Ask the experts: is it true that charcoal will take the impurities out of my tap water?

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley leaving the gym in West Hollywood, 26 Aug 2015
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley leaving the gym in West Hollywood, 26 Aug 2015 Credit: Rex

Sometimes there is method in the madness of beauty fads, but putting sticks of charcoal in your tap water? The wellbeing tribe is currently heralding a lump of charcoal as the cleanest addition to H2O, helping to eliminate any toxins it may contain. It sounds plausible in theory, but what do the experts think?

Margo Marrone, Founder of The Organic Pharmacy
“Tap water is known to contain all sorts of chemicals – some keep us safe, but others get into the water as waste. Fluoride is added routinely, but research has linked the chemical to suppression of the immune and thyroid systems. Chlorine is added to kill bacteria, but has its own issues (studies have suggested an increased risk of asthma, bladder and breast cancer). Contaminants found in tap water include pesticides (from agriculture), pharmaceutical drugs from individuals’ urine (the Pill, HRT, antibiotics and painkillers), and heavy metals, including aluminium, lead and mercury. Because charcoal is really porous, it will absorb some chemicals, such as chlorine, heavy metals and some pharmaceuticals, so it is a great addition to tap water.”

Raw Coconut & Activated Charcol tooh Whitening, £26.95, Sister & Co.

Jack Graham, Founder of Raw Press
“Charcoal has been used for hundreds of years as a treatment against poisoning, and is effective at detoxifying the lymph and blood of many toxins, including food additives, agricultural chemicals and mycotoxins found in foods. At our juice company, Raw Press, we have been using sticks of white charcoal from Sort of Coal (, £16.75, for one stick, plus shipping) in our drinking water since we started. Experts say water is softened, ionised and freed from 75 per cent of chlorine as it moves through the cavities in charcoal, while it also becomes enriched with potassium and magnesium. Each stick is effective for one month of daily use and doesn’t taste of anything.”

Facial Puff Sponge - Bamboo Charcoal, £7.99, Konjac

Eve Kalinik, Nutritional therapist
“Activated charcoal has been traditionally used to absorb drugs and poisons in acute situations, so in theory it could be used to enhance day-to-day toxin elimination. But the notion is limited and could do more harm than good. Because charcoal acts like a sponge, it can also absorb other nutrients, which could can have a detrimental effect. The idea that we need to 'detox’ is in itself a controversial one. Instead of focusing on additional supplements, the best thing you can do to support the body’s natural detoxification system (which is highly complex and efficient) is to drink water regularly throughout the day, ideally from a reverse osmosis filter or from glass bottles.”

Isotonic Drink, £60 for 8, Botanic Lab