Odors - Good, Bad & Ugly

Foul Odors

Foul or unpleasant odors can fall into several categories including:

  • halitosis or bad breath stemming from poor oral health or indigestion
  • flatulence or intestinal gas
  • vaginal odors
  • colostomies or ileostomies
  • infected wounds
  • odors from body casts, foot and body odors
  • perfumes and scented products (people with sensitivities or allergies)
  • chemical odors such as in photo labs
  • pet odors
  • moldy musty basement smells
  • animal barns
  • skunks
  • ....

In cases where individuals have lost part of their bowels, gas odors can be a problem. Some take charcoal internally to help control flatulence. Others use stoma bags that are specially designed with charcoal filters to adsorb any odors.

Inflammations can abscess and, along with injuries and postoperative wounds, can become infected. They in turn can produce very unpleasant odors. These odors are the result of destruction of the tissue by bacteria. Just as charcoal is used industrially to adsorb artificial gases, it is also very effective in controlling wound odors. In fact the first recoded medicinal use of charcoal was recorded 1500 B.C. when it was used to adsorb unpleasant odors from putrefying wounds. But charcoal does more than just adsorb the foul smells from wounds, it may also stop the very process of decay that causes the odors.

Infected Wound

While working in Nepal, Joel encountered a regular stream of infections and abscesses. “One older teen had a deep tropical sore about a half dollar in size. Pus oozed from the ulcer, and it was really foul smelling. I cleaned out the rotten flesh, and just poured dry charcoal powder into the wet wound. By the second day you could see healing had begun. The stench was gone, the wound was clean and new pink tissue had started filling in.” CharcoalRemedies.com page 149

Body Casts

For those of you who have suffered a broken limb that required a hard cast to immobilize it, you are no doubt familiar with the bad odor that develops. Most often the smell is just from dead skin, but it may be from an open draining wound. These odors are not only unpleasant, they are themselves toxic, and they slow the healing process. This requires that the casts be changed often.

To avoid such frequent changes, Dr. Frank Haydon, MD, at Fort Benning, Georgia, developed a simple technique. He took fifteen grams of activated charcoal powder (about three to four tablespoons) and mixed it with enough water to make a slurry. After the first layer of cast was applied, the charcoal slurry was then poured over the area of expected drainage. The remainder of the plaster was then applied over this wet charcoal. The cast appeared slightly gray, but was accepted well by patients. The unpleasant odor of draining wounds was controlled for much longer, and there were no adverse effect on wound or fracture.  (Orthopaedic Medicine, September 30, 1985)

X-ray Burn

The doctors Thrash relate this case in their book Rx Charcoal (page 47) of an overdose of X-ray. “We had a patient who had a large, deep ulcer (twelve inches in diameter) due to an x-ray burn on his back. The burn was from an overdose of x-ray used for treating a skin cancer. The ulcer became infected and foul smelling. His entire house smelled of the ulcer, despite the most fastidious care. We started dressing the ulcer by sprinkling dry activated charcoal powder from a saltshaker on all the moist areas before applying gauze. Instantly the odor vanished from the ulcer, and gradually left the house. Although the patient eventually succumbed to the radiation sickness, he and his whole family were grateful for the charcoal.”

Studies have shown that the foul smelling wounds caused by the bacteria Bacillus pyocyanase can be dissipated in one treatment by the use of charcoal powder. Healing is also improved, as the charcoal takes up bacteria. One good way to apply charcoal to a foul ulcer is by putting some of the powder in a saltshaker with a few grains of rice. With every bandage change, shake the powdered charcoal on the wound. Experimental research in treating eczema with charcoal has also been successful, especially where there is infection and odor.

The prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet (Sept. 13, 1980 p. 594), reported this exciting study. In varicose leg ulcers and in infected surgical wounds, a single layer of charcoal cloth covered with a porous fabric sleeve dressing gave a noticeable reduction in wound odor in 95% of 39 patients. Wound cleansing was also noted in 80% of the patients. There were no adverse reactions to the material. The dressings did not stick to the wounds and could be removed without difficulty. Because the human skin allows for the transfer of liquids, gasses and even micro-particles through its permeable membrane and pores, it was also shown that warm, moist activated charcoal poultices were actually able to draw bacteria and poisons through the skin and into the poultice.

Cervical Cancer

Emergency Medicine (September 30, 1985) reported on the foul odor that comes with inoperable cancer of the cervix. This too can be speedily remedied with a solution of two tablespoons of activated charcoal powder to one quart of water given as a douche.

Foot Odors

Then there are foot odors. One reputable footwear company is now marketing a patented gel insole that is layered with super-activated charcoal. There are several other companies offering a variety of footwear products with charcoal to combat odor and promote general relaxation.


As for halitosis, charcoal helps to eliminate oral odor, because it cleanses both the mouth and the digestive tract. Since the main cause of bad breath is found in the mouth, swishing some charcoal slurry around in the mouth will promptly neutralize most offensive breath.

In the case of an upset stomach after eating, whether one overate, ate wrong food combinations, ate too fast, ate meals too close together, ate too late at night, or ate food that was too old, you may be benefited by activated charcoal powder as a health aid. The foul odors produced by putrefaction in the stomach will be quickly adsorbed by activated charcoal.


Suffering from just plain gas? Michael Levitt is the gastroenterologist at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Touted as a world authority, he has authored dozens of articles on the subject of flatulence. While it is undisputed that charcoal taken internally dramatically decreases the volume of gas, it does not manage the odor as well as some would want. So he developed a seat cushion to see how much of the remaining offending sulphur (the chief offender) was adsorbed. After a hefty meal of pinto beans and lactulose (a poorly absorbed sugar), “to enhance output”, volunteers were dressed in gas-tight Mylar pantaloons to collect what managed to get through the cushion. “I didn't think the activated charcoal layer would be adequate to absorb all of the sulfur,” he recounts. “It was only a thin layer. But it worked.”

You may laugh, but different companies have developed underwear layered with charcoal. One was initially advertised as the Toot-Trapper. But imagine if you were up in space in a space station or outside in a space suit – you can’t just open a window. These earthly products were first developed for space travel, and are now incorporated in military uniforms for more deadly forms of gas. A napkin is also available for feminine needs.

Household Odors

From musty refrigerators and gym bags to pet smells, there are any number of unpleasant odors that spoil our enjoyment of the space around us. Numerous activated charcoal products have been made to combat not only bad smells but pleasant ones too. More and more people are becoming sensitized to scented products due to the extensive use of aromatics in so many different products other than perfumes.

The development of activated charcoal really began with the production of air filters in gas masks during the Great Wars. Today activated charcoal is used in surgical masks, auto-body paint masks, and…. changing-dirty-diaper-masks.

HEPA filters were originally designed to filter out deadly air-borne radioactive contaminants during the development of the first atomic bomb. Since then HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters have been designed for almost every conceivable application. From vacuum cleaners and chemical labs, to the space station orbiting earth, from nuclear submarines and operating rooms, to the newest cars, these activated charcoal filters are cleaning the air we breath of poisonous gases, foul odors, nauseating smells, and even heavenly scents. Here is a partial list of where you may want to put activated charcoal to work for you in purifying the world around you:

    * refrigerator, icebox, and freezer
    * empty closets
    * storage areas
    * gym bags, gym lockers
    * tennis shoes, boots
    * diaper pails
    * freshly painted rooms or furniture
    * garbage cans, compost buckets
    * pet cages, animal runs
    * work areas

You can put some activated charcoal powder in a glass jar or plastic container, puncture a few holes in the lid, replace the lid, and put the container near the source of smell. Or you may purchase any one of the growing number of commercial products now available.

Mothball Odors in House

Noel was advised to put mothballs in their attic to eliminate rodents. It did get rid of the rodents, but the odor (naphthalene) not only stank up the attic it permeated the entire house. They had thrown the mothballs everywhere and were not able to retrieve them all. What to do?? Someone suggested activated charcoal. They purchased a 2-gallon pail of granular activated charcoal.

“We hung the charcoal in nylon bags (stockings) in our attic to dispel mothball odors. We did notice a difference although it took a few weeks. We aren't sure if the charcoal did the trick, or if the mothballs just dissolved. The charcoal is still hanging in about a dozen nylon bags in our attic. We used the entire 2 gallons.”

To find out more how charcoal can help you manage different odors at home or at work, order the book CharcoalRemedies.com now.