Are Carbon and Charcoal Air Filters the Same? - An Expert's Perspective

Activated charcoal and activated carbon are one and the same, and both terms are interchangeable. Generally, activated carbon is of higher quality and purity than activated charcoal. This type of filter can be used to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odors, and other gaseous pollutants from the air, in a different way than other air purifiers, such as HEPA filters, which only filter particulate pollution. Carbon air filters trap gas molecules in a carbon bed, a process with an interesting history.

Here you can learn more about how they work, their advantages and disadvantages, and decide if using a carbon air filter will meet your needs. The main difference between activated charcoal and activated carbon is that the latter is of higher quality and purity. Carbon has special properties that enable it to capture gaseous pollutants from the air. Potassium permanganate is used in activated carbon filters to help stimulate the reaction between carbon media and the oxidation of polar or low molecular weight compounds. This creates many more places for molecules to be trapped, making carbon much more effective as a filter medium. The problem with the activated carbon bed is that, over time, gaseous pollutants increasingly fill activated carbon adsorption sites.

This is why carbon filters are the ideal choice for eliminating odors from the air. Ionic air filters and ionization filters release by-products known as ozone gas into the air. As chemical contaminants are returned to the indoor air that the carbon filter once collected, they can re-generate a toxic environment. When talking about carbon air filtration, two specific terms are often mentioned, which can lead to confusion about whether they mean the same thing or if each one has its own meaning when used in filters to clean indoor air. Generally, an air cleaner is a device made up of fibrous and porous materials that are used to improve the air filter's ability to remove contaminants from the air.

An activated carbon air filter is a filtration medium specifically designed to remove odors and VOCs made from highly porous carbon. Most activated carbon is also treated with a chemical that enhances its ability to filter specific contaminants. You may want to use a carbon filter for short-term odor elimination, such as during a wildfire or house renovation. Using an activated carbon water filter can soften the water, reduce soap usage, and even improve hair and skin appearance. Activated carbon is carbon that has undergone additional processing to better trap gas molecules.

When the surface of the carbon is activated to allow for more contaminants to be captured in the media filter, this means that the carbon has been subjected to a specific activation method that consists of a two-step process.