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.
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!
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.