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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Activated Charcoal Around the House

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Learn to use Activated Charcoal to increase your harvest, neutralize offending odors, filter your water and air.

Garden Soil Improvement:
If you use compost and organic fertilizers to enrich your soil, using charcoal in your garden can help retain valuable nutrients. Amazingly, everything you need to make the charcoal is already in your garden. Once harvest is over and the plants have dried or gone to seed, dig a shallow trench in your garden bed and pile garden brush into the trench.

When you set fire to the brush, watch the smoke. Initially, the smoke will be white. As resins and sugars begin to burn, the smoke will yellow. When the smoke thins and changes to a grayish blue, cover the burning debris with about an inch of soil, cutting off oxygen, and leave it until the coals cool.

Once cool, you will have charcoal. Incorporating this charcoal into organically enriched soil gives microorganisms a friendly environment. Charcoal will slow the loss of nutrients and help the soil retain its richness. [http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/Make-Biochar-To-Improve-Your-Soil.aspx]
Photo courtesy of http://joshkearns.blogspot.com/2007/03/diy-water-treatment-part-iii.html.

Water Filtration:

There are two steps to making water safe to drink. The first step is to filter the water. The second step is to disinfect the water. Charcoal is a valuable ingredient in water filtration.

To make a simple charcoal water filter, select a clean container with a hole in the bottom. Place a single thickness, clean cotton cloth in the bottom of the container and then add a layer of fine gravel (or coarse sand). On top of this, alternate layers of charcoal and sand until the bucket is 2/3 full. Place a larger piece of thin cloth over the top of the container and secure it as a strainer to keep large particles out of your filter when water is poured through it. Illustration courtesy of http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/test/speakersnotes/ITP/912/examples_spsci.html.

Select another wide-mouthed clean container. Fit it with a lid that has a hole matching the one on the bottom of your filter. Set your homemade filter on the lid of your bottom container, which will hold the filtered water. Pour water into the filter and wait for it to drip into the lower container. The resulting water is filtered, but bacteria may still be present. You will need to disinfect your filtered water by boiling, adding chlorine, using the sun, or some other method. If boiling is used, the water should be boiled for ten minutes.

A variation of this method can be utilized for household filtration using a disinfected watertight drum. Washed gravel is placed on the bottom, followed by a layer of fine cloth and alternating layers of clean sand and charcoal topped with another layer of fine cloth. Water is poured through an opening in the lid of the barrel and collected after it passes through all of the layers. An old dinner plate can be placed on top of the sand just below the opening in the lid to stop erosion. An example of such a drum is shown. See this site for more detailed instructions:
Illustration courtesy of http://tilz.tearfund.org/Publications/Footsteps+31-40/Footsteps+34/Letters.htm.

NOTE: To produce activated charcoal in quantities for such uses, you would likely need to employ the use of an in-ground oven or kiln similar to the one shown at the beginning of this article.

Filtering dirty water will remove debris, but it won't make contaminated water safe.

Don't use water if:

  • The water has a chemical smell or foam deposits
  • There are dead plants and animals in or near it
  • The water looks stagnant. Bulrushes are a sign of this - those are the tall plants with the thick brown sausage-shaped heads
  • Lots of algae is growing in the water

Air Filtration
Home air filters can be made using a shallow cardboard box, small fan, thin (breathable) cloth, activated charcoal and duct tape. The shape of the fan is cut into one of the flat sides of the box. The box is secured to the fan with duct tape so that it blows AWAY FROM the box. The other side of the box is also cut open and a fine cloth taped over the opening from inside the box. This must be a fine enough mesh to hold the charcoal inside. You may also want to use some of the screening material to place over the fan (on the inside of the box). This will keep powder out of the fan's housing and machinery. Fill the box with charcoal powder/bits. When the fan is turned on, it will move air through the charcoal in the box.

Filtered Face Mask
A quick fix if you are wishing to avoid odors, smoke etc. is to use a bra cup and insert Activated Charcoal into the lining. This can be used as a face mask.

Charcoal sprinkled liberally around pets, barns, etc. can help tame odors. Place Activated charcoal powder into an old sock that is tied shut. Place the sock inside shoes overnight or in a closet, drawer, box, etc. of items to keep help trap bacteria that may make things smelly.

You will need:
  • Aluminum foil
  • Activated Charcoal
  • salt, water, a bowl
  • paper towel
  • two clip leads
  • a DC motor, masking tape
  • optional, an electric meter capable of measuring 1 volt and 1 amp.

This blog presents ideas and information designed to enrich the life of the reader. These articles are NO substitute for personalized professional care. The opinions and ideas expressed are fallible and that of the author. Readers are encouraged to be well-informed and draw their own conclusions.

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a perpetual student of things I find interesting and (I hope) helpful to others. Feel free to use and apply all information with a healthy dose of common sense. :-)

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