Skip to main content

Unusual Uses: Charcoal

Filed Under: Unusual Uses, Essential Skills, Know-How

Most of us hear the word "charcoal" and we think "barbecue," right? But charcoal actually has tons of uses around the home and yard. For years I used charcoal in my aquarium filters, for example. I always wondered how something resembling lumps of dirt could actually purify my fishes' water!

Looking closer though, I observed that charcoal is a really beautiful thing. Mostly carbon, charcoal is like the most lightweight, porous rock you've ever seen. It's that porous quality that makes charcoal so useful, enabling it to absorb moisture, odor and dirt. Activated charcoal is the most porous of all, since it's been processed for maximum surface area. Let's look at some surprising ways you can use charcoal.

wrench, toolGetty Images

In the Workshop
Keeping a chunk or two in your toolbox or tool-storage cabinet may help keep rust off metal tools.

In the Bathroom
Charcoal's a natural dehumidifier, too, helping remove excess moisture from damp areas of the home. Try it in problem damp spots, especially anywhere closets and books are stored.

In the Bedroom
Charcoal makes a great odor neutralizer. Place some in a box or bowl and tuck in back of your closet or dresser drawers. Add some to your shoe storage boxes to keep footwear smelling fresh. Or try keeping a few pieces in your refrigerator or pantry to keep food odors at bay.

Remember how charcoal purifies aquarium water? You can also add some to vases to help cut flowers last longer or to encourage plant cuttings to take root.

In the Yard and Garden
Lots of gardeners swear by charcoal for enriching soil and compost with beneficial carbon. If you try this, make sure to use cheap, horticultural charcoal. There's no need to bring the expensive activated kind outdoors for these kinds of jobs!

Clump-free de-icing salt. Photo: comedy_nose, Flickr

Here's another great yard-related use: throw some into your bag of de-icing salt. Apparently charcoal's moisture-absorbing power prevents the salt from clumping into big useless rocks.

  • Mike Perry

    What if I store my closets in a closet?

  • dr_mabeuse

    Charcoal is amazing stuff. Just about all the drugs we take and the spirits we drink and processed with activated charcoal at some point to absorb impurities and improve color (charcoal tends to absorb highly colored substances). You can use plain old charcoal briquettes from the barbecue too, which are actually just compressed charcoal powder with a little bit of inert binder. 3 or 4 briquettes in a bowl in the fridge can word wonders. But if you're using them around food, make very sure they're pure charcoal and not the 'Easy-Light" or fast-start kind, which have additives to make them burn faster.

    Activated charcoal in capsule form is standard treatment for some drug overdoses - absorbs the drug before it can get into the bloodstream. Stuff is said to help prevent hangovers too, if taken before boozing it up, but I can't attest to that.

  • ycav4424

    Learn something new everyday. Who'd a thunk it.

  • 3 Comments / 1 Pages

Add Your Comments

  • New Users
  • Returning

If you are posting a comment for the first time, please enter your name and email address in the fields above. Your name will be displayed with your comment. Your email address will never be displayed.

Add Your Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments.

When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password.

To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address and we will make it a live link for you. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br /> tags.


Follow Us

  • No features currently available.

  • More Hot Topics The Daily Fix  •  DIY Warrior  •  Home Ec  •  Handmade
    DIY Disaster Doctor  •  In the Workshop  •  Product Picks

    Home Improvement Videos