Do Air Purifiers Work? Research, Best Practices, and More

15 Nov.,2022


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Home air purifiers are on the rise, partly as a response to concerns over air quality. While your home is designed to provide you shelter, many of us are spending much more time indoors than generations past. So, you may be exposed to more indoor particles and pollutants that can induce or aggravate lung-related diseases.

Despite their promises, are air purifiers a reliable solution to get rid of indoor pollutants? The short answer is yes, to a degree. Read on to find out how these devices work and whether they’re worth considering adding to your home.

How air purifiers work

Air purifiers essentially work by sanitizing the air, which may include pollutants, allergens, and toxins. They’re the exact opposite of essential oil diffusers and humidifiers, which add particles to indoor air.

Air purifiers also act differently than filters. While filters only remove particles, purifiers can sanitize them, too.

The exact particles removed via an air purifier ultimately depends on the type you choose. Certain versions are made with filters to trap particles as air runs through them, while others may neutralize other particles in the air without filtering them first.

Another option is a negative ion emitting air purifier, which helps to attract positive ion particles in the air so that they’re neutralized. The downside to this option is the possibility of ozone emissions.

Are they effective?

The short answer is yes — however, an air purifier likely won’t remove or neutralize all aggravating particles in your home. This is due to the fact that many particles can sit on soft surfaces, such as furniture, bedding, and carpeting, as well as hard surfaces, such as your walls.

An air purifier may act as a complement to a filter and other strategies to help get rid of the following particles.


Allergens are substances that can create adverse immune responses in the form of allergies or asthma. Pollen, pet dander, and dust mites are among the most common airborne allergens.

An air purifier may work in conjunction with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, the latter of which is best known to trap airborne allergens.


Like allergens, indoor mold particles can become especially dangerous for people with asthma and other lung conditions. Air purifiers may work to some degree, but filtration is far more effective in getting rid of mold in the air.

An air purifier with a HEPA filter would work best, along with reducing humidity levels in your home.


Filter-equipped air purifiers may also remove smoke in the air, including smoke from landscape fires and tobacco smoke. Still, air purifiers can’t get rid of the smell of smoke entirely, and there may still be instances of smoke stains on walls and ceilings despite their use.

Smoking cessation is preferable over trying to filter out smoke-filled air. One study on air purifiers found that these devices did little to remove nicotine from indoor air.

Indoor toxins

Not only may your home be a source of airborne allergens and mold, but it may also be a source of indoor toxins from cleaning products, personal care products, and more.

When these particles live in the air, they can become harmful to your body. Air purifiers may also trap indoor toxins, but the best way to get rid of toxins in your home is to reduce their usage in the first place.

Air purifier benefits

While medications for allergies and asthma can help alleviate symptoms and prevent reactions, air purifiers may help remove the source of your symptoms to begin with. After continued use, there’s a chance that you might experience fewer allergic reactions and asthma symptoms.

However, this isn’t a replacement for your medications, and it’s still important to prevent the aggravating particles from getting into your home in the first place. Always talk to your doctor before reducing or stopping any medications.

What they won’t work for

While air purifiers can help clean up your indoor air space, they tend to work more effectively when combined with a filter.

There’s also the size of purifier to consider. A larger system is ideal if you’re trying to get cleaner air for your entire home. Otherwise, you might need multiple smaller or portable purifiers for each room.

Despite their potential benefits, air purifiers may be futile if you don’t take other steps to create cleaner air in your home, too. They only remove particles in the air, but won’t help much once these particles rest on surfaces in your home.

You can help prevent harmful particles from entering your indoor air space by doing the following:

  • Clean rugs, carpeting, and fabric furniture often. At a minimum, sweep these spaces once a week with a HEPA filter vacuum.
  • Replace carpeting with vinyl or hardwood flooring in the case of severe allergies.
  • Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Bathe pets often. If you’re allergic to animal dander, try to avoid sleeping with your pets.
  • Make sure your home is at the right humidity so that it’s low enough to prevent dust mites and mold.
  • Never smoke inside the house.
  • Switch to nontoxic cleaning products, if possible. Ventilate your home by opening a window and running fans if you need to use harsher chemicals.
  • Change HVAC air filters every 30 to 90 days, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Before investing money in an air purifier, you might consider conducting a home air quality test first to see if you need one.

Check out these air quality kits on Amazon to get started.

The bottom line

Research shows that filtering the air can indeed help to remove harmful particles from indoor spaces, particularly allergens, smoke, and mold.

Still, air purifiers work best in conjunction with proper filtration and home cleaning techniques. An air purifier won’t work to increase indoor air quality alone, but it can certainly help.

If you have any underlying health issues, such as asthma and allergies, talk to your doctor about ways you can improve your indoor air quality to manage your symptoms. Never stop taking any medications without talking to your physician first.