Does Activated Charcoal Dissolve in Water? - Mayu Water Answers

Does Activated Charcoal Dissolve in Water?

Activated charcoal is a great method of filtering water due to its porous surface. The charcoal causes impurities to stick to its surface and removes them.

Photo of Cameron-Leigh Henning
By Cameron-Leigh Henning
Head and shoulders photo of Michelle Meyer
Edited by Michelle Meyer

Published September 12, 2022.

Activated charcoal consists of a solid, black porous sponge or small black beads. It's a common compound used in water filters and has its own section. However, activated charcoal can also just be added to drinking water to remove impurities without using activated charcoal filters. Activated charcoal doesn't dissolve in water, but there are ways to add it to a jug that works effectively to clean the water.

How Activated Charcoal Purifies Water

Activated charcoal works by adsorbing impurities, not absorbing them:

  • Absorption is where substances dissolve or are vacuumed into the absorbent’s volume, for example, a sponge.
  • Adsorption is where substances merely adhere to and are restricted to the adsorbent’s surface without seeping inside.

Charcoal is an excellent adsorber with a very porous surface, consisting of billions of carbon atoms separated by millions of tiny pores.

Activated charcoal works by using chemical adsorption to remove 99 percent of impurities in water including volatile organic compounds, total suspended solids, heavy metals, chloramines, chlorine, phenol, tannins, and hydrogen sulfide. In some cases, activated charcoal can be used to remove chloroform, but the results are somewhat inconclusive and depend on the charcoal being used.

Activated charcoal is commonly available as powder or sticks. You can simply drop a charcoal stick into a jug of water to purify it. It won’t dissolve but will filter your water. Use a 50 gram stick or sticks for every 1 liter of water. Before you add the activated charcoal stick to the water, rinse it to remove any impurities on the surface, and leave it out to dry.


Activated charcoal is a natural, inexpensive, and recyclable way of filtering your tap water, especially for trihalomethane removal. Activated charcoal is widely available and much less of a burden on your wallet than most filtration systems on the market.