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Do Ionizer Air Purifiers Work?

Last updated January 21, 2023

As an experienced content producer and editor, James makes sure our content is always compelling, clear, and useful. He also leads the production team and makes sure our writers have everything they need to keep doing their best work. On his off days, you'll find him outside hiking or searching for stone circles.

Our verdict:

An ionizer can effectively remove particles, but they produce harmful levels of VOCs and ozone and are simply not worth the risk.

Air purifiers that use HEPA and activated carbon filters have zero risk, so they are much better. 

In the end, you should carefully consider whether or not a device that creates more air pollutants is a wise choice.

Regarding the environment around us, we’re all constantly looking for ways to breathe cleaner air. While it’s obvious that air purifiers are a great option, what about ionizer air purifiers?

In this article, we’ll dig into what an air ionizer is, its potential harm and its limitations. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s get to it!

What Does an Air Ionizer Do?

You’ll have to think back to your high school chemistry lessons for this one. Remember particles and molecules? They’re all made up of ions, which are made up of either positive (cation) or negative (anion) charges. 

Ions are so minuscule that they’re invisible to the human eye. Nevertheless, they’re all around us, floating in the air. Negative ions (anions) become negative when they gain an electron, whereas positive ions (cations) become positive when they lose an electron. 

Unlike an air purifier, which works by filtering through a series of finer and finer filters, an air ionizer generates negative ions, which are then released into the surrounding air. 

These are then attracted to positive particles in your atmosphere, such as cigarette smoke. This creates an electric charge, which causes the particles to stick together.

Once stuck together, they land on surfaces around you. This can include your ceiling and walls, floors and tabletops and furnishings, such as curtains, rugs and carpets.

These clumped-together particles can then be removed and cleaned away. In some cases, the ionizer will have metal plates built-in, which collect the particles for you. You will, however, need to wipe these down from time to time.

While quite different from an air purifier, air ionizers could work in tandem with air purifiers to remove particulate matter from your environment.

Pros & Cons of Air Ionizers

While ionizers can be beneficial, they can’t completely clean up your environment. 

Let’s get into the pros and cons:

Air Ionizer Pros

✅ Ionizers can remove certain-sized particles from your environment. The result is that odors may be removed, which can help make your air feel fresh

✅ A 2018 study found that negative ions were able to efficiently remove particulate matter, even including ultrafine particulate matter. They were also able to kill mold and fungi

✅ A 2013 study also found that exposure to negative ions in high-density could contribute to a lower depression score, decrease stress and positively affect sleep and comfort levels. 

✅ Another study conducted in 2021 also found that positive and negative ions could significantly create an antibacterial atmosphere against bacteria. The study concluded that air ionizers would be handy for tackling airborne bacteria and infections.

Air Ionizer Cons

❌ The EPA notes that ionizers are ineffective at removing gasses (such as VOCs), odors, pollen and house dust from your environment. They can even create VOCs as a by-product

Ozone is also generated as a by-product of ionizers, a known lung irritant harmful to your health. There can be all sorts of harmful side effects from inhaling ozone, which in the short term can include:

  • Irritation of the throat
  • Chest pains
  • Coughing and shortness of breath
  • And breathing difficulties

❌ In the long-term, you could also be looking at a variety of more serious lung conditions. A 2008 study found that ionizers were generally not strong enough to affect particulate levels unless they were particularly strong. However, this was usually not equal to the ionizers available in the market currently

❌ Another 2008 study also found that in addition to ozone, formaldehyde and ultrafine particulate matter were released into the atmosphere by ionizers.

Danny’s Verdict: HouseFresh Doesn’t Recommend

“Ionziers can generate a lot of Ozone and Nitric Oxide, which can lead to many health problems. We do not recommend air purifiers that use this technology. It’s not worth any risk when HEPA and activated charcoal don’t create any chemical byproducts and work very well at removing particles and gases from the air”

Final Thoughts

Ionizers also create certain by-products that could harm your health. These include ozone, VOCs (such as formaldehyde) and ultrafine particulate matter. In addition, most of the ionizers currently available on the market are not strong enough to positively affect your environment. 

Instead, we recommend using an air purifier with HEPA and activated carbon filtration. 


Biggers, A. (2021). How Does An Air Purifier Work?
Comini, S et al. (2021). Positive and Negative Ions Potently Inhibit the Viability of Airborne Gram-Positive and Gram-Negative Bacteria.
Jiang, S et al. (2018). Negative Air Ions and Their Effects on Human Health and Air Quality Improvement.
Perez, V. (2013). Air Ions And Mood Outcomes: A Review And Meta-Analysis.
Taylor-Smith, K. (2021). Air Purifiers Vs Ionizers: What’s The Difference?
United States Environmental Protection Agency. What are ionizers and other ozone generating air cleaners?
Wallace, L.A. (2008). Effectiveness of Home Air Cleaners in Reducing Indoor Levels of Particles.
Waring, M.S et al. (2008). Ultrafine Particle Removal And Generation By Portable Air Cleaners.