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What Are Air Purifiers Good For?

Last updated January 21, 2023

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Author avatar James Booth

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:

Air purifiers offer several benefits to the health of their users by eliminating harmful pollutants from the air with several layers of filtration. They eliminate airborne viruses, mold, dust, pollen, pet dander, and odors fhe. 

Those using air purifiers often report improvements in their allergy and asthma symptoms. Air purifiers eliminate external pollutants, such as vehicle exhaust or cigarette fumes, and internal pollutants, like asbestos, in older homes. 

In many cases, the source of the pollutants should be investigated and dealt with! Things such as mold, asbestos, and dust remain on surfaces, even if they’re filtered from the air.

Indoor air pollution has become a growing concern in recent years. 

There are alarming findings of poor air quality in our homes and offices. Increased attention has been given to this issue since 2020 as many people now spend more time at home.

Furthermore, the recent studies of the negative health implications of constant exposure to poor-quality air– especially in children whose respiratory systems are still developing– are worrisome. 

Even our pets can experience significant health issues due to poor-quality air!

Many Americans are turning to air purifiers, with nearly half of two-parent homes owning one. 

However, there may still be some confusion about air purifiers’ benefits and limitations. In this article, we’ll try to clarify some of your questions with up-to-date scientific research!

What Does an Air Purifier Do?

Air purifiers use filters and a fan to clean contaminants from the air. The fan pulls air from the room into the machine, forces it through the multiple filters, and then pushes the clean air out– circulating it throughout the room.

Most quality air purifiers have three levels of filtration. When shopping for an air purifier, you should look for one that contains the following three components to ensure your air is purified to the fullest extent.

First, the pre-filtration layer will catch any large particle before it even enters the device. This includes things like hair, dust, and animal dander. This filter will typically block the vent before the particles even enter the machine.

It is easily removable, and will need to be regularly cleaned so as not to block air from entering– much like the lint collector in a clothes dryer! 

The second stage is activated carbon filtration. A porous carbon that makes up this filter will absorb pollutants such as volatile organic compounds.

These include the toxins VOCs such as formaldehyde, chloroform, and benzene. This will also remove odors from the air, such as those from pets, smoking, cooking, and the bathroom. 

The final stage is the HEPA filtration. The HEPA filter is an ultra fine mesh of woven fibers able to trap the smallest pollutants from the air. These are the particles that make us sick, such as bacteria, pollen, viruses, and mold.

The classic HEPA filter will remove 99% of these particles, whereas a medical-grade filter can remove 99.995%.

Getting a medical-grade HEPA filter or a true HEPA filter (removing 99.97% of pollutants) is a consideration for those with health considerations like autoimmune diseases, asthma, or allergies. 

8 Benefits of Air Purifiers

Benefit 1: Improved Health Outcomes

Indoor pollutants have become a growing concern, and we are spending more time in our homes than ever before. 

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that using air purifiers may improve health outcomes related to heart and lung function. 

Another study published in the journal Sustainable Cities and Society found using air purifiers in public spaces could improve a population’s overall health. 

Benefit 2: Disease Reduction

Thanks to HEPA filters, air purifiers can catch the smallest particles, including bacteria and viruses. This helps to stop the spread of airborne disease. 

A study published in the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and conducted in a coronavirus intensive care unit, found that while running an air purifier, the virus could not be found in the air. 

Another study published in the journal Physics of Fluids confirmed that running an air purifier in an enclosed space significantly reduced the risk of transmission. 

Benefit 3: Decreasing Dust Allergies

Dust allergies are all too common and are on the rise, worldwide. 

A team of scientists found that running an air purifier with a HEPA filter not only reduced the number of dust allergens in a room, but also significantly reduced allergy symptoms. 

Findings were confirmed in a 2020 study where researchers found that allergy sufferers required less medication when using a HEPA-filtered air purifier– whether the user had the air purifier in their bedroom or living room. 

Benefit 4: Better-Smelling Home

Air purifiers with activated carbon filters are helpful in removing unpleasant odors from homes. This includes smells from smoking, pets, and cooking. 

Research to meet these claims dates back to 1994, when it was shown that air purifiers could improve how we perceive air quality through smell. Additionally, there was also a reduction in eye and nose irritation correlated with foul smells. 

A 2022 study also found promising results with a new type of odor removal in wet air purifiers using super-absorbent polymer beads. 

Benefit 5: Fewer Asthma Symptoms

People suffering with asthma– an extremely common disorder, especially in children– will often find that their symptoms are triggered by pollutants such as pet dander, dust, and pollen. 

Air purifiers can help to reduce the level of pollutants in the home, reducing asthma symptoms. 

A Korean study found that using an air purifier in the home could greatly reduce asthma symptoms in children, lowering their medication needs. The same results were also found in a California study in 2016. 

Benefit 6: Elimination of Harmful External Chemicals

Air purifiers will filter out many harmful chemicals in our homes which are toxic to both humans and pets, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. These chemicals are released from vehicles and eventually make their way into our homes. 

A 2010 study showed that air purifiers with HEPA filters and activated carbon filters, developed for those working in tunnels and toll booths, adequately filtered these harmful emissions even in this more severe environment. 

In Korea, daycares using air purifiers near heavily trafficked areas were tested, and it was found that they enjoyed high levels of improvement in indoor air quality. 

Benefit 7: Better Sleep

Quality sleep can vastly improve your health and your overall quality of life. Better quality of air can improve sleep quality, due to fewer irritants being present (as previously discussed regarding allergy and asthma symptoms). 

People sleeping in rooms with air purifiers felt that the air was fresher and were more relaxed going to sleep. A 2022 study confirmed that even with healthy adults, sleeping in spaces with better air quality equated to better sleep outcomes. 

Benefit 8: Elimination Of Toxic Substances From Older Buildings

Air purifiers can help to filter out toxic substances from the homes themselves, including radon and asbestos. These substances can often be found in older buildings, and as time passes, more of these particles will end up in the air inside the home. 

These substances are serious health risks, and measures should be taken to fully eliminate these threats! However, air purifiers with HEPA filters can also help to reduce levels of these substances in the air. 

HEPA filtered vacuums were shown to be helpful in a commercial environment to manage levels of asbestos, and a reduction of indoor radon pollution was found with the use of an air purifier unit. 

What Air Purifiers Don’t Do

❌ Air purifiers don’t cool the air

Air purifiers do not cool the air. Some people may have the hope that an air purifier can double as an air cooling system, as it does contain a fan element. However, this isn’t really the case! 

While you may get a slight increase in air circulation, it will not noticeably cool the room. If you are looking for a combination device, see these options for air purifiers with built-in fans. 

❌ Air purifiers don’t eliminate the source of the pollutant

A common example here is dust: The air purifier can take out dust that’s floating through the air, but it’s likely that particles will have settled into your carpets and curtains as well! 

After dusting or vacuuming, the dust will be disrupted— and more will end up in the air. The air purifier will then help to keep it from settling back onto the surfaces. 

Odors are another example. If you can find the source of an odor, the air purifier can temporarily mask the smell as it works its way through the room. However, the source will continue to smell until it is permanently removed.

Lastly, an air purifier will also eliminate mold spores from the air. However, if they are originating from a surface, the mold will continue to live on that surface until it is disinfected. 

To disinfect surfaces: 

  1. Mix white vinegar equally with warm water, and scrub the surface.
  2. The vinegar should kill the mold and eliminate the odor at the source. The air purifier will then handle any odor that may linger in the air!

Frequently Asked Questions About Air Purifiers

🙋🏻‍♀️ Can air purifiers prevent Coronavirus?

No. If someone in your home has coronavirus, you can still easily catch the virus by direct contact or handling the same object. It can, however, eliminate the virus from the air— stopping the virus from lingering after introduction. 

This can be helpful when people in the same house are isolated from each other, as they will still be sharing the same air. 

Utmost precautions should still be taken when choosing to stay in the same house as someone with the virus, such as disinfecting surfaces, washing hands, and keeping a safe distance. 

🙋🏻‍♀️ Do air purifiers help you sleep better?

Air purifiers can help with sleep in some instances, particularly if you have any allergy or asthma symptoms that are keeping you up at night such as a runny nose, shortness of breath, cough, or nasal irritation. 

The air purifier will help to eliminate these triggers from the room you are sleeping in, making it easier to fall asleep. 

🙋🏻‍♀️ Are air purifiers bad for you?

Most air purifiers only remove contaminants, and will not add anything harmful nto the air. The exception is a type of air purifier called an ionizer that may add ozone into the air— particularly in older models. 

Ozone can be detrimental in large quantities and may trigger asthma symptoms. However, an air purifier that’s only filtering the air can’t do anything harmful to you.

🙋🏻‍♀️ When should you use an air purifier?

All the time! 

For optimal performance, keep the air purifier constantly running – even with open windows.  Alternatively, run it whenever you’re in the room.

🙋🏻‍♀️ How long does it take for an air purifier to clean a room?

This will depend on the size of the room, the levels of the starting air quality, the strength of the unit, and the setting the air purifier is on. 

Typically, you can expect it to take anywhere from half an hour for a small closed space, to three hours for a large open space. 

In Conclusion

Air purifiers are a fantastic way of improving your health by removing any harmful contaminants from the air of your house. 

They can offer many benefits, particularly to those that suffer from asthma or allergies. However, they’re beneficial to even the healthiest members of the family as well! 

Air purifiers can only handle pollutants that make their way into the air, so they will not replace wiping of surfaces, dusting, or washing. 

It also isn’t going to assist when the air is uncomfortably warm, as the fan doesn’t work at a level to have a significant cooling effect! 

SOURCES

Calderón-Garcidueñas, L. et al. (2003). DNA damage in nasal and brain tissues of canines exposed to air pollutants is associated with evidence of chronic brain inflammation and neurodegeneration. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Chen, R. et al. (2015). Cardiopulmonary Benefits of Reducing Indoor Particles of Outdoor Origin: A Randomized, Double-Blind Crossover Trial of Air Purifiers. jacc.org
Dbouk, T. et al. (2021). Reducing indoor virus transmission using air purifiers. aip.scitatin.org
Dong, X et al. (2020). Numerical investigation of radon dispersion and dose assessment for typical ventilation schemes with an air purifier. journals.sagepub.com
Gaille, B. (2018). 22 Air Purifier Industry Statistics, Trends & Analysis. brandongaille.com
Luo, J. (2022). Efficacy of air purifier therapy in allergic rhinitis. apjai-journal.org
Lee, G. H. et al. (2020). Effects of Indoor Air Purifiers on Children with Asthma. synapse.koreamed.org
Kyung, G. K. et al. (2020). Effects of Air Purifiers on Patients with Allergic Rhinitis: a Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, and Placebo-Controlled Study. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Tran, V. T. et al.(2020). Indoor Air Pollution, Related Human Diseases, and Recent Trends in the Control and Improvement of Indoor Air Quality. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov