How to Make a DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifier

The benefits of using an air purifier in your home are numerous, even for a DIY activated charcoal air purifier!

They can help enhance the overall air quality, remove odors, and improve sleep quality.

But because air purifiers are expensive, not everyone has the funds to buy a state-of-the-art customizable air purifier. 

Fortunately, there are ways to make your own air purifier if you have a couple of tools and an hour or two to assemble one.

You’d be surprised at how a DIY activated charcoal air purifier is some of the easiest to make at home. 

These filters use activated charcoal to remove impurities and unpleasant odors from the air.


How to Make a DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifier with Active Filter

There are a lot of ways to create your own DIY activated charcoal air purifier, but in this article, we’re going to start with arguably the most effective DIY one.

Although other methods (which we will discuss later) are also effective in removing some contaminants from the air, they still can’t compare to an actual air purifier.

This is because they can only absorb toxins from the air that passes directly through the charcoal. That’s why they’re called passive filters.

Fortunately, there’s another way to make a DIY activated charcoal air purifier that will actively push the air from around the room through the charcoal–the fan method!

Let me guide you step by step on how to craft your own DIY activated charcoal air purifier with an active filter. But first, the materials needed.

Materials Needed

To create your own air purifier with an active filter, you will need the following:

  • 2 durable containers (cardboard, plastic box, or bucket) of different sizes
  • Fan
  • Drill, saw, or knife
  • Fine mesh or cheesecloth and chicken wire
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Glue (optional)

Step-by-Step Procedure

Here’s the easy step-by-step procedure you can do. We also included a Youtube video at the end for your reference!

STEP #1: Pick a Container

The first step in making your DIY activated charcoal air purifier is picking the container it will reside in. 

For this, you can use something as simple as a cardboard or plastic box. Or you can also build your own frame out of plywood.

For the sake of this example, we will be referencing a bucket design. 

Heavy-duty paint buckets are an excellent base for your air purifier because they are lightweight, sturdy, and relatively inexpensive.

STEP #2: Pick a Fan

After deciding on the base for your charcoal air purifier, you will need to pick out the fan. 

The fan will be sucking air through the charcoal, so you want to ensure it is as powerful as possible.

Also, keep the size of your frame in mind when picking your fan. Ideally, you want the fan to fit snugly into the opening to create the best seal.

STEP #3: Drill the Holes

Now that you have your container and fan picked out, it is time to prep the container. 

To do this, you will need to drill multiple holes in the sides or cut out sections.

These openings will allow the air to pass through your filter, into the activated charcoal, and be pumped back into your home.

The easiest way to do this is by using a drill that has a round-bit attachment. 

However, you can also do it using a saw or a knife to cut slits out of the plastic.

After cutting the holes, make sure to sand down the edges. 

This will give the finished product a clean finish and prevent you from accidentally cutting yourself on the sharp edges of the plastic.

No matter how you cut your plastic, make sure to leave enough plastic between the gaps to continue supporting the bucket’s structure. 

If you cut too much plastic away, the bucket could collapse under the fan’s and charcoal’s weight.

STEP #4: Line with Mesh

After you have cut the holes or slits out in your bucket, it is time to line its inside with fine mesh. 

How fine the mesh needs to be will depend on how rough of a grain of activated charcoal you decide to use.

If you’re using very roughly ground charcoal that still has large pieces, it may be okay to use a regular metal mesh that has tiny holes. 

However, suppose the activated charcoal is powdery. In that case, you may need to use something like cheesecloth to prevent the charcoal from leaking out.

Just make sure to line the bucket with chicken wire when using cheesecloth or soft cotton fabric. 

This will help to keep the fabric stable and prevent it from slipping out of place as the air purifier is used.

The best way to attach the mesh to the bucket is to use some glue. 

You must also sand the plastic before gluing, or the glue will not stick to the smooth plastic.

STEP #5: Create an Inner Basket

After creating the outer frame, it’s time to assemble the inner basket. 

The process for doing this is almost identical to that of the outer frame.

For a bucket filter, you’ll need a bucket that is a few inches smaller in diameter. 

You want to have a couple of inches of space between the buckets’ walls to allow the activated charcoal to pour in.

Drill holes into the walls of the bucket, then make sure to sand them down, so there are no rough edges. 

After that, you will also line the inner basket with mesh, but instead of the inside, you will line the outside.

This will keep the charcoal between the two buckets’ walls and prevent it from leaking into the fan system and getting blown into the air.

After the inner basket has been lined with wire, you will place it inside the larger bucket. 

You can glue it to the bottom if you want, although it is not necessary. Leaving it loose will actually make cleaning easier.

If it’s moving around a lot, you can add a few heavyweights, like rocks, to the bottom of the inner basket to help it stay in place.

STEP #6: Fill with Activated Charcoal

Once the baskets are set up, it’s time to add in the activated charcoal. 

One of the benefits of using a bucket as the framework for the filter is that it leaves a lot of space for the activated charcoal.

Pour in enough charcoal that all the holes are covered with charcoal. You will likely need several pounds of activated charcoal to do this.

STEP #7: Add the Lid

After the DIY activated charcoal air purifier has been filled with charcoal, it’s time to add the lid on. 

For this, you can simply use the lid that came with the larger bucket.

To prepare it, you’ll want to measure the size of the inner bucket and cut a hole of that size out of the lid.

Make sure not to cut it too big, so it goes over the charcoal.

Then snap the lid onto the container and move on to the next step.

STEP #8: Add the Fan

Once your lid with the hole is in place, it’s time to add the fan in. 

Ideally, your fan should fit precisely into the hole you cut in the lid.

If it doesn’t fit and some air leaks, use a combination of tape and fabric to help seal the fan off better.

When you install the fan, make sure to put it so that air is being sucked from inside the filter and pushed out the top. 

If you install it backward, the air purifier will not be effective.

STEP #9: Turn It On!

After the fan has been added in and sealed, you’re good to go!

Turn your DIY-activated charcoal air purifier on to test if it’s working correctly.

You should be able to feel the air being sucked into the filter through the holes on the sides and then pushed out through the top. 

If you do not feel the air being sucked in, either you need a stronger fan, or you may have installed the fan in the wrong direction.

DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifiers with Passive Filters

If you want to create a DIY activated charcoal air purifier but with less work, you can try making one with a passive filter, like in the ashtray and/ or satchel method.

Ashtray Method

One of the easiest ways to create a DIY activated charcoal air purifier in your home is by making an ashtray filter

All you’ll need are some small dishes and activated charcoal to absorb the odors and impurities in the air.

To make an ashtray filter, just take one of your ashtrays (or small dishes) and add a slight amount of water to it.

Scoop a few tablespoons of the activated charcoal powder into the water.

You can make multiple ashtray filters and place them all over the house to remove unwanted odors and contaminants from the air.

Remember that as the activated charcoal powder becomes saturated, it won’t work as well as it once did. 

This is a sign that it’s time to change your charcoal powder for a fresh, new one.

Satchel Method

This method is extremely similar to that of the previous one. All you’ll need is a thin cotton fabric and activated charcoal powder.

To create a satchel filter, make a small bag from cotton fabric and fill it with activated charcoal powder. 

Hang it wherever you want to add extra filtration. 

As air passes through the fabric, the activated charcoal will absorb contaminants out of the air.

How to Maintain DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifier

Fortunately, with a DIY activated charcoal air purifier, only very little ongoing maintenance needs to be done. 

The main thing that you will need to do is regularly change the activated charcoal out of the filter as it becomes saturated.

On average, the activated charcoal must be changed every 3-6 months or when you notice it loses effectiveness.

Other than that, you should regularly dust off the outside of the machine and ensure that debris isn’t accumulating on the fan that can blow into the rest of the room.


FAQs on DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifier

What is the difference between regular charcoal and activated charcoal?

The difference between regular charcoal and activated charcoal lies in the treatment process. 

Activated charcoal is treated with oxygen which helps to open up the molecules more.

This allows the activated charcoal to absorb toxins and other particles much more efficiently than regular charcoal.

What is the difference between activated charcoal and activated carbon?

Although activated charcoal and activated carbon serve similar purposes, they are different materials.

Activated carbon is made from the element carbon and naturally occurs all over the earth. 

Charcoal is made from wood that has been slowly heated and broken down.

Are HEPA filters or charcoal filters better?

Charcoal filters and HEPA filters serve different purposes, and one is not better than the other overall.

HEPA filters are designed to remove small particles like dust and pet dander from the air to improve allergies and overall air quality. 

On the other hand, charcoal filters are good for absorbing the tiniest particles even a HEPA filter can miss. It can also remove unwanted odors from the air.

DIY Activated Charcoal Air Purifier – Conclusion

Before you spend hundreds of dollars on an air purifier that may not even meet your needs, try creating your own.

A DIY activated charcoal air purifier can pull impurities out of the air and reduce foul odors, something that even the most expensive commercial air purifiers can struggle to do.

The most effective activated charcoal air purifier is the fan air purifier. 

This air purifier mimics a commercial air purifier and can rapidly circulate the air in a room through the activated charcoal to purify it.

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