The best air purifiers to clear wildfire smoke

If there's wildfire smoke outside, do not to leave your home and build or buy an air purifier — our guide will teach you more.
By
Updated on June 6, 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.
wildfire air purifier header

Wildfires in 2023 led to the average American inhaling more smoke in the first eight months than during any previous full year.

As the tinted red skyline of New York City showed the world, even areas that are generally not at high risk of wildfires had to deal quickly with the pollution created by wildfire smoke from Canada, many hundreds of miles away.

A study from Stanford University showed that the average American’s smoke exposure by mid-2023 was higher than the cumulative exposure in every year since 2016. 

That means that by early July 2023, the average American was exposed to nearly 450µg/m3 of PM2.5 pollution, which is the same average indoor levels of PM2.5 as someone living in rural India.

“Wildfire smoke generates tiny particulate pollution (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10), odor (VOCs), and other gasses. 

The most dangerous pollutants are tiny particles measuring 1-10 microns, which are small enough to pass through lung tissue and get into the bloodstream. High-performing air purifiers with the right filters can remove these particles from the air before we breathe them into our bodies.

That is why each air purifier I recommend here for wildfire smoke is much larger than those we recommend for minor issues such as household dust or cooking odors.”

— Danny Ashton, HouseFresh Founder & Senior Writer

Here at HouseFresh, we are on a mission to help consumers identify which air purifiers are effective at removing particulate pollutants without excessive sound or running costs from filter replacements and energy usage.

We do this by gathering comparable first-hand data through a series of tests, including particle removal speed, noise generation and electricity consumption.

  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.

These experiments allow us to assess and compare the performance of many different brands and models, even when manufacturers don’t share lab performance data. 

Staff picks: Top 3 air purifiers for wildfire smoke

Below, you’ll find a more detailed yet compact overview of each unit in my shortlist for this type of smoke pollution. But if you want to read further, make sure to check the full reviews.

⭐ BEST OVERALL💰 BEST BUDGET OPTION🛋️ BEST FOR LARGE SPACES
Corsi-Rosenthal boxLevoit Core 600SBlast Mini
Air cleaning speed18 minutes15 minutes12 minutes
Clean air delivery rate (CADR)Estimated: 274 CFM– Smoke: 377 CFM 
– Dust: 373 CFM 
– Pollen: 437 CFM
450 CFM
Filter technologyMERV 13 filters3-stage Levoit filtration, including activated carbonH13 HEPA and activated carbon filter
Maximum room size680 sq. ft. (63 m²)635 sq. ft. (59 m²)703 sq. ft. (65 m²)
Weight1.6 lbs (0.73 kg)13.7 lbs (6.2 kg)59 lbs (26.8 kg)
Noise levels49 — 60.7 dB40.9 — 61.4 dB44.9 — 56.3 dB
Filter life6-12 months6-12 months13 months
HouseFresh reviewCorsi-Rosenthal Box reviewCore 600S reviewBlast Mini review
Price$80$299.99$599.00

Last update on 2024-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Let me point out that I included two air purifiers you can make at home: the Corsi-Rosenthal Box and a simple fan+filter DIY air purifier. I did this because wildfire smoke can accumulate very quickly, so the best solution is to get something to clean your air ASAP and that you can afford.

If you suffer from regular issues with indoor air quality or live in an area prone to wildfires, investing in a high-performing air purifier will make the most sense in the long term. But not everyone has the means to buy a powerful air purifier, so these DIY alternatives are definitely worth considering if that’s you.

So, without further ado, these are my recommendations.

1. Best overall: Corsi-Rosenthal Box 

For those reacting to the immediate threat of wildfire smoke, you can build your own Corsi-Rosenthal Box with a box fan, four HVAC MERV 13 filters, cardboard and duct tape.

The main reason this air purifier is my number one choice is that it can be built using items you already have in the home. Engineers Richard Corsi and Jim Rosenthal designed the Corsi-Rosenthal box during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the viral particles in indoor environments. While designed for airborne viruses, the CR box can still help remove the dangerous tiny particles created by wildfire smoke. 

As with all the air purifiers we review here at HouseFresh, we built our own Corsi-Rosenthal box and tested it in the same 728 cubic ft test lab. I was impressed when I saw it was able to bring down the levels of PM1 to 0 in 25 minutes. This is one minute faster than the $900 IQAir HealthPro Plus and two minutes faster than the TaoTronics AP003 and the Winix 5300-2.

What we really like

You can make your own air purifier with excellent air-cleaning performance with simple, affordable materials.
It is relatively easy to put together and can be an activity to do with kids at home.
Despite being a DIY air purifier, it cleaned our test room in 25 minutes – that’s more than twice as fast as the average speed across all units we tested.
It’s highly customizable, as you will be choosing the fan and the filters you want to use to build it.

What we think could be better

You’ll need to remove the duct tape to change the filters and re-tape the new ones. Make sure to have MERV 13 stock available during wildfires, as the filters will need regular replacement.
It has a large footprint, it will take up a fair share of space.
Box fans can be loud. The noise levels vary from fan to fan, so make sure to find one that is comfortably quiet.

The Corsi-Rosenthal box does need you to do a bit of work to put it together, but it’s relatively simple, and while it takes up a large amount of floor space, its performance at removing pollutants is worth it. Be sure to use HVAC filters that are at least MERV-13. I used the BNX Tru filters MERV 13 and the Hurricane 20-inch box fan in our CR Box but you can use any 20-inch box fan and filters as long as they are MERV-13 or higher grade.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):25 minutes
Air purifier technology:MERV 13
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):680 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Estimated: 274 CFM 
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):20L x 20W x 20H inches (50L x 50W x 50H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Filter life:6-12 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 49 dB
Speed 2: 55.1 dB 
Speed 3: 60.7 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0 kWh
Speed 1: 40.5 kWh
Speed 2: 44.5 kWh
Speed 3: 46.7 kWh
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$125.13 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$0.29
Manufacturer’s warranty:n/a
Country of manufacture:China

Read our full review

2. Best for large spaces: Smart Air Blast Mini (with activated carbon filter)

A fast and quiet powerhouse that can achieve 4.8 air changes per hour in spaces as large as 703 sq. ft.

Speedyness is key when there’s a wildfire nearby. At $600, the Blast Mini is not as affordable as the Corsi-Rosenthal Box, but it features such a powerful fan that it bested all 70+ units we tested so far, completing our particle removal test in just 12 minutes. 

The massive size of the medical-grade HEPA filter in the Blast Mini is perfect for capturing the fine particles (PM2.5) produced by wildfires. Although the activated carbon filter is not included in the standard purchase, I strongly recommend getting one, even if it means an extra $90. The 2.6 lbs of loose-fill carbon will remove VOCs and gasses produced by wildfires and help with the pervasive smoke odors.

What we really like

For such a powerful unit, the Blast Mini noise output tops at 56 dB when running at full speed. A significant advantage, considering during wildfire season you’ll be running the air purifier 24/7. 
It comes with one of the largest H13 HEPA filters available on the market that can also last longer than average (13 months).
Super simple to operate, with no more than a dial to choose between three fan speed levels.
Top-notch lockable, metal castor wheels to move around in any direction.
It is made of metal, which makes it a more sustainable and long-lasting choice than most plastic air purifiers.

What we think could be better

A powerful fan comes at a cost. This is a power-hungry unit that will add $130 to your annual energy bill.
Filter replacements don’t come cheap, costing $236.99 per year if you get both HEPA and activated carbon filters.
It’s not exactly mini, but rather a big, heavy unit weighing 59 lbs.

The reliable Blast Mini doesn’t just stand out for its speed and large filters. It is also designed for large spaces – as big as 703 sq. ft. It has a high price tag and long term running costs, yes. But if you are looking for outstanding air cleaning power, then the Blast Mini won’t disappoint.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):12 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 HEPA filter (and optional activated carbon filter)
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):703 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (estimated CADR):435 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):22.6L x 13W x 24.8H inches (57.5L × 33W × 63H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):59 lbs (26.8 kg)
Filter life:13 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 44.9 dB
Speed 2: 51.2 dB
Speed 3: 56.3 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0 watts
Speed 1: 51.9 watts
Speed 2: 87.4 watts
Speed 3: 122.7 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$311.89 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$1.38
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Country of manufacture:China

Read our full review

3. Best budget option: Levoit Core 600S

At under $300, the Core 600S boasts great cleaning power and smart features — plus, it can cover areas as big as 584 sq. ft.

Only three minutes slower than the Blast Mini, the Core 600S will remove wildfire smoke pollutants from your home quickly for just $299. It has a high CADR for the price – 410 CFM overall and 377 CFM for smoke — and still boasts a solid amount of smart features usually seen in similarly powerful units that are twice as expensive.

Like most high-performing units, the Core 600S is big. Inside, you’ll find Levoit’s three-in-one filters, featuring a pre-filter, a large particle filter and, if you opt for the Smoke Remover filter, 0.79 lbs of pelletized activated carbon. Be aware, though, that the Core 600S needs filter replacements every six months.

What we really like

It is the most affordable option for large spaces: for $299, the Core 600S can perform 4.8 air changes per hour in areas as big as 584 sq. ft.
It completed our speed test in only 15 minutes. You get similar results with units like the Levoit EverestAir ($500) or the AirDoctor 3000 ($519).
It tracks PM2.5 levels in your home, with a numeric display on the control panel (not just the regular color-coded indicator) and the app – which also showcases PM2.5 levels.
It only weighs 13.70 lbs, so it’s not too heavy to move between rooms.

What we think could be better

At top speed, it will get a tad loud. The Core 600S’s 61 dB noise output is equivalent to the sound of a normal conversation.
The air quality sensor is at the back of the unit, so it won’t work accurately if the unit is placed too close to a wall.
While the three-in-one filter is straightforward to replace, a removable pre-filter would be a better option for cleaning.

The Core 600S checks many boxes. It can cover large spaces, it is energy-efficient (49 watts at top speed), its filter replacements are affordable ($160 a year), and you get app support for remote control, among other things. For those looking for cost-effective, high-quality air purification, the Core 600S is one solid option. 

HouseFresh rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):15 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):584 sq. ft. 
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 373 CFM
Smoke: 377 CFM
Pollen: 437 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):12.3 x 12.3 x 23.6 inches (31.3 x 31.3 x 60 cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):13.7 lbs (6.2 kg)
Filter life:6 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 40.9 dB
Speed 2: 45.9 dB
Speed 3: 61.4 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 1.53 watts
Speed 1: 7.92 watts
Speed 2: 11.35 watts
Speed 3: 21.15 watts
Speed 4: 49.27 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$195.13 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$0.80
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Country of manufacture:China

Read our full review

A ton of marketing jargon in the air purifier industry can make you think that air purifiers are a super complicated technology. But these devices are essentially just a fan and filter combination. And that is what this DIY air purifier is.

You can read our full guide and review of the DIY Air Purifier, but in simple terms, you just attach a MERV-13 filter to a box fan and let it get on with removing pollutants from the air.

  • While its performance is less than our top DIY recommendation (the Corsi-Rosenthal Box), it can help in the short term if you can’t leave your home. 
  • We tested our own DIY purifier in the same 728 cubic feet home lab and found it took 84 minutes to bring the PM1 level down to zero. 
  • This air purifier will be good enough to keep a smaller room (150 sq. ft.) clean, but it will struggle with larger spaces.

4. Best for small spaces: Levoit Vital 200S

HouseFresh top recommendation for 2024, the Vital 200S is powerful enough for 375 sq. ft. spaces and the best-performing unit you can get for less than $200.

You don’t need ultra-powerful air purifiers for smaller spaces. However, I strongly recommend choosing a unit with a minimum CADR of 200 CFM, even more so if you need to deal with wildfire smoke pollutants. The Vital 200S not only provides 242 CFM of Smoke CADR for less than $190; it is also fast. It completed our particle removal test in 18 minutes, which is only three minutes slower than the larger Levoit Core 600S.

Instead of the cylindrical, three-in-one filters of the Core series, the Vital 200S features a rectangular, removable pre-filter (which makes washing far easier and can extend the filter’s lifespan for up to 12 months), and a dual main filter with a pelletized activated carbon layer.

It’s worth noting that the filters are no longer advertised as True HEPA. Instead, according to Energy Star, it uses a HEPA-type main particle filter. However, as we’ve seen with the outstanding performance of the CR-Box, optimal PM filtration is not only possible with medical-grade HEPA filters.

What we really like

Outstanding cleaning power for under $200, with an efficient $ per CADR ratio and affordable long-term running costs.
Despite being budget-friendly, the Vital 200S features a top-tier control panel with air quality readings and a light detection mode to react to ambient light.
It runs quietly at its top speed (57 dB). This is Turbo mode, or Speed 4, which is not a common feature in budget units like this one. At Speed 3, the noise output lowers to 53 dB (equal to the sound of a quiet suburb).
It is a compact unit with a reduced footprint, so it’s easy to find a spot for it in small rooms. It is as sleek as a budget-friendly air purifier can get.

What we think could be better

Levoit advertised medical-grade HEPA filters for this unit at launch, but there hasn’t been independent testing or EnergyStar certification of actual True HEPA. It is not the performance that’s affected—which I insist is great—but the trust in the brand when it uses opaque marketing techniques.
It is more expensive than small air purifiers, such as the Winix A230, but you do need a minimum cleaning power to achieve safe indoor air quality levels during wildfires.
The air quality sensors need periodic cleaning (every two months) to work properly. Dust and particulates accumulated in the sensors will affect the auto mode’s performance.

The Vital 200S is well equipped with smart features and Wi-Fi connectivity through Levoit’s VeSync app. Intensive use during wildfires won’t break the bank, either, if you consider the long-term running costs: it will cost less than $130 a year, including maximum energy usage and filter replacements.

HouseFresh rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our 728 cubic feet test room (with the device running at top speed):18 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 TrueHEPA and activated charcoal filter
Recommended room size (4.8 air changes per hour):375 sq. ft. (5 ACH)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Dust: 263 CFM
Smoke: 242 CFM
Pollen: 240 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):15.6D x 8.5W x 19.8H inches (39.3D x 21.5W x 50.2H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):13.2 lbs (5.9 kg)
Filter life:12 months
Noise level in decibels (measured from 3 ft. away with a sound level meter):Speed 1: 38.3 dB
Speed 2: 41.9 dB 
Speed 3: 53.8 dB
Speed 4: 57.7 dB
Electricity consumption in watts (recorded with an electricity usage monitor):Standby mode: 0.97 watts
Speed 1: 5.71 watts
Speed 2: 8.01 watts
Speed 3: 31.96 watts
Speed 4: 44.55 watts
Estimated running cost (electricity consumption + official filter replacement):$127.94 per year
Cost per CADR cfm (based on dust CFM as reported by AHAM):$0.72
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Country of manufacture:China

Read our full review

Other units we tested but don’t recommend for wildfire smoke:

  • Levoit Core 300 We love this budget air purifier, but it will be too underpowered to deal with a severe issue like wildfire smoke. You are much better off spending a little more for the Levoit LV-H133, which still has the same air-cleaning power as the Corsi-Rosenthal box.
  • Austin Air HealthMate This air purifier has a large amount of carbon (15 lbs), but its particle removal could be better considering its price of over $700. Wildfire smoke generates a ton of particulate matter, so you need better performance than the estimated 150 CFM, which took 37 minutes to remove all PM1 particles from our test room. 
  • Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Big media sites regularly recommend this air purifier, but it uses an ionizer that you can’t turn off that potentially can bring ozone into your environment. Considering that many non-ionizer units are available, there is no need to recommend this device for wildfire smoke.
  • AROEVE MK01 This popular cheap air purifier on Amazon could not fully clean our air of incense smoke even when we left it for 5 hours, so it would be useless with the particulates generated by a major wildfire.

Tips for protecting yourself from wildfire smoke

As we saw in New York, wildfire smoke can travel hundreds of miles from the source of the fire, so it’s important to be aware of the problem even if you don’t live in a high-risk zone. 

Using a DIY air purifier like the Corsi-Rosenthal box or buying a unit like the Smart Air Blast Mini is a great way to remove particulate pollution, but there are other things you can do to reduce the risk of wildfire smoke in your home.

  1. Seal Up: Wildfire smoke can pass through any gaps in your home, so seal up any spaces around windows and doors. Close any vents and outdoor intake dampers if you have a central AC. 
  1. Mask up: If you have to leave your home or use any rooms that don’t have air purifiers, then be sure to use an approved face mask and, if possible, also wear goggles as wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes. 
  1. Recirculate: You will still want to use your AC as temperatures will rise due to wildfire smoke, but you will want to enable the “recirculate mode” as this will mean it won’t pull polluted air from outside. 
  1. Run air purifiers 24/7: Wildfire smoke is a severe issue, so you will want to ensure that this smoke is continuously removed from your home air, as even when you seal windows and doors, it will still find a way to enter your home air.  Smart Air showed in their experiment that pollutants will increase when you switch your unit off, so be sure to keep it running until the wildfire risk is over.  

Tip

Be sure to check out our full guide for more tips on how to protect your home from wildfire, including how to clean up afterward.

Why trust our advice?

Most guides for air purifiers are written by freelance writers working for large media companies who say all the right things but often don’t perform in-depth performance tests and often recommend units for commercial reasons.

HouseFresh is 100% independent and not part of a large media company, and we buy all air purifiers we review with our own money. More importantly, we share all our findings and data via our in-depth reviews. If you have any questions that we haven’t covered in this wildfire smoke guide, then be sure to email me directly: danny@housefresh.com

Last update on 2024-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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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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