HouseFresh is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Do Charcoal Bag Air Purifiers Work?

Last updated November 23, 2021

This post may contain affiliate links.

Author avatar Danny Ashton

Danny as been writing about air purifiers for 10+ years. He is a major fan of home technology, which makes him the perfect person to test and evaluate products for HouseFresh

The charcoal bag air purifier or bamboo carbon bags are a simple and effective way to clean the air around it of smells and moisture. It works by trapping particles in a bag made from activated charcoal which can absorb odors and other airborne nuisances. They were recently named by CNN as one of the very best things to keep your car clean and organized. Whilst they can be a great device for certain situations, they are not a direct replacement for a real electronic air purifier for those looking to purify the air around them.

What are charcoal air purifier bags?

In simple terms, they are just a bag full of activated or non-activated carbon.

Whilst marketing material might suggest they can do a lot to clean the air, the reality is that with such small amounts of carbon and no way to push air – they are only really useful for things like keeping a drawer free of smells or excess humidity. They will be useless for dust or removing weed smell from a room – we have a list of the best air purifiers for weed that might be useful for this particular situation.

They generally don’t cost more than $1 per bag so you are expected to change them when the activated carbon has absorbed as much odor/water as it can. Some people suggest putting them out in the sun every 2 months to help get more usage as then you can dry out the carbon for use again.

What are charcoal air purifier bags good for?

Enclosed spaces like a kitchen drawer, cupboard, or inside the car are perfect.

There won’t be enough space for a traditional HEPA air purifier but you may still have issues with humidity or odors – this is where the bag really shines.

What are charcoal air purifier bags not good for?

If you are looking to clean the air in even a small room then you will be disappointed with one of these charcoal bags as they just won’t work for any space larger than an enclosed drawer.

The reality is that you have such a small amount of activated charcoal in each bag that the odor from a bedroom or bigger space would quickly overwhelm the bag.

Large space air purification needs a filter that can catch all the particles in the air, while charcoal bags primarily work for areas with limited space. If you something to deal with dust, allergens, etc in a large space your best choice is a HEPA filter instead – we recently put together a list of the best HEPA H13 air purifiers on the market as of 2021.

How do you activate a bamboo charcoal bag?

For optimal results, place your bamboo charcoal bag outside in direct sunshine for 2-3 hours on each side every 30-60 days (whether the temperature is -30C or +30C).

The bamboo charcoal is activated by the UV from the sun and UV light penetrates the charcoal, causing the pores to widen.

Can you make your own charcoal air purifier bag?

Yes. Cut an 8-inch-diameter circle out of a piece of lightweight cotton. In the center, put a couple of teaspoons of activated charcoal.

Gather the fabric circle’s edges together and knot with a ribbon. Then hang the sachet in a bathroom or closet.

Where is the best place to put a bamboo charcoal bag?

These bags normally come with an O-ring so you can hang them up in most places around the home.

They can be hung on curtain rods or wall hooks and to get the best results, keep the room size in mind. A small bag is often sufficient for an enclosed space like inside the car. However, if you have a larger enclosed space like a closet, you may require more than one charcoal bag.

Warm air tends to travel upwards toward the ceiling, so placing the bag as high as possible is a smart idea.

Wrapping up

Charcoal bag air purifiers are more for the use of temporary relief from smells in a room and moisture in a small space rather than to clean the air.

A charcoal air purifying bag is excellent and can be used in small rooms or closets where there is a specific bad smell, but it should never be used as an air cleaner.

Whereas HEPA filters work by trapping small particles of dust and other allergens in their pleats. The trapped particles are then removed from the room through a vacuum system. This is unlike charcoal bags which use a chemical reaction to remove odor and moisture from the air by adsorption but are useless for things like pollen and dust which need to be removed from the air actively.