Does Charcoal Go Bad?

Does charcoal go bad?  No, charcoal will not go bad if stored properly.  Here is everything you need to know about storage, care and re-use.

Common problems related to charcoal including not lighting or burning out too quickly, usually result from storage or rather bad storage practices.  To understand why we must look at the characteristics of charcoal.

As a porous and absorbent solid made of wood burned at high temperatures.  Charocal absorbs water be it in liquid or moisture form.  That means how long charcoal remains “fresh” is dependent on how much water or moisture you expose it to.

By going “bad” I do not necessarily mean unusable.  See the thing is, it is possible to salvage wet or old coal.  One way to do that is to dry the charred coal in the sun.  What if it is crumbly or has turned to dust? Or what if it has mold growing on it?

In this instance, you may crush the crumbs or old coal briquettes into dust-like consistency, then mix the powder with water and leave it to dry.  You may also pick the remaining bigger chunks and mix them with new coal.

Does charcoal go bad? Here is everything you need to know.

Does Charcoal Go Bad?

can charcoal go bad

As mentioned, it depends on how you store it.  The ideal storage conditions for charcoal are a cool, dry place.  To prevent ground moisture from seeping into the bags, we recommend that you place your bags in an elevated position.  Also, storing charcoal in plastic bags prevents moisture from escaping.

In simple terms, whether you are using Kingsford, homemade, or store-bought charcoal, the shelf life of charcoal is indefinite if you:

  • keep the charcoal moisture-free.
  • avoid storing charcoal in plastic bags.
  • keep briquettes elevated or not in direct contact with the floor (we recommend using wooden elevation)

After you finish cooking, instead of letting the remaining charcoal burn into dust.  You may kill off the oxygen supply or pour cold water on the burning coal.  This will stop burning, and afterward, you may recover the remaining larger pieces or chunks by sifting.

I must warn you that pouring water on your grill will lead to rusting.  Therefore, use tongs to pick out usable pieces and dunk them into a bucket of water.  Alternatively, you may shut off all the vents on your grill to kill off the oxygen supply.

What are the ideal storage conditions for coal? We recommend a metal trashcan, or a cool and dry elevated position.

How to Recycle Old Charcoal Briquettes

Recycling old charcoal is a practice that saves money. 

How you recycle coal depends on what condition it is in. For example, if all that is remaining is a bag of charcoal dust, you may make new briquettes by mixing the dust with a binding agent such as starch or soil to make a dough.  After that, mold and dry the dough in the sun.

The process is not that complicated.  Here is how to do it:


  • Binding agent/ soil, maize starch, etc.
  • Mold for the briquettes.
  • Charcoal dust.
  • Warm water.


Mix the ingredients by hand to a sticky consistency.  Then shape the briquettes using a mold, then dry.

Can you use wet coal?

You may, but lighting it will be an issue, which means if you accidentally left a bag of coal out in the rain or snow, all you need do to recover it is dry out the bag in the sun.

The drying process depends on how wet the charcoal is.  If the bag is waterlogged, it may take up to four days to dry completely in the sun depending on weather conditions.  Alternatively, you may place the wet charred coal in an oven heated to 180F for about one to three hours.

Apart from cooking, coal has other uses including, bloat treatment.  Therefore, instead of throwing out old coal dust or crumbly, you may crush the coal, mix it with water, and then drink the solution.  But what if the coal is contaminated with fungi or mold?Any food item that has fungi, mold, or anything else growing on it should not be consumed.  It is possible to sterilize activated coal. However, please note that you should not drink activated charcoal contaminated with lighter chemicals.

How to Sterilize or Activate Charcoal

You may place the coal in a heated oven or use a hairdryer to activate or reactivate coal. 

After activating or reactivating charred coal via heat, you may use it to relieve intestinal gas, filter water, treat diarrhea, whiten teeth, or treat skin infections.

Do Charcoal Briquettes Go Bad?

The answer is no. What should concern you is moldy charcoal. Burning mold depending on the species might affect taste if the food comes into direct contact with smoke.  So, if you have moldy coal and prefer natural tasting food, make sure that the coal is properly heated (bright orange) before exposing your food to the smoke.

Tip: We suggest that you let the mold burn off first before you start cooking. 

To prevent mold from growing on charcoal, we recommend practicing proper storage procedures as explained above.

If it is moldy charcoal, you may dry the briquettes in the sun first to get rid of excess moisture then mix it with dry charcoal to make the moldy briquettes light up faster.


Handling and storage determine the shelf life of charcoal, which means that under the right conditions, charcoal does not go bad, and even if it goes bad, there are ways to recover, reactivate, or recycle it.

To reactivate coal or turn an old batch into medicine.  What you need to do is – heat coal dust or pieces in an oven.  You may also use a hairdryer or microwave as mentioned.

Also, recycling charcoal is as easy as crushing the chunks into powder, then mixing the powder with water and a binding agent such as starch.

Overall, what is important to remember is that moisture and water make charcoal go bad.  So, it is vital to ensure that coal and water never come into contact during storage or transportation. The easiest way to keep charred coal from encountering water is to store it in doors in a dry moisture free environment.  Also avoid shaking, stacking, or moving charcoal too often as the impact and weight might cause the briquettes to crumble. Are there any uses for crumbled or powdered coal?

If you have not exposed powdered charcoal to lighter fluid or any other harmful chemical, you may crush the crumbs into dust like consistency, heat the powder to activate it, then consume it combined with water to treat bloating and other gastro intestinal problems. I should also mention that if you notice mold on the charcoal, do not consume it unless you first expose the powder to very high temperatures.

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