How Is Bamboo Charcoal Used?

How Is Bamboo Charcoal Used?

Bamboo charcoal is on the rise of popularity as a new, almost revolutionary material. But is it as new as it seems?

In Asia, bamboo charcoal has been popular for centuries. It`s used as fuel for cooking, as a filtering medium, as a component of medicine among many other things. Bamboo charcoal is especially widespread in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan.

However, more and more Westerners have started noticing the uses and benefits of the material in recent years.

And after years of colorful trends – black charcoal seems like a perfect change.

In this article, I will explore the diverse world of bamboo charcoal. What is it? How it differs from other charcoals? And most importantly – How you can use it and what are the benefits!

Let`s get started!

What is bamboo charcoal

To put it simply, bamboo charcoal is charcoal made out of bamboo.

Most people are familiar with the charcoal used to barbeque, but few know exactly what it is or how it’s made.

Bamboo charcoal comes from pieces of bamboo plants. They are harvested after growing for at least five years. Most of the bamboo charcoal is made from Moso bamboo variety.

Bamboo charcoal is made by means of a pyrolysis process. The bamboo is burned in ovens in a low oxygen environment at temperatures ranging from 800 to 1200 °C.

The process benefits environmental protection by reducing pollutant residue.

There are 2 types of bamboo charcoal:

  • raw bamboo charcoal
  • bamboo briquette charcoal

Raw bamboo charcoal is made of bamboo plant parts such as culms(stalks), branches, and roots.

Bamboo briquette charcoal is made of bamboo residue, for example, bamboo dust, saw powder etc, by compressing the residue into sticks of a certain shape and carbonizing the sticks.

Bamboo charcoal has a huge surface area to mass ratio. Imagine – a single gram of bamboo charcoal has 600 square meters (or 717.6 square yards) of surface area.

Activated charcoal

Activated bamboo charcoal is even more impressive! The activation process can double the surface area to a whopping 1,200 square meters (1,435 square yards) per gram.

The process of activating the bamboo charcoal consists of granulating the charcoal stalks into powder form and injecting it with steam.

Bamboo vs wood charcoal

Bamboo charcoal is four times more porous than regular wood charcoal. That means – it is a lot more effective.

One of the best things about bamboo charcoal is that it produces significantly fewer pollutants compared to wood charcoals, making it an eco-friendly source of renewable energy.

Another great thing about bamboo charcoal – the bamboo used for making it has to grow only 5 years before it is harvested. Trees in comparison take decades to grow to an acceptable size.

How does charcoal work

Bamboo charcoal’s natural adsorption characteristics together with its impressive surface area make it an effective adsorbent.

It has millions of pores that can trap and store vast amounts of pollutants and other harmful substances.

Charcoal adsorbs odor and pollutant particles by trapping them while air or water flows through the pores, purifying the surrounding air or water in the process.

Adsorption vs. Absorption

Maybe you noticed that I used the word adsorption in the previous paragraph. That was not a typo.

When talking about charcoal, the word adsorption will come up quite often.

Adsorption means that the charcoal attracts substances which then cling to it and accumulate on its surface.

How is that different from absorption?

Absorption (with a b) happens when one substance diffuses into another without any special attraction. For example, a towel will absorb water if it comes into contact with it due to the nature of its fibers. But a towel will not physically attract the water.

Is bamboo charcoal safe

You can use bamboo charcoal around your kids and pets and not worry. Charcoal is harmless even if they accidentally eat some.

Not only it is harmless, but activated charcoal can also be used for medical reasons in some cases. It absorbs poisons and allows gastric toxins to pass through the system without the need to use synthetic medicines.

Charcoal can`t be digested by the human body so it absorbs the toxins and it goes through the system and exits it.

How is bamboo charcoal used

Dehumidifier

As we already learned – the structure bamboo charcoal is remarkably porous. That makes it an ideal dehumidifier.

Water and air can pass easily through it.

When air passes, and the humidity is high, the charcoal will absorb the excess moisture, and air will be converted to dry.

If the air is too dry, then the charcoal will release its moisture back that way adjusting the humidity in the air.

What`s even better – various impurities in the air will also be adsorbed and will purity the air.

How to use it?

You can put pieces of charcoal or charcoal poaches in drawers, cabinets, closets, garage, basement, and other storage areas you want to keep dry and need to remove excess moisture.

Deodorizer

Bamboo charcoal eliminates odors instead of masking them.

Compared to regular charcoal, bamboo charcoal is four times stronger in its absorption rate.

The porous structure of bamboo charcoal provides countless tiny holes that effectively absorb odors, moisture, and polluted air particles.

Conventional air fresheners mask bad odors, which usually does more harm than good.

Bamboo charcoal adsorbs and removes odor without trying to cover horrible smells with “nicer” smells. I don`t know about you but wet dog + rose garden is not my favorite smell combination…

What’s more, the conventional air fresheners contain chemicals that are harmful to people, animals, and the environment, and tend to trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Removing unpleasant smells without adding new ones is especially useful in cars and other small spaces.

Where to use it?

Remove smells from: fridge, freezer, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, gym bag, shoes, car, garage, diaper pail, or newly renovated areas in your home. The options are almost endless – if there is a place you want to deodorize, then the bamboo charcoal comes in handy!

How long does it work?

Longevity and cost-effectiveness is another area where bamboo charcoal beats conventional air fresheners.

You can use your bamboo charcoal poaches up to one year.

All you need to do is reactivate it every two months. It`s very simple – put in in the direct sunlight for 1 – 2 hours and that`s it!

Air purifier

In addition to removing odors, bamboo charcoal also purifies air by removing pollutants from the atmosphere.

It adsorbs ammonia, carbonic oxide, benzopyrene, and other components of smog, and lowers the concentration of environmental contaminants that trigger allergies and asthma.

Being natural and non-toxic mean it’s also great with kids and pets.

Charcoal is also added to air filters to remove harmful chemicals in commercial and industrial settings.

Water purifier

In Asia, bamboo charcoal sticks have been used for centuries to filter water.

But how does the old practice hold up when tested by modern science?

Tests indicate that bamboo charcoal removes chlorine, chloride, phosphorus, ammonia, toluene, nitrogen, chloramine (ammonia and chlorine compound added to water to kill pathogens), and even toxins like pesticides that can seep into tap water.

It is possible to treat chlorine-sterilized drinking water with bamboo charcoal to remove residual chlorine and chlorides

However, it doesn’t hold viruses and bacteria.

How does bamboo charcoal remove impurities from tap water?

Bamboo charcoal adsorbs tap water impurities as they attach to the porous surface area within the bamboo charcoal.

Compared to wooden charcoal, bamboo charcoal has much higher adsorptive power and contains many mineral components like potassium, calcium and silicic acid which are good for your health.

If you use bamboo charcoal in purifying tap water, it will transform tap water into a mineral water-like taste.

The ratio of charcoal to water 1:1 in weight is recommended. It will take about 4-5 hours for the water to be purified.

Water quality can also be improved when bamboo charcoal is used in cooking and boiling.

Water purifier for aquariums

Humans are not the only ones that appreciate clean water.

Bamboo charcoal is also beneficial for aquariums.

Activated charcoal is a popular filter medium in tropical aquariums. And for a good reason!

When placed in the aquarium, charcoal softens the water, removes harmful chemicals and toxic products that are created by aquatic life, as well as releases natural minerals. This will help keep your fish healthier.

Since the charcoal purifies water, it will save your time to take care of your aquarium.

Another bonus – it exterminates vermin.

Skincare

Charcoal in skincare products is becoming more and more popular. It`s not always bamboo, other wood charcoals are used as well.

What`s the benefit of charcoal in cosmetics?

Activated charcoal draws bacteria, poisons, synthetic chemicals, dirt, and other micro-particles to the surface of the skin, helping you to achieve a flawless complexion and fight acne.

Activated charcoal powder is proven to adsorb thousands of times its own mass in harmful substances, which makes it a popular ingredient in cleansing facial masks.

Charcoal softens water, which is good if you have a tendency to dry skin. So adding some to your bath is a great idea.

Activated charcoal is great for skin conditions ranging from acne to bug bites and plant exposure like poison ivy/oak.

2 simple mask ideas:

For the body: apply a mixture of charcoal powder and coconut oil (or any handy balm) on the skin.

For the face: mix charcoal with clay and water and apply as a mask 1 – 2 times a week.

Note: Charcoal stains the shower/bath very easily so maybe avoid it on days when you`re feeling lazy.

Medical Use of Activated Charcoal

Before I go any further into medicine, I want to stress that activated charcoal is used for medical purposes. The regular bamboo charcoal is better used elsewhere.

Activated charcoal is odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic

Due to its unique properties, activated charcoal has many medicinal uses and healing properties.

One of the most valuable ways activated charcoal contributes to modern medicine is by preventing overdoses. Because activated charcoal has toxin-binding properties, it’s often used as an emergency poison treatment.

It can bind to a variety of over the counter and prescription drugs in order to reduce their effect. Studies show that activated charcoal can reduce drug absorption by up to 74 percent in adults.

Activated charcoal is not universal though —in medical situations, it is only used on a case-by-case basis.

Some doctors claim that activated charcoal may improve kidney function.

This is due to its toxin-binding qualities, and by reducing the number of waste products that the kidneys have to filter. This is especially beneficial for those suffering from kidney disease when the kidneys can no longer properly filter waste products.

Activated charcoal has also been shown to lower cholesterol. It’s able to bind cholesterol acids in the gut, limiting the amount that the body absorbs.

Taking activated charcoal will reduce gas/bloating. Research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that this can be quite effective.

Unfortunately, you won’t absorb the other nutrients in the meal so well because charcoal will absorb them as well. However, the gas pains will be reduced significantly.

Oral care

You can find an array of dental products containing activated charcoal on store shelves. Products containing this ingredient claim to remove coffee stains, wine stains, and plaque.

While there are many ways activated charcoal is officially known to be effective in medicine, dentists have not (yet) convinced by its effectiveness in their field of expertise – oral care.

Despite its popularity, there’s no scientific evidence backing up activated charcoal’s benefits for teeth.

Since there’s no strong official data behind the claims that activated charcoal is safe or effective, products containing this ingredient aren’t eligible for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

I want to add, though, when I was researching the dentists’ opinions on charcoal, I did find individual dentists who are on board with it even if the American Dental Association has not given its approval.

There are dentists who agree that activated charcoal can:

  • balance your oral microbiome
  • prevent cavities
  • remineralize teeth
  • improve bad breath

How about teeth whitening?

Can activated charcoal safely whiten teeth? Again, there’s no formal evidence that activated charcoal whitens teeth.

However, observations suggest that using activated charcoal on your teeth is effective in absorbing plaque and other compounds that stain teeth.

Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t the same thing as whitening teeth. Stain removal, however, is still an important part of keeping your teeth naturally ligher and beautiful.

Caution: Is Activated Charcoal Too Abrasive?

I want to warn against using charcoal toothpaste that is too abrasive.

Since teeth do not regrow or replenish, using a substance that could potentially wear down the enamel may be detrimental. So it’s important to find a good charcoal toothpaste that isn’t too abrasive.

The whitening ability of charcoal exists in its porosity, while the trouble resides in its abrasiveness.

It’s important to protect your teeth by using products that won’t wear down enamel. Since overuse of activated charcoal products can lead to teeth erosion, use them cautiously.

If that isn’t possible, use the product only for a short period of time. You can also alternate it with a fluoride toothpaste.

Don’t be too aggressive when using charcoal toothpaste. Rather than scrubbing hard, gently brush in a circular motion, then rinse until your spit is totally clear of any discoloration from the black toothpaste.

Is bamboo charcoal sustainable

As you see, bamboo charcoal is used in many industries. And you may ask – is it sustainable?

The good news is – it’s one of the most sustainable resources available. As long as farmers harvest it responsibly, bamboo can regenerate itself indefinitely without human intervention or synthetic fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides.

Bamboo charcoal is produced from Moso bamboo.

Moso bamboo, the most popular type used for commercial purposes, is the largest of the subtropical timber bamboos, growing to a height of up to 75 feet and a 7-inch diameter at maturity.

It takes only five years for Moso to mature. Plants grow 40 to 50 feet within the first few months and can grow over 3 feet a day in their native habitat. This bamboo is used for everything from fashion to flooring to paper (and, of course, to make activated bamboo charcoal).

How to dispose of bamboo charcoal

When we think about the sustainability of any product, we can not forget about it`s disposal after we have done using it.

Because bamboo charcoal is a 100% natural product, it can be recycled into the ecosystem.

At the end of its life cycle, there are two main ways how you can recycle your bamboo charcoal products.

Compost: Smash the charcoal and mix it in the compost. It will adsorb odors and help growth as microbial retention, promptly break down garbage and promote fermentation as organic feed.

Garden: Smash Charcoal and mix Charcoal into the soil. Bamboo charcoal breeds useful microorganisms, enhances soil water retention and breathability, and makes plants healthy.​

Featured image: Mk2010 CC BY-SA 3.0