Why You Should Buy an Air Purifier with Activated Carbon

By Liz Somerville

12 minute read

More than 2,000 years ago, humans used activated carbon to remove impurities from water. Activated carbon acts like a sponge to absorb chemicals, odors, and other volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Although its exceptional absorption qualities were well-known, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that activated carbon was produced in powder form and sold commercially. During this time, activated carbon was used to purify water and to remove the color from sugar. As World War I progressed, activated carbon was being used to clean wartime water and assisted in air purifiers; manufacturing. Activated carbon became a valuable resource during the war when it was discovered that it could be used in gas masks to protect soldiers. Additionally, granular activated carbon was also developed during this time.

Today, activated carbon is used in food and beverage processing to remove foul odor and municipal drinking water. According to experts, activated carbon may have some health benefits that help with kidney health, diarrhea, skincare and skin infection, and teeth whitening. Moreover, activated carbon is found in dozens of oral health products and is said to be antibacterial, detoxifying, and more.

The first time many of us encounter activated carbon is when choosing an air purifier. Many of our customers begin their search because of allergies or asthma. With indoor air quality more important than ever, it’s critical to reduce dust in the home to worsen your allergies or asthma and alleviate the chance of respiratory problems due to odors or chemicals.

Activated Carbon

Why Is It Called “Activated?”

What is the difference between carbon and “activated” carbon? The carbon used in air purifiers and water filters is put through a baking process to dry the carbon. The heat during this process drives out impurities and causes the carbon to fracture at a microscopic level. Doing this opens up a large surface area where contaminants are captured. After activated carbon has fully absorbed a large volume of pollutants, heating it again will reactivate it; however, the reactivation process is impractical and dangerous.

Non-activated carbon is soot or charcoal, while activated carbon is described in a variety of ways. It’s general range capabilities include amorphous carbon-based materials that exhibit a high degree of porosity and an extended surface area. This means that it has excellent absorbent characteristics that make it very useful for a wide variety of filtration processes, including air and water.

How Is Activated Carbon Used in Home Air Purifiers?

The best way you can cut down on dust in your home is by purchasing an air purifier with activated carbon. Dust consists of chemicals, smog, ozone, fumes from cooking, pet dander, and tobacco, and more. These contaminants can not only irritate allergenic and asthmatics, but they are also bad for our health.

Fortunately, air purifiers are designed to remove particulates, including pollen or pet dander, effectively. For those who need a comprehensive air purifier solution, higher caliber room air purifiers that offer outstanding particle, odor, and chemical removal are wise choices. Ultimately, many quality air purifier systems provide a comprehensive solution that includes activated carbon to these issues.

Here are a few ways air purifiers with a carbon filter are used in the home:

1. Carbon Can Be Used By Itself
In-room air purifiers, the activated carbon is often combined with other minerals, like zeolite. Zeolite can absorb ions and molecules and thus act as a filter for odor control, toxin removal, and chemical sieve.

2. Carbon Can Be Treated to Target Specific Chemicals
While activated carbon can adsorb hundreds of different chemicals and odors, it cannot remove everything. Carbon is not necessarily excellent at removing some common chemicals such as formaldehyde or hydrogen sulfide. In these situations, the carbon may be impregnated with potassium iodide or blended with active alumina to increase absorption qualities. This means that all of the tiny spaces and crevices within the carbon hold an added chemical that now reacts with and neutralizes the airborne formaldehyde or hydrogen sulfide, rather than the carbon itself removing it.

3. As A Treatment for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
A small segment of allergy sufferers has what is called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). This means that they have a very high sensitivity to any airborne chemicals in the air. Perfumes, cleaning chemicals, and even off-gassing from household building materials can severely irritate someone with MCS. For those who suffer from MCS, an air purifier with a high volume of activated carbon can be used to remove irritants from your home. The air will become much more breathable not only for everyone but especially for those who suffer from dust allergies, asthma, and those with weakened immune systems such as babies, children, and the elderly.