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Activated carbon is the kind of carbon that has gone through some additional process to make it effective at trapping gas molecules. In this process, carbon is injected with carbon dioxide or steam or even hot air which creates tiny pores in the carbon hence increasing its surface area. In this way, the activated carbon molecule can trap as many gaseous particles or pollutants as it can. 

This activated carbon is then used as an activated carbon filter for Air to capture the volatile organic compounds present in the environment. It is also used for trapping and removing the gases as well as harmful odors present in the atmosphere.

Working Principles of Activated Carbon Filter

After increasing the surface area of carbon molecules, it becomes more capable of trapping the gas pollutants. An activated carbon filter captures harmful or undesirable gases or molecules through a process called adsorption. There is a slight difference between adsorption and absorption that you need to know to understand the working principle of activated carbon filter for air. In absorption, the pollutants get absorbed in the structure of the molecule (that is responsible for capturing the unwanted particles) itself. However, in adsorption, instead of getting merged inside the carbon molecules, the gaseous particles stick to the outside of it. It is quite different from the UV-C light filter.

Furthermore, one thing that should be kept in mind is that when the surface area of all the carbon molecules clouded with the gaseous molecules, that is the time when you must change the filter. It is because, after the occupation of the whole surface area, there won’t be any room left for more pollutants to stick on it. If you do not change the filter on time, it may start releasing an unpleasant odor and various chemicals.

How Activated Carbon Filter Clean Odors?

Other filters that are used in various air purifiers cannot get rid of stinky odors as fast as activated carbon filters have. Stinky odors have the capability of playing with our senses for a very long time. In such a scenario we are willing to do everything that can get us the relief and activated carbon filters provide that.

The very moment when the contaminated air enters the filtration system, the process of purification begins. After entering the filtration system, when it reached to the activated carbon filter. Here, it gets stuck on the surface and the activated carbon filter starts the process called adsorption. This process then leads to the purification of the air. Hence, smelly or unwanted odors get cleaned and purified. 

We cannot even begin to think about what we would have to go through without these filters.

Are Activated Carbon Filters Washable?

Unlike other air purifying filters, the activated carbon filters can be reused two to three times. With other filters, there is hardly any chance of reuse but activated carbon filters can be good for recycling. The activated carbon filter has a very short life span as the gaseous molecules occupy its surface within minutes. But, because of the porous nature of this carbon, it can be recycled quite easily. It can be done by baking the pollutants and the odors out of it. Also, one thing that should be kept in mind is that not all activated carbon filters are washable. You can only recycle those filters on which it is written by a certain company or organization that they are washable. Otherwise, you can only use it for once and then throw it in the garbage.

Are there any Standards to Follow for Activated Carbon Filters?

The activated carbon filters completely depend on the quantity and quality of carbon used in them. The more carbon, the more effective it will be. It can also be put this way that the more the sugar, the sweeter it will be. Like this, the more carbon there is, the more effective these filters are going to be. This is the only standard that needs to be followed to get the best-activated carbon filter in town.

It is imperative to go for such shops or such providers to make sure that there is more carbon in carbon activated filters. In case you feel and see that there is not much carbon, there is no point in buying that filter because the air will not be purified this way.

Are they Necessary for Air Purification?

When it comes to air purification, a large number of air purifiers have been used that perform similar or different functions. Some can kill the microorganisms while others tend to remove the gaseous pollutants or harmful odors from the environment.  An activated carbon filter is good for short term use. It can be used when your house is filled with volatile organic compounds or when it is filled with a certain smell or smoke or something related to it. Otherwise, it is not at all necessary to use the activated carbon filter as it requires a lot of money and attention to deal with. You will not only spend much money on it, but you will continuously have to keep track of the saturation of the filter.

Are there any Replacements Available for Activated Carbon Filters?

This world is full of options and alternatives. There is also an alternative available for activated carbon filters for air. The main task of these filters is to free the atmosphere of harmful odors or gaseous particles by capturing them. Another technology has a similar feature but it is better than activated carbon as it not only entrap gaseous particles but also destroy them. This marvelous technology is Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) which is present inside the Molekule air purifier. But that cost you more and maintenance is also not easy.


  • The best thing about activated carbon filter is that it can be reused 2 to 3 times.
  • Because of the quality of carbon, they can be really good for the purification of air.
  • Activated carbon filters can rid the environment from stinky odors. Even if there is a dead animal in your room and these filters are there, there is going to be no smell after a while.


  • The worst thing about it is that the moment it gets saturated with the pollutants, it begins the process of out-gassing and starts releasing the harmful odors or pollutants back into the air, that is why it must not be used for a long term purpose.
  • Higher maintenance cost, needs to replace the filter periodically.
  • This filter can be dangerous for kids in a few scenarios.

Final Words

The main function of every air purifier is to clean the atmosphere one way or the other. As it is a man-made technology that is why it cannot be 100% perfect. There is always room for errors in it. When it comes to an activated carbon filter, it was the first-ever filter that was able to remove chemicals, gases, smells and harmful odors from the atmosphere. For a while, it was hard to believe that such a filter existed.

Although it performs such an amazing task and helps in lessening a lot of trouble, it has various disadvantages that cannot be ignored. The moment it gets saturated, this savior turns into a beast. This very beast can be dangerous for small kids and asthma patients. The best way to use it is for short term purposes only. In case you feel that there is a stinky odor in your room or there is something that needs to be purified, use it for that purpose and that’s it. Otherwise, you should not use it that much.

The balanced use of this purifier will get you good results. But when you prefer to buy an air purifier with carbon activated filter; stay ready for higher maintenance cost.

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