Activating Charcoal

Ever wonder what makes charcoal activated? I did too, so I did some research and found how easy and cheap it is to make your own activated charcoal! 

Why Have Activated Charcoal? 

Activated charcoal has wonderful benefits for your body. It is black, odorless, flavorless powder used since ancient times to treat various ailments. When ingested, activated charcoal pulls toxins and chemicals in your gut and is eliminated through stool instead of being absorbed into your body.

It has been used as an emergency anti-poison treatment since the early 1800s, because it can bind to a wide variety of drugs, reducing their effect. Studies show that ingesting 50-100 grams within 5 of taking a drug may reduce an adult’s ability to absorb that drug by 74%.

The ability to pull toxins and chemicals also applies to topical skin care. Applying a small amount to your skin is said to treat acne, dandruff, insect or snake bites. You can also use activated charcoal for cosmetic uses like tooth whitening in a homemade tooth powder or making your own mascara. 

Where To Begin? 

In order to begin your process you will need to find some hard wood. Place the hardwood into a metal pot, then cover it with a lid. The lid of your pot should have a vent hole. Cook the pot on an open fire for 3 to 5 hours to make charcoal. When no more smoke or gas seems to be coming from your pot, it’s finished cooking. 

Another way to receive hardwood charcoal is collecting it from your wood burning stove, sifting through the ash and large chunks. We currently don’t have one but were able to have a friend shift out there for us. 

Activating Your Charcoal 

You want to clean the charcoal with water once it cools. Rinsing under cool water to remove ash and any remaining debris, then drain water. Transfer the cleaned charcoal to a mortar and pestle and grind it up into fine powder. 

Allow the charcoal to air dry completely. This usally takes about 24 hours, confirm the dryness with your fingers. The powder should be fully dry before you move on. 

Combine calcium chloride and water in a 1:3 ratio. Be careful when you mix the two substances; doing so will cause the solution to get very hot. I had the kids join this part to teach them a chemistry lesson. You’ll need enough of the solution to cover the charcoal completely. Calcium chloride can be bought in most stores in the canning/preserving section. You can use lemon juice as an alternative. 

Stir together the calcium chloride solution and charcoal powder into a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl. When the mixture reaches past consistency, stop adding the solution. Cover the bowl and let the charcoal sit for 24 hours. At this point it should be wet but not saturated. 

Cook the charcoal for another 3 hours to activate it. Returning it to the metal pot and put it back on a fire. The fire will need to hot enough to boil water for the charcoal to activate. After cooking for 3 hours at this temperature, the charcoal will be activated. 

After the charcoal has cooled, place it in a glass jar. 

Finished Product

And you did it! I didn’t think it was too time consuming. Although it was a 3 day project, it took 30 minutes to 3 hours each day. It was well worth it in my book and will be continuing to activate our own charcoal. The price for this is pennies on my dollar. Plus I find such joy in being able to make our own medicinal products from scratch. Praying this encourages you to do the same!

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