Activated charcoal – A great item to keep on hand, especially with concerns over water purity.

If you have any concerns over your stored water having an off taste or maybe having become contaminated, this discussion is for you.  And yes, I keep several Sawyer Mini water filters, at home & in my get home bag. Such items are great for purifying water.  Yes, you can drink pond water thru one of these, but the water will smell & taste nasty.

With all the current discussion over water storage, due to the extreme weather conditions many are experiencing, I thought I might suggest a solution to those concerned with the purity of stored water.  That would be storing bulk quantities of granular activated charcoal (also referred to as carbon).  Granular Activated Charcoal removes harmful elements from water including copper, chlorine, carbohydrates and other dissolved organic materials. It also takes out sulfa drugs, antibiotics, and other medications.

I keep a 5 gallon pail, or 15 lbs of this in storage.  Keep in mind activated charcoal is a completely different item than regular charcoal. Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. It is this extra processing of the charcoal that makes this product so adsorbent. Yes, adsorb… not absorb. Absorption is the process in which a fluid is dissolved by a liquid or a solid (absorbent). Adsorption is the process in which atoms, ions or molecules from a substance (it could be gas, liquid or dissolved solid) adhere to a surface of the adsorbent.

 Our typical water filtration devices, such as Sawyer do a good job of removing harmful things from the water but don’t usually remove the foul smell sometimes associated with standing water. If you add activated charcoal filtration, that will make the water smell better and also helps remove some additional toxins from the water.  I keep some of these cartridges on hand, as they are refillable and can easily be attached to your portable water filters.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007U0184/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1&tag=prepperforumsconvert-20


I get my 5 gallon pail of the activated charcoal here.  That site is loaded with great info.





  • Comments (14)

    • 5

      Appreciate the clarification re aDsorb… and aBsorb… Merci, Redneck.

    • 5

      Thanks Redneck. It’s on my shopping list.

      I have a Katadyne drip systems that works with two filters. One of the filters contains the activated charcoal.

    • 7

      How many gallons will that little filter you linked to last for before needing to be replaced or have the carbon inside changed out?

      How do you tell when it needs to be replaced? When it starts tasting like pond water again?

      • 3

        Iam a fan of boiling – fairly quick and absolutely positive – kiils all organisms DRT

      • 4

        Yes, but keep in mind boiling doesn’t clean the water or remove the bad taste or smell… it only kills organisms.  Boiling also doesn’t remove chemicals and other organic matter, which activated charcoal can.  If you check on that site, they have different types of product that can remove specific chemicals.

        I personally wouldn’t use activated charcoal as a stand alone solution.  I would use it in conjunction with boiling and/or filtration.

      • 8

        Agree that multiple methods are best.  But the potentially worst water I ever consumed was from a canyon stream on the Navajo Reservation “too thick to drink and too thin to plow”.  We collected, letit sit for a day or two decanted the clear water at the top and boiled.  There were sheep and dwellings upstream so definite possibility of contamination.  That ws our water source for a month – no ill effects…

      • 4

        hikermor – That is quite the story! I’m glad that letting the water settle and boiling it allowed you all to be safe.

        Do you happen to remember if it tasted nice and clean like tap water, or did it taste like sheep water?

      • 7

        It tasted just like water.

      • 6

        You know, I don’t have a clue but the indicator would be when the taste or smell gets bad again.  I’m sure that would vary depending on how dirty the water is.  What is nice about this unit is that you don’t have to replace the unit or purchase proprietary filters when this happens.  You just unscrew and replace the activated charcoal.

      • 10

        I think you are right Redneck, once you start tasting pond again or water flow decreases to a level where it isn’t usable, then it’s time to rotate your carbon.

        That sure is neat about the ability to just unscrew and refill with new activated charcoal. 

        You know what would make that even better though? Is if it had standard water bottle threading on it. Female on one end and male on the other. So you could put it in between your sawyer and the water bottle.


        But I bet some cheap tubing from home depot will allow you to turn your sawyer into a nice gravity filter with the charcoal filter in between.

      • 9

        Yep, that is what you do.  That dual filtration should remove most hazardous content plus remove off smell & taste.  I ordered another one of those so that I can play with it some.  My others are packed up in my stored goods.

        I really like the Sawyer Mini.

    • 6

      let’s say that a disaster goes on for years, and you use up your activated charcoal. how comfortable do you feel that you could make more by using burnt wood and grinding it up?

      it looks like the ones that you bought are little pebbles of charcoal. i wonder how that compares to finely ground charcoal. 

      • 6

        Don’t confuse activated charcoal, sometimes called activated carbon, with charcoal… they aren’t the same.  Regular charcoal is the fist step in the process of making activated charcoal.  From there, in commercial ovens, it is heated to very high temps with reduce oxygen.  Another way of making it is with harsh chemicals.  Neither option is really viable for home production… especially after a disaster.  Even though charcoal & activated charcoal may look somewhat similar, they are very different.  The activation process makes the charcoal MUCH more open to adsorb chemicals, bad flavors, bad tastes, etc.

        So to answer your question, I would not be able to make my own to replace that used.  In my case, I don’t have a huge need for it as I have a home well and the knowhow and tools needed to access the water when the grid is down.  That water is pure.  

        If someone is planning on drinking lake water, pond water, stream water, whatever… I suggest having plenty of commercial filters and plenty of activated charcoal.  Yes, you can make a DIY filter from charcoal and sand, but that doesn’t really filter out much and would still need to be boiled.  In a survival situation, there is no single item more important for your health than pure water.

      • 4

        that makes sense. thanks for clarifying