What Does a Carbon Filter Do? [Benefits, Should You Buy One?]

If you’ve been looking for an air purifier recently, you might have encountered one with an activated carbon filter.

With so many filtration systems to choose from, I wouldn’t expect you to know what a carbon filter does because I didn’t.

When I first shopped for my air purifier, I had to Google every phrase and term to find out what my unit could do for me.

So, if you’re wondering what a carbon filter can do for you, you’re in the right place.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about carbon filters and what they can do for indoor air quality.

But before I get into what carbon filters do, it’s essential to understand what they are and what they’re made of.

What Is a Carbon Filter and What Are They Made Out Of?

Activated carbon filters are essentially carbon broken down into tiny carbon particles.

When it comes to air purifiers, you’ll typically see them in granular or even a powdered block form.

Before they are ready for use, the carbon is treated to be highly porous.

The more porous the carbon is, the better it will capture all the particles and contaminants in the air.

From my experience, the large majority of carbon filters are treated to be highly effective at capturing particles.

My personal air purifier’s carbon filter is fantastic at purifying the air, and it’s not even the most expensive one.

What Does a Carbon Filter Do?

Unlike HEPA filters, which can capture solid particles such as pet dander, pollen, and dust, carbon filters can’t do that.

Carbon filters are designed to deal with gasses and non-solid particles in the air.

These include anything from pet and cooking odor to VOCs and smoke from a fire or cigarettes.

Unlike HEPA filters, which trap solid particles, carbon-activated filters absorb them.

The absorption process happens when an organic compound chemically reacts with the activated carbon.

When that happens, the organic compound will stick to the filter while all clean air passes through.

So, if you are dealing with unpleasant smells daily, an air purifier with a carbon filter can help.

I live in a bustling city, and the smell of pollution is pretty terrible.

Since I bought my air purifier with a carbon-activated filter, everything changed for me, and I couldn’t recommend them enough.

Now that you know what a carbon filter does, let’s look at how it works.

How Do Carbon Filters Work?

It doesn’t sound straightforward when you hear that your carbon filtration system must have a chemical reaction to work correctly.

However, that’s not the case at all.

The process is straightforward.

The carbon is sold in thick or thin packets, so you won’t get a pile of carbon you need to deal with on your own.

These packets are designed perfectly for your air purifier.

They can often just be inserted into the unit in 2 minutes and left to do their job.

When you turn your air purifier on, air will flow into the unit’s purification system.

As the contaminated air enters the system, it will pass through the active carbon.

Then, the contaminated air will be absorbed while the rest of the purified air will pass through.

That’s the whole deal around carbon filters.

They’re straightforward in nature but are super effective at doing their job.

Benefits of a Carbon Filter

Like HEPA filters, carbon filters also come with many benefits you will experience from day one.

Below, I’ll go over the most notable benefits I’ve experienced from using a unit with a carbon filter for the last five years.

Odorless Air Indoors,

One of the most significant benefits of a carbon-activated filter is that I can breathe in odorless air inside my home around the clock.

This is a big deal for me because I live in the center of one of the biggest cities in the country.

When I go outdoors, I can smell the pollution from the traffic, the odors lingering in the air from local restaurants, and more.

All those smells would be in my home had I not used an air purifier with a carbon-activated filter.

Reduced Asthma Attacks

I have asthma and suffer from seasonal allergies a lot.

Since purchasing my air purifier with a carbon filter, my asthma attacks have reduced significantly.

This is because all of the triggers for my asthma are stuck or absorbed by my air purifier.

If you have asthma, COPD, or any other respiratory condition, a carbon filter will help you immensely.

Better Quality Sleep

We’ve all heard the saying that you are what you eat.

How you feel isn’t only related to the quality of food and air you eat.

Since buying my air purifier with a carbon filter, my sleep quality has improved tremendously.

I no longer wake up tired, exhausted, or dreading to start the day.

Breathing in higher-quality air was life-changing, and I couldn’t live without my unit again.

Are All Activated Carbon Filters the Same?

Though all activated carbon filters are great at removing non-solid odors from the air, there are a few different types.

For example, some carbon filters contain more carbon than others.

Naturally, those with more activated carbon will do a better job purifying the air and last longer.

Aside from that, you also want to pay attention to the size of the carbon.

This is because smaller carbons tend to yield faster absorption rates.

For example, the Blueair air purifiers feature one of the best and most advanced carbon filtration systems.

Their carbon filters are infused with additional compounds such as copper oxide and magnesium dioxide.

This helps the air purifier deal more effectively with hazardous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ozone, and ethylene oxide.

So, before you jump on the first air purifier with a carbon-activated filter, check out all those small details as they matter.

How to Make the Most Out of My Carbon Filter

To make the most out of your carbon filter, ensure you install it properly and replace it often.

The more you use the air purifier, the more often you’ll need to replace the carbon filter.

That way, it will always purify contaminated air before it enters your lungs.

Aside from that, I recommend buying an air purifier with a multi-stage filtration system.

That way, your unit will have carbon and a HEPA filter simultaneously.

This way, the unit will effectively cleanse the air of both solid and gaseous particles.

The result will be healthy and purified indoor air from all possible hazardous particles you could inhale.

Should You Get an Air Purifier With a Carbon Activated Filter?

Air purifiers with multi-stage filtration systems are more expensive than HEPA filters.

If you’re considering buying a unit with a carbon-activated filter, know that it will likely cost you a little bit more.

If your budget allows it, the next thing you need to consider is your needs.

Are any odors inside your home bothering you that you want to eliminate?

If so, you should get an air purifier with a carbon-activated filter.

Suppose you don’t particularly care about cooking odor or smells coming from the outside in your home. In that case, a carbon filter isn’t worth it.

That said, carbon-activated filters don’t just eliminate bad smells you don’t like.

They also eliminate harmful gas particles in the air, such as VOCs, smoke from a fire, and others.

So even if you don’t care about cooking odor, having a carbon-activated filter at home can benefit your overall health.

A Word of Caution When Using a Carbon Filter

Using a carbon filtration system indoors is entirely safe.

I’ve been using one for the better part of 5 years, which has been life-changing since I live in a very polluted country.

However, I came across a few reports of people saying the carbon filters in their units have been re-releasing the odors they initially captured.

This only happens if the carbon filter is old and the carbon has been used up.

I have never experienced this issue because I change my carbon filters per the suggestions of the user manual of my air purifier.

So, make sure to change your carbon filter periodically to avoid this from happening to you too.

I change mine every 8-12 months and use my air purifier 24/7.

Changing your carbon filter every 12-16 months will likely be fine if you use your air purifier less frequently.

Do read your particular air purifier user manual to be sure.

What Does A Carbon Filter Do? Conclusion

Carbon filters are an excellent way to purify the air from all the gas particles indoors.

A carbon filter will come in handy to eliminate cooking odors, pet-related smells, smoke from a fire, or nasty and lingering cigarette odors.

Granted, air purifiers with a multi-stage filtration system that includes a carbon filter can be expensive.

However, I can vouch for them and say they are worth the money, especially if you want a fresh-smelling home.