How To Make Activated Charcoal – DIY Guide

How To Make Activated Charcoal - DIY Guide

In case you haven’t noticed, activated charcoal has become really popular in recent years.

It’s being used for many different purposes, including removing toxins from the body.

What, exactly, is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that can be made from burning materials which are rich in carbon.

People use activated charcoal to make their teeth whiter, keep their bodies healthy, and more. It’s even used in emergency situations such as drug overdoses because of how it draws toxins from the body.

Let’s look at activated charcoal in greater detail and how you can make it yourself from scratch.

Can’t You Just Use Regular Charcoal?

Charcoal Brickets

Now you might be wondering if you can just use regular charcoal in an emergency instead of activated charcoal, but this isn’t recommended.

Although regular charcoal does have some absorption ability, activated charcoal has small pores in its surface and this is what gives it the power to absorb more toxins and gases.

When it comes to survival prepping, activated charcoal is a must-have in your home.

It can be used to filter water, make a gas mask, and treat poisonings, to mention just a few of its uses, so you want to ensure that you have some of it handy.

The good news is that you can make it yourself with our step-by-step guide.

How To Make Activated Charcoal In Nine Easy Steps

Step One: Make Your Own Charcoal

Maybe you already have charcoal. In that case, great. But what if you don’t and therefore need to make your own? You can do that easily. Here’s how. 

  • Chop pieces of hardwood so that they can fit into a barrel where they’ll burn. 
  • Make a bonfire around the barrel. This will have to burn for a few hours.
  • Afterwards, let the barrel cool overnight before you open it.

Now that you have your own charcoal, you can move on to making activated charcoal with it.

Step Two: Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need to ensure you have some important ingredients in order to make activated charcoal, so these items are worth keeping on your regular grocery list so that you never run out of them.

  • Calcium chloride. In shops, this is sometimes called Pickle Crisp.
  • Glass jar that has a lid which seals tightly.
  • White sheet
  • Measuring cup
  • Flat pan
  • Storage container
  • Gloves
  • Glass bowl
  • Hammer
  • Charcoal

To prepare the charcoal for this process, you’ll need to turn it into a powder. That’s what we’re going to do in Step Three.

Step Three: Turn Your Charcoal Into Powder

Charcoal Powder

With a hammer, you want to smash the charcoal into a powder. Keep this powder into a glass bowl or container.

Step four: Mix Water And Calcium Chloride

Wear your gloves for this step because you will need to protect your hands from the heat that will be created by the ingredients.

In your glass jar, you want to make a 25-percent solution of calcium chloride with the use of water, so to give you an idea of how this will work, 100g of calcium chloride will dissolve in 300ml water.

Step Five: Make A Paste With The Calcium Chloride And Charcoal

You want to mix together the calcium chloride with the powdered charcoal.

To do this, you should slowly add the solution of calcium chloride to the powdered charcoal. Blend it well so that it starts to form a paste.

Step Six: Put It Aside For A Day

You want the paste to dry for 24 hours, so set the container somewhere safe where no one will disturb it. 

Step Seven: Filter Your Charcoal 

Once the 24 hours are up, you should spread the paste you’ve made on a white sheet. Make sure that the white sheet is clean but doesn’t have any detergent residue on it.

Rinse the paste with clean water. You want to catch all the water that moves through the sheet as you filter it.

A good tip is to use a coffee filter to catch the carbon you might lose during this process.

Step Eight: Heat It Up

Heating Up Charcoal

Now that you have made the activated charcoal, you should put it on a flat pan and bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour.

You can also put the coffee filter in the same pan. You’ll know the charcoal is ready when you can see that all the moisture has been removed from it.

Step Nine: Store It

When it’s completely dry, break the activated charcoal into pieces so that you can store it in an airtight jar.

What You Can Do With Your DIY Activated Charcoal

You can do a range of useful things with your DIY activated charcoal.

Here are some ways in which to use it in an emergency situation.

Use Activated Charcoal To Treat Insect Bites

Activated charcoal can help to draw out toxins, so you can apply it to bug bites. However, you’ll need to mix it in with other ingredients.

You’ll need the following items to treat those itchy and inflamed insect bites:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon shea butter
  • 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon activated charcoal


  • Melt the shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler.
  • Take it off the heat and add the lavender oil, activated charcoal, and aloe vera gel.
  • Mix it well and then spoon the liquid into a container so that it’s handy for when you need it.
  • It should rest for a few hours before use.

How To Make A Gas Mask With Activated Charcoal

Applying Activated Charcoal Face Mask

While a homemade gas mask made with DIY activated charcoal won’t offer you the same protection as an actual gas mask, it can definitely help you to survive during an emergency.

Here’s how to make your own activated charcoal gas mask, courtesy of Black Scout Survival.

You’ll need the following items:

  • 2-liter soda plastic bottle
  • 1 empty soda can
  • 1 rubber band
  • 2 cotton pad rounds
  • duct tape
  • activated charcoal
  • scissors


  • Cut the bottom part of a clean plastic bottle with scissors.
  • Hold the bottle so that the opening you’ve just made in it is facing you. Use scissors to cut away the middle part of one side of the bottle.
  • You should be able to fit the bottle on your face thanks to this piece you’ve cut away from it. Test it out. If it doesn’t fit, then make that section a bit larger.
  • Since the edges of plastic are sharp, you want to cover them with duct tape.
  • Use your scissors to make holes in the bottom of your soda can. These will be the holes through which you’ll breathe.
  • Cut one-third of the can so that you have the bottom piece that has the holes you’ve made in it. You can discard the rest of the can.
  • Place a cotton round at the bottom of the can, on the inside, so that it covers the holes you’ve made.
  • Sprinkle a layer of activated charcoal on that cotton round.
  • Place a second cotton round on top of that layer of charcoal.
  • Tape the cotton round to the top of the can with some duct tape. Don’t put the tape over the top of the cotton round but around the can to keep it in place.
  • Use your scissors to gently make a hole in the middle of that cotton rounder. This is important because you’ll put the neck of your plastic bottle into this hole.
  • Tape the bottle to the can so that it becomes one piece. Now you can see your face mask taking shape!
  • With your scissors, make a small hole big enough for a rubber band to fit through on one side of the top of the plastic (where you’ve put tape around the edge) and a second hole on the other side. These are where your rubber band will go.
  • Cut your rubber band and thread it through one hole. Tie a knot so that it will stay in place. Then push the rubber band through the other hole you’ve made. This band will help to keep your mask in place around your head when you wear it.

What Happens When You Take Activated Charcoal?

Pills From Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is said to draw toxins from the body, which is why it can be used to treat poisoning.

How it works is that it binds itself to the poison so that it can’t enter the person’s bloodstream.

That said, if you’re thinking of using activated charcoal to do this, you should be aware that you shouldn’t use it on someone who’s poisoned unless they recently ingested the poison and they’re alert.

In addition, you shouldn’t use activated charcoal if the poison is a caustic agent, liquid, or hydrocarbon such as gasoline, the University of Utah reports.

Ultimately, the safest thing is for activated charcoal to be used in medical facilities.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, while activated charcoal can draw chemicals and toxins from the body, this charcoal can also bind to substances that you don’t want removed, such as those healthy foods you ate or those important medications that you consumed.

There are some studies that support the idea of taking activated charcoal to improve your health.

For example, activated charcoal is said to help the kidneys function better by filtering undigested toxins in the body.

Some animal studies have already shown that it can also reduce gastrointestinal damage as well as inflammation related to chronic kidney disease, as Medical News Today reports.

Related Questions

Why is activated charcoal used in gas masks?

Thanks to its absorbent qualities, activated charcoal can absorb gases, thus preventing them from reaching the person’s nose and mouth where they can be inhaled.

What are some negative side effects of consuming activated charcoal?

A common side effect is constipation, which can be caused by the charcoal hardening in the intestine.

In serious cases, this can cause a blockage or perforation. Other side effects include vomiting and diarrhoea.


In an emergency situation you won’t always be able to acquire activated charcoal from the shops or online.

This is why it’s an important survival prepping skill to be able to make your own.

In this article, we’ve looked at how to make your own activated charcoal with items around the house, as well as outlined some interesting uses for it.

Greg - Prepping Insider

Hey, I'm a prepping enthusiast. Prepping for me is simply something of a passion. I have personally lived in many different rural properties that have given me a wealth of knoweldge and experience in practically living out survival and preparation situations. It’s not about getting the latest survival gadgets or buckets of food as its more of a lifestyle.

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