The 5 Best Air Purifiers to Rid Your Home of Pollutants and Allergens
We already know that breathing in outdoor pollution adversely affects our health—but the same can be true of the air we regularly breathe inside of our homes, too. "On average, we breathe 20,000 breaths a day, and most of those inhalations are taken indoors," says Michael Rubino, president of HomeCleanse and founder of Change the Air Foundation. "What's in our air matters. If it's filled with particles like mold spores, mycotoxins, pollen, viruses, or bacteria, that can directly impact our health."
Enter air purifiers, which can help eradicate the microscopic pollutants that may be floating around your house before they ever enter your body. If you're questioning whether or not you should invest in a machine, Allen Rathey, director of the Indoor Health Council, points to a few pros. "If it enhances or protects the health of people indoors, removes contaminants of concern faster than the rate of recontamination, and does so affordably and without adding to unhealthy conditions such as excess noise," then an air purifier can positively impact your health and environment, he says.
How Air Purifiers Work
You might be wondering how such a tiny machine can cleanse the air in your home. It all starts with the appliance's fan, which pulls air into the system; then, various filters capture the particles or gas in the air before pushing it back out. This technology should allow the air purifier to remove particles such as mycotoxins, bacteria, and mold spores, and gases such as VOCs, flame retardants, phthalates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide, Rubino says.
However, beware of any broad marketing language, since indoor air is complex, Rathey says. "A purifier can only remove air that passes through it and pollutants for which it was designed if the unit itself is well-maintained," he says. Because of these conditions, Rathey says consumers may unintentionally buy machines that "don't process enough air to make a significant difference."
Where to Put an Air Purifier in Your Home
It's critical to know where you're going to place your air purifier before you purchase a machine. The size of the room affects how air purifiers function, so Rubino says to check the model's recommended space capacity for use. "If the room is larger than the machine is able to properly handle, you won't get the filtering benefits," he says.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier
To ensure you bring the most effective air purifier into your home, it's important to know which certifications and features to look for. But before you start shopping for this appliance, it's key to determine what you want to remove from the air—allergens, gases, or a mix of both—in the first place. Doing so will guide you to towards products with the correct specifications.
HEPA Filtration for Allergens
"If you are mainly concerned with airborne particles including pet dander, pollen fragments, and common dust, look for HEPA filtration and a unit that is certified by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) for Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)," says Rubino.
When an air purifier is advertised as meeting HEPA status, Rubino explains that the purifier removes 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. If the purifier doesn't meet HEPA status, it can't effectively remove allergens from your air.
Carbon Filters for Gases
Should you be less worried about allergies and more concerned with toxins created by household products (like volatile organic compounds, or VOCs), then Rathey suggests a system with activated carbon. These models remove gases by adsorbing them—or gathering gases on a surface.
Other Standard Requirements
No matter the kinds of particles you're hoping to eliminate, Rubino says there are certain standards that all air purifiers should meet, including the ability to remove the smallest particles possible from the air—the aforementioned 0.3 microns is a good metric to look for as you shop. "These microscopic particles are measured in a unit called microns, so machines with top-notch technology should be able to eliminate these particles from the air so that they don't just blow right back into the environment," Rubino says.
The Best Air Purifiers to Buy Now
To help you on your search, we asked our experts to recommend several machines that will effectively clean the air in your home.