The affordable, small air purifiers we recommend for dorm rooms

Different air purifiers for different student budgets — all equally good at cleaning the air without breaking the bank
By
Updated on May 14, 2024
Written by
Danny Ashton
Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.
At HouseFresh, we have been reviewing air quality products since 2010. In all these years, we learned not to rely on manufacturers’ claims and the ever-so-glowing marketing materials. That is why we buy products with our own money, so we can write unbiased reviews after we’ve had enough time to evaluate air quality products in our home lab. Every unit we recommend has been thoroughly tested to assess its performance, energy consumption, and noise levels emitted in real-life environments. If you have any questions about our testing process for different types of air quality products, just drop us an email at hello@housefresh.com.

As a new academic year rolls around, many of you will head off to college for the first time. Moving away from home can be an exciting experience, where you get your first taste of independent living. However, you may soon realize that the living standards you’ve grown accustomed to will soon be a thing of the past. 

After all, dorm rooms aren’t often regarded for their immaculate cleanliness, generous size, or personal space. Instead, you’ll probably find that after a long day spent in class, the library or making new friends, keeping your new dorm spick and span has seriously fallen by the wayside. 

Besides the inevitable dirty dishes and piles of laundry that will soon start to build up, you’ll also have to navigate living in close quarters with one or more roommates. You may also fall foul of the dreaded freshman plague rife on campus, ready to strike against weary students.

So, how can you combat mounting dust and dirt, potent pongs, and vicious viruses while juggling a full-time study schedule and a budding social life? Well, a simple solution that requires next to no effort is to invest in an air purifier.

But how exactly will this help, you may be wondering? Purifiers draw in air from your dorm and pass it through HEPA and Activated Carbon filters. These filters are fine enough to capture a whole host of particles, such as dust, dirt, odors, bacteria, and viruses. Leaving clean, fresh air to be redistributed into the space, allowing you to breathe easy knowing your space is clean and healthy.

  1. In our home lab of 728 cubic feet, we light an incense stick to generate particle pollution and VOCs.
  2. We set up our trusted Purpleair Indoor Sensor with the latest Bosch gas sensor to track levels of PM1ug/m3, PM2.5ug/m3 and PM10ug/m3 and VOCs in the air.

  3. We switch the air purifier to its highest speed and measure how long it takes to get our room air quality down to PM1 level to 0.
  4. We use an energy meter to measure precisely how much electricity is used when running the unit at the lowest and highest fan speed settings.

  5. We track sound levels emitted by the air purifier at different fan speeds with the help of a commercial sound meter.

Read more about our testing process, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

1. Best air purifier for dorm rooms: Levoit Core 300

Our top pick for dorm rooms is an older unit with no smart features that can save students $50.

For a small dorm room of 100 sq. ft., its CADR of 145 CFM will provide over ten air changes per hour, and for those sized 250 sq. ft., it will be 4.35, so it is a perfect sized unit for dorm rooms.

To achieve such high performance for a relatively low cost, the Core 300 utilizes Levoit’s trademarked VortexAir technology. Using a powerful fan and 360-degree air intake, the unit can pass more air through the unit’s 3-stage filtration, resulting in far greater efficiency at removing tiny particles from the air.

What we really like

Impressive performance for the price tag
it works well in medium-sized rooms
Quiet noise volume when in sleep mode
Compact size and minimalist design

What we think could be better

It can be loud on the highest fan speed
It is not as energy efficient as the 300S

At 14.2 x 8.7 inches, this compact purifier won’t eat up much of your space, whether placed on a table or the floor. While it lacks some of the features found on the 300S, this model still has a design-savvy capacitive control panel, sleep mode, timer, and filter replacement indicator, giving you more control and data than many other purifiers in this price bracket. 

Above, I listed all the reasons why the Levoit Core 300 is our top pick for dorm rooms. Check out the specifications below to find out more about this air purifier.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):40 minutes
Air purifier technology:Pre-filter, non-HEPA grade particle filter and activated carbon pellets
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):219 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 134 CFM
Smoke: 126 CFM
Pollen: 154 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):8.7L x 8.7W x 14.2H inches (22L x 22W x 36H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):7.48 lbs (3.39 kg)
Filter life:6 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 38.9 dB
Speed 2: 45.7 dB
Speed 3: 50.2 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0.1 watts
Speed 1: 19.7 watts
Speed 2: 24 watts
Speed 3: 35.5 watts
Estimated running costs (electricity consumption + OEM filter replacements):$109.14 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM): $0.63
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Country of manufacture:China

2. For large dorm rooms: Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty

If you’re looking for a purifier that offers more air-cleaning power for a bigger dorm, the Mighty may be ideal, thanks to its impressive CADR score of 240 CFM.

This purifier is the most powerful unit on our list of top dorm room recommendations. Boasting not only the highest CADR score on this list, it all had the fastest time in our real-world performance tests, having cleared our 728 cubic foot test space of all pollutants in just 25 minutes

What we really like

Powerful performance that rids rooms of pollutants fast — it cleaned our test room in just 25 minutes!
Despite its power, it can run at whisper-quiet volumes on its lowest speed setting
It has a unique and modern design

What we think could be better

The powerful performance will translate to a higher energy bill, drawing 75 watts when used on its highest fan speed
It is on the larger side, which may take up a lot of valuable floor space in small dorm rooms

With a pre-filter, True HEPA and activated carbon filters under the hood, you can rest assured this unit will effectively eradicate pollutants in a room up to 362 ft². Plus, with its additional bipolar ionizer, you can also electrostatically charge particles to make it easier for the HEPA filter to capture than using only HEPA.

Be aware that if you suffer from asthma, you should make sure to keep this disabled, but for those with no health issues, the ionizer can help to get higher performance.

If you’re looking for an air purifier for a dorm room of up to 362 sq. ft., you should definitely look into the Coway AP-1512hh Mighty.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):25 minutes
Air purifier technology:Pre-filter, True HEPA, Activated Carbon, and Bipolar Ionizer
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):362 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 247.7 CFM
Smoke: 233.6 CFM
Pollen: 232.2 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):18.3H x 16.8W x 9.6D inches (46.5H x 42.7W x 24.4D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):12.34 lbs (5.60 kg)
Filter life:6 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 38.9 dB
Speed 2: 44.4 dB
Speed 3: 60.1 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0.3 watts
Speed 1: 3.7 watts
Speed 2: 8.7 watts
Speed 3: 75.3 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$195.79 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$0.77
Manufacturer’s warranty:3 years
Country of manufacture:South Korea

3. Best for medium-sized dorm rooms: Smart Air S

The Smart Air S is an affordable and highly effective air purifier for medium-sized dorm rooms that looks like a piece of furniture.

As a relatively new player in the purifier market, Smart Air has made an instant impact since launching during the Covid-19 pandemic. Intending to create affordable and highly effective purifiers, the Smart Air S is an excellent option for medium-sized dorm rooms.

Despite its small and cute appearance, this purifier has powerful fans and quality filters under the hood, making it a force to be reckoned with. It can complete 5x air cycles in an hour within a 163 ft² space while removing 99.95% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns. In our in-house performance test showed it removed all PM1 pollutants in 50 minutes.

What we really like

Its filters that last up to a year when competitors last six months or less
The Smart Air S operates at just 35 dB on the lowest speed setting — this is equivalent to the ambient noise in a quiet rural area
It has a small size and unique design with stylish wooden features
You don’t pay for extra smart features as it just has one dial to control everything

What we think could be better

No smart features or air quality sensor onboard
The activated carbon filter comes as an extra add-on and it is a must to deal with smells in your dorm room

Focusing on performance rather than fancy features or glossy design has paid dividends for Smart Health. Although it has an old-fashioned dial operation (which makes it super intuitive to use) and certainly can’t connect to your smart speaker, it was able to clear our home office of all pollutants in 50 minutes during our real-world tests.  

HouseFresh rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):25 minutes
Air purifier technology:H12 HEPA and optional activated charcoal filter
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):163 sq. ft. 
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 127 CFM
Smoke: 105 CFM
Pollen: 144 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):13H x 13W x 14.3D inches (33.02H x 33.02W x 36.32D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):10.1 lbs (4.58 kg)
Filter life:6 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 35.5 dB
Speed 2: 49.1 dB
Speed 3: 58.2 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0 watts
Speed 1: 5.6 watts
Speed 2: 19.7 watts
Speed 3: 39.4 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$120.10 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$1.42
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Country of manufacture:China

4. Best smart option: Levoit Core 300S

The Core 300S certainly ticks many boxes for gearheads and technophile students, but you must find an extra $50 over its older version.

The upgraded Levoit unit cleaned our test room 8 minutes faster, achieving 0 PM1 in 32 minutes and using less electricity than the older Core 300. You still have to pay a premium for the smart features, but they include auto-mode and full app support so that you can control this unit from your smartphone and clean your dorm room while in class.

What we really like

It comes with smart features not found in this price range – allows it to switch on when it detects pollutants automatically
It cleans PM1 particles really fast, considering its size (and price!) — it cleared the air from smoke pollutants in our home lab in just 32 minutes
It is whisper quiet on the sleep mode
It is an energy efficient unit

What we think could be better

It can be a bit loud on the highest speed setting, especially when unexpectedly switching on when running on auto mode

You have already gotten great value for a purifier that retails under $150. Add to the fact it also comes with Levoit’s 3-stage filtration, including a pre-filter, 3-stage filtration and an activated carbon filter, plus it delivers excellent performance while only drawing 14.2 watts of power on its highest setting, as well as a two-year warranty, this truly is a solid investment.

We saw lower energy usage that it only pulled 21.8 watts, which equates to under $15 to run 24/7, 365 days a year and is $20 less than the older Core 300.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):32 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):219 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 134 CFM
Smoke: 126 CFM
Pollen: 154 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):8.7L x 8.7W x 14.2H inches (22L x 22W x 36H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):5.95 lbs (2.7 kg)
Filter life:6 – 8 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 38.9 dB
Speed 2: 45.7 dB
Speed 3: 54.5 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 1.7 watts
Speed 1: 5.9 watts
Speed 2: 9.8 watts
Speed 3: 21.8 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$85.23 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$1.12
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Country of manufacture:China

5. For smaller dorm rooms: IKEA FÖRNUFTIG

Budget-conscious students with an IKEA nearby should consider dropping $69.99 in the FÖRNUFTIG.

We know only too well the financial pressures students can face during college. If you’re concerned, you might be cash-strapped but recognize the need for an air purifier for your dorm, head to IKEA, where their first air purifier, the FÖRNUFTIG, is available for just $69.99. It cleaned our test room in 65 minutes, which is a great performance ratio to $ investment.

As a great option for rooms up to 107 sq. ft., this unit utilizes an EPA 12 filter (rather than HEPA), which IKEA claims is optimal for catching PM2.5 particles such as smoke, pollen, or dust, the most common pollutants in our homes. You can also add an activated carbon filter to this model to combat odors or gasses within your dorm.

What we really like

Optimized for PM2.5 particles
It boasts an impressive CADR rating for its price
It is lightweight and functional
Stylish design with a gray fabric pre-filter and a choice of white/black trim

What we think could be better

No HEPA filter, which is really the benchmark of air purification
It can get loud when running on the highest fan speed 

As you would expect from an IKEA product, the FÖRNUFTIG has been cleverly designed to fit seamlessly in the modern-day home. Its heather gray facade brings a muted yet stylish design, plus it has a convenient handle to maneuver it around your space, along with the option of using the traditional stand or mounting the unit to the wall to save on floor space. 

An impressive first air purifier by IKEA. It took 25 more minutes to clean the air in our home lab than the Levoit Core 300, but if you like the look of it and live in a small dorm room, then you should consider the FÖRNUFTIG.

HouseFresh rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):61 minutes
Air purifier technology:Pre-filter, HEPA-Type filter and activated carbon filter
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):98 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Smoke: 63
Dust: 79
Pollen: 87
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):18H x 12W x 4D inches (45.7H x 30.5W x 10.2D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):6.7 lbs (3.04 kg)
Filter life:6 months
Noise level in decibels (as reported by the manufacturer):28 – 60dB
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$80.38 per year
Manufacturer’s warranty:FÖRNUFTIG does not come with a warranty from IKEA
Country of manufacture:Sweden

Other units we tested but don’t recommend for dorm rooms

  • Levoit Core Mini: In testing, this device took 1 hour and 53 minutes and had a CADR of 32 CFM, making it too small even for the smallest dorm rooms. You are better off saving up more and going for the bigger Core 200S or Core 300.
  • Medify MA-25: While this is cheap, the filter replacement costs were much higher than similar-performing units.
  • Blueair 411+ Auto: All Blueair air purifiers use a technology called HEPASilent, which uses an ionizer, but you can’t disable its use. The activated carbon used in these units is the fabric carbon, which we found far less effective than the pelleted carbon. 
  • Austin Healthmate – This large energy-hungry air purifier is more suited to issues with gasses odors, through it’s large 15lbs of activated carbon, and it’s price to performance ratio for particle removal is much poorer than the other options on the list.

What to look for in an air purifier for a dorm room

Sadly, many dorm rooms in America are in older buildings with poor ventilation, which can mean levels of indoor pollutants can quickly rise and cause problems.

Indoor air pollutants can cause health problems and can even affect grades; a study from Israel showed that those students who breathed in the air with a higher count of fine particles scored on average 2.3% lower. The EPA stated that children in classrooms in highly ventilated spaces perform better on standardized tests than children in poorly ventilated rooms. 

To get the most from college, you must create a space in your dorm room free of tiny particle pollutants that have been shown to create health problems and reduced cognitive ability. 

You should try to ventilate the dorm room as much as possible, but when this isn’t possible, an air purifier can do a great job of keeping the air clean of these tiny harm-causing particles. 

But to get the right air purifier for a dorm, you need to consider the following:

1. Choose HEPA as the primary filter

HEPA filters have decades of studies and data supporting their efficacy in removing the tiniest particles that lead to reduced cognitive performance and health problems. 

HEPA filters use fibers that act like a net and catch tiny particles down to 0.3 microns. You don’t need the highest grade H13 filters as even non-HEPA filters can still do a good job removing tiny particles, as we see with the Corsi-Rosenthal box, which uses MERV 13 filters.

Be wary of any air purifier technology that could cause chemical byproducts like those that use UV-C, ionizers or PECO. These technologies are still being studied, and the jury is still out on their effectiveness and potential dangers. 

2. Look for activated carbon filtration

HEPA filters are great for removing the tiny particles from the air in a dorm room but won’t do anything about the odors that come with student living. An activated carbon filter can help to catch these odor gasses and keep the dorm room smelling better.

Be sure to go for an air purifier that uses pelleted carbon vs. the impregnated carbon fabric that we found to quickly lose effectiveness at removing odors. 

2. Consider the size of your dorm room

The average dorm room in the United States measures around 228 square feet for a dorm room with two students. The good news is that smaller spaces need smaller air purifiers to be effective. Most air purifiers are given a CADR score that is used to give you an indication of an air purifier’s cleaning power. Higher CADR will allow you to keep a large space clean. 

An average double-person dorm room of 228 square feet with an 8ft ceiling will need a CADR score of 145 CFM to provide the 4.8 air changes per hour that the EPA recommends for portable air cleaners. This is exactly the CADR of our number 1 pick, the Levoit Core 300.

You can use our CFM calculator to find out what CADR you need to clean the air in your dorm room at least four times per hour: 

3. Calculate long-term running costs

Most dorm rooms include free electricity usage. However, you will still need to replace the filters every 6 months for smaller air purifiers and potentially longer with larger devices.

We include the latest price for the genuine and generic filters for each recommended air purifier we review so you can know the accurate long-term running costs. 

Tip

Be aware that running a large air purifier is often cheaper than you need as the filters are bigger and need replacing less often but often cost very similar.  

4. Decide whether you need to get an air purifier with smart features

It feels like every appliance is smart nowadays, from your refrigerator to your television. It turns out that the same can be said for air purifiers.

The benefit of smart features is that they come with an onboard air quality sensor so that the air purifier will only kick in when it detects pollutants in the air. It is super useful for a kitchen but not mission-critical for a dorm room, so feel free to save money on a non-smart version.

But if budget is a concern, you can often find non-smart versions for cheaper prices. Sure, they won’t turn on and off automatically but you can simply keep the device running at a fan speed that you don’t find intrusive so it works all the time.


Common questions about air purifiers for dorm rooms

Students will spend a lot of time in their dorm rooms, and by keeping them free of tiny particles, you will avoid health problems or reduced cognitive function when you most need it. Sadly, many dorm rooms in America are older buildings with reduced ventilation, and portable air purifiers can do a great job of keeping the air free of any type of particulate pollution.

Air purifiers are extremely effective at removing airborne particles that can affect your health, well-being, and even the cleanliness of your room. Whether dust and dirt particles, fumes from nearby traffic, or even the smells that can occur from living in close quarters with other people. 

Air purifiers are also excellent at eradicating germs and viruses that may be transmissible in shared spaces. You can then focus on your studies by reducing the risk of catching the common cold or flu viruses in the room you spend the most time.

Like all appliances, the price of an air purifier can vary greatly. While some state-of-the-art units can cost nearly $1000, such as the IQAir Healthpro Plus, you can find a mass-produced machine on Amazon for as little as $30. But as always, you can expect to get what you pay for regarding quality. To get the right air purifier for your needs, identify the right CADR score needed to clean your air at least 4.7 times every hour.

If you want smart features like auto-mode and app support, you will need to pay more than for simpler units that just have a simpler control system. At $99, our top pick of the Levoit Core 300 is well-priced and can remove tiny particles from an average-sized dorm room at least 4.7 times every hour but might be too small for bigger-than-average dorm rooms.

Why you should trust our recommendations

Unlike most guides to air purifiers you will come across on the internet, we actually put the air purifier we recommend through an in-depth testing process and share this data with our readers. We have reviewed over 70 air purifiers since 2020, and based on this original data, we have identified what we think are the best air purifiers suited for those living in dorm rooms.

We are 100% independent and don’t take review units in exchange for review; we pay retail like everyone else. This means we are free to say when an air purifier fails to deliver, and we don’t have any outside pressure to push certain brands or models.

If you still can’t find the right air purifier for your dorm room or just want to ask me more about our performance testing, please reach out to me directly danny@housefresh.com

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About the author

Danny Ashton

Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.

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