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Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier – What is the difference?

Last updated April 20, 2022

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Author
Author avatar Danny Ashton

Danny as been writing about air purifiers for 10+ years. He is a major fan of home technology, which makes him the perfect person to test and evaluate products for HouseFresh

Our verdict:

Although the terms “air purifier” and “air scrubber” are sometimes used interchangeably, these two devices are very different from each other and are designed for different purposes. 

Air purifiers are used by consumers to remove contaminants, such as smoke, dust, and mold from the air in their homes, whereas air scrubbers are primarily used in commercial settings to remove chemicals, gases, and toxic particles from the air. Although an air scrubber can be used as a whole-home air purification system, this is not what these devices are intended for.

The Importance of Air Quality 

These days, more and more people are realizing the importance of monitoring the air quality in their homes, and as such, many consumers are purchasing air purifiers to remove contaminants and airborne allergens from their environment. The problem is that some people are purchasing air scrubbers for their homes, and although air purifiers and air scrubbers have similar-sounding names, these units are actually very different from one another and are designed for different purposes. 

What is an Air Purifier?

In simple terms, an air purifier is a consumer device used to clean and purify the air inside a home. Air purifiers come in various shapes and sizes and feature a variety of different filtration systems, including HEPA, True-HEPA, and Activated Carbon which are able to combat odors in the home.

Generally speaking, most air purifiers are intended to clean the air in a single room and have a fairly limited reach. For example, a small unit might only be effective in an area of around 100 sq. ft., whereas larger models can potentially purify the air in an area of around 1000 sq. ft. Most air purifiers on the market today are equipped with a HEPA filter. This is because HEPA filtration systems can catch up to 99.97% of airborne pollutants.

What is an Air Scrubber?

Although air scrubbers can also be used to clean the air in a private residence, these devices are primarily designed for commercial applications. The main purpose of an air scrubber is to remove gases, chemicals, and toxic particles from the air. 

It’s worth noting that air scrubbers can effectively cover thousands of square feet, which is a far greater area than any consumer air purifier could reach. In terms of how these devices operate, air scrubbers are available in two different varieties: dry scrubbers and wet scrubbers. 

If the unit uses wet scrubbing, then it essentially sucks the air out via a damp pad or a filter that traps free-floating contaminants and particles. On the other hand, if the device uses dry scrubbing, this means that it sucks particles and pollutants out through a dry filter, which in turn, cleans the air in the environment. 

Like air purifiers, some air scrubbers are also equipped with activated carbon filters which can combat and remove odors. 

Most air scrubbers are installed directly into the HVAC systems of commercial buildings, such as factories and warehouses. But, in theory, these systems can be used to clean the air in a home. That said, most homes don’t typically contain the same harmful gases, chemicals, and toxic particles, which means that installing an air scrubber system would likely be a waste of money. 

Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier, What’s the Difference?

Although both air purifiers and air scrubbers can theoretically be used in a private home, the truth is that in the vast majority of cases, an air purifier is far more appropriate for home air cleaning. That said, there are some rare cases when you may want to consider an air scrubber, so let’s briefly go over why you might want to choose an air purifier or an air scrubber for your home and examine the differences between the two in more detail.

Why Choose an Air Purifier?

If you want to clean the air in a single room or in a small home environment on a daily basis, then an air purifier will almost certainly be your best bet. Air purifiers are a much more cost-effective solution for cleaning the air inside a home and do a fantastic job at eliminating allergens, airborne contaminants, and common household pollutants. Air purifiers can offer you a number of great health benefits. This is especially true for those that suffer from respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis, or people that have allergies to dust or pet dander. Because air purifiers can effectively eliminate airborne allergens, operating one at home can help alleviate allergy symptoms, which will make it significantly easier to breathe.

Air purifiers also do a good job at eliminating mold spores and mildew from the air, which is, of course, very important because if left unchecked, mold and mildew can lead to serious health complications. 

Simply put, for the vast majority of people, an air purifier will be a cost-effective, reliable solution for cleaning and purifying the air in their homes. These devices are portable and can be moved from room to room as needed and will eliminate most if not all of the airborne pollutants that you’re likely to encounter in a private home setting. 

Why Choose an Air Scrubber?

Portable air scrubbers can be used in emergency situations to clean the air within a home when there has been a sudden influx of harmful contaminants, toxic chemicals, or dangerous gases. They are often used in homes by professional mold removal companies, home renovation contractors and remodelers, and professional paint companies that need to extract large volumes of harmful gases from the air after painting the entire house. 

However, even renting an air scrubber can cost as much as purchasing a high-quality consumer air purifier, so unless you absolutely need a scrubber for a very specific reason, odds are that your money would be much better spent on investing in a good HEPA air purifier.

Conclusion

Both air purifiers and air scrubbers clean the air, but they clean different sorts of contaminants and are intended for different purposes. 

Air purifiers are typically used to clean the air in people’s homes and can effectively remove dust, dander, mildew, mold spores, and other common airborne pollutants that you’re likely to encounter in your home. 

Air scrubbers are used in commercial settings to remove large quantities of chemicals, gases, and toxic pollutants, such as those often produced in factories and warehouses. 

In almost all cases, an air purifier will be your best bet for cleaning the air in your home. However, in some emergency situations, you may want to consider renting an air scrubber, such as if you’ve had a gas leak in your home or have painted the whole house.

FAQs

Do I need an air scrubber if I have an air purifier?

Air scrubbers and air purifiers do different things. Even if you have an air purifier, there are certain situations when you might need to use an air scrubber in your home, such as if there has been a gas leak or if your entire house was recently painted and contains a large volume of toxic fumes. However, for normal daily use purposes, air purifiers are the best solution for removing the types of airborne contaminants commonly found in private homes, such as dust, pet dander, mold spores, and so on.  

Does an air scrubber produce ozone? 

Air scrubbers are used to remove particles and clean the air in commercial environments. However, air scrubbers cannot produce ozone under any circumstances. Air scrubbers use filtration systems to trap particulate matter, and regardless of whether you are using a wet scrubber or a dry scrubber, ozone is not related to or involved in this process at all. 

How much electricity does an air purifier use? 

As far as consumer appliances are concerned, air purifiers are one of the most energy-efficient appliances you can buy. This is particularly true when it comes to newer models, which typically draw less power than toasters and half the power of microwave ovens. That said, each model varies and draws a different amount of power, so always check the manual for your specific model or check the average annual costs with our HouseFresh Energy Calculator.