Household Odors & the Use of Activated Charcoal

Smells within the household are common place. There are good smells and there are bad smells.

This brief article will be concerned with the bad smells and their elimination.

Why do we have bad smells within our environment, especially our homes?

Note: There is a separate article on this website, that is focused on the smells and odors that mold will cause within the household.

Other than mold, what are some of the other reasons for bad smells to occur within the home?

  • Pets, whether it is the kitty litter or simply the overall smell of dogs, cats, birds or other types of pets within the home, they all can cause negative odors.
  • Garbage, the storage of garbage, the lack of removal, the forgotten garbage bag, the spilled garbage juice resulting from the accumulation of liquid at the bottom of the garbage bin, etc. all cause negative odors within the household.
  • Human hygiene, or the lack of human hygiene, can cause odors within the household.
  • External odors due to smoking leaves, burning rubbish, or adjacent construction procedures such as sprayed insulation or painting, can cause odors within the household.
  • Hobbies in the home, this could include the heavy use of glue or spray paint for crafts and modeling to home remodeling, can all cause odors that are negative to the overall environment.

What is odor?

It is the presence of microscopic particles, suspended within the air or attached to dust particles floating in the air, that we breathe in, and therefore smell. The removal of these particles from the air is the only way to eliminate the odor.

Permanent removal of the odor should not be confused with the masking over of the smell with deodorants, candles or other aerosol type deodorizers. These products, although smelling quite nice, merely overwhelm the actual smell that you are trying to eliminate by covering it. This type of solution does not eliminate the micro toxins that cause the smell within the atmosphere; they merely camouflage, or mask over it, for the time being. We are a proponent of candles and other air fresheners to make the home environment pleasant, but they will not eliminate odors that are caused by negative situations within the home.

How do we eliminate these particles that cause a negative smell in the environment? One extremely good solution is the use of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a fine black powder created with bamboo, bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, goal, olive pits or sawdust depending on the manufacturer.

Whether this activated charcoal is an actual filter that is fitted within mechanical air handlers or forced air fans, or it consists of simple bags of activated charcoal, this activated charcoal will act to absorb the small particles in the air that are causing the smell due to the internal structure of this material.

Why does activated charcoal remove small particles within the environment?

Activated charcoal is created by exposing regular charcoal to very high temperatures. These high temperatures change the internal structure of the charcoal by reducing the size of the pores and increasing the surface area. This reduction of pore size, together with the increase in surface area, results in a very efficient filtering medium that will remove, even the smallest particles from the air that maybe causing the negative odors. This is the reason that the use of activated charcoal will remove the particles that cause the smell of pets, humans, garbage or other smelly issues influencing the household environment. This is the same concept that we have recommended to remove that moldy smell that the presence of mold will present, even after a thorough cleanup and elimination of the mold.

In addition to the miniscule size of the pores as well as the increased surface area, the activated charcoal carries a negative charge, which by the law of opposite charged particles attracts one another; this will naturally attract the positively charged toxins and particles within the air, thereby trapping these particles within the actual matrix of the activated charcoal. Therefore, activated charcoal is both mechanically capable of trapping the small particles, as well as electrically charged to attract these small particles. This all occurs naturally by simply allowing the natural environment to be in contact with the activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal filters are also used to remove the sulfur and other smells that occurs in some water supplies. These filters have the ability to trap the very small particles within the water that are causing the smell.

The easiest method for the homeowner to use activated charcoal is to purchase individually sealed bags of the material, and position them within closets, under sinks and in all areas that have been promoting smells, or have been creating a moldy environment. The area around the kitty litter or the garbage storage, are two excellent places for the positioning of the activated charcoal bags. These bags of activated charcoal will eventually filter out the smelly particles from the air, and the environment will smell both clean and fresh, even around the most offensive smelling areas of the home.

A beneficial characteristic of the use of activated charcoal is that it can be cleansed and rejuvenated, by placing the bags or the filters in the sunlight, or just simply outside. The UV rays generated from the sun will cleanse the activated charcoal and re-energize the filtering characteristics by removing the toxins that have been trapped in the matrix of the activated charcoal.

Professionals have been using activated charcoal as a medium to trap small particles in industrial, chemical and medical applications for many years. The homeowner should research the use of this material, and utilize its characteristics to clean the air and re-fresh your interior environment that may have been compromised by negative smells and odors.

Whatever the reason for the negative odor within your home, the use of activated charcoal in a filter medium, or simply as a bag of material sitting on the countertop, will decrease the negative smells that particles in the air create.

Good luck and let’s get that air smelling clean and fresh!


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