Activated carbon comes in several forms and is used in many applications as a filtering or cleansing media. Activated carbon can be manufactured from carbonaceous material, including coal (bituminous, sub bituminous, and lignite), peat, wood, or nutshells (i.e., coconut shells or walnut shells).
The manufacturing process consists of two phases: carbonization and activation. The carbonization process includes drying and then heating to separate by-products, including tars and other hydrocarbons, from the raw material, as well as to drive off any gases generated. Heating the material at 400–600°C (752-1472°F) in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere that cannot support combustion completes the carbonization process.
Activated carbon comes in the form of a very fine powder, which is impregnated or weaved into the textile fibers of garments. It also comes in a granular form. Both forms are used in various applications including to purify both water and air. Some of the popular drinking water filters and mechanical air filters on the market use activated carbon as a filter media.
Activated carbon is an extremely porous material with high ratios of surface area to unit weight. One pound of activated carbon contains up to 100 acres of surface area!
Activated carbon has a particular affinity to organic materials such as volatile organic compounds or VOC’s. Human odor is composed of different gaseous molecules of VOC’s and other chemicals such as hydrogen sulfides, which are absorbed by activated carbon.

Think of activated carbon as a common sponge that you would use to wash dishes with. Take a sponge and place it in a cup of water. What happens? It soaks up the water. The sponge, like activated carbon, has thousands of little pores and channels running through it. When activated carbon soaks up human “stink” odors, it does so through a process called adsorption.
Stinky gasses (i.e. human odors) are adsorbed into the many micro pores on and within the activated carbon and are retained there. Now, what happens when a sponge becomes saturated?
A sponge that is saturated with water cannot adsorb any more. Hold a saturated sponge full of water in your hand and you will observe water dripping from it. When activated carbon in a water or air filter becomes saturated it is called breakthrough.

Cleaning activated carbon is a very technical process. Carbon clothing manufacturing industries have suggested simply washing and drying just like your regular cloths. But has very little or no success in regenerating or reactivating carbon molecules.
One of the most popular scent elimination clothing manufactures instructs consumers to simply place worn garments in a common household clothes dryer for 20 to 30 minutes to re-activate the carbon in the garment. The average temperature generated by a clothes dryer does not even come close to being able to generate the extreme temperatures necessary to drive out contaminants absorbed in the many micro pores and channels of activated-carbon. In fact, most residential clothes dryers only heat up to a temperature that is well under 200°F.