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It's possible to extend the life of an activated charcoal sponge by cutting or sanding off the outer surface to expose the interior, which might not have fully lost its ability to filter media. Also, you can heat activated charcoal beads to 200 °C for 30 minutes. This will degrade the organic matter in the charcoal, which can then be rinsed away, but it won't remove heavy metals. For this reason, it's generally best to just replace the charcoal. Also, you can't always heat a soft material that has been coated with activated charcoal.