When it comes to purifying water, the general process focuses on filtration and removal, so it’s peculiar to consider putting something in it instead—unless it’s Japanese water-purifying charcoal from online general store Kaufmann Mercantile. When placed in water, these charcoal sticks, otherwise known as Binchōtan, work to absorb unwanted elements such as chlorine while increasing water’s pH levels, making it more alkaline.
To use the charcoal, simply place the sticks in a water vessel, fill it, and let it sit. The process takes several hours, relying on the natural circulation of the aqua to work its way through the pores of each stick. This gently removes the impurities by trapping them in microscopic cavities in the charcoal, leaving behind fresh, filtered water. Depending on the frequency of use and number of water refills, the charcoal only needs to be boiled for 10 minutes every two weeks to release the trapped pollutants, and generally lasts for several months before requiring replacement.
These particular Binchōtan sticks are fashioned from oak wood by artisans in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan in much the same tradition that was established during the Tokugawa period (1603–1867). Along with water purification, they can be used in a number of other applications as well. What the sticks do for water-borne contamination they do for the air too, acting as natural deodorizers in a refrigerator or closet. When set in a hot bath, they promote blood circulation. And in the garden, when buried in the soil, they help to aerate and increase microbial activity. With so many practical uses, it’s a wonder we’ve been saving charcoal exclusively for the grill for so long.