Filtering without waste
While tap water across the UK tends to be of a high standard, filtered water does remove a whole host of elements that are best avoided, from chlorine and limescale to heavy metals such as mercury, lead and dioxins. But how to avoid a plastic pile up in getting purer water?
Refusing the waste of filtered bottled water, many of us already use a water filter jug with replaceable filter cartridges, which (although marketed as ‘recyclable’) still constitutes plastic we have to dispose of (which may or may not get recycled).
Did you know that deep inside these plastic water purifier lives a surprisingly natural material: charcoal. Water filters use a special type of charcoal known as ‘activated charcoal’ to purify water that's usually made from burnt coconut shells and processed to be highly absorbent. Indeed, it is used a lot by the water treatment industry as it is such an effective way to process clean water.
Activated charcoal works through the process of adsorption. (Note that adsorption is different to absorption.) Adsorption binds impurities chemically on the surface of the charcoal filter rather than physically absorbing them. The pores in activated charcoal increase the surface area of the charcoal up to an extraordinary 2000 square meters per gram, which drastically improves its adsorption efficiency. Activated charcoal is the ideal water filter because it removes toxins from the water without stripping the water of salts and important minerals.
Carbon filters remove organics that can affect the taste, odour and colour of your water and reduce chlorine, trihalomethanes (THM), some pesticides, industrial solvents (halogenated hydrocarbons), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and radon gases. N.B. it will not remove microbial contaminants such as bacteria and viruses, calcium and magnesium (hard water minerals), fluoride, nitrate and many other compounds.
The Benefits of Using a Charcoal Filter
It doesn’t remove the “good stuff.”
Drinking water isn’t just made of hydrogen and oxygen, there are also many other minerals, in addition to nasty chemicals and impurities, which make up the composition of water. While most water filters efficiently remove these impurities, either mechanically or chemically, they often remove a lot of the important minerals and ions that are healthy for our bodies. Due to the chemical composition and structure of activated charcoal, these filters attract and absorb unhealthy organic compounds, while allowing the rest of the minerals to remain in the water.
It makes water healthier.
Not only do charcoal filters remove a lot of the nasty stuff from water, they can add things back into your water to make it healthier. Activated charcoal can add important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and iron back into your water to improve the water quality.
It improves the flavour.
Many people dislike the taste of tap water, complaining it tastes metallic or has an off-putting aroma. This taste is often due to the additives, such as chlorine, that are added to tap water to kill bacteria and pathogens found in reservoirs. Charcoal filters not only adsorb these nasty tasting chemicals, but they are also highly effective at removing odours as well, making your drinking water much more palatable.
Being natural, it is cheaper and less wasteful than filter jugs
Made of organic matter, charcoal filters are relatively inexpensive to produce and buy, and once used goes straight back where it came leaving no waste footprint. You can return it to the earth by crushing and burying it in the garden, in pot plants or mixing with compost, etc. The crushed bamboo charcoal will help aerate soil and increase water retention, absorb excess moisture when it’s wet and release it when dry.
They are easy to maintain.
The only extra effort to the filter cartridge jugs is the need to re-sterilise the filters from time to time, re-boil your charcoal ideally once a week, to avoid an undesirable amount of micro-organism developing in your jug. Boiling and drying the charcoal also help to clear the pores so giving the charcoal a better chance to maintain its filtering ability.
Re-use around the house.
After using charcoal as a water filter for 2 months you can reuse it in the home for a further 6 to 12 months. Dry out in the sun to maintain good condition, your charcoal can have a very useful second life as charcoal also regulates moisture, reduces odours, inhibits mould and keeps food fresh.
- mouldy kitchen and bathroom corners
- places you keep food and fruits (e.g. the fridge, breadbin, fruit bowl)
- smelly places (e.g. the fridge, loo, shoes)
- places you want to keep very dry (e.g. chests of drawers)
Make sure the pieces are completely dry before re-using. If you place them in a mild environment like chests of drawers, you can more or less use forever. In tougher places like the bathroom or the fridge, the charcoal may start looking a bit tired after a few months. Occasionally put them out in the sun and let breathe if you want to keep them in good condition. Re-use for 6-12 months.
Bamboo Water Filters by Charcoal People
Other woods can be used to make charcoal for filtering water but the larger number of porous cavities in bamboo charcoal is considered to give it better filtering abilities – 3 times greater per gramme than wood charcoal. As a fast-growing plant, supply is abundant and sustainable.
Bamboo charcoal’s incredible filtering ability comes from its super-porous structure – some may find it hard to believe but 1g of high quality bamboo charcoal has a surface area equivalent of up to 3 tennis courts. It works like a sponge and absorbs impurities into its pores.
Tried and tested
Charcoal water filtering is traditional and well-known in many parts of the world. Charcoal People's bamboo charcoal is carefully made in Japan in clay kilns by experienced charcoal makers and is simply of the highest quality of its kind.
Instructions For Use
For a 1 litre jug of water, use 3 – 4 pieces; for a 2 litre jug, use 6 – 8 pieces.
- Wash in running water to remove powder (do not use detergent).
- Boil for 10 mins in a pan of water to sterilise & allow to cool and dry.
- Place in a jug and fill with tap water (charcoal may float at first but will tend to sink after a week or so of use).
- Leave for 8 hours or more for best results. You can leave it in the fridge to chill if you like. It’s then ready to drink.
- Re-sterilise once a week by repeating step 2.
- Replace with new charcoal after 2 months approx.
- Filter water when asleep or out at work to make it fuss-free.
- Top up jug as you use the water.
- If you drink water throughout the day, you could use two smaller jugs. Start drinking from one jug and only top up when finished. Move on to the second one and let the other filter.
- Keep jug in fridge if you like your water cold.
- If away more than a day, give the charcoal a break. Dry it in a clean and airy place.