Three bamboo charcoal bags in light colors on a table

What are Bamboo Charcoal Bags & How Do They Work?

Pesky odors in your home, office, or car can be bothersome, and air fresheners only mask the problem. If you’ve been looking for natural ways to improve the air quality of your home, you may have come across bamboo charcoal bags.

You’re probably wondering what are bamboo charcoal bags & how do they work? Bamboo charcoal bags are cloth bags filled with activated bamboo charcoal. They are effective in eliminating odors, pollutants, and moisture from the air by trapping it in the tiny pores of the bamboo charcoal.

But you might be skeptical. Bamboo charcoal bags are actually very effective at improving the air quality and eliminating odor in your home. To find out more about how this amazing, all natural odor eliminator and air purifier works and how to use them in your home, continue reading.

What are bamboo charcoal bags?

When most of us think about charcoal, we think of those little dirty, smelly briquets that go in the bottom of our grills. Bamboo charcoal is nothing like this. It undergoes a specialized process that makes it able to absorb odors, moisture, and bacteria from the air. The result is a fine extremely porous powder.

Bamboo charcoal bags are filled with this activated bamboo charcoal which is capable of trapping air pollutants, moisture, and odors from the air. They are used in a wide variety of locations to do their job.

The bags are typically made of linen or a burlap style material that allows air to flow through the bag. Most bamboo charcoal bags also feature some method of hanging the bag like a rivet or a loop of twine.

All in all, bamboo charcoal bags are a simple, natural, and non-toxic way to improve the quality of your air.

How do bamboo charcoal bags work exactly?

It is hard to believe that such an unassuming bag of a completely natural and nontoxic bamboo charcoal can be so effective at eliminating odors and purifying the air, but it really can.

The secret to bamboo charcoal is simple. Activated bamboo charcoal has thousands of pores that are both microscopic and visible. These pores are capable of trapping moisture, bacteria, pollutants, and odors very effectively.

In fact, one gram of bamboo charcoal has over 600 square meters of surface area, and it is at least 10 times more porous than regular charcoal! The more pores the charcoal has, the better it can do the job of purifying the air.

Once the impurities in the air become trapped in the bamboo charcoal, it stays there. It can even trap bacteria, which will die trapped in the pores of the bamboo charcoal without a host.

Every 1 to 2 months, the bamboo charcoal bag must be rejuvenated by placing it outside where the UV rays from the sunlight can help release the impurities that were trapped in the pores. This opens the pores back up so that they can trap impurities once more and continue improving the air and smell of your home.

How is the bamboo charcoal inside the bags made?

Activated bamboo charcoal is made by specialized, and often secretive process that involves heating bamboo to a certain very hot temperature over a long period of time.

After the bamboo is heated and turned into charcoal, it is treated with steam or air to activate it. This clears out the pores and readies them for the job of purifying the air.

Bamboo charcoal pieces on a white surface
Bamboo charcoal (source: WikiCommons)

How do I use bamboo charcoal bags?

Using bamboo charcoal bags to purify your air is easy. There are no plugs, refills, or any other equipment that you need to worry about. All you need to do is hang the bag or place it where you want to eliminate odors, pollutants, or bacteria, and let the bamboo charcoal do what it does.

Top image is activated charcoal spilled from a bottle and bottom image is a charcoal bag inside a box with the text How do I use bamboo charcoal bags?

Within a few days, you should notice that there are fewer odors in the area, and within a few weeks, any odors should be completely gone.

Bamboo charcoal bags work best in confined spaces or where there is a lot of air circulation. Large bags can be used for larger spaces. You can also use multiple bags in the same space, which actually works better than one large bag.

Small bamboo charcoal bags can be used in small spaces like dresser drawers or closets.

Hanging the bags is best because it allows for the most circulation, but it is not necessary.

Rejuvenating the bamboo charcoal bag

Bamboo charcoal bags require regular rejuvenation. This process is easy and simple, but it will ensure that your bamboo charcoal bags continue to work to the best of their ability. Bamboo charcoal bags need to be restored every 1-2 months to ensure they are working properly. 

To revive your bamboo charcoal bags, you just need to take down and gather all your bags and bring them outside on a sunny day. Place the bags in a clean, dry location in full sunlight for 1 to 3 hours. If you lay them flat, I would recommend that you flip them over after a few hours to ensure that all the bamboo charcoal gets fully rejuvenated.

If you live in an area with cold cloudy winters or you are having a hard time getting full sunlight, leave the bamboo charcoal bag out in the sunlight for a few extra hours.

It is not a good idea to lay the bamboo charcoal bags in front of a window as many windows block the UV rays that are necessary to rejuvenate the bamboo charcoal.

After the bamboo charcoal is revived, you can bring the bags back in the house and place them back where you had them. They will continue to work for 2 years as long as you rejuvenate them regularly.

How long do bamboo charcoal bags last?

Bamboo charcoal bags last about 2 years before they need to be replaced. They will last that long only if you revitalize them regularly (as explained above). 

Even with rejuvenation, bamboo charcoal bags will eventually need to be exchanged. This is because the chemicals and other substances that the bamboo charcoal bags absorb are not always completely removed. A residue from these substances remains in the bamboo charcoal, and when the residue builds up, it reduces the effectiveness of the activated bamboo charcoal.

Don’t worry if your bamboo charcoal bag gets wet. Water will not harm the bamboo charcoal inside the bag!

Allow the bag to completely dry out by placing it in the sun for an hour or two. Once it is dry, the charcoal inside the bag should be as good as new. The bag itself might not look as crisp and fresh, but it will not reduce the effectiveness of the product at all.

Common uses for bamboo charcoal bags

Bamboo charcoal bags are very versatile and can be used in a variety of situations. Here are some ideas for how you can use your bamboo charcoal bags.

Whole room deodorizer: You can use one large bag or several small bags to improve the air quality and eliminate odors in whole rooms. Generally, using several smaller bags is more efficient. Just hang or place the bamboo charcoal bag where air can circulate around it.

In your shoes: Place a small bamboo charcoal bag in each of your shoes to help eliminate moisture, bacteria, and odors. There are small, narrow bamboo charcoal bags made especially for this purpose, but any charcoal bag can get the job done. It can take a couple of days for the charcoal bags to completely eliminate odors, though. So it isn’t an instant fix for smelly shoes but more natural than shoe sprays.

In your car: One small bamboo charcoal bag can improve the air quality in your entire car. It will help with odors and trapping pollutants. If you spend a significant amount of time in traffic, charcoal bags can really improve your ride home.

Four colorful bamboo charcoal bags on a car console
Get rid of smells and pollutants in your car

In your closets: Hang a bamboo charcoal bag in your closet to help keep your clothes and linens smelling fresh, even those ones in the back that you never wear or use. Simply use the rivet to hang the bamboo charcoal bag on a coat hanger and leave it to work its magic.

Dresser drawers: Putting a small bamboo charcoal bag in your drawers will help your clothes smelling fresh and extracting moisture out of your clothes. In addition, if your dresser is new, bamboo charcoal bags can help with that “new dresser” smell that comes with off gassing by trapping the pollutants as the dresser releases them.

Diaper pails: There are all sorts of fancy ways diaper pails attempt to eliminate the smell of baby diapers, but few are 100% effective. Adding a bamboo charcoal bag to the bottom of your diaper pail under the bag can help keep your diaper pail smelling fresh. Alternatively, you could hang one next to the diaper pail.

Animal smells: If you have pets, then you know pet odors. Hang a bamboo charcoal bag near where your pets spend most of their time, sleep, or go to the bathroom to keep your home smelling great.

Gym bag or locker: An excellent place to keep a small bamboo charcoal bag is in your gym bag or locker. This will help prevent moisture and odors from your gym clothes from penetrating your bag and keep your gym locker from developing a nasty odor.

Sports equipment: If you or your children play sports that involve a lot of equipment, you can prevent any odors that could develop by tossing a small bamboo charcoal bag in it or hanging one near it. You could place a bamboo bag in a helmet, for example, to help eliminate odors naturally and effectively.

Backpacks or handbags: Depending on what gets carried around in your backpack or handbag, they may develop an odor. If this is the case, keep a small bamboo charcoal bag in your bag to prevent these odors from taking root.

Washing machine: Over time washing machines can develop a musty smell. Place a bamboo charcoal bag in your washing machine and close the lid. Let it sit there for a few days and the odor should be gone. If the odor persists or returns, there could be an underlying issue that would require that you clean the washer, or have it serviced.

Refrigerator or freezer: Bamboo charcoal bags can work wonders in your refrigerator and freezer, and it works better and lasts longer than baking soda. You can use a suction cup hook to hang it from the inside of your fridge or just set it in the back out of the way, ideally on the top shelf where it won’t get dirty in a spill. 

Bamboo charcoal bags don’t just eliminate fridge odors. They can also help keep your produce fresh by absorbing ethylene gas, which is a gas that causes produce to ripen.

Bathroom: Putting a bamboo charcoal bag in your bathroom is a no brainer. It will help eliminate unpleasant smells quickly and naturally.

Office: Some of us spend just as much time in the office as we spend in our homes. Bring a bamboo charcoal bag into your office to help improve the air around your desk and to help with any odor issues from neighboring desks.

When bamboo charcoal bags aren’t working

Bamboo charcoal bags are extremely effective at eliminating odors and purifying the air, but there is one instance where a bamboo charcoal bag will not completely solve your odor problem. If there is an excessive odor caused by another problem and that problem is constantly contributing to the odor, a bamboo charcoal bag may not completely eliminate the odor. It can’t work miracles after all.

For example, if you are looking to get rid of a cigarette smoke smell from a shelf you bought second hand, you can put a bamboo charcoal bag on the shelves for a week or so and the odor should be eliminated in that time.

However, if your home is exposed to excessive cigarette smoke, the charcoal bag may be able to reduce the lingering smells associated with cigarette smoke, but unless you stop smoking in your home, the odor will never be completely eliminated.

Similarly, if you have a mold issue in your basement because of a water leak, a bamboo charcoal bag can help eliminate moisture and smells, but unless the underlying problem is fixed, it cannot eliminate all moisture or smells.

If you try using bamboo charcoal bags and find that the problematic smell persists, you will need to get to the root of the problem. The bamboo charcoal bag will help remove any lingering smells once the main issue is tended to.

This is not a fault in the bamboo charcoal bags, only a reality of any odor removing product.

Reasons why you should use bamboo charcoal bags

Bamboo charcoal bags have many advantages over other methods of dealing with undesirable odors like common air fresheners and even air purifiers. Bamboo charcoal bags are chemical free, inexpensive, sustainable, and safe for use around children and pets.

1. Bamboo charcoal bags absorb odors instead of masking them

Most commonly used air fresheners work by masking a smelly situation without handling the cause of the smell. In order to prevent smells from returning, you must keep masking it again and again with those air fresheners.

Bamboo charcoal bags will actually absorb the moisture, bacteria, and pollutants that cause the smell in the first place. This is more effective, less expensive, and better for your health than constantly applying a chemical-laden air freshener.

2. Bamboo charcoal bags are chemical-free

The only thing that goes into a bamboo charcoal bag is 100% bamboo charcoal. There are no perfumes, chemicals, dyes, and they are completely non-toxic.

Air fresheners can increase levels of formaldehyde in the home. A study done by the California Air Resource Board discovered that many air fresheners contain a terpene, a class of chemicals commonly found in pine, lemon, and orange oils. 

This on its own is not surprising, but they also found that when products that contain terpene are used in the presence of ozone it produces formaldehyde, which is a respiratory irritant and a Group 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Cancer Research.

The amount produced does depend on how much of the product is used, how much ozone is in the house, and how well ventilated the room is, but there are already common sources of formaldehyde in many homes including in pressed wood product and plywood. So, any increase in formaldehyde should be avoided.

If anyone in your home struggles with a respiratory problem like asthma, air fresheners could be causing them even more problems. A study by the University of Washington found that about a third of the participants reported that air fresheners aggravated their asthma and 40 percent said that any scented product caused a negative reaction.

When using bamboo charcoal bags, you don’t have to worry about chemicals or scents. In fact, bamboo charcoal bags will help take pollutants like formaldehyde out of the air by locking it into its porous structure

3. Bamboo charcoal bags are safe around pets and children

Bamboo charcoal bags will not harm your pets or your children. Bamboo charcoal bags are completely non-toxic. You don’t have to worry about the safety of your children or pets when using these bamboo charcoal bags.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, air fresheners can cause a host of issues if misused including skin irritation, respiratory irritation, irritation to the eyes. If ingested, air freshener can cause irritation of the mouth, nausea, vomiting, intoxication, sleepiness, and other life-threatening symptoms.

In addition, bamboo charcoal bags do not require the use of a flame or create any potential for a fire hazard.

4. Bamboo charcoal bags are sustainable

Bamboo charcoal bags are the most sustainable solution to improving the smell and air quality in your home.

Bamboo itself is extremely eco-friendly. A bamboo plant takes only 5-7 years to reach maturity, and because it is a type of grass, it can be harvested over and over again without needing to be replanted. This makes bamboo charcoal far better for the earth than charcoal made from trees.

In addition, bamboo is great at trapping carbon, far better than your standard timber trees. This makes the production of bamboo charcoal a carbon-neutral process. Purchasing products made of bamboo supports the production of more bamboo, which in turn helps reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere.

Also, bamboo charcoal does not use any electricity. You don’t have to wash it, plug it in, or use any resources to maintain it once it is made.

Bamboo charcoal is biodegradable. When it comes time to replace your bamboo charcoal bag, you can open the bag and spread the charcoal into your garden where it will add nutrients back to the soil.

5. Bamboo charcoal bags are inexpensive

Compared to the cost of air fresheners, bamboo charcoal is very inexpensive, and has no maintenance costs. 

Small bags generally cost around $5 a piece with multipacks giving you the most value. Each bag will last 2 years before it needs to be replaced.

Where to buy bamboo charcoal bags?

Now that you know all the ways bamboo charcoal bags can improve the air quality in your home, car, and office, you are probably wondering where you can buy some. Luckily, they are very easy to find.

You can simply order them on Amazon or buy them in your local store, like Walmart, Home Depot, and so on. Keep in mind that the stores in your area may not have it or only have the basic bags. So, Amazon or Etsy is a good choice to match your style.

DIY bamboo charcoal bags

Making your own bamboo charcoal bags is a simple and fun DIY project. All you need is a bag of bulk activated bamboo charcoal, and some sort of small bag to hold the charcoal in. This is a great option if you want your bamboo charcoal bag to match or enhance your home decor.

Make your own activated bamboo charcoal with your own harvested culms by using these instructions. If you grow bamboo plants in your backyard, why not using it for your DIY charcoal bags? Once you have the activated bamboo charcoal, you just need a bag to put it in.

If you know how to sew, you can make a small cloth bag out of any kind of fabric. Linen works especially well for this as well as a burlap. You don’t want the fibers of the cloth to be too wide or too tight. You want air to be able to circulate, but you also don’t want the charcoal to come out of the bag.

If you can’t sew, you can still make your own bamboo charcoal sachets. Just take a piece of cloth and put some bamboo charcoal in the center of it. Pull the edges to the center and tie it off with ribbon or twine. You should have a nice little sachet of charcoal that you can place in your shoes, refrigerator, or dresser drawers.

The no-sew method is not the best method to use if you have curious children who might open the bags and distribute the charcoal throughout your home. The bamboo charcoal will not harm them or your pets, but it could make a big mess.

Do you still have questions about bamboo charcoal bags? Leave us a comment!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo
About the Author: James Zimmerman


    • Hi Ron!

      No, not all brands of bamboo charcoal are the same. The quality and effectiveness of bamboo charcoal can vary based on the source of the bamboo, production methods, and any additional ingredients or processing used. It’s important to do research and choose a reputable brand when purchasing bamboo charcoal products. You can check out our recommendations on where to buy bamboo charcoal bags.


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