All about Activated carbon air filters

When it comes to air purifiers, getting the best ones is vital. Air filters are a crucial part of air purifiers. The quality of the air filter directly affects the quality of air inside your house. There are numerous types of filters such as pleated filter, HEPA filter, etc. and one unique filter among them is the activated carbon filter. You might have heard about this carbon filter but, do you know what exactly it is and how it works? If not, don’t worry. We have compiled all the important information about the carbon filter for you. So, let’s dive in and learn all about activated carbon air filters. 

What is an activated carbon air filter?

Made up of a bed of activated carbon or charcoal, the activated carbon air filters are designed to remove gaseous pollutants from the air. The charcoal or the coal is enclosed inside a cloth or some other mesh-like material. This filter traps extremely minute particles like VOCs and odors that usually escape from other filters. Using an activated carbon air filter with a HEPA filter in your air purifier gives you the air quality inside your home.

How does it work?

Activated carbon filters come in form of packets filled with activated carbon and they vary in thickness. These filters use the adsorption method to remove the minute pollutants from the air. Adsorption is a process where the pollutant molecules stick to the surfaces of a substance like charcoal. When the dirty air enters the filter and passes through the charcoal, the molecules of gaseous, solid, or liquid pollutants are cohered to the charcoal surface. This results in clean air being released from the purifier. 

Some recommended activated carbon air filters for your air purifiers:

  1. VEVA Air Purifier Filter Replacement
  2. Cut to Fit Carbon Pad Pre Filter Roll for Air Purifiers 
  3. PUREBURG Carbon Filter
  4. Breathe Naturally Universal 16×48 Cut-to-Fit Activated Carbon Filter
  5. Carbon Activated Pre-Filter by Complete Filtration Services
  6. LEVOIT Air Purifier Replacement Filter

Advantages and Disadvantages of an activated carbon air filter?

When you decide to use an activated carbon air filter to clean the air inside your house, it is important to know about its advantages and disadvantages. Let us look at the advantages and disadvantages of an activated carbon air filter in detail here.

Advantages of activated carbon air filter:

Following are the benefits of using an activated carbon filter in your house:

  1. Filters VOCs- These filters are the only ones that can capture the VOCs i.e., Volatile organic compounds. VOCs are created both inside and outside the house both. It can originate from air fresheners, house cleaners, paints, smog, air pollution, etc. 
  2. Removes odor- The activated carbon filters can also trap gaseous and liquid particles and the odors created by anything. The particles present in odors are too minute to be captured by the normal filters. But the odor particles react with the activated carbon and thus are eliminated from the air. This helps in giving you fresher air. 

Disadvantages of activated carbon air filter:

Besides all the benefits, the carbon filter also has some disadvantages. Listed below are some of the disadvantages of a carbon air filter:

  1. Ineffective particle filtration- The activated carbon filters are designed to remove the minute particles from the air and not the bigger ones. They are not as effective in capturing pollen, common dust, and other such pollutant particles. That is why these filters are best when used together with a MERV-rated filter. However, you can also find some MERV-rated filters that have a layer of activated carbon on them. If you use these air filters, you won’t need an additional filter. 
  2. Regular replacement- In comparison to other filters, activated carbon air filters become more ineffective with every use. That is why these filters need regular replacement. It is recommended to replace your activated carbon air filter once every three months. But this replacement time depends on the size and thickness of the filter as well. Therefore, it is best to check with the manufacturer about how long you can use one filter effectively. Also, if you are using an activated carbon filter, make sure to change it when you start noticing odors in your house. 
  3. Can not be cleaned- One other disadvantage of the activated carbon air filter is its inability to be cleaned or washed. Some people suggest washing or vacuuming the filter but, in the case of an activated carbon filter, it does not help. Washing or vacuuming the filter will only remove the bigger particles ads the molecules are stuck to the charcoal. But, the odor and VOCs won’t be removed. These filters can be cleaned but, only in a factory, and it is also a complicated and expensive process. So, it’s better to just get a new filter once it becomes dirty and ineffective. 

Activated carbon air filter buying guide

In the list of all about activated carbon air filters, you must also know how to choose the best one for your house. There are various types of carbon filters available based on size, thickness, etc. Therefore before you decide to get an activated carbon air filter for your air purifier or any other system, it is vital to consider some factors. Let us look at these factors in this carbon filter buying guide below:

  1. Filter type- The type of carbon filter differs based on the type of encasing used. One of the carbon filters comes with polymer mesh encasing the charcoal/ carbon. This type of filter is used as a pre-filter for an air purifier. These pre-filters are used with a MERV-rated filter as the main filter as the carbon pre-filters are not made for removing normal dust. The other type of carbon filter comes encased in the MERV-rated filter. When you use this filter, you won’t need any additional air filter as it works for both normal dust and odors & VOCs. 
  2. Amount of carbon- When it comes to the amount of carbon in the filter, more is always better. Over the period, the carbon filter becomes ineffective as it becomes saturated with pollutants. If the filter is thin and has less amount of carbon in it, its effectiveness will decrease within a short period. Also, the type of activated carbon varies based on the production process used. The production process affects the binding site and the surface area of the activated carbon.
  3. Carbon layer thickness and size- The thickness of the carbon layer in the filter matters as the thicker the layer, the better the air quality will be. A thick layer means that the pollutants (odor and VOCs) will have to pass through more layers of carbon. 


Getting the right filter for your air purifier is important as it not only improves air quality but also affects the lifespan of your appliance. An activated carbon air filter helps you get rid of odors and VOCs from your house. But before buying an air filter, it is necessary to know all about activated carbon air filters to make the right decision. 

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