Do Air Purifiers Really Work?

Do Air Purifiers Really Work?

These days we spend a lot more time in our homes, so having good air quality in them is more important than ever. Whether it is to combat smoke from wildfires, filter out smog, reduce pet allergens, or just cut down on everyday dust, air purifiers sound great. But how useful are they really? Do air purifiers really work? No one wants to have the wool pulled over their eyes and be offered a snake oil curative. We are here to lay these fears to rest. We have done some research into this just for you. Join us as we dive into what makes air purifiers work.

Mechanics of Air Purifiers

Mechanics of Air Purifiers

Most air purifiers use a pretty standard filtration system involving one or more filters. Air is pulled through these filters by a fan before being recirculated in your home. Filters are commonly made of paper, cotton, synthetic fibers, or fiberglass. These filters will need to be replaced from time to time or washed if they are able.

Some air purifiers utilize ionization. These purifiers create an electrical field that charges the atoms that pass through it. Once they have a charge the atoms are attracted to anything with the opposite charge. This can be other charged particles or the two charged panels on the purifier. One panel is negatively charged while the other is positive. This allows the purifier to collect the particles in the air. The ones that aren’t captured by the purifier will find other charged particles in the air and condense until they fall to the ground.

Other devices may use UV light or adsorbent material. The UV light can sterilize the air that passes through it. This effectively makes microorganisms, like some bacteria and viruses, ineffective. If an air purifier contains an adsorbent material it will reduce smells as well as other pollutants such as chemicals.

There are other types of air purifiers out there. These are just the most common in the consumer market.

How Effective Are They?

How Effective Are They? Do Air Purifiers Really Work?

Now that we know how they work it’s important to figure out how effective they are. What sort of limits do the various methods have? After all, nothing’s perfect. Knowing what air purifiers can and can’t do will help you decide whether you need one or not. 


The standard filter system is limited by the filters themselves. If the spaces that allow airflow are too big it won’t filter out anything. If they are too small the airflow is too restricted which will slow the process down and reduce effectiveness. Further, if the filters aren’t routinely cleaned or replaced it can eventually be completely useless if not harmful. It is important to note here that understanding the cost of filters should be a part of choosing a filter system. These are the most common because they do work. Most airborne particles like dust, smoke, and pet dander will be captured by a standard filter.


Ionizing air purifiers work pretty well if you are a daily duster. One downside is the fact that not all pollutants will be removed from the house. A portion will settle on surfaces after being charged creating a thin layer of dust. Another big issue is the chance of the purifier creating ozone. The electrical field that charges the particles can also create ozone. This is of course detrimental if ozone levels build up too much. Ozone can cause all sorts of respiratory issues if inhaled.

No matter the type of air purifier they can’t do much to combat gases in the air. Adsorbents, such as activated carbon, can help with gasses a little but in general air purifiers can’t do much. Additionally, if there is simply too much stuff in the air, the purifier will have a hard time doing its job.


Despite their shortcomings, air purifiers can be very helpful. They can remove harmful pollutants from the air to increase air quality. These devices can help make the inside air quality cleaner which is much better for those who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory complications. They will not solve everything of course, but they can make things easier and smell cleaner as well. When combined with other methods of improving air quality, such as routine dusting and cleaning the air quality will be great.

Be sure to keep an eye out for certifications that will tell you a numerical certification of the device’s strength. One organization that does this is the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. They score air purifiers on their effectiveness against pollen, dust, and tobacco smoke. Whether you choose a filter, Ion, carbon, or a combination of the three you are sure to improve your overall air quality if you change and clean the filters as recommended by the manufacturer.

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