come on in, the water’s fine.

September 9, 2013

charcoal charcoal Hints, lately. I realize you’ve been getting a lot of them. Little pieces of stories rather than the whole thing. But every once in a while, I’m finding the time to share the good stuff. The where and what and why of the stories. If a detailed description of our recent journey into the world of charcoal-filled water interests you, read on. If no, look at the pictures and scroll on along.

Here, the latest addition to our plastic-free household: a giant stick of charcoal. For years, James and I have been using a Brita water filter to clean our tap water. I didn’t grow up filtering my tap water, and to be totally honest, when James proposed the idea it struck me as bordering on the excessive end of the health conscious spectrum (sort of like meal planning). But when you live in New York, the water is nice and clean, but the pipes are not. I’ve known two people who have had the experience of beginning to use a water filter (the kind that attaches to the faucet) only to realize that it became so quickly gooped up that they had to change it after only a few weeks. Sigh. In keeping with my perpetual need to find things to worry about, lately I’ve been equally concerned about the waste that the Brita filter itself creates, just another hulk of plastic to recycle or add to the landfill. Not to mention that we’ve been using the same plastic pitcher for four years. Goodness knows what that’s leached into our systems.

All of that to say, that I’ve been pondering charcoal for awhile and when my internet-friend Briar Winters mentioned she’d been using it, I decided to bite the bullet. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure of the exact brand of science/magic that makes the things work, but the charcoal makes the water taste delicious and I’m choosing to believe that’s it’s purifying it, too.

We ordered sticks of Morihata Kishu Binchotan Charcoal, though I’m considering changing to these smaller sticks next time (they’re shorter and will fit more reliably in our wide-mouthed bottles). We’ve developed a two-bottle system where we keep one filled with charcoal and one without. Whenever we empty the bottle without charcoal, we fill it with whatever’s been detoxed and then replenish the source. The charcoal should last us awhile, with biweekly boils to re-juice the sticks.* Best of all, when they’re not doing their good work anymore, we’ll just toss them in the garden. Full circle.

*Full instructions for boiling and magic-making come with the charcoal.

For the curious:

Morihata Kishu Binchotan Charcoal

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  • Reply jacquelyn | lark+linen September 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I'm so intrigued! I've never heard of this but I think you've sold me already

  • Reply Laura September 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I'm curious what does the water taste like? Does it have a smoky flavor?

    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      No, no! None at all, really. Just fresher and cleaner than regular tap water.

  • Reply Briar September 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Oh, I'm so glad you're enjoying the charcoal, Erin! And three cheers for less plastic! x

    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      So glad I took the leap!

    • Reply Laura September 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Fantastic! I may make the jump.

  • Reply teeny September 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    i'm with laura, does the water still taste the same? absolutely love this idea though. simplicity is always best! (plus it's a pretty great conversation starter and looks pretty beautiful)


    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Yes, so pretty. And no charcoal taste!

  • Reply omoriala September 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I've been using this method for some time now, and don't worry–the water does NOT take like charcoal. In fact, it doesn't taste like anything! You'll notice a huge difference once the charcoal filters out all the chlorine and other chemicals from tap water. Highly recommend!

    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Glad you're a fan, too!

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic September 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I've never heard of using charcoal, but it sounds interesting. I do use a Brita filter, though I don't like how I have to keep rinsing out the pitcher to get all the carbon dust out. I wish I had a garden to put the charcoal in. I think my landlord would get mad if I tried to put it in the front "yard" of the building, though.

    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      Pretty much the same concept as a Brita filter, minus the plastic!

    • Reply Alynn October 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      I was inspired by this blog post and took a leap of faith. DELICIOUS! The water taste so fresh and clear.

      Nuerotic Workaholic – As for needing to rinse carbon dust from your pitcher, I haven't noticed any loose debris in our carafe. I bought the smaller Kishu branch charcoal from Gaiam, and when I held it in my hand, it barely left a smudge. This is really great quality charcoal that was fired just right to make it solid and strong 🙂

      Thank you so much Erin, for the final nudge towards healthier drinking water!

  • Reply Theresa September 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Erin–I really like this idea and think I might try it. Are those Weck juice jars by any chance?

    • Reply Erin September 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Yes, exactly. The charcoal sticks are quite tall so it's a tight squeeze, but they do fit. I considered breaking them in to pieces, but so far we've been using them in once piece!

  • Reply tinajo September 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Huh, interesting!

  • Reply Rebecca Alexis September 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    that IS so so so very awesome! I love it!
    Thanks for the fabulous idea! xo

  • Reply Alexa September 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    i cannot imagine anything better than nyc tap water, so i am intrigued! you're selling me.

  • Reply Anonymous September 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you so much, I've never heard of this but have been wanting to find a more affordable way to filter water (without installing a household one)!

  • Reply Milynn L September 9, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I've heard of using charcoal but was afraid of the charcoal taste in the water. So glad to hear it doesn't taste like that! I'll have to try it soon!

  • Reply Danielle Huddleston September 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I am curious how this works? I thought water had to go through the charcoal to filter it. How does sitting in the non moving water work?

    • Reply Charlei Scott January 25, 2019 at 10:13 am

      I had this same thought. We have a Berkey which uses charcoal filters, but the water passes through them to get filtered, so I’m curious about the efficacy of this.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 25, 2019 at 10:42 am

        You’re in luck! Working on an update to this post right this minute. Coming next week.

  • Reply Zoe (Convo_Pieces) September 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Interesting! I moved from Scotland (where the water is amazing) to London (where it's not) recently and the whole filtered water thing is quite strange… very tempted to have a go at this!

  • Reply sweet harvest moon September 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I have never heard of this! I'm curious!

    We also have a Brita for tap water..

  • Reply Soledad September 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    This sounds perfect and and can't believe is not expensive as many good natural ideas get once they become "a thing". I will definitely try the smaller charcoals!

    • Reply Erin September 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Unfortunately, it's not *the* cheapest option, but it's definitely more environmentally friendly!

  • Reply Abbie September 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Is there a place online where you ordered the charcoal? I never thought about the waste from all those Brita filters 🙁

    • Reply Erin September 10, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Yes! Links above!

    • Reply Abbie September 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you! Clearly I need to read more carefully 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous September 12, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    We have a Berkey water filter, it's stainless and uses a ceramic filter. Put water in the top and and it filters through the ceramic to the lower compartment. They're used by aid agencies in developing countries. Highly recommended, a small investment but should last a very long time.

  • Reply Camie September 20, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I've been looking at these, but wondering do they come in plastic packaging?

  • Reply thefolia January 19, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Interesting…I know about charcoal pills and charcoal to detox the air and charcoal in the garden, but never heard of the sticks in the water. Thanks for the tip.

  • Reply Jimmy Cook February 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Clued-up post! Your accepted wisdom is great. Thanks for keep me notify. For more information I will be in touch.
    Water Purification

  • Reply Sandy Caribou February 12, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    How many times can you reuse a charcoal stick? I'm considering switching to this myself.

  • Reply Solayman Hossain March 18, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Boiling Billy hygienically filters your water to give you piping hot coffee or fresh brewed tea in an instant, or cool, clear and refreshing water to quench your thirst after sport or on a hot summer's day.

  • Reply Sara January 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    So lovely. I think I could spend all day just flicking through your archives. Damn you, day job!

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