By Lincoln McElwee
A few years ago, I was complaining to a friend about the old-carpet smell in the studio loft I had just received the keys to. The previous owners had a cat, and so the place was bogged down with not only dust but that all too familiar pet smell. As I have allergies, and am quite sensitive to smells, I had managed to stay away from the overabundance of summer rain and morning meadow smells saturating the market in the form of air purifiers. Now, it seemed, I would be faced with a bitter defeat.
While I had been wondering if there were any other ways to neutralize the odor without reverting to the smells of manufactured freesia, my friend returned from visiting his parents in Osaka, Japan and brought me a gift – a miniature wicker basket full of activated charcoal sticks!
Before then, I had never even heard of charcoal as a means of keeping your house fresh. Since then, I have seen it advertised as effective in keeping not only the air fresh in your house but also the air in the refrigerator and in cabinets and cupboards as well.
Depending on what DIY website(s) you follow, there are alternate interpretations as to what type of charcoal is best for the job of odor neutralization. Websites like Apartment Therapy and Life Hacker, for instance, have multiple views from multiple viewers. Many post that plain old charcoal, the same type you would use to BBQ your favorite steak, is sufficient enough to rid a house of pesky odors. This group of believers simply recommends buying briquettes without additives and scents like hickory or mesquite.
A slight alternative to actually displaying the pillow-shaped briquettes around your home is to invest in natural lump charcoal. This type of charcoal, as opposed to the packed squares like Kingsford’s that are always so seasonally popular, seems to not only be more effective at defusing odors but a lot more aesthetically pleasing when left out around the house. If you do choose to use the natural lump charcoal, however, keep in mind that the charcoal will be a lot dustier than the briquettes.
An alternate view holds that not just any type of charcoal will do. In other words, as odors are chemically backed, you need something that can fight them on their own territory. To this end, enlisting the aid of activated charcoal or carbon would be one of the best fixes for non-toxic odor removal!
Activated charcoal is just that: charcoal that has been activated and made porous so that it can absorb more odors, as opposed to standard BBQ charcoal that is a compression of charcoal powder and clay. Pressed as it is into its briquette form, standard briquettes have not undergone the same chemical process to make them porous like activated charcoal.
As far as displaying the activated charcoal is concerned, a lot of people favor simple home remedies, such as using the plastic green fruit baskets that strawberries come in. You can also use miniature wicker or wooden baskets or even get creative and make your own container; indeed, there are even people who knit miniature yarn cases for the activated charcoal and hang them up around the house or workplace!
And if containers aren’t your style, you can simply set the charcoal out on display – it makes for a wonderful conversation piece. Though I hesitate to leave the activated charcoal out on account of my overly-active Australian Shepherd who thinks everything in the house deserves to be licked, those odors associated with pets do begin to diminish when you start using activated charcoal around the house.
With the increasing popularity of activated charcoal, there are plenty of companies that specialize in manufacturing activated charcoal products for use in the home. One of my favorite companies is Moso Natural, which is based in Oakhurst, NJ. Moso Natural sells three sizes of conveniently pre-packaged air purifying bags that are made of 100% Moso bamboo charcoal. The 50g, 200g and 500g bags can be placed anywhere around the house and last for up to two years as air purifiers. All you need to do is place the bag in sunlight once a month to rejuvenate! Once the bag has finally been exhausted, the company also recommends cutting the bag open and placing the charcoal in your garden to promote plant growth. In this way, the Moso bag is not wasted and you can feel proud as you help to feed your plants and revitalize the earth with the mineral-rich bamboo charcoal: www.mosonatural.com
Another stellar brand selling bamboo charcoal is C60 Bamboo Carbon Co., which is the exclusive North American distributor for South Korean company, Borim. The company produces everything from shoe insoles for sport shoes, bar soaps, and standard air fresheners to pillows and cushions: www.c60bamboo.com