What makes the best air purifiers such a worthwhile investment? Plus, how do they actually work, and what value do they have in cleaning the air in your home? You may think that just because your house is clean the air is as well, but there are multiple pollutants that can either come into your home from the outdoors, or that are generated by appliances on a microscopic level.
Dr Ross Perry, Medical Director of Cosmedics skin clinics, told LiveScience how indoor air pollutants can be harmful to our health. “High temperatures and humidity levels can increase concentrations of some pollutants,” he explains. “The most common ones are cigarette smoke or tobacco, cleaning products, and harsh chemicals that give off fumes that can irritate your nose, mouth and lungs, as well as your skin. Air fresheners and candles are another source of indoor pollution which can reduce air quality and linger in the home. Paints, glue and craft supplies can be problematic as can mold, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, wood burning fireplaces and gas stoves.”
What the experts say
“Portable air cleaners, also known as air purifiers or air sanitizers, are designed to filter the air in a single room or area, and they have the potential to improve the indoor air quality in that space. Most portable air cleaners can filter particles from the air, and some can filter the small particles of greatest health concern – those that are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. There are also air cleaners that can filter both particles and gasses. Enesta Jones, U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
This may seem like a lot, but the best air purifiers can help to filter the air and leave it cleaner and less full of potential allergens and irritants. This is particularly important for those who suffer from asthma or allergies, who may find that their conditions are triggered by unclean air.
When reading through our guide, you may notice that most of the air purifiers listed contain something called a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of air pollutants from 0.3 microns in size, making them great for removing the majority of indoor air pollutants. For context, most dust particles are around five microns in size, and pollen is a whopping 10 to 1000 microns in size, all of which a HEPA filter is capable of trapping without any problems.
Perry also adds that the best air purifiers may have value in helping to clean the air in your home. “The idea of an air purifier is that it’s designed to get rid of the impurities in your home such as dust, smells, pet dander, smoke, bacteria and viruses,” he says. “Indoor air is much higher than outdoor air and the aim is that the air purifier neutralizes these nasties from your home. It works by having a fan which sucks the air within the home into filters which remove the impurities before releasing the cleaned air back into the room. It’s important to note, however, that it’s impossible to get rid of all particles which can live on walls, carpets, bedding and hard surfaces.”
Read on for our round-up of the best air purifiers you can buy right now. Plus, for a more in-depth look at how an air purifier can help you, read our feature on ‘do air purifiers help with allergies?’.
Best air purifiers
The Levoit 400S performed best to remove airborne particles in our at-home testing, capturing at least 99.5% and up to 100% or particles during testing.
Its sleek and stylish cylinder shape with a neutral colorway makes it an easy addition to any room, whatever the décor, while a color-coded display gives users a great visual on air quality at any given moment.
What the users say
The Levoit 400S scores an impressive 5 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with 85% of reviews giving it the full 5 stars. Negative reviews cite problems with the VeSync app and a lack of sturdiness in design. Positive reviews praise the purifier’s accuracy in tracking 2.5 microns and its ability to manage and remove unpleasant odors, dust and pet dander. Customers particularly like the look of the Levoit 400S, although some say it feels a little big. They also appreciate how quietly the purifier runs on its lower settings.
The air purifier is light and features indented handles at either side, making it easy to move from room-to-room.
A companion app that users can download gives useful data on air quality and allows users to schedule and time the air purifier to fit round a busy family schedule. Unfortunately, for all its great functionality, the VeSync app wasn’t always reliable. During the course of our testing, we had to uninstall and reinstall the app twice when it crashed. The quietest setting on the Levoit 400S is barely discernible, while the most powerful setting still clocks in at just 52 decibels.
Stylish, quietly powerful, and with an intuitive, easy-to-use Smart interface, the Levoit 400S is our top pick of air purifiers. It could be the ideal appliance for you if you’re looking for an effective air purifier that’s big on performance but doesn’t blow the budget.
The Dyson Purifier Cool is one of the most stylish air purifiers on the market. Its unusual design marks it out as a talking point in any room, while simple but genius extras, such as a magnetic remote control, take it a step up from your average air purifier.
What the users say
The Dyson Purifier Cool scores an average of 4.2 out of five stars on Home Depot. Negative reviews cite problems with the sensors’ baseline readings, poor fan quality, and noisiness when in use. Positive reviews praise the purifier’s ability to improve the symptoms of allergy sufferers, as well as removing unpleasant odors. Customers particularly like the integration with smart devices, the auto setting and the purifier’s stylish design, with one user commenting, ‘It looks like a piece of art’.
The purifier also doubles up as a fan in hotter weather, although this isn’t as powerful as some users would like. Users can activate, schedule and monitor their purifier via the Dyson app, allowing them to set fan speed, timers and check air quality whether they’re home or away.
A clever LCD display flicks between icons that show air quality data in real time, while an auto-mode senses air particles and adjusts fan settings to suit.
We burned a series of matches to test how well the purifier captures particles. At a level 6 setting, we found that the purifier removed 98% of particles smaller than 0.3 microns, 72% of particles smaller than 2.5 microns and 73% of particles measuring smaller than 10 microns. At a level 10 setting, we found that the purifier captured 95% of particles smaller than 0.3 microns, 96% of particles smaller than 2.5 microns, and almost 100% of particles measuring smaller than 10 microns.
Based on these limited tests, our results weren’t consistent enough to support Dyson’s claim that it can remove 99.95% of particles. However, it still performed well, often capturing more than 95% of monitored particles when used at its highest setting for at least 30 minutes.
The Dyson Purifier Cool’s high price tag may be too expensive to suit everyone’s budget, but its stylish, sleek design and smart, connected functionality is impressive.
The Blue Pure 221 is designed to cover areas of up to 600 square feet, making it an excellent choice for homes with larger rooms or office spaces. With three power settings operated with a one-touch button, simplicity is the key for this purifier.
What the users say
The Blue Pure 221 scores an impressive 4.8 out of five stars on Home Depot, with hundreds of five-star reviews from satisfied customers. Positive reviews praise the purifier’s performance, saying it helps them sleep better, feel less congested, and enjoy cleaner air quality in their home. Many users love the unit’s design and are happy with how quiet it can run. Negative reviews cite problems with performance, the expense of replacing filters, and some complain that the higher settings are too noisy.
Our at-home tests found the Blue Pure 221 to be consistently better than all the other air purifiers we tested. Despite its lack of Smart technology, it out-performed purifiers at almost double the price.
We burned a series of matches to test how well the purifier absorbed particles. At a level 2 setting, we found that the purifier absorbed 99.7% of particles smaller than 0.3 microns, 99.5% of particles smaller than 2.5 microns, and 100% of particles measuring smaller than 10 microns. At a level 3 setting, we found that the purifier absorbed 99.9% of particles smaller than 0.3 microns, 99.6% of particles smaller than 2.5 microns, and 100% of particles measuring smaller than 10 microns
Some users may be put off by the unit’s weight and bulk. But it’s still a stylish machine that’s thoughtfully designed. Plus, its customizable fabric pre–filters make it easy to pair the unit with any home’s color scheme.
Our verdict? A dependable workhorse of an air purifier that puts performance above presentation. Plus, we like the fact that it’s energy star certified and cheap to run.
The Coway AP 1512 is known as a standout air purifier due to its excellent value and high-quality performance. It may not be as stylish as other air purifiers in our round-up, but our testing found it to do a remarkable job of removing particles in just 30 minutes.
What the users say
The Coway AP 1512 HH Air Purifier has an impressive 4.7 star rating out of five on Amazon, and with reviewers praising its quiet running, affordable replacement filters and its economical performance, it’s fair to say that this is a total winner with users. Negative reviews said that the included instructions did not quite go far enough in instructing users how to set up and use their air purifier. Positive reviews were sold by how lightweight and easy to maneuver the air purifier was, as well as the design which was easy to integrate into their home.
For an initial cost of under $300, this air purifier can offer you a four-stage filtration system, a HEPA filter and coverage of up to 361 square feet. The air purifier itself is packaged in a neat, sleek design and available in two different colors, black and white.
This air purifier excels when it comes to dust and eradicating odors, with a pre-filter and odorization filter for reducing contaminants in the air. It’s also inconspicuous when it comes to noise, making it a suitable addition to any bedroom when paired when its smaller size.
The Coway-AP-1512HH air Purifier also benefits from a built-in particle sensor. That means that you can get an idea of the air quality in your home from the color coding system on the top of the device. It’ll show a blue light when the air is clean, purple to flag pollution and red for high pollution. Another clever feature of the Coway AP- 1512HH is the sensors that can adjust the fan speed to keep the air clean, so that you don’t have to mess with the settings.
We particularly liked the Eco mode on the Coway AP-512HH which worked well to power down the air purifier when air pollution was low, saving energy and money. Our tester also found the auto mode worked well to toggle between fan settings depending on indoor air quality.
The Coway AP-1512HH is an air purifier suited to small spaces of rooms up to 361 square feet, making it suitable for smaller spaces and bedrooms. If you need something for a larger room, then you might want to look elsewhere while bearing in mind that this is a fantastic choice for smaller spaces.
Small enough for any desktop or shelf, the Levoit H132’s compact size and low price makes it the ideal air purifier for someone looking to try their first air purifier at home. If you have a small apartment, or you simply want to use an air purifier in one room only, then this might be the product for you.
What the users say
The Levoit H132 scores an impressive 4.7 out of five stars on Home Depot. Negative reviews are few and far between, with one customer finding problems with the motor whining after a few weeks. Most reviews are positive, with users praising the purifier as convenient and highly efficient at reducing the symptoms of allergies. Customers particularly like how quiet the purifier runs, even at the highest setting. Users say the purifier worked so well to improve indoor air quality that they bought a second one for another room.
The Levoit H132 might lack the wow–factor of more stylish purifiers. However, what it lacks in style, it certainly delivers in sheer affordability. Available for under $100, this is definitely one of the best air purifiers for those on a budget.
While this particular air purifier might lack the HEPA filter that gives premium air purifiers their mark of quality, it does come with an in-built dimmable nightlight, making it an ideal air purifier for a nursery or child’s bedroom. While it’s not possible to pre-program the unit, a memory function means that previous fan settings are logged before it powers down.
Unfortunately, the Levoit H132 didn’t quite live up to expectations when it came to testing how well it absorbed particles, consistently falling some way below the 99.97% expected from a device with an H13 HEPA filter. However, running the purifier for longer periods may yield better results.
The Levoit H132 may not have all the bells and whistles of a smart air purifier, but its affordability and compact size makes it the ideal entry-level indoor air purifier that performs well in small to medium-sized rooms.
Light and compact, the KOIOS EPI810 is the smallest air purifier we’ve reviewed. It will sit comfortably on any office desk or shelf and its 2.5lb weight makes it light enough to take travelling.
What the users say
The Koios EPI810 has an impressive 4.5 stars out of five on Amazon.com. Users who gave it the full five stars praise the purifier’s performance as well as its conveniently compact size. Others rate its ability to neutralize unpleasant cooking odors and pet smells. Many reviewers have bought several purifiers to use in multiple rooms. Negative reviews point out that the purifier can be noisy at its highest setting, or that they have been unable to switch the night light setting off. Other criticize the quality of the unit as having a ‘cheap’ feel and say the replacement filters are too expensive, at almost half the price of the base unit.
The purifier can operate from a mains socket or via USB, while a simple one-click button control makes it one of the easiest air purifiers to operate straight out of the box. A built-in night light makes it a good choice for a nursery or kids’ room.
Our at-home incense smoke test evaluated how well the purifier performed after burning five incense cones simultaneously and found mixed results. While the KOIOS EPI810 absorbed an impressive 99% of particles measuring 10 microns, it only absorbed 52% of particles smaller than 2.5 microns
While it doesn’t have the wow factor when it comes to design, or the sophistication of a smart, connected air purifier, the KOIOS EPI810 may work well if you want something easy to operate. However, a noisy higher setting and a lacklustre performance in our at-home tests may put some users off.
Are air purifiers worth it?
The best air purifiers are a great way to help improve the air space around you and your family. As well as protecting those with health issues from the multitude of air pollutants that gather indoors, those without specific concerns will have peace of mind that the right air purifier will make their environment cleaner.
The best air purifiers that are most likely to give you the most benefit, for example those including a HEPA filter, tend to be at the higher end of budgets — generally into the hundreds of dollars. The size of the unit will also play a huge part in the cost — with the larger units that cover a larger area being greater in price.
If you have health concerns, or a recurring allergy, keeping pollutants out of your home with an air purifier is definitely worthwhile. Americans now spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s here that potentially harmful air is able to build up, meaning there are up to five times higher levels of pollutants indoors, than outdoors. An air purifier can help reduce these levels significantly, though not entirely eradicate them, helping you and those around you breathe easier.
Depending on the type of allergy, and the trigger, air purifiers have also been found to help reduce the presence of particles in the air that cause allergic reactions, which can in turn cause asthma attacks. Dehumidifiers on sale have also been shown to be helpful for asthma sufferers, during times of high humidity. In cases where your indoor space has little or poor ventilation, air purifiers can also come in useful, especially if you are looking to tackle smoke and the resulting odor.
It is still unclear whether air purifiers do anything to prevent the spread of COVID-19 indoors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that you should open doors and windows to keep a good flow of air moving indoors — weather permitting, of course. HEPA filters, found in some air purifiers, have been found to remove some viruses from the air.
“Portable air cleaners have the potential to improve indoor air quality for any person who uses them properly” said Tim Carroll, a spokesperson for the EPA. “The longer the air cleaner runs, the more air it filters.
“Note that it is always important to reduce or remove the sources of indoor air pollutants and to ventilate with clean outdoor air,” he said. “Filtration does not replace the need to control pollutants and ventilate.”
Air purifier benefits
For those with respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergies, clean air can mean the difference between living comfortably in your home, or suffering with intense symptoms. Additionally, as we wave goodbye to a global pandemic, we may find ourselves more concerned about the quality of the air we breathe and whether it contains airborne viruses that could make us sick.
Perry notes that although more large-scale studies are needed, air purifiers can benefit those with health conditions. “More research is needed to determine if at-home air purifiers make a great deal of difference to asthma sufferers, but it makes sense that the cleaner the air, the easier it is for anyone with breathing problems and susceptible to allergies,” he says. “If you’re an asthma sufferer and want to purchase an at-home air purifier, then it’s a good idea to keep a diary to see if it does make a difference in symptoms. Remember though that an air purifier will not get rid of all impurities so asthma needs to be managed as prescribed by your GP.
“The same goes for people who suffer from allergies, the cleaner the air and being able to manage pollen and dust is going to help and will be dependent, of course, on the time of year when pollen count is higher.”