbon in Air Purifiers

Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal or active carbon, is a type of carbon that is made to have small, low-volume pores that make more surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions.

People often use it to filter contaminants out of water and air, among other things.

Sources of Activated Carbon

Most of the time, carbonaceous materials like wood, bamboo, coconut husk, peat, coal, and petroleum pitch are used to make activated carbon.

Production of Activated Carbon

Carbonization or activation/oxidation processes can be used to make activated carbon.

In the carbonization process, carbon-containing materials are pyrolyzed at temperatures between 600 and 900°C, usually in an inert atmosphere made of gases like argon or nitrogen.

In the activation/oxidation process, raw or carbonized material is exposed to oxidizing atmospheres (oxygen or steam) at temperatures above 250°C, usually between 600°C and 1200°C.

Properties and Uses of Activated Carbon

Activated carbon is a good adsorbent because it has a lot of pores, a large surface area, and a high level of surface reactivity.

It can be used to clean, remove chlorine, remove odors, and change the color of both liquids and vapors.

Activated carbon can also be mixed with chemicals or tiny pieces of metal to make it better at absorbing things.

Regeneration of Activated Carbon

Through a process called “regeneration,” dirty activated carbon can be brought back to its original ability to absorb things.

Thermal reactivation is the most common way to clean carbon.

In this process, the dirty carbon is dried, heated in an inert atmosphere, and gas treated.

Air Purification with Activated Carbon Filters

Most air purifiers use activated carbon filters to get rid of gases, chemical vapors, and odor molecules.

Activated carbon filters clean the air by attracting and holding particles on the surface of the filter.

This process is called adsorption.

The dirty air particles enter the filtration system and pass through the activated carbon filter, where they are absorbed.

This lets the filter clean the air thoroughly.

Combination with HEPA Filters

When used together with HEPA filters, activated carbon filters can also be used as pre-filters.

As the first line of defense in air filtration, pre-filters catch large solid particles like dust, hair, and dirt.

Limitations of Activated Carbon Filters

CO can’t be taken out of the air with activated carbon filters.

UV lights can clean the air, but they can only kill organic and living things.

They can’t get rid of smells or VOCs in the air.

Activated carbon is a very good absorbent that is often used in air purifiers to get rid of gases, chemical vapors, and smell molecules.

It can also be used to clean, remove chlorine, remove odors, and change the color of both liquids and vapors.

Even though it has some flaws, like not being able to get rid of carbon monoxide, it is still a useful tool for cleaning and filtering the air.

Benefits and Maintenance of Activated Carbon in Air Purifiers

Activated Carbon Air Filters: An Effective Solution for Indoor Air Pollution

People often use activated carbon air filters to get rid of gases, smells, and other gaseous pollutants in the air.

They work by trapping molecules with a bed of activated carbon.

This happens when molecules stick to the outside of a surface.

Activated carbon has special properties that let it get rid of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), smoke, and other invisible dangers to the lungs.

Benzene is one of these dangerous VOCs.

It is a dangerous irritant that can get out of a gas leak.

VOCs can cause eye irritation and headaches, among other things.

Benefits of Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are very good at getting rid of bad smells in the air, like those from cooking, pets, and cigarette smoke.

They are also great at getting rid of smoke and chemical fumes, which makes them perfect for homes, offices, and other indoor spaces.

Activated carbon filters can improve the quality of the air inside your home and help your heating and cooling systems work better.

Combining Activated Carbon Filters with HEPA Filters

Before you buy an air purifier, you should know what kind of technology will work best for you.

Real HEPA filters should be included in every air purifier, but adding an activated carbon filter to your portable air purifier can make it even better at filtering out smaller, more annoying particles.

Carbon air filters can be an important part of a system to clean the air in your home, but they need to be used the right way.

Make sure the filter has enough carbon in it.

Some filters say they are activated carbon filters, but they only have a little bit of carbon in them, which makes them useless because they get full so quickly.

Lifespan of Activated Carbon Filters

The amount of carbon used in the substrate affects how long activated carbon filters in air purifiers last.

Filters with more pounds of carbon and more thickness last longer than filters with less weight and less thickness.

Carbon manufacturers say that most carbon filters last between one and three months on average.

But carbon filters with 10lbs or more of carbon in their filter media will last longer than those with less than 5lbs.

Consumer Reports says that activated carbon filters should be replaced every three months.

But the amount of pollution in the air, the size of the room, and how often the air purifier is used can all affect how long the activated carbon filters last.

If the filter is dirty, an air purifier won’t work well, so it’s important to change or clean filters often.

Using Activated Carbon Filters as Pre-Filters

Activated carbon filters are used in air purifiers to remove gases, chemical vapors, and odor molecules from the air by absorbing pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and smoke.

When used with a HEPA filter, activated carbon filters can also work as a pre-filter, catching dust, hair, and dirt that are too big for the HEPA filter to catch.

Extending the Lifespan of Air Purifier Filters

It’s important to remember that the length of time an air purifier filter lasts depends on the type of filter and the quality of the air it’s cleaning.

Electrostatic air filters, on the other hand, can last for years.

HEPA filters, on the other hand, only last from six to twelve months.

When it’s time to change the filter on an air purifier, look for signs like less airflow and higher power bills.

Some air purifiers have a light that turns on when the filter needs to be changed or cleaned.

Look for air purifiers with a pre-filter to make the life of the filter last longer.

This part can catch bigger particles before they reach your filter, but it will probably need to be cleaned more often.

To make sure the air purifier works well, you should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing and cleaning the filter.

The Importance of Air Quality in Air Purifiers with Activated Carbon

Air quality is a crucial factor when it comes to air purifiers with activated carbon.

Activated carbon is a highly effective material for removing pollutants and impurities from the air, but it requires a certain level of air quality to work optimally.

Poor air quality can quickly saturate the activated carbon, reducing its effectiveness and requiring more frequent replacement.

Additionally, air purifiers with activated carbon are particularly useful for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful chemicals from the air, which can have a significant impact on indoor air quality.

Therefore, it is essential to consider the air quality in your home or office when choosing an air purifier with activated carbon to ensure that it can effectively improve the air you breathe.

For more information:

Air Quality 101: Purify for Health

Effectiveness and Safety of Activated Carbon in Air Purifiers

What are Activated Carbon Filters?

Activated carbon filters are made of a porous material that has been treated with oxygen to make millions of tiny holes between the carbon atoms.

This makes a large surface area for adsorption, which is the process of trapping molecules inside the substrate.

Most air purifiers use activated carbon filters to get rid of gases, chemical vapors, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Effectiveness of Activated Carbon Filters

Some types of air pollution can be taken out of the air by using activated carbon filters, but not all.

They are especially good at getting rid of particles smaller than 0.3 micrometers, like tobacco smoke, cooking oil fumes, bacteria, viruses, and some volatile organic compounds.

But they are not good at getting rid of larger particles like pollen, allergens in house dust, some molds, and animal dander, which settle on surfaces in the home instead of in the air.

They can’t get rid of gaseous pollutants like radon, either.

Limitations of Activated Carbon Filters

There is a limit to how much pollution an adsorbent, such as activated carbon, can hold.

When this limit is reached, the adsorbent is no longer able to remove pollutants.

It’s important to know that air purifiers don’t always work as well as advertised and don’t always clean the air as well as manufacturers claim.

They can also make the air quality in your home worse.

There are many kinds of pollutants that can lower the quality of the air, but most air purifiers can only get rid of a few of them.

Safety of Activated Carbon Filters

Using activated carbon filters in air purifiers is safe.

Activated carbon is used in medicine to treat overdoses and poisoning and to help with digestive issues and diarrhea.

Activated carbon can take in a lot of pollution, like chemicals, smells, smoke, and other gases.

Once these pollutants are taken in by the carbon, they can’t get out.

Comparing Activated Carbon to Other Air Purifier Filters

How Activated Carbon Filters Work

Adsorption is not the same as absorption, which is how activated carbon filters work.

In adsorption, the pollutants stick to the surface of the activated carbon filter.

In absorption, the pollutants are taken up into the structure of the absorbent.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be released into the air by things like cleaning supplies and air fresheners.

Activated carbon filters are especially good at getting rid of VOCs.

The Importance of Quality Activated Carbon

How well activated carbon works in air purifiers depends on how well it is made.

Over time, the gaseous pollutants fill up the adsorption sites of the activated carbon.

Once the bed is full, the filter can no longer catch pollutants.

So, it’s important to use a good activated carbon air filter with at least five pounds of carbon.

Effectiveness of Activated Carbon Filters

Together, a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter can do a great job of reducing air pollutants, bacteria, allergens, harmful gases, and chemicals.

An activated carbon filter can get rid of smells and keep toxic chemicals from staying in the air on its own.

They don’t work against germs or allergies, though.

Disadvantages of Activated Carbon Filters

One of the worst things about using activated carbon filters is that you have to replace them when they get full.

Most good air purifiers have signs that let you know when it’s time to change the filter.

Not only do air purifiers with activated carbon filters need to be replaced, but they may not clean the air as well as the manufacturer says they will.

Comparison to Other Types of Air Purifier Filters

HEPA filters are another type of filter that is often used in air purifiers.

Particles are caught in a dense filter material, which is how they work.

HEPA filters are very good at getting rid of small particles from the air, like dust, pollen, and pet dander.

But they are not as good at getting rid of smells or chemicals in the air.

Some air purifiers clean the air in a complete way by using both HEPA and activated carbon filters.

Together, these filters take out both dust and chemicals from the air.

Activated carbon filters are safe to use in both businesses and homes, and they are good at getting rid of volatile organic compounds that are common in most homes.

When used with HEPA filtration, air purifiers can get rid of smells and trap harmful pollutants.

Even though there are some problems with activated carbon filters, they are still a popular choice for air purifiers and can help improve the quality of the air inside.


In the end, activated carbon is a powerful tool for cleaning up dirty air inside.

It can remove harmful chemicals and smells from the air, so anyone who cares about the quality of the air they breathe should have one.

But you should keep in mind that not all activated carbon filters are the same.

When looking for an air purifier, be sure to do your research and choose one that uses high-quality activated carbon.

But it’s important to look at activated carbon as a whole, not just from a technical point of view.

Indoor air pollution is a big problem that affects many people all over the world.

By buying an air purifier with activated carbon, you’re not only improving the air quality in your own home, but you’re also helping to reduce the effects of indoor air pollution on our planet as a whole.

So, the next time you think about buying an air purifier, think about more than just how it will help you and your family right away.

Think about how your choice will affect the people and things around you.

By choosing a product with activated carbon, you’re making a small but important step toward a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable future.

Links and references

  1. “Residential Air Cleaners A Technical Summary” published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  2. “Performance of activated carbon in water filters”, a research paper.
  3. “Indoor Air Quality: A Review of Cleaning Technologies” published in the journal MDPI.

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Adsorption in HEPA Filters: FAQs & Tips

Odor Removal: HEPA Filters 101

Allergens & Air Purifiers: A Beginner’s Guide

Activated Charcoal: Air Purifier Benefits & FAQs