Virgin activated charcoal is the original product that has never been used. All the activated charcoal sold by is virgin activated carbon.

Reactivated charcoal is activated charcoal that has finished its lifespan in a particular application and is then exposed again to the steam-activation process that removes the adsorbed pollutants and restores about 90% of the activity level, so that it can be safely used again. For example, at the municipal level (water treatment facilities) where large volumes of activated carbon are employed and the spent carbon in the majority, if not all, cases is considered non-hazardous, there is a great opportunity to reactivate the carbon and reuse it. The reactivation process burns up about 10% of the original product producing about 20% of the greenhouse gases compared to new carbon production. There is also the benefit of less landfill.

Regenerated carbon usually refers to a process where the spent carbon is washed with either water or a chemical agent to remove a portion of the contaminants adsorbed by the carbon. For regeneration, the GAC is treated in the adsorption vessel. Only about 5 – 50% of the original activity of the activated carbon is restored.