What does a carbon filter remove?

Activated carbon is quite miraculous in terms of the ability to remove toxins, odors and bad taste from tap water. Active carbon filters are small pieces of carbon, in granular or block form, which have been treated to be extremely porous. Just one gram of activated carbon can easily have a surface area of ​​500-3000 m2. It is the surface area that allows active carbon filters to be very effective in adsorbing (removing) contaminants and other substances.

In addition to the surface area, active carbon filters have various possibilities in relation to the size of the pollutants they remove. The size of these fabrics ranges from about 0.5 - 50 microns). The lower the value, the less pore, and the more effective.

When the water flows through an active carbon filter, the chemicals are retained in the coal. Efficiency depends on water flow rate and water temperature. Therefore, most less active carbon filters must be used with low pressure and cold water. Activated charcoal is usually made of coconut shells, wood or coal and is sold as granulated activated carbon or carbon blocks. >

What removes and reduces active carbon filters?

Activated carbon removes very efficiently at least 81 chemicals , quite effective at other chemicals and moderately effective at other 22 chemicals. It doesn't remove everything from the tap water.

According to the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), active carbon is the only filter recommended to remove all 32 identified organic pollutants including THMs. The same applies to all 14 pesticides and 12 herbicides.

What does the water contain and how can active carbon help?

Most public water from water in Europe and North America is partially regulated and tested. Some places add chlorine, which is both toxic and gives bad taste and smell (the swimming pool!). An active carbon filter is excellent for removing chlorine, taste and odor. You often look at the filters letters CTO, which means Chlorine, Taste and Odor.

Chlorine and by-products

The most common concern for tap water is by-products (VOCs) of chlorine such as THMs identified as potentially carcinogenic. Active carbon is very effective in removing these.

What activated carbon does not filter

Despite the 80+ pollutant active carbon filters, there is also some content that it does not remove:

Activated carbon generally does not reduce TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), which is a common measure used by water filter sales people. More specifically, activated carbon is not usually sufficient to remove the following substances.


In areas and buildings with soft water and old pipes there may be a risk of lead in tap water. Normally activated carbon is not effective in removing this, but here are special filters such as TAPP 2 that remove lead very effectively.

Microbiological Pollution

This is one of the most common drinking water problems in less developed countries. Especially for waterborne gastrointestinal diseases (eg diarrhea that visitors do not usually get to local water). Active carbon filters are generally not sufficient to remove such contaminants.


Common in some places where groundwater has been contaminated. Active carbon removes 30-70% arsenic, but is not sufficient in places where this is highlighted as a real problem.

If your local water contains one or more of these substances, make sure the filter reduces them to a safe level. Most of the time, it means combining activated carbon with other types of filters, such as the Ion Exchange. Read more about the best filtering technologies.


Activated carbon is a brilliant water filtration technology and solves many problems, but not all. Therefore, it is important to understand the capabilities and limitations, and in case of uncertainty, feel free to contact us with your questions.


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