What Are Carbon Filters? How Do They Work (Answered)

Is it charcoal filter, or carbon filter. How do they work? Are they the same thing? And do you need them in your range hood? Let's discuss.

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If you are in the market for a range hood, you may have heard the term “carbon filter” a few times, but what are carbon filters? And do you need them for your range hood?

In this article, you will learn what carbon filters are, what they are made of, how to replace them, and how to choose a new one, if necessary, for your range hood.

Carbon filters (also known as charcoal filters) are attachments that fit inside a range hood to filter the recirculated air in the kitchen. They collect impurities while also neutralizing grease and odors caused by your cooking.

What is a carbon filter? 

Carbon filters (also known as charcoal filters)are attachments that fit inside a range hood to filter the recirculated air in the kitchen. Carbon filters are carbon-based substances that collect impurities while neutralizing grease and odors caused by your cooking.

Image of a porous charcoal filter. Source: adobe stock
Image of a porous charcoal filter. Source: adobe stock

They are inexpensive, lightweight, and very easy to replace. Unfortunately, carbon filters are not washable and always need to be replaced. 

A ducted range hood may be converted into a ductless hood with a recirculating kit, usually sold separately. These kits use mesh or carbon filters to filter the air.

My favorite range hood (at the moment):

COSMO COS-63190S Wall Mount Range Hood

What are carbon filters? How do they work (answered) | 71ddmbmvgwl. Ac sl1500 | range hood homeland
My favorite range hood (at the moment):

COSMO COS-63190S Wall Mount Range Hood

This is one of the best hoods available at this price point. Reasonably strong CFM for the cost, and it has received rave reviews (over 3,800 reviews!). It looks great, and the LED lights provide a pleasant brightness. For the price, its performance and style are outstanding. Highly recommended!

What are carbon filters made of?

Carbon filters are made with activated carbon. Activated carbon is carbon that has been processed further to improve its ability to trap gas molecules.

It is first infused with hot air, carbon dioxide, or steam, which forms a lattice of tiny pores in the carbon, greatly increasing its surface area. This increases the number of places for molecules to become trapped, making carbon a far more effective filter medium. 

According to a paper published by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, a gram of activated carbon could have hundreds of square meters of internal surface area. Most activated carbon is also chemically treated to improve its ability to filter specialized pollutants.

Do I need a charcoal filter for my hood?

Charcoal filters are required when using the recirculation (not venting) setting on your range hood. However, charcoal filters are unnecessary if the range hood is vented.

The purpose of charcoal filters is to neutralize unpleasant odors produced while cooking. The odor-causing fats and oils in the air will be drawn into the cooker hood and filtered out using the charcoal element. After the air passes through the filter, it is cleaned and filtered before recirculating into the room.

There is nothing to absorb these volatile oils and odors except charcoal filters. Since the stale air holding them is recirculated, it will not be useful in masking unpleasant odors in the kitchen.

But if your range hood is set up to exhaust outdoors, you may skip the charcoal filter. Odors in this air will not be recirculated. Thus, there is no need to remove them. Instead, a vent carries it outdoors.

Are carbon filters effective?

While ducted range hoods will always be the best solution, carbon filters are an effective alternative for those who can not vent to the outside. However, carbon filters are also less efficient than metal filters because they create more resistance for the air to pass through.

How do you clean a carbon filter?

You should never try to clean a carbon filter. Carbon filters must be replaced.

How to choose new carbon filters?

If you need to purchase new carbon filters, you will want to ensure that you get the right ones for your specific range hood. Use your range hoods and consult your manual to ensure you get the right hood and filters. If you don’t have a user manual for your range hood, try doing a Google search for your model number and see if you can find a PDF digital version of the user manual.

If you don’t know the model number, it’s likely somewhere inside the hood. Many manufacturers will have a sticker inside the range with the model number. Hopefully, once you have a good look around your range hood, you will be able to identify its model number. Then, when you finally have the number, do a quick Google search for the right filters and shop away.

how often should you replace range hood filters?

Depending on how frequently and what you cook, a charcoal filter has to be replaced anywhere from three months to a year. However, I strongly recommend replacing them at least once a year.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called How to replace Carbon filters in your cooker hood from the Hotpoint Customer Service UK YouTube Channel.

A video called How to replace Carbon filters in your cooker hood from the Hotpoint Customer Service UK YouTube Channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about carbon filters

Why is it necessary to have a carbon filter in a range hood?

Charcoal rangehood filters are used in ductless range hoods. These units are ideal for homes without ductwork, such as apartments. Charcoal and carbon filters remove odors and fats from the air, allowing you to cook in a cleaner environment.

How long does the carbon filter last on the range hood?

Standard carbon filters must be replaced approximately every three months or more often if the hood is used intensively. The carbon filter saturation occurs after more or less prolonged use, depending on the type of cooking and the regularity of cleaning of the grease filter.

Can you wash activated charcoal filters?

Active carbon filters cannot be washed; they must be replaced instead. Water immersion will damage them entirely.


So there you have it, charcoal filters in a nutshell. As we have seen, carbon filters play an important role in maintaining your air quality.

In this post, we covered carbon filters—how to replace them and choose new ones if necessary. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • carbon filters are attachments that fit inside a range hood to filter the recirculated air in the kitchen.
  • Only recirculating or convertible hoods need carbon filters.
  • Ventilating hoods do not use carbon filters.
  • Carbon filters can not be cleaned. They must always be replaced.
  • Replace your carbon filters every three to six months.
  • Carbon adsorption is a process used to reduce the number of contaminants.

So, are you in need of new filters? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on kitchen ventilation. Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

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Written by Roger Harris, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Roger, and I've been selling range hoods for over six years. I now run this blog all about range hoods and kitchen ventilation! If you're looking for a new range hood for your kitchen, this is the place for you.

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