Charcoal is charcoal, right? I mean, how many different ways can we heat wood and other substances in the absence of oxygen?

We all know about charcoal, but not many of us know that there’s a difference between charcoal and activated charcoal. Both are derived from carbon, but activated charcoal has many more applications than regular charcoal because it is more porous. It’s larger surface area allows it to filter out more toxins than regular charcoal alone can.


Regular charcoal is most commonly used in the home; it is the fuel of choice for BBQs. But we also find charcoal in water treatment systems, in vacuum cleaners, even for creating pieces of art. Chances are, most of us have used charcoal at some point in our lives. Its versatility means it can also be used to remove chlorine from water and to remove bad odours.

Activated Charcoal

Most of the properties of charcoal may be evident to you. But what is activated carbon and what is it used for?

By adding oxygen to carbon, the porosity of the charcoal increases, adding to it’s surface area. The resulting material is known as activated charcoal. Thanks to its very high surface area, activated charcoal can be used in air purification, decaffeination, gold purification, metal extraction, water purification, medicine, sewage treatment, and for air filters in gas masks and respirators.

It makes such a useful material in these applications because it can adsorb chemicals, toxins, and gases that normal charcoal alone cannot remove.

Charcoal or Activated Charcoal?

If you need to filter water for drinking or to fill an aquarium, then you need to use activated carbon. It cleans the water more effectively, removing more than charcoal can. Regular charcoal is best left for drawing materials, odour removal and cooking thanks to its steady burn rate.

Visit Pearson Fuels coal merchants for all your fuel needs.