You probably have a bag of charcoal sitting in your tool shed, not knowing exactly what to do with it. It may be leftover firewood or barbecue fuel you haven’t gotten rid of. It’s fascinating to know that this black, high-carbon, porous material has many wonderful uses. Here are some ways to use charcoal around the home:

1.       Deodorizer. Charcoal’s porous characteristic makes it a wonderful odor absorbent. It acts like a sponge for gas compounds in the air such as ammonia in your trash bin. Place small quantities in a mesh bag and put them inside your refrigerator, shoe closet and anywhere else you want to eliminate odors from.

2.       Dehumidifier. Use charcoal’s absorbency as a natural dehumidifier. Again, place small quantities in a mesh bag – like the ones used in fruit packaging – and distribute in moist parts of your home such as the basement, bathroom and kitchen cabinets.

3.        Composting. Mix some chips into your compost to help increase its carbon content. Adequate carbon content helps decompose and fertilize the compost materials. Do not add too much, though because the effect will be reversed.

4.       Potting media. Adding some charcoal into your potting soil can actually help the plants grow healthier. The charcoal helps keep moisture in the soil and keep weeds from thriving. It also assists in plant rooting, especially in orchids.

5.       Art. Use charcoal in your next arts and crafts project. This natural product is non-toxic when it’s in its natural state (be sure NOT to use the quick-start types). Experiment with different charcoal textures on paper.

6.       Filter. Aside from being a great air filter, charcoal is very useful in filtering out impurities from water. Use them in your fish tank or your garden pond to save yourself another day of changing the water.

7.       Storage. Because of its great absorbency, charcoal is very useful in storing things. It helps keep books stay ‘fresh’. Keep some in your tool box to prevent the tools from rusting. Scoop some into your de-icing salt to prevent them from forming into hard rocks.

8.       Alternative medicine. Charcoal has a number of healing properties. Activated charcoal is used for medicinal purposes because it is more effective. It can be used to treat mild poisoning, overdose and diarrhea, just to name a few.

9.       Face mask. Activated charcoal is used as an ingredient in many commercial beauty products. Charcoal tablets can be used in making homemade face masks. It helps purify the skin and absorb excess oil and impurities.

It may not be as popular as your common baking soda, but charcoal can probably hold second place in terms of practical household applications.