What odors does activated carbon get rid of?

There are many ways of eliminating or masking bad smells at home. For example, you can use an air freshener to perfume the air indoors or use a natural method like sprinkling some baking soda in the area from where the smell is coming.

However, using activated carbon is another better option that will not cost you much. Activated charcoal can eliminate odors anywhere you find yourself wrinkling your nose.

But how does charcoal get rid of bad smells, and what odors can it eliminate at home?

Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal, is a porous substance because it has oxygen added to it to increase its porosity.

The porosity increases its surface area and makes it highly absorbent. That absorbent property is crucial because it allows activated carbon to remove chemicals, gases, and toxins.

That means you can use it to purify water and fish tank filtering systems. But activated charcoal is mostly used for odor absorption at home.

What odors does activated carbon eliminate?

The typical human nose can distinguish around 10,000 scents. However, only a few smells are known.

Activated carbon can eliminate many odors at home, including:

1. Pet odors

Activated charcoal can absorb pet odors in carpets, curtains, furniture, rugs, and floors. The best way to use the charcoal is to place it near the source of the smell.

 A dog on a couch
Image by: Flickr/Dadaeos

2. Mold and mildew

Mold can fill the air with unpleasant odors. In addition, they can linger for weeks even after removing the fungus.

Place activated carbon in places you see mold and mildew forming. Give it a few days, and you’ll see the mold disappearing from the walls.

3. Volatile Organic Compounds

Activated carbon can eliminate many VOCs in your home.

The best examples include paints, solvents, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, and air fresheners.

Others are stored fuels, dry-cleaned clothing, pesticide, glues, and adhesives.

4. Sweat in gym bags

Gym bags can smell nasty after a while because of the sweaty and smelly clothes. Furthermore, bacteria can grow and cling to the fabric.

Gym bag

Therefore, place activated carbon inside the gym bag to eliminate the smell.

5. Cigarette smells

The best way of using activated charcoal to eliminate cigarette smells is to place it in the HVAC air filtration, which will absorb cigarette smells.

6. Shoes and outerwear

If you have smelly shoes and outerwear, place activated carbon inside them to eliminate the smell.

7. Laundry room smells

The laundry room has lots of moisture. Thus, mold and mildew can thrive in such an environment.

Therefore, place bags of activated carbon in your laundry room to eliminate smells.

8. Smelly closet

Closets can smell because of the paints, wood preservatives, and other VOCs.

Placing activated carbon in the closet will eliminate the odors.

Image by: Flickr/Megan Hansen

9. Fridge smells

You can use activated carbon inside a fridge to eliminate spoiled food odor.

Ensure to place the carbon in two paper bowls and then place it in the refrigerator and freezer for continuous treatment.

Where should I use activated carbon for odor removal?

You can use activated carbon for odor removal in any smelly area. For example, use activated carbon in the laundry area, mud room, bedroom, living room, and kitchen.

In addition, you can use it in the fridge to keep it smelling fresh. Activated charcoal is safe and does not have any adverse health effects.

How long does charcoal absorb odors?

Depending on the types of odors absorbed by carbon, it can take between 15 minutes and 24 hours to eliminate them.

However, that will also depend on the activated charcoal size and the odor’s severity.

Does activated carbon get rid of the smell?

Activated carbon can get rid of musty smells at home. That is because it has a large surface area that creates many micro pockets and pores.

The pores will trap the odor inside the activated carbon and retain it without releasing the gases back into the air.

But the carbon can fill up with time, meaning you have to treat or refresh it by placing it in direct sunlight for a few hours.

What kind of charcoal absorbs odors?

The best charcoal to absorb odors is activated charcoal. Although you can use regular charcoal, it is not as effective as activated charcoal.

In addition, it can take longer for regular charcoal to absorb odors than activated charcoal.

How to use activated charcoal to remove odors

If you have activated charcoal at home, here is how to use it to eliminate odors.

  • Buy a bag of activated charcoal as loose granules.
  • Identify the area with the musty smell.
  • Fill some sachets with the granules and close the openings.
  • Place the sachets near smelly areas like the laundry room or bathroom. Alternatively, you can place it inside a stinky trash can, gym bag, fridge, or smelly closet.

Consider using loose granules because they work well in large areas with potent smells.


Activated carbon is a highly porous and absorbent substance. Therefore, it can absorb many smells, including pet odors, human waste, mold and mildew, Volatile Organic Compounds, cigarette smells, and all laundry room smells.

You can use it to eliminate smells by placing it in a smelly area. It will take 15 minutes and up to a week to eliminate the odor. However, that will depend on the severity of the smell.

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