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3 Best Personal Air Purifiers

By
Updated on September 15, 2023
Written by
Teddy Booth
Teddy joined HouseFresh in 2019 as a senior content producer, producing written content as well as product photography and YouTube videos. He supports Danny as a product tester and is our lead how-to writer.

Our verdict

 

  • Westinghouse 1804 is our the best performing overall. The downsize is that it generates ozone.
  • Pure Enrichment PureZone Mini is my top pick for those on a budget or looking for a unit for their car, with its small size and long-lasting battery.
  • Smart Air QT3 is my top choice for desks. It looks great and will send a breeze of clean air directly into your face if you let it.

If you own an air purifier, you’ll know how much of a positive impact it has on the air quality in your home. All those harmful pollutants that pass through its filters are trapped, leaving you with fresh, clean air to breathe.

But what about when you go outside? Whether meeting a friend for coffee, hitting the gym, or heading to the office, the air around you is packed with contaminants ranging from traffic emissions to allergens to bacteria and viruses.

While I’m sure we’d all love to take our trusted home air purifier with us on our travels, you might get a few odd looks while lugging it around town and customs might have a few questions if you try to take it on an airplane.

Air purifier brands have seen this gap in the market and started to develop personal air purifiers that are small, lightweight, have a carry handle and use rechargeable batteries. But will these tiny filters impact the harmful pollutants we face outside?

To answer this question, we wanted to examine the performance of the units that are deemed to be the best personal air purifiers on the market right now. Are they worth the money? What features do they come with? And most of all… Do they effectively remove contaminants from the air?

Let’s find out.

Why You Can Trust Our Recommendations

We buy every product we review with our money to be able to tell you how good or bad it is, no strings attached. We pledge to always give you honest, no-bull facts and opinions without fear of being held accountable by brands.

As always, we conducted our own tests to compare personal air purifiers side-by-side:

1️⃣ I filled our Tesla Model 3 with incense smoke and used an air quality monitor to monitor how long it took each air purifier to clear smoke pollutants from the air.

2️⃣ I used an energy meter to track how much energy each personal air purifier uses.

3️⃣ Finally, I used a sound monitor to record how much noise each unit emits in decibels at each fan speed.

With all this data in hand, we shortlisted the best personal air purifiers on the market right now. Each of the units on this lists meets the following criteria:

✅ Small and lightweight – To be carried around with you, a personal air purifier needs to be small and lightweight.

✅ Rechargeable battery – You can’t plug your air purifier in when moving, so each unit needs rechargeable batteries, preferably with a long life.

✅ HEPA filters – The most effective way of removing harmful pollutants from the air is by using HEPA filters. Therefore, every unit we recommend must have them.


The Top 3 Personal Air Purifiers

Don’t have time to read our full guide? We got you…check out our three recommendations in a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) table.

👑 BEST OVERALL🚗 BEST FOR CARS🖥️ BEST FOR DESKS
Westinghouse 1804Pure Enrichment PureZone MiniSmart Air QT3
AIR CLEANING SPEED ⚡47 minutes3 hours and 41 minutes47 minutes
CADR 👩‍🔬25 CFM10 CFM24 CFM
FILTER TECHNOLOGY 💨True HEPA Filter + NCCO ReactorTrue HEPA with activated carbon pre-filterHEPA filter
MAX ROOM SIZE 📏Up to 75 sq. ft.Up to 54 sq. ft.Up to 12.9 sq. ft.
WEIGHT ⚖️2.12 lbs (960g)0.58 lbs (‎263g)1.375 lbs (624g)
PRICE 💵$74.99$39.99$54.99

Last update on 2024-02-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is a little different from our usual recommendation guides. Some personal air purifiers work well in certain scenarios and some aren’t worth your money. So this time, we will recommend the air purifiers we’ve tested and then tell you what to avoid.

Let’s start with the best units.

1. Best Personal Air Purifier: Westinghouse 1804

With its leather carry handle and lightweight body, the 1804 is easy to pack in a bag or carry on the bus or train. It fits snugly into our car so that all those emissions from traffic can be removed on my commute and also sits nicely on the cistern in our small guest bathroom.

The True HEPA filter inside the 1804 may be small, but it has a larger surface area than the PureZone Mini and feels much thicker. You don’t get an activated carbon filter. Still, instead, Westinghouse has included their patented NCCO Reactor (Nano-Confined Catalytic Oxidation) filter that generates ozone to removes odors and oxidizes VOCs & formaldehyde from the air.

This personal air purifier is easy to use, with one button to turn on/off and change between its two fan speeds. The filters are simple to replace and fit tightly inside the unit. I like the design of the 1804 and wouldn’t worry about taking it out with me.

What We Really Like:

👍 Quality leather carry strap
👍 One button operation
👍 Easy to replace filters
👍 Indicates when the battery is low

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 Westinghouse 1804’s NCCO Reactor generates ozone
👎 Only lasts 8 hours on a full charge
👎 The unit can’t sit flat when the charger is connected

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our Tesla Model 3:47 minutes
Air purifier technology:True HEPA Filter + NCCO Reactor
Recommended room size:Up to 75 sq. ft. 
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):25 CFM  
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):6.3 H x 6.3 W x 3.5 D inches (16 H x 16 W x 8.9 D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):2.12 lbs (0.96 kg)
Noise level (high):0.5 – 34 dB
Filter life:4 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:3 years limited warranty
Estimated energy consumption:$3.15 per year (but it can also be used with an in-built battery)

2. Best Personal Air Purifier for Cars: Pure Enrichment PureZone Mini

The size of the PureZone Mini makes it ideal for taking on the road with you. Weighing in at only 0.58 lbs, it’s perfect for throwing in a bag and bringing it on a plane or using its handle to carry around on your commute. Also, the shape means it fits comfortably in a beverage holder in your car.

Inside is a True HEPA filter with activated carbon, but unfortunately/obviously, it is tiny, so it will need to be changed a lot if you use it every day. The amount of activated carbon included is minimal, so don’t expect this to remove too many odors.

The charging port on the back uses a USB-C connection (which is handy because I have many cables lying around). On a full charge, the PureZone Mini lasts about 12 hours at its lowest fan speed and 2.5 at its highest.

What We Really Like:

👍 Simple to use with one-button operation
👍 No ionizer that produces harmful ozone
👍 USB-C charging port
👍 Easily fits into a travel bag

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 Not enough activated carbon to make a difference
👎 It’s body isn’t airtight

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our Tesla Model 3:3 hours and 41 minutes
Air purifier technology:True HEPA with activated carbon pre-filter
Recommended room size:Up to 54 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):10 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):2.7H x 3.5W x 8.5D inches (6.8H x 8.8W x 21.5D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):0.58 lbs (‎263g)
Noise level (low – high):15 dB – 46 dB
Filter life:6 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:5 years
Estimated energy consumption:$8.41 per year

3. Best Personal Air Purifier for Desks: Smart Air QT3

Smart Air is well regarded in air purifiers for their low-cost, no-nonsense approach to their products; we know, we’ve reviewed some. The Smart Air S and the Blast Mini showed us that Smart Air produces high-performing units at fair prices, so we had high hopes for the QT3.

Featuring both a handle on the top and feet on the bottom, the QT3 is perfect for desks, lightweight enough to take with you when you travel, and it can be be carried comfortably in the car.

For Smart Air, it’s all about filters, so inside the QT3, they’ve included an H11 HEPA, which can remove 99% of microscopic harmful pollutants from the air like allergens, dust, pollen and bacteria. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with activated carbon, but it wouldn’t have much effect at this size.

It’s easy to use with only two buttons, one to turn it on/off and one to cycle through its three fan speeds. Four lights across the top indicate which fan speed you’re on, and one for when the filter is ready to be replaced.

What We Really Like:

👍 Lightweight at 1.375 lbs
👍 Has feet to keep it stable
👍 You can move its louvers to direct airflow
👍 Can be used both plugged in or battery

What We Think Could Be Better:

👎 No activated carbon filter
👎 Loud compared to the other two personal air purifiers on this list

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our Tesla Model 3:47 minutes
Air purifier technology:95% efficiency HEPA filter made with polypropylene (PP) and polyester (PET) with an 800-hour lifespan 
Recommended room size:Up to 12.9 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):24 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):5.9L x 5.7W x 7.1H inches (15cm L x 14.5cm W x 18cm H)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):1.375 lbs (0.624 kg)
Noise level (low – high):6 months
Filter life:32dB – 49dB
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Estimated energy consumption:$8.41 per year (but it can also be used with an in-built battery)


Do Necklace-Style Personal Air Purifiers Work?

In searching for a personal air purifier, you may have encountered necklace-style wearable units. Instead of using HEPA filters to trap harmful airborne pollutants in a tightly woven maze of fibers, these miniature air purifiers use ionizer technology

An ionizer emits thousands of electrically charged ions into the air every minute. These ions attach to particles in the air using a static charge, dragging them away from your mouth and sticking to whatever object is nearby (think of a balloon sticking to a wall).

While we are still not convinced by ionizer technology, we looked for scientific evidence. We found a study by scientists in China and California that tested the effectiveness of four wearable devices in a small chamber. 

They concluded that three out of the devices removed less than 10% of particles that were only 20cm away from it, so imagine how it will perform in an outdoor space. HEPA filters can remove more than 99% of particles in significantly larger spaces and wearing a mask gives you 95% protection against bacteria and viruses (like COVID) outdoors.

As these necklace-style personal air purifiers use ionizer technology, this means they create ozone. While the amount of ozone produced varies between each product, the EPA states that exposure to harmful ozone can cause:

  • Coughing
  • A sore throat
  • Inflamed airways
  • Increased frequency of Asthma attacks
  • Make you more susceptible to lung infections

That’s why we do not recommend any type of necklace personal air purifier.

💡Pro Tip: If you’re still a little hazy on the negative side-effects of ionizers? Check out our guide on the dangers of air ionizers

What to Look for When Buying a Personal Air Purifier

There are many contaminants to contend with when commuting, traveling or enjoying yourself. That’s where personal air purifiers come into it. These portable devices are small, lightweight and can be taken anywhere with you. 

When buying a personal air purifier, you need to make specific considerations to make sure it will work as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Here are the things to look for:

1. HEPA filter

The most effective way of removing harmful contaminants from the air is by filtering them through a HEPA filter. 

⚠️ Warning: Some units use ionizers instead of HEPA filters; these are ones to avoid at all costs.

2. Small and lightweight

As you’ll be traveling with your air purifier, you want it to be small and light, preferably with a handle. This way, you can carry it with you or throw it in a bag to use at another time.

3. Rechargeable batteries

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but the streets where I am don’t have electrical points to plug air purifiers in. That’s why you’ll need a unit with a rechargeable battery, preferably with a long life on a full charge.


Common Questions About Personal Air Purifiers

🤔 Why should you deal with outdoor pollutants sooner rather than later?

By now, we are all aware of the harmful pollutants caused by vehicle emissions. 

The EPA states that high concentrations of carbon monoxide drastically reduce the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream to organs like your brain and heart, which causes heart attacks, asthma attacks, bronchitis and sometimes premature death.

But it’s not only vehicles that pollute your air, The American Lung Association tells us that outdoor pollution can come from a whole manner of sources like electric utilities, commercial and industrial emissions, climate change and natural disasters like wildfire.

🤔 HEPA vs. Ionizers: What’s the difference?

There is a big difference between HEPA technology and Ionizer technology, even though they both claim to remove airborne pollutants from the air around you.

A HEPA filter is made up of a maze of tightly woven fibers that act as a kind of spider’s web. When particles pass through the filter, they become trapped in this maze, removing them from the air coming out the other side. HEPA filters are scientifically proven as the most effective way of removing harmful pollutants from the air.

An ionizer electrically charges air particles that attach to airborne contaminants, making them heavy and forcing them to stick to another surface. Instead of trapping them like HEPA filters, these pollutants are moved to another space.

💡 Pro Tip: Check out our full guide on the difference between air purifiers and ionizers for the full lowdown. 

Wrapping Up

Many benefits come with using a personal air purifier. These devices can typically go wherever you go. You can take them to the office to make your personal space much healthier, carry them on your commute on planes, trains and automobiles and even take them on vacation.

But, be wary of what technology they use, as some may do more harm than good. Simply follow our guide to choose the right personal air purifier for you. 

Last update on 2024-02-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Teddy Booth

Teddy joined HouseFresh in 2019 as a senior content producer, producing written content as well as product photography and YouTube videos. He supports Danny as a product tester and is our lead how-to writer.