What are Carbon Filters Used For - and Do You Need One for Your Home?

You may not be aware that a well-insulated home or business not only traps heat inside when it is cold but it also traps and concentrates chemicals from cleaning supplies, cigarette smoke, furniture finishes, cooking, paint, and other sources. All of these contribute to one thing - unpleasant odors. 

Your gut instinct for managing odors may be to install air fresheners, keep windows open, and turn an exhaust fan on - but did you know that there is a better solution for addressing odors in your home or business?

Carbon filters are a lesser-known solution to this problem. While they are highly effective for indoor cannabis growing which results in one the most pungent sources of smell out there, they also work wonders for a home and industrial applications as well. 

The uses for a carbon filter in your home include eliminating unwanted odorous gasses while keeping the air you breathe clean and healthy at all times. People tend to get used to the smells in their homes after a while. If you go outside and then come back in, are you hit with an overwhelming smell sometimes? Getting rid of these issues is one of the many answers to the questionwhat are carbon filters used for?”

In this article, we will explain the uses for a carbon filter in your home or business and how they work. So, if you’re curious and wondering “do I need a carbon filter for home or business?” continue reading for an in-depth explanation and some helpful tips to keep in mind before you buy. 

What are Carbon Filters Used For?

There are many uses for a carbon filter. Carbon filters are the best way to remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the air. VOCs are gases that you may or may not be able to smell. When you bring a product into your home, it creates “off-gas” and puts VOCs in the air. These products may include: 

  • Air fresheners
  • Cosmetics
  • Cleaning sprays and solutions
  • Pesticides
  • Paint
  • Composite wood
  • Gasoline
  • New carpets or vinyl flooring

The better insulated your dwelling is, the more VOCs get trapped inside. But you don’t have to choose between a drafty cold room and bad air, especially when it is called outside. A carbon filter can give you both.

Lingering smells in your home can certainly be unpleasant. If you cook fish, the smell can stay around for days. You often know if someone has a cat because you can smell the cat box when you first enter the house. Other common problems include smoking neighbors or living near an industrial facility. 

Using air fresheners might make your home smell better, but they simply mask the unpleasant smell with a pleasant one by adding more VOCs in the air. The average HEPA air filter or mechanical air purifier won’t solve the issue either. While they can remove dust and allergens from the air since these are particles, not VOCs which are gaseous in their nature and will flow through the tiniest gaps in HEPA filters’ media.

This brings us back to the question - what are carbon filters used for? The answer is taking out bad smells and VOCs without making the problem worse. To fully explain why they do this so well, let’s take a look at how they work…

How Carbon Air Filters Work

Activated carbon filters the air through the process of adsorption. That’s not a typo! Absorption is different from adsorption. Absorption refers to the process of molecules being absorbed, or soaked up, into a material. During adsorption, on the other hand, molecules stick to the surface of the material and stay there. In the case of carbon filters, the VOCs and odor-causing molecules stick to the activated carbon molecules. 

There is a special type of carbon that is used in carbon filters, called activated carbon or activated charcoal. Carbon or charcoal medium is “activated” by being exposed to high temperatures in a vacuum chamber. This process releases everything but carbon.

But this carbon needs to go through more processing to become activated carbon. It is further treated with hot air, steam, or carbon dioxide to create more pores and make the surface of carbon resemble a microscopic sponge. The more pores a piece of carbon has, the more sites it has available to adsorb VOCs. Sometimes activated carbon is treated yet again to enhance its ability to adsorb specific pollutants.

This second step of creating more pores makes activated carbon work so well at filtering contaminants from air and water. Activated carbon filters are great at eliminating greenhouse gases such as methane or carbon dioxide from the air. 

The Most Common Uses for a Carbon Filter

So, what are carbon filters used for? Carbon filters are used to eliminate VOCs and odors from the air, and water as well. They are commonly used in industrial settings, but also have plenty of everyday household uses. 

If you have concerns about odors or air quality, you may ask yourself “do I need a carbon filter for home?” The straightforward answer is yes. There are many uses for a carbon filter in your home, which we’ll explain below. 


Carbon filters can eliminate odors from growing plants. If you are growing cannabis indoors, the flowering plants give off a distinctive odor. This smell only intensifies as the plants mature and flower. It can be overwhelming! 

Lingering odors can also attract people who may want to take your plants for themselves. Carbon filters will get rid of this smell. You will need to combine the carbon filter with a duct fan that is properly installed (see our guide for how to install inline duct fan and where to put it) with the best ducting for grow room ventilation or HVAC setup for optimum odor control. The duct fan serves as the engine pushing the air into the filter, which then captures the VOCs and odor when the air is passing through the layer of carbon located in the filter’s wall. 

In addition to being discreet and eliminating odor, a carbon filter can contribute to the health of your plants. The filter can get rid of VOCs that are bad for your plants as well as yourself. It can also scrub the air to get rid of pathogens such as fungi and mold. For more information on the benefits of carbon filters for cannabis growing, check out our resource on how effective carbon filters are for weed

Smoking Neighbors

If you smoke any substance, whether it is cannabis or tobacco or something else, you get used to the smell. But if you are a non-smoker living close to a smoker, you might be bothered by the odors. 

A carbon filter will solve this problem. With a high-quality filter, you can get rid of unpleasant smells and cancer-causing chemicals from the smoke.

Kitchen Odors

Fish, sauteed onions, fried meats and poultry, curry, and other cooked foods create smells throughout the house beyond the kitchen. In addition to sticking to fabrics and upholstery, these cooking smells can also contain VOCs that could be harmful to breathe. One of the uses for a carbon filter in your home is to get rid of all kinds of cooking smells, no matter how pungent they are.

3D Printing and Laser Engravers

3D printers and laser engravers are becoming more popular and for good reason. They are really useful devices that allow you to prototype new products, customize products with custom messages and just have fun creating so many more items that are only limited by your imagination. However, using a 3D printer or laser engraver produces strong odors from the combustion of the materials used in the process. They can use melted plastic, which gives off dangerous fumes. The use of a carbon filter can make 3D printing and laser engravers at home safer and prevent complaints from odor-sensitive neighbors. 

Industrial Processing Facilities

Do I need a carbon filter for my home if I live in an industrial area? This is another common question, and the answer is also yes, you really do! There are all kinds of VOCs that factories create in the surrounding air. 

These VOCs create an unsafe environment and can aggravate respiratory problems such as asthma. Activated carbon filters placed throughout your home can make the inside air more breathable if you live in an area that is heavy with industrial facilities. It may also help to keep the air clean in a home with people with conditions that make them sensitive to VOCs. 

Pet Odors

Your pets are wonderful and a valuable part of your family, but they can really smell sometimes. The best cat litter in the world won’t cover up all of the smell. Guinea pigs, hamsters, birds - their cages can stink up the whole room and even the whole house. Dog drool and bathroom accidents can also create noticeable odors that stick around. This is why one of the leading uses of carbon filters in the home is to get rid of pet smells.

Creative Hobbies

Your hobbies can be making your house smell bad and releasing harmful VOCs into your air. Painting, engraving, or burning wood can create harmful fumes. Using alcohol, glue, turpentine, or heavy-duty cleaners can also cause smells and air pollution inside your home. Carbon filters will help you breathe easier as you pursue your hobbies safely.

Do I Need a Carbon Filter for My Home?

By now you understand how home carbon filters work and what they are used for. If you cook, have food in the house, pets, neighbors who smoke, or certain creative hobbies, then you definitely need a carbon filter in your home. The question now is which carbon filter you should get. In the next section, we’ll provide some helpful tips on how to choose the best carbon filter for your home. 

How to Choose the Best Carbon Filter for Your Home

There are several factors that determine the effectiveness of a carbon filter. Some carbon is more activated than other types. The more porous the carbon is, and the more surface area it has to adsorb VOCs and odors, the better it will be. Carbon filters that use high-quality carbon will work better than low-quality carbon filters.

A thicker carbon bed provides more surface area for adsorption. A thin sheet of carbon will not filter as well as a thick one does and will need to be replaced much sooner. Once the carbon has adsorbed all it can, it won’t filter anymore, therefore thicker carbon will last longer. 

The container that the carbon filter is in also affects its performance. If the container fits the filter well, all the air will pass through it and be scrubbed clean. If there are gaps, VOCs and odors can go right through the filter without reaching any of the carbon. This defeats the whole purpose of the filter and allows odor and VOCs back in the air you breathe.

Sizing Guidelines

The main indicator of a carbon filter’s effectiveness is the way the fan draws the air into the device and then releases clean air. You want to match the CFM rating of the fan to your needs. What does CFM mean for fans? It stands for “cubic feet per minute,” or how much air is moved each minute. If the CFM is too low, your air won’t be as clean as you want and odors will still linger. If the CFM is too high, it will cost more to operate and be noisy. 

You can determine the CFM of a fan for your room needs by multiplying the length, width, and height of the room to get the cubic feet of the space. Then you would calculate how many times an hour you want to completely change the air. This depends on how potent the odor is. Multiply the cubic feet by the number of air changes you want in an hour and divide that by 60 and you will get the cubic feet per minute rating of the fan you need.

Choose Long Lasting, Dependable Filters

At TerraBloom, we make the highest quality, all-purpose air carbon filters. We use the best activated carbon and thick carbon beds. Our filter housing is a perfect size, so no air goes by without passing through the activated carbon. We offer many sizes of filters: 4-inch carbon filters, 6-inch carbon filters, 8-inch carbon filters, 10-inch carbon filters, and 12-inch carbon filters to fit the CFM requirements of your room.

Installation Tips 

Inline duct fans move a lot of air around to purify it. For them to work properly, they have to be installed correctly. They can’t be too close to a wall or surface because that impedes airflow, and they must be secure so they don’t vibrate excessively. Vibration is not only annoying, but it can shorten the life of the fan. 

The most efficient placement of the fan is in the attic for a whole house fan or at the top of a grow tent if you use it for horticulture projects. This preferred placement isn’t always possible, but the fan works best when positioned in these areas. Here are some additional tips to follow during installation: 

  • Use the correct-sized fan for your space 
  • Consider a variable speed controller 
  • Install a hygrometer to measure temperature and humidity 
  • Ensure the environment is temperature-controlled

What are Carbon Filters Used for? Wrapping Things Up

If you’re still wondering “do I need a carbon filter for home?” The answer is yes. To summarize, carbon filters are the only effective way to get rid of VOCs and unpleasant odors. 

Activated carbon filters have multiple uses in the home from eliminating smells from growing plants and improving the growing environment for them, to eliminating cooking odors, pet odors, and fumes from various hobbies. Carbon filters can provide your home with fresh, clean air, no matter where you live or what you do inside the house. 

These filters are effective through the process of adsorption, which refers to molecules sticking to a surface. Activated carbon is produced by treating regular charcoal to a process that increases the pores inside of it. The more pores a piece of activated carbon has, the more VOCs and odors it can adsorb. 

Terrabloom offers high-quality activated carbon air filters that you can use to combat indoor VOCs and odors. We also offer inline duct fans, silenced ultra-quiet EC fans, inline booster duct fans, air ducts, CO2 and argon regulators, and other accessories for all your indoor ventilation needs. 

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