University of Florida

Activated Charcoal

Help for Pesticide Problems

Activated charcoal is a porous, soft black substance made from heating carbon-based materials in spaces with a restricted amount of air. Most often this charcoal is produced from hardwoods and coconut shells.


Pesticide Inactivation

Charcoal adsorbs 100 to 200 times its own weight and has a strong attraction for organic chemicals such as pesticides. Organic chemicals will bind to the charcoal, which keeps them from contaminating soil and water resources.

Other Uses

Activated charcoal is also often used for poisoning antidotes; deodorizing air in the home; an ingredient in bathing soaps; and drinking water filtration.

Removing Chemicals


You can use activated charcoal to clean up and reduce effects of spills from organic pesticides, some petroleum products, and hydraulic fluids. This is especially beneficial for sites that might be close to a water source or well.

To use, work the charcoal into the contaminated soil to a depth of six inches.

Residual Herbicides

If you want to grow crops or landscape plants, or establish turf in areas that have previously been treated with herbicides, and harmful residues are still in the soil, use charcoal to neutralize the pesticide.

Like mediating spills, work the charcoal into the top six inches of soil. You can also apply a slurry mix of one pound of charcoal per one gallon of water for each 150 square feet.

In small areas you can use a watering can or garden sprayer; just be sure to mix the slurry completely and continue to stir and agitate the mixture during application. Spray equipment designed for wettable powders is better for large areas.

Lawns & Farms

Both agricultural producers and home owners can benefit from the use of activated charcoal. Gardeners and growers do not have to be seeking all organic practices to want to remove pesticides in their soils. Removing residual and spilled chemicals helps to restore soil health in contaminated areas, as well as preventing further contamination of other resources.

Keep in mind that activated charcoal is only effective with organic chemicals, not inorganics (e.g arsenates, lead, sulfur, borax, sodium chlorate). It also cannot be used for water soluble organic pesticides (e.g. MSMA, DSMA).

For more information on chemical remediation and to explore options of non- and least toxic choices for garden and agricultural management, contact your local Extension agent.

Adapted and excerpted from:

F. Fishel, Activated Charcoal for Pesticide Inactivation (PI 164), Agronomy Department (3/2011).


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