Deep inside your plastic water purifier lives a surprisingly natural material: charcoal. That’s right, the stuff you’ll be setting on fire to grill some burgers this summer is very similar to the susbstance widely used to clean tap water.
A pat on the back to any Boy or Girl Scouts who already knew this. Now, technically the materials are a bit different: Water filters like Brita and Soma use “activated” charcoal, i.e. activated carbon, that’s made from coconut shells and processed to be highly absorbent; lump charcoal for grilling is just chunks of wood that have been burned in the presence of oxygen. Alert: They are not interchangeable!
Recently, it has come to our attention that activated charcoal can be acquired in whole-stick form, which can be dropped right into in a pitcher of water to purify it.
The time has come to kiss your clunky plastic filter goodbye.
If we’re being honest here, water filters are kind of a buzzkill when it comes to kitchen design and entertaining, unless you’re going for a small-appliance-on-the-table kind of vibe. But drop a stick of activated charcoal in a pitcher of tap water and act extremely nonchalant about it, and you’re basically Gwyneth Paltrow incarnate. Sure, somebody might poke fun at you – uh, why is there a dirty stick in the water pitcher? – but you have the power to kick them out of your party after schooling them on activated charcoal factoids.
First, there is the fact that it’s actually very affordable: Activated charcoal sticks made expressly for this purpose can be purchased, no surprise, through the online Goop shop at a rate of $16 for a quarter pound (and we can’t actually make fun of that price because you’ll get three to four months out of a single stick and the pack contains two, so that’s pretty legit).
The brand G.P. approves of is Morihata International, a Philadelphia-based lifestyle brand that sources traditionally made Binchotan Charcoal from the Kishu region of Japan. Apparently, this is the good stuff – or at least the trendy stuff – because you’ll also find it available on The Line ($20 for a quarter pound), Free People ($18 for a quarter pound), and the Food52 Shop ($34 for half a pound). Bargain hunters will probably balk at the minimalist label and be able to find a cheaper version on Amazon, but we’re kind of into the idea of using a vetted brand.
The Goop product description assures us that Binchotan Charcoal removes chemicals, softens, and improves the taste of water (and if you’re into a bit more woo-woo, it can even be added to a hot bath to “improve circulation and detoxify”).
But if you’ve ever used a carbon water filter, you know it will work. Beware: A very small amount of flaking might occur when you drop it in the pitcher – same as when you occasionally see a teensy black fleck floating in your Brita water – but the stick will stay intact. Just keep adding fresh water on top of it when you’re out, and after it’s all out of purifying properties in three to four months, you can use it as a fridge deodorizer (bye, little orange box!).