The valence of carbon is governed by the oxidation state of the host system. The subducted oceanic lithosphere contains considerable amounts of iron so that Fe3+/Fe2+ equilibria in mineral assemblages are able to buffer the (intensive) fO2 and the valence of carbon. Alternatively, carbon itself can be a carrier of (extensive) ‘excess oxygen’ when transferred from the slab to the mantle, prompting the oxidation of the sub-arc mantle. Therefore, the correct use of intensive and extensive variables to define the slab-to-mantle oxidation by C-bearing fluids is of primary importance when considering different fluid/rock ratios. Fluid-mediated processes at the slab–mantle interface can also be investigated experimentally. The presence of CO2 (or CH4 at highly reduced conditions) in aqueous COH fluids in peridotitic systems affects the positions of carbonation or decarbonation reactions and of the solidus. Some methods to produce and analyse COH fluid-saturated experiments in model systems are introduced, together with the measurement of experimental COH fluids composition in terms of volatiles and dissolved solutes. The role of COH fluids in the stability of hydrous and carbonate minerals is discussed comparing experimental results with thermodynamic models and the message of nature.