Activated Charcoal is simply a form of carbon that has a very high surface area and is extremely porous. The surface area and porosity are so high that activated charcoal can be used to filter out impurities in air and water. It is usually made from common charcoal and can be made in the field. This is what makes it so valuable in a SHTF situation.
There are many different products that you can buy at the store to filter water or treat poisonings (in my opinion two of the best uses of activated charcoal for a prepper) but very few that can be made on your own. This is what makes knowing how to make and use activated charcoal so valuable. The fact that in a situation where you may not have the luxury of running out to the store you can make your own activated charcoal and use it to great effect.
Let’s take a look at how using activated charcoal in an improvised water filter is completely game changing. In many rudimentary homemade water filters cotton cloth of some sort (or a coffee filter) is used as an initial filter, followed by alternating layers of gravel and sand which are used to filter out impurities in the water. This alone will give you pretty decent results. However adding a final layer of activated charcoal at the bottom of a filter like this greatly increases its ability to purify water. The carbon will absorb many more pollutants from the water than the gravel and sand could ever trap. An activated charcoal filter is actually one of the more common and critical parts to a store bought water filter.
Activated charcoal is also a great antidote for poisonings. It is so good at treating orally ingested poisonings and overdoses that it has actually replaced stomach pumping and the use of ipecac in many hospitals. Once ingested the activated charcoal binds with toxins and prevents them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. You can buy it over the counter without a prescription. But again, it is the ability to make your own activated charcoal that makes it so valuable.
So how exactly do you make this stuff? Well, I thought long and hard about going through a lengthy explanation here on Prep-Blog but decided that we’d all be better off if I just pointed you to a great article on instructables.com that goes through everything step by step. You can find it here.
Now you’ve got a little bit of knowledge, which we all know can be dangerous, so I would like to encourage everyone to study up a bit on activated charcoal and it’s correct uses. It’s also good to note some of the potential dangers (including aspiration into the lungs). Prepping is all about knowledge after all.