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How Effective Are Air Purifiers? 

Plus, tips for how to buy and maintain the right one. 


Improving the quality of the air your family breathes is an understandable objective, especially if you or your kids suffer from allergies or asthma. However, before you spend your hard-earned money on a pricey portable air purifier, consider these factors.

Make sure you’re minimizing indoor air irritants to begin with. Not permitting indoor smoking, skipping fires in the fireplace, minimizing use of scented candles, running exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen, regularly cleaning up pet dander, and keeping chemicals and solvents stored far from your family’s living spaces are all things you can do to cut down on indoor pollution. If you are using pollutants like paint or strong cleaning agent, open the windows and make sure the area is well-ventilated. 

Understand what an air purifier actually does. Some air purifiers can remove some pollutants from the air, but do not remove very fine particles, bacteria, viruses, carbon monoxide, radon, or odors. To screen out more particles, look for a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which captures more than 99 percent of very small particles.

Shop safely. Some air cleaners emit ozone, a gas that can cause health problems and breathing difficulty. Carefully read up on any filter you’re planning to purchase to make sure that it will not emit ozone.

It may be most effective to work with your home’s existing systems. If your home has central air or an HVAC system, your best bet is to install filters in that system, recommends the California Environmental Protection Agency. They’re best for improving the air throughout your home because they can circulate large volumes of filtered air throughout your space, as opposed to using separate portable air filters for each room. 

Install portable cleaners correctly. If you do buy a portable air purifier, make sure you’re using the right size filter for the room you’re putting it in, and place it away from doors, windows, walls, and foot traffic. If you think your family would benefit from extra air purification, the California Air Resources Board recommends sources for safe and effective cleaners.

Keep a clean house—and filter. HEPA filters in your HVAC system or in a portable air purifier can help attract and trap airborne particles like dust and mold, but once those particles have settled into the carpet, counter, shelf, trophies, pictures on the walls, etc., they must be manually removed by a vacuum or microfiber cloth regularly. Don’t forget to dust under and behind furniture, too. And if you’ve installed air filters, clean them often, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how often they need to be replaced.