Last Updated July 21, 2021
Everyone has at one time or another had certain household aromas they’d rather not be inhaling. Be it in a kitchen, a bathroom, or a child’s bedroom.
Instead of masking these odors with other fragrances, a great way to eliminate them is with an air purifier with a carbon filter!
The Difference Between Normal Air Filter and Carbon Filter
Both normal air filters and carbon filters work in similar ways in that they both filter the air, but they filter different things, and they are often used in combination.
Let’s take a look at HEPA filters (the gold standard for regular filters) vs. carbon filters.
HEPA filters remove 99.97% of airborne contaminants that are 0.3 microns in size. This includes things like dust, pollen, bacteria, and other allergens. They are used to filter the air in almost any buildings and can be found in some vacuums too.
Carbon or charcoal filters, on the other hand, are designed to filter out smoke, fumes, odors, chemicals, and the like.
They both filter different things from the air, and each can be equally important. While they can both be used separately, it is not uncommon to find air purifiers and other devices that contain both types of filters.
Why Use a Carbon Filter?
As we mentioned above, carbon filters are designed to filter out odors, gasses, and chemicals. If you live in a home where bad odors keep appearing, carbon filters will remove the smell. This could be from smoke, pet odors, or anything else that gives off a bad smell. They are also helpful when there are forest fires in your area and will filter out the smoke that regular filters cannot.
In workplaces where chemicals are dealt with, carbon or charcoal filters will add an extra layer of protection so that chemicals or gasses are not breathed in. Not only will they improve health and safety, but they will improve comfort levels by removing the strong smells that often come with chemicals.
Basically, if you have any bad odors in your area, or are worried about chemicals, carbon filters are the way to go.
The Top 3 Carbon Filter Air Purifiers on the Market:
Winix Air Purifier With Washable Carbon Filter
If you have ever used a carbon air filter before, you know that the filters need to be replaced after a certain amount of use. The longer that you leave them, the less effective they become. With this setup, you can wash the filter, keeping it in optimum condition and saving yourself some money in the process.
The air filter also comes with a HEPA filter to trap all the larger particulates, and there is PlasmaWave that works alongside the carbon filter to further break down the odors, allergens, and chemicals. The smart sensors gauge the air and will adjust the fan as required.
The only downside is that it only fits certain types of HEPA filters, so make sure that they are available in your area.
Bissell 2-Pack Purifier With Carbon Filter
The main strength of this carbon filter is how quiet it is. If you are looking for a filter for your bedroom or work area, you will barely notice that this one is running. You also get two air filters in this pack, so you can split them between two areas.
There are high and low fan speeds, along with a sleep fan speed if you are a light sleeper, and it is especially good for capturing pet odors and allergens. The regular filter also works to capture 99.7% of 0.3-micron particles.
Because these are small filters, they are better suited to smaller areas, up to 100 sq ft, and you may have to use both in one room if the room is larger. There is also no included display of operation lights, so you cannot tell the air quality in your room from the device.
VEVA Elite Carbon Filter
For something a little more heavy-duty, this carbon filter will filter a large area (up to 325 sq ft) and also comes with four precut carbon filters, so you do not have to worry about buying replacements for a while.
The unit is perfect for large rooms or offices. There is a base that makes it a tower air purifier that can sit on the floor, or you can remove the base to create a tabletop purifier. You also have a range of fan speeds from ultra-quiet to turbo. The carbon filter is also rated as safe for all pets and children.
While this is a large air filter at a reasonable price, it does not come with many of the additional features that some air purifiers do. If you are looking for simplicity, this is the filter for you.
What is Activated Charcoal/Carbon?
First off, let’s start by stating that activated carbon and activated charcoal are exactly the same thing, and they can be used interchangeably.
Activated carbon is created when a carbon substance is burned without any oxygen involved. This ‘chars’ the carbon, and it is then chemically treated to create the pores, ending with a material that has a large surface area due to all the holes. This surface area is what attracts and holds organic chemicals.
How Does Activated Carbon Work?
Not to get into the exact science of it (it gets pretty complicated), but activated carbon works by adsorption (not absorption). In essence, adsorption involves the chemical binding of certain substances, especially the ones that cause odors or have some toxicity.
Activated carbon can be used to filter both water and air, removing the same impurities. As these pollutants pass through the carbon, they attach to it, and the water or air will pass through. Because it is so porous, there is a lot of surface area for the pollutants to adhere to.
Why is it Called “Activated?”
Activated in activated carbon refers to the process that is used to create the porous nature of the finished product. The carbon can be activated physically or chemically, but the result is the name (in that it is porous).
Do Carbon Filters Actually Get Rid of Smells?
Yes, they do.
Of course, the amount of odor that they will remove depends on the type of carbon filter and the air purifier itself. If you have extremely bad odors, it might not be able to filter it all out, or if you work with chemicals, not any carbon filter is going to be able to deal with them.
But, we can confirm that carbon filters will remove odors from the air (or odors and bad tastes from water if you are using a water filter).
How Long Does a Carbon Filter Last?
Again, this depends on how often you are using your filter, and what you are using it for. If you have one in a workplace that handles hazardous chemicals, it will not last as long as a filter placed in a regular bedroom.
For most carbon filters, with regular use, you can expect it to last 6-12 months.
The Cons to Using Carbon Filter Air Purifiers
To be honest, there are not many drawbacks to using a carbon air filter, especially if you need to use one.
The main con is the cost. After some time, you will need to replace the carbon filter. Depending on the system that you use, that can cost a lot. Though, if you need to use a filter to get rid of odors or other contaminants, the cost is worth it.
They also do not remove contaminants from the air, such as dust and pollen. If you need to remove those too, you will need to either invest in a second unit or find one that has carbon and regular filters.
Should I Use a Carbon Air Filter?
That is completely up to you, but here are some reasons why you might want to invest in one.
You have bad odors in your home.
You have a lot of pets.
You have an indoor grow house or tent.
You work with hazardous chemicals.
You find it hard to breathe in your home.
Other Ways to Remove Odors
Carbon filters are not the be-all and end-all of odor removal. If you are not sure whether or not you need to invest in a carbon filter, you can try some of these alternative methods while you consider the investment.
Remove The Source
If you have a smelly trash can or compost bucket in your kitchen, empty them regularly and clean the containers.
Mask The Odor
You can add citrus peels to your garbage or compost (or to the bottom of the can before adding the bag) to create a positive odor. The same outcome can be achieved by sprinkling in baking soda or used coffee grounds.
Remove The Odor
Spray distilled white vinegar into places that smell musty to freshen them up. You can also use vinegar to clean areas.