Carbon By Any Other Name Would Smell As Neutral

Ultrahouse: Say, it’s a bit stuffy in here…and I know a certain someone who really fancies lilac.
Marge: Oooh, that really covers the cat crap!

– The Simpsons

The Kev and I both noticed a bit of online buzz around the idea of fancy, Asian-themed charcoal air fresheners.

I’m not a chemist, but I’m pretty sure the important thing about these is the “activated charcoal” part, and not that the charcoal originally came from bamboo. The bamboo part just makes it seem fancy. And exotic, if you aren’t from a place with bamboo. Anyhoo, if I understand it right, activated charcoal is just charcoal carbon processed so that it has an enormous number of tiny holes. The bigger resulting surface area helps trap pollutants.

Say hello to my little friend.

My getting goat (via).

So if you just need activated carbon and a fabric pouch … why are these sold for as much as $20? Even with shipping and other overhead, that seems kind of excessive. Basically, you’re paying a premium for a simple thing tarted up.

If there’s anything that gets my goat, takes it on a date and gets fresh with it before ditching it at the diner (the goat, I’m still talking about), it’s pretentious marketing. I decided to see how cheap I could make the same thing.

I picked up a big ole box (over half a kilo) of activated carbon from the aquarium section of the pet shop. EIGHT BUCKS.

api Then I grabbed some fabric scraps I had on hand. (I was meant to be working on bedroom curtains, so the sewing machine was already out. Curtains still not done, by the way. This was far quicker and easier.) Let’s say this 1/8 of a yard piece was worth $2, including the thread and bits of ribbon I used. I ran up three quick baggies of various sizes. (If you don’t have a sewing machine, a spare sock would do the same job! Also, it’s something to do with spare socks.)

Both from the same fabric -- used the reverse side on one.

Both from the same fabric — used the reverse side.

Just in case I wasn’t having enough fun stalling on curtain-making, I broke out the gold acrylic paint to amuse myself further.


That’s the kanji for “marketing” (according to one source, at least). Marketers know: put random kanji on anything in the west, and it looks cooooool. (Apologies if you read Japanese, because my illiterate rendering probably looks pretty awful!)

Once I had the bags done and imprinted with silliness, they were easy to fill — the huge box of activated charcoal has a built in funnel! After filling, I tied or sewed them up.

Here’s my whole nascent (or should that be “no-scent”??) fake product range:

bags done

I deployed my bags of silliness in the house (product testing!).

bag on door

By the time I got to this point, it was all for the sake of my continued internal joke. (I won’t even say it was an “inside” joke, because the Kev observed all this with some perplexity — curtains, remember?) BUT GUESS WHAT?

They totally work!

I reckon I could make five to seven bags from that container of charcoal and a little more fabric, so something like $2/bag to make these. Less if you use a mismatched sock! And if you are feeling silly, you can look up your own kanji to make them all zen. I wonder what the kanji is for “goat.”

Update! Over a year later, this concept still works well, BUT if you are going to hang one like I did on the doorknob, please check out this post about how to avoid charcoal dust marks.

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