Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions
Are all activated charcoals the same?
They do all work the same way, by adsorbing material into the vast surface area of the charcoal itself. However, different inputs will give different outputs and the effectiveness of charcoal can fluctuate depending on what was part of the input. That's why we're so careful to use only 100% wood- there is no variation between the package you buy today and next year.
Coconut shells and bamboo are denser than wood, and the charcoal is blacker and can carry flavour differently. We find that our wood charcoal carries flavour exceptionally well, and for uses like tooth polish, just add your essential oils slowly because it may be stronger that what you're used to.
Firefly also looks different- it sparkles in the sun! Wood fractures on flat planes, creating a reflective surface like salt and snowflakes. (We just think that makes it more fun!)
What is Firefly made of?
We use 100% wood as our only input. This guarantees a consistant, quality product.
Will activated charcoal stain? What about cleanup?
We have been working with activated charcoal for ten years and have never experienced staining with our product by having it simply contact a surface. Firefly is pure carbon with no dye or oil, so it will wash off hands and hard surfaces easily. We just send our clothes though the wash, and that takes care of dry powder residue.
That said, if charcoal is mixed with oil (like essential oil) the oil will carry the charcoal and the oil stain may retain colour. Please be careful over carpets and soft furnishings, because like any product, if it gets embedded in the fibers or ground in to the carpet, it will likely leave a mark. Gently clean up spills immediately with a vacuum hose or corner tool. Try not to rub it, and leave the vacuum beater bar off for the initial cleanup.
How does it work?
This incredible surface area is what makes the charcoal so attractive to tiny particles. There is a lot of empty space to fill, and that makes activated charcoal highly adsorbent. (Adsorbency is a material's ability to make tiny particles stick to it- sometimes only one molecule thick!)
What's the science behind it? Complex molecules are made up of carbon bonded with other elements, especially oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, and carbon can bond with all of these because of its four valence electrons. That’s why it works so well in so many applications.
The porous nature and molecular attractive properties of activated charcoal is also the same thing that cleans teeth so well and acts as an effective mask and cleanser. The empty space in the material acts like a sponge, absorbing substances that it comes in contact with like dirt, oil, tooth stains and digestive irritants like lactic acid for those with lactose intolerance.
How is activated charcoal made?
Activated charcoal is made though a process called pyrolysis, which is basically superheating the input (in our case wood) to several hundred degrees Celsius under a vacuum. Since there is no oxygen in the system, the material splits into a solid, liquid and gas, leaving only pure carbon behind in the solid. That is our charcoal.
The structure of charcoal is like a honeycomb filled with billions of little holes. (See an electron microscope photo of activated charcoal here.) To activate the charcoal, we treat it with steam. Just like hair gets frizzy in humid conditions, the steam opens up the surface area inside the charcoal to several hundred meters per gram. This incredible surface area is what makes the charcoal so attractive to tiny particles.
What can I do with it?
Activated charcoal is am amazingly versatile product that can be used for cleansing, detoxification, water treatment, odour and moisture control, soil improvement and some really amazing Instagram-worthy food!
Why is it so versatile? Because carbon is really attractive to tiny particles, so it's used for many cleansing and detoxification products. (It's in your fridge water filter, your cleansers, scrubs and closet deodorizers, and does wonders in the garden!)
There are hundreds of recipes online that call for activated charcoal. Just enter "activated charcoal recipes" into your search engine or Pinterest.
Can I eat it?
Many people consume it to help settle digestive issues, pain from lactose intolerance, detoxify after indulging during the holidays, and as part of a body cleanse. Charcoal lemonade is now avaiable at the corner store, and people claim that activated charcoal helps ease the recovery from hangover and settle the stomach.
It has been an effective treatment in many cases, but please check with your doctor before consuming activated charcoal. It can be dehydrating, and we do not suggest that daily consumption is a good idea.
Don't forget that the consumer-grade activated charcoal you buy online is not going to be medical grade, so do not try to self-treat any kind of poisoning with it. It is also less likely to interfere with medications, but always avoid taking activated charcoal at the same time as medicine and definitely check with your doctor if you have a prescription. Even grapefruit juice can negate the efficacy of some medication, so education is key.
One more tip: if you’re drinking or making with it, it we find it helps if you make it even smaller by pulverising it with a mortar and pestle. The finer the powder the easier it blends, otherwise it may have the texture of ground poppy-seeds.
I see DIY charcoal lessons online. Can I make it myself?
While there are seemingly handy online “how to” instructions for making your own charcoal at home, the key to a quality product is high, steady temperate under a vacuum to drive off the metals, water and other non-carbon parts of the wood. Obviously, that is very difficult to achieve in a backyard pit, and you are more likely to end up with ash and burned wood than true quality charcoal. Also, the activation process takes steam or chemicals to achieve, and without it you end up with a low surface area and significantly reduced efficacy.
I noticed that sometimes Firefly forms tiny threads in the package- what is that?
Static electricity! Our charcoal has a static charge as the result of the production process. Sometimes that makes the particles of charcoal stick together like a line of magnets. Don’t worry- it doesn’t affect the quality of the material at all.
This static charge can also make the charcoal ball up a bit when you're working with it in a liquid. You can try adding a surfactant like lecithin, or just keep blending to break the bonds.