Does Charcoal Go Bad? ( Fact Or Fiction? )

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A lot of people get confused and think that charcoal has an expiration date, mostly because some charcoal bags do contain an expiration date, but this is not because the charcoal will expire but because they are required to put an expiration date on the charcoal bag in some states and countries

Lump charcoal, when properly stored in a dry environment, has an impressive longevity and can essentially last indefinitely. Its natural composition without binders or additives contributes to its exceptional shelf life. On the other hand, briquette charcoal, which contains binders like starch, is more susceptible to moisture absorption and has a shorter lifespan. It is crucial to keep briquettes in a dry place to maintain their quality over time. Additionally, self-igniting charcoal, infused with igniting chemicals, typically retains its effectiveness for up to a year or two before the igniting agents start to dissipate.

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If you have ever grilled some meat by using charcoal then you already know how easy and fast you can cook with it. In a survival situation, you can use charcoal to cook or even heat your house with it. A lot of people think that charcoal has an expiration date as some of the charcoal bags will have an expiration date on them. The truth is that most bags of charcoal will have some chemicals which keep the charcoal dry and easy to light, although the actual charcoal does not expire but the chemicals will do.

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Although even if the chemicals have expired, the charcoal is still good to use. Another big misconception is that coal and charcoal are basically the same, coal is a mineral that has been formed over millions of years in the ground, charcoal, on the other hand, is made by burning wood which in a couple of hours will turn into charcoal. If you have ever made an open fire with firewood, then you have probably noticed the grayish smoke.

The smoke from a fire is actually small particles of charcoal which due to their lightweight and due to the high heat of the fire become airborne. The larger particles which do not break off from the wood will form charcoal in a matter of minutes or hours. Oftentimes people who use charcoal for cooking will recycle the charcoal to be used on a later date, although this is a good idea, but only if you store them in a dry environment.

If you cook with charcoal and you just leave it outside to the elements just to use it on a later date you might find it difficult to either light the charcoal or to even keep the fire going, especially during wintertime. Most people after a barbeque during the wintertime will leave the grill outside to cool off, the problem is that if it will start snowing the heat from the charcoal will melt the snow after the charcoal cooled off then the water will freeze.

Once you will try to light a fire you will notice that all the leftover charcoal is in one frozen block, and it will take some serious heat not only to heat the charcoal up enough so that it burns but the excess water will constantly extinguish the base of the fire, at that point you will be better off throwing it out. You should only use charcoal if it is dry, wet, or frozen charcoal will be fairly hard to ignite as the melted ice will constantly extinguish the fire. Now combine wet wood and wet charcoal and you will have an extremely difficult time starting a fire, but not impossible, for more information check out my recent article How to start a fire with wet wood? ( Fast & Easy ).

Does Charcoal Go Bad?

Charcoal, when properly stored, has an indefinite shelf life and does not go bad. Unlike perishable food items, charcoal is a stable and inert substance that can be stored for extended periods without deteriorating. However, charcoal can absorb moisture from the air over time, which can affect its performance and ease of ignition. To maintain the quality of charcoal, it is recommended to store it in a dry, well-ventilated area and keep it protected from moisture. Additionally, if charcoal has been exposed to excessive moisture or has become wet, it may take longer to ignite and produce less heat.

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Does Charcoal Go Bad If It Gets Wet?

Charcoal will not be useful if it gets wet, on the other hand, if you dry the charcoal after getting wet, then you can still use it. The main problem is that while most bags of charcoal are sprayed with chemicals in order for the charcoal to not absorb the water, but once these chemicals have expired then the charcoal will absorb the water, especially if the charcoal is fairly low quality. A lot of charcoal manufacturers will cut corners for profits, the faster they can make charcoal the more money they make.

The problem is that you might find that some bags of charcoal will actually contain either small pieces of wood or that the lumps of charcoal will have still some unburnt wood on them. If the charcoal gets wet, then you can simply let it dry for a couple of days, just do not throw it in the fire as the excess water might extinguish the flames. On the other hand, if the charcoal got wet and the water has actually frozen then you can still let it dry off but it will take a significantly longer time. There will be some cases where you would want to cook but you don’t have a source of heat, although you could still cook, for more information check out my recent article How to cook food without fire and electricity? ( Top 5 Methods ).

Does Activated Charcoal Go Bad?

No, activated charcoal does not go bad, as long as you store them in a dry room, although if it gets wet then it might go bad. Just keep in mind that activated charcoal is not meant for cooking, and it is mainly used to remove toxins, gases, and chemicals.

Can Charcoal Get Moldy?

Yes, charcoal can get moldy under certain circumstances, mainly if it gets wet. Charcoal is made from wood and mold does grow on wood, in some instances if you bought charcoal that has been exposed to water for longer periods of time you might not see the actual mold but you will be able to smell it. Some charcoal manufacturers will add chemical agents to avoid the growth of mold on charcoal even if it gets exposed to water, although these tend to expire fairly fast.

If you leave the charcoal outside for longer periods of time you will notice that sometimes mold will form on them, especially if you live in a humid environment and the charcoal is not in direct contact with the sun. Although moldy charcoal can still be used, but I personally would just throw it away, not only because it will be harder to light the charcoal but also because most molds use spores to reproduce, which will become airborne if you set them on fire.

Does Charcoal Lighter Fluid Go Bad?

If the charcoal lighter fluid is stored correctly then the lighter fluid should not go bad. On the other hand, if you leave the lighter fluid open for longer periods of time you might notice that it actually evaporated, so always close the top of the lighter fluid. Just keep in mind that when the lighter fluid evaporates it will cause dangerous fumes, and these fumes can actually ignite, although it will take a lot of lighter fluid to evaporate to cause combustion, hopefully, you don’t have hundreds of old charcoal lighter fluids laying around.

In some cases, the lighter fluid can be contaminated with water, which will limit its ability to function properly as a combustion agent. Generally speaking, this mainly happens during the manufacturing process or in case you have dropped the lighter fluid with the top open with water. If you want to know how can you make a fire without a lighter then check out my recent article How to make fire without a lighter? ( Top 16 Methods ).

How To Light Charcoal?

Generally speaking, most people who make barbeque will light the charcoal with a charcoal lighter fluid, just let it burn for 20 minutes and there you go. I personally hate using lighter fluid, for me the process of building a small fire is more important than having the barbeque ready in 20 minutes, although that might be just me. What I personally do is make a small pyramid shape with firewood, once I start the fire I will let the wood burn for around 30 minutes and after that, I will add the charcoal.

Most people think that for cooking you have to ignite the charcoal, this is false, you only want the charcoal to get bright red so it dissipates heat which you will use for cooking. Believe it or not but charcoal doesn’t actually burn that well without some help like lighter fluid or by blowing air constantly on it, and if you do not believe me, then go ahead and try to start a fire with only paper and charcoal, and make sure you time yourself how long did it take for you to reach for the lighter fluid.

If you are planning to use charcoal for heating during the wintertime, then you would be better off using a generator instead, for more information check out my recent article 3000 watt generator what will it run ( Top 25 Items ).

How To Store Charcoal So That It Doesn’t Go Bad?

Your main goal when storing charcoal is to prevent it from getting wet and most importantly away from an open flame, especially if you are storing it indoors. A lot of people will tell you that you should put the charcoal in a ziplock bag and in a waterproof container, although this is a good idea if you want to flood your basement but other than that it is fairly pointless. I personally use the bag in which the charcoal came and if I have opened it up then I will place it in a large garbage bag and tie a knot on its end.

I store my charcoal indoors, far away from anything which can get it wet and away from an open-source of flame, so basically don’t store it under the sink. The main reason why I put the charcoal bag in a garbage bag is that once you opened up the charcoal bag then you will want to avoid messing up everything with charcoal dust indoors. If you have termites in your firewood then check out my recent article Termites in firewood ( How to get rid of them? ).

Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth?

Only a couple of centuries ago, a lot of people have been using charcoal to brush their teeth, although they did only use their fingers to wash their teeth, but it was still better than nothing. You have probably seen some teeth whitening products that contain activated charcoal. Generally speaking, activated charcoal is used because it is abrasive and some people consider it to be better than silica which is in some tooth whitening products.

The problem is that the activated charcoal might actually destroy the enamel of your teeth after prolonged usage, which will absolutely destroy your teeth in the long run. So if you get a teeth whitening product then only use it as instructed on the pack.

Key Takeaways

  • No, charcoal does not go bad, if you store them correctly they have an unlimited shelf life. On the other hand, if you store the charcoal in a humid environment then the charcoal will start absorbing water from the air, which will make them useless, in this case, you have to let them dry off. Most manufacturers spray the charcoal with chemicals that stop the charcoal from absorbing water, these chemicals expire in a couple of years, and if you do not store the charcoal correctly it could ruin the charcoal by absorbing moisture from the air.
  • The quality and performance of charcoal can be affected by factors such as moisture, exposure to air, and the presence of contaminants.
  • Proper storage in a dry and airtight container can help prolong the shelf life of charcoal and maintain its usability for a longer period.