Can Activated Carbon Remove Foot Odor?

The foot odors are often caused by bacteria growth on the skin which thrives in the warm, dark environment inside shoes. Activated carbon has become a popular ingredient in foot care products that claim to absorb foot odors. But does activated carbon really work to eliminate foot odor?

What is Activated Carbon?

Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal, is a processed carbon that has been treated to make it extremely porous. It has an incredibly large surface area which allows it to adsorb and trap chemicals and odors very effectively. Activated carbon is commonly used to filter water and remove impurities and is also used in air purifiers. More recently, it has been added to foot powders, insoles, and socks to help control foot odor.

How Does Activated Carbon Work?

The porous structure of activated carbon acts like a sponge, absorbing and trapping odor molecules within its millions of tiny pores. This prevents the odors from being released into the air. Activated carbon is especially good at adsorbing organic compounds and acidic gases which make up many of the smelly compounds present in foot odor.

Its odor fighting abilities come from both absorption and adsorption. Absorption occurs when odor causing molecules are taken into the inner structure of the activated carbon. Adsorption occurs when odors stick to the surface of the pores. The large surface area in activated carbon provides a massive area for odors to be adsorbed.

Evidence That It Can Remove Foot Odors

Several studies have shown activated carbon to be effective at reducing foot odors. In a clinical trial, shoe insoles containing activated carbon reduced foot odor by 81% compared to control insoles without activated carbon. Patients reported feeling a significant reduction in foot odor.

Another study tested activated carbon cloth worn inside shoes. They found it decreased foot odor by 58% and also reduced foot moisture. Fungal growth and bacterial colonies were also lowered. Less moisture means less ability for microbes to thrive and produce smelly metabolic byproducts.

Activated carbon has also been added to socks such as those from the brand Plymouth Sock Company. Many customers report these socks help keep their feet dry and odor-free for longer than regular socks. The carbon adsorbs odors and sweat while also reducing microbial growth.

However, some users feel activated carbon products work better at preventing future odors rather than removing existing foot smells. Using them regularly helps maintain fresher feet.

While evidence suggests activated carbon can help control foot odor, it also depends on the quality of the specific product. Look for activated carbon content in the material touching the feet directly. It is most effective when in direct contact with the odors and moisture. The higher the carbon content, the better it will perform.