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Updated Aug 1, 2022 12:07 PM

The best air purifiers suck in dust, smoke, allergens, and viruses. An air purifier pummels them and then circulates clean, filtered air. Sounds simple enough, but not all purifiers are created equal and not everyone is right for every person. Your particular environment and the size of your home are huge factors in choosing the best air purifier for you. Do you live in a smoggy city? Have there been wildfires?

In short, even the best air purifiers aren’t guaranteed to fix all that ails you and your home. But if you’re wondering whether air purifiers are really worth it … we think so. The right filter can help distribute cleaner air and that’s always a good thing, considering the link between air quality and health.

How we chose the best air purifiers

As pet owners and parents, we’ve experienced our fair share of smells and toxins—and that’s just from inside the house. To create this list of the best air purifiers, we relied on recommendations, reviews, personal testing, research, and user impressions. We also looked at what each air purifier claims to eliminate from the air, HEPA square footage, and MERV ratings.

What to consider when buying the best air purifiers

The best air purifier for you might not be the one your best friend or neighbor loves. You want a HEPA filter with a high MERV rating that’s designed to cover the amount of space you have in your particular room or dwelling. Beyond that, consider whether you want other features like pathogen-killing UV light, smart controls, and/or odor elimination. Do you need the best air purifier for pets or perhaps something portable? Air purifiers for mold or models to get rid of smoke? Air filters work only on airborne particles. To get at anything that’s settled into upholstery or rugs, you’ll need a handy vacuum, a helpful robot, or another kind of suctioning deep-clean.

Size of space

There’s an alphabet soup to make sense of when choosing the best air purifier for your home. ACH (air changes per hour) correlates to the airflow of your device. It’s calculated based on the volume of your space, ceiling height, and how many cubic feet per minute the device can cover. It’s independent of other factors, e.g. the efficacy of the filter—to calculate that, you need the CADR (clean air delivery rate) rating; because a HEPA filter is more efficient, its CADR rating may be lower, which is deceptive.

The most important thing to note is that an air purifier’s efficacy cannot be calculated based on square footage alone. You can find handy calculators online to determine the proper purifier for your needs, but here’s what to consider with any device: Will it successfully rid your home of odors with carbon or other comparable filters? Is it a good choice for pet owners? Does it feature UV light? Read the fine print.

HEPA

You’ve likely heard of high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters. They are a type of pleated air filter that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of .3 microns.” The smaller the particle, the more penetrating and nefarious it can be. So when you’re shopping for air purifiers, check out their filters’ MERV (minimum efficiency reporting values) rating. The higher the MERV rating, the better it is at trapping the tiniest particles.

If it’s the coronavirus pandemic that has you shopping for purifiers, it should be said that though a HEPA filter should be able to catch a virus of that size, there’s no conclusive proof that an air purifier can kill airborne COVID-19-carrying air droplets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that any room housing a coronavirus patient “should be exhausted directly to the outside, or be filtered through a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter directly before recirculation.”

If your main concern about your indoor air quality is lingering food or cigarette smoke odors, make sure the model you’re considering specifically targets fumes and other volatile organic compounds. HEPA filters aren’t good at eliminating odors on their own.

The HEPA filter was initially designed to capture radioactive particles when the atomic bomb was being developed because it can capture 99.97 percent of particles as small as .3 microns, which can evade other types of filters. (This is sometimes referred to as “true HEPA,” as European HEPA standards are required to trap only 85 percent of particles.) It works by ensnaring, sieving, and rerouting irritating particles.

A HEPA air purifier is considered the gold standard, but it does have limitations. Any particle smaller than .3 microns—for example, some viruses and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like aerosols, ammonia, and other toxins—will slip right through. Changing your filter often enough is key. A HEPA filter does a great job of capturing mold. If you don’t change the filter, the purifier can end up redistributing that mold back into the air.

Allergies

The best air purifiers for allergies depend on what your particular triggers are because different filters work on different-sized particles. Pet hair and pollen are large particles, dust is medium-size, and smoke is small. A combination HEPA-carbon filter is your best bet for filtering the maximum number of irritants.

The addition of an ionizer and UV light, if you’re comfortable with it, adds a belt to your proverbial suspenders. Because UV light does create ozone particles, we recommend choosing an air purifier with UV light that’s approved for sale in California.

Smoke

Pollutants—like smoke—can aggravate asthma, irritate your eyes, and stress your lungs and heart. An intuitive HEPA purifier with multiple fan speeds, maximum air circulation and zero ozone output is the best one for allergy sufferers and people who are sensitive to smoke. The best air purifiers for smoke have a higher CADR rating. This means your device will be better at eliminating smoke and its odor, whether you’re talking about cigarettes, cannabis, or wildfires.

Budget

Even cheap air purifiers aren’t that cheap. So chances are, if you’ve found an option that’s within your budget, you don’t need to second-guess it. Go through all the checkboxes you would for a more expensive model: Does it feature a true HEPA filter? Does your air purifier also feature a carbon filter? Is it ozone-free? If the answers are yes, then go for it. What you’re likely sacrificing are bells and whistles you may not even need, like WiFi capability or large-space efficacy, but still possibly getting other extras, like low-noise operation and triple filtration.

The best air purifiers: Reviews & Recommendations

Germs, smells, smoke, pet dander, and other airborne goblins are no match for the best air purifiers. This list includes quiet air purifiers, ones that double as humidifiers, and an air purifier that claims it can capture SARS-COV-2.

Best overall: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde

Why it made the cut: This three-in-one smart device automatically adapts to changes in air quality and humidity.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 400 square feet
  • Dimensions: 36.66 x 11.02 x 12.23 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes

Pros

  • Connectivity with Siri and Alexa
  • Three products in one
  • Air quality reporting

Cons

  • Expensive

Between its TikTok-famous Airwrap to its line of powerful vacuums, Dyson has made a name for itself in sucking—which we don’t mean in a bad way. The Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde proves yet again that Sir James Dyson really knows what he’s doing when it comes to pushing air out and in. This air purifier uses an intelligent sensing system and Air Multiplier technology to purify, humidify, and cool the air. You don’t even need to touch the unit—it automatically senses and reacts to changes in air quality and humidity (we’ve watched one enthusiastically spring to life time and time again after a particularly aggressive sauté session in the kitchen). It even features a solid-state sensor to detect and destroy formaldehyde emitted by household items—a boon if you’re in a newly renovated/refurbished space, as fresh carpet to new mattresses are emitting odd things.

You don’t have to worry about airborne baddies getting re-released into the air since the entire purifier-humidifier is fully sealed to the HEPA H13 standard. If you love numbers, neat tech, and data, this machine will tickle your brain when it reports your air quality in real-time on the LCD screen and DysonLink app. The filters are low-maintenance and easy to replace, and the machine features a deep-clean cycle to get rid of mineral build-up and bacteria that may be lurking in the water system. Although it’s almost $1,000, you’re getting three devices for the cost of one. Talk about smart.

Best for large rooms: Mila Smart Air Purifier

Why it made the cut: This mold- and carbon monoxide-detecting air purifier comes in different filter configurations for custom air purification.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 1,000 square feet 
  • Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 15 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes

Pros

  • Stylist
  • Small
  • Carbon monoxide, mold detection, and white noise machine built-in

Cons

  • Reviews note excessive air quality notifications

This classy, app-controllable large room air purifier adapts to the size of whatever room it’s placed in. It also looks great in any room it’s placed in. The filter has 45 square feet of HEPA, and with 447 CADR, it’s effective in rooms up to 1,000 square feet. Additional features include a sleep mode and white noise, so it won’t interfere with your sleeping habits. The device also features a carbon monoxide detector. It will monitor your room’s humidity and let you know if it detects any mold. If you’re not a fan of notifications, disable them if you go with the Mila—reviewers note that the Mila app sends lots of alerts.

Best for small rooms: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home Bedroom

Levoit

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Why it made the cut: Take this lightweight, compact air purifier from room to room to experience dual-filter, three-stage filtration in your entire home.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 161 square feet
  • Dimensions: 6.69 x 6.69 x 10.43 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Aromatherapy
  • Dual-filter, three-stage filtration
  • Specifically targets hay fever

Cons

  • Not for large homes

The Levoit promises to help relieve allergies, congestion, and sneezing and is our pick for the best small air purifier. Although we can’t vouch for the unit’s specific efficacy against rhinitis, we can vouch for the fact that it has three filters (one more than most other units): HEPA for dust, pollen, and dander; carbon for odors; and polyester for lint and hair. One fun additional feature is that this one has an aromatherapy option if you’d like a little lavender to help lull you to sleep at night.

Best for COVID: BLUEAIR Blue 211+ Auto HEPASilent 23dB Air Purifier

BLUEAIR

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Why it made the cut: Particles down to .1 microns are no match for this quiet-but-powerful air purifier.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: Up to 2640 square feet
  • Dimensions: 13 x 13 x 20 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Removes particles down to .1 micron
  • Stylish
  • LEDs indicate air quality

Cons

  • Reviews note problems with auto-sensing

The BLUEAIR is silent, but deadly … against microbes in the air. This stylish, small air purifier features a one-touch auto mode that uses a particle sensor to monitor pollutant levels and adjust fan speed based on air quality. An LED indicator display indicates the air quality status: blue means excellent, orange means moderate, and red means polluted. This air purifier can clean a 550-square-foot room in 12.5 minutes, and a 2,640-square-foot space in an hour on high. And, it does this all silently, clocking in at 23 dB—louder than a quiet natural area with no wind but softer than a whisper. It’s also tested against COVID-19 and claims to capture 99.99% of SARS-COV-2 in a 640-cubic-foot room (not a bad additional safeguard, but in no way a means to prevent transmission so follow self-quarantining guidance). While some reviews note that the auto-sensing feature is not as accurate as they hoped, we’ve observed the Blue 211+ react firsthand thanks to a low smoke-point cooking oil incident or two and that it was lively even from across a loft apartment. And the pre-filter fabric cover meshed effortlessly with the decor to boot.

Best HEPA: Coway Tower True HEPA Air Purifier

Why it made the cut: Stylish-meets-powerful with this True HEPA air purifier that features four levels of filtration.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 330 square feet
  • Dimensions: 10.5 × 32.7 × 10.7 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Real-time air sensing
  • Washable pre-filter
  • Air quality indicator

Cons

  • Noisier compared to other air purifiers

Multiple fan speeds, a timer, an air-quality assessor, and a filter-replacement indicator light make this the best HEPA air purifier not just quiet and effective, but user-friendly. At just under $200, it’s neither cheap nor exorbitant for an air purifier, and it’s also aesthetically pleasing. Reviewers note that this air purifier is noisier than most.

Best with UV light: Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier

Germ Guardian

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Why it made the cut: This quiet air purifier uses CARB-compliant UVC light and titanium dioxide to reduce airborne bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 153 square feet
  • Dimensions: 10.25 x 6.75 x 21.5 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Quiet
  • Reduces odors
  • Pre-filter traps allergens

Cons

  • UV light can be bad for the environment

UVC light (the most destructive of all the UVs) in an air purifier works as a UVGI—ultraviolet germicidal irradiation—method of disinfection by attacking the DNA of cells that are floating through the air, like mold spores, viruses, and bacteria. (This means, like all other filters, it cannot do anything for particles that have settled into fabric). An activated charcoal filter reduces odors. The 22-inch purifier filters air four times per hour at maximum speed in rooms up to 153 square feet. The four fan speeds, whisper-quiet operation, and CARB compliance make this air purifier an especially good pick for allergy sufferers. California Air Resources Board (CARB) compliance means you can rest easy about its environmental footprint.

Best for allergies: InvisiClean Aura II Air Purifier

InvisiClean

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Why it made the cut: CARB compliance plus four levels of air purification equals an exorcism for your sneezes.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 319 square feet
  • Dimensions: 12.34 x 6.25 x 17.75 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Four fan speeds
  • Quiet
  • CARB compliant

Cons

  • No auto-sensing

The four fan speeds, whisper-quiet operation, and CARB compliance make this air purifier an especially good pick for allergy sufferers. The California Air Resources Board requires purifiers to produce .050 parts per million of ozone or less, so any device with this certification keeps you safe from unsafe levels of the gas.

Best for smoke: Alen BreatheSmart 75i

Why it made the cut: Detailed air quality indicators, a B7-Pure filter, and a CADR of 347 mean that this air purifier will stop smoke in its tracks.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 1300 square feet
  • Dimensions: 12 x 19 x 27 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • 8 colorways
  • Quickly cleans large rooms
  • Auto-adjusts based on air quality

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Little warranty

This is an easy pick for the best air purifier for smoke, thanks to its CADR of 347 (out of 450). Thanks to automatic air-quality detection, when any type of smoke is present, the unit will kick up to turbo. When no irritants are present, the device goes into energy-saving mode. Five air quality colors give you a more detailed visual indicator of air quality—other air purifiers only include three color indicators.

Best portable: WYND Smart Plus Personal Portable Air Purifier

Why it made the cut: Take clean air onto the airplane or into the office with this waterbottle-sized air purifier developed by NASA and MIT engineers.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: N/A
  • Dimensions: 9.57 x 8.62 x 4.33 inches
  • App connectivity: Yes

Pros

  • Small
  • iOS/Android app
  • Medical-grade filter

Cons

  • Expensive for size

This small-but-mighty air purifier designed by NASA and MIT engineers fits in a cup holder and can purify the air in a car in under 15 minutes—that’s eight liters of air per second. And that comes in handy in a world of wildfires and other pollutants you might encounter as you travel. A built-in air sensor—which detaches for convenient, wearable placement—monitors the air around you. And, if you like numbers, the WYND air purifier connects to an iOS/Android app to track real-time hyperlocalized data on dust and other particulates. It also enables you to switch between different purifier presets, like auto and night, control other WYND devices, and alerts you when encountering poor air quality. The included desktop kickstand accessory lets you position the air purifier to direct a clean bubble toward your face, giving your nose and lungs instant access to medical-grade filtered air in an office or elsewhere.

Best budget: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home, Core 300

Levoit

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Why it made the cut: This compact air purifier tackles smoke, dust, pollen, bacteria, and viruses without hurting your wallet.

Specs

  • Recommended room size: 219 square feet
  • Dimensions: 8.7 x 8.7 x 16.25 inches
  • App connectivity: No

Pros

  • Filter life indicator
  • Timer
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Louder than other air purifiers

This cheap air purifier targets smoke, dust and pollen, along with some bacteria and viruses. Four specialty replacement filters include a pet-allergy option and a toxin absorber for, particularly smoky or smoggy areas. Like higher-end air purifiers that are more expensive, this Levoit air purifier features timer settings and a sleep mode. And, the display lights can be turned off to ensure a pitch-black room when sleeping. Although the air purifier is louder than some of its competitors, it resembles a whooshing fan at its highest setting—if you can deal with that, this air purifier is for you.

FAQs

Q: Should I sleep with the air purifier on?

Sure, there’s no reason not to sleep with the air purifier on! An air purifier contributes to an overall healthy home environment, even while you sleep. In fact, many models feature white noise or overnight modes, so they can continue to work without disturbing you (and possibly even helping you sleep).

Q: Where is the best place to position an air purifier?

The best place to position an air purifier is probably not where you think. Don’t stick it in a corner or behind a piece of furniture to conceal it. Beyond that, if there’s a particular pollutant (smoke, food odor) that you’re trying to combat, place the purifier near it. You want it 3 to 5 feet off the ground—so on a table or sill if it’s not a tower-style—and whenever possible, near sites of good airflow, like doorways and windows. Moving your purifier from place to place helps maximize its efficacy.

Q: Will an air purifier affect my plants?

Your plants should be safe and sound in the presence of an air purifier with one exception: models that expel ozone. Otherwise, purified air is good for plants, just like it’s good for humans.

Q: Do air purifiers with UV light really offer extra sanitation?

Opinions on whether air purifiers with UV lights are worth it differ. UV can conquer indoor air particles that escape other filters, like bacteria and viruses, but the EPA has said there’s no way to measure the effectiveness of UV filtration. The UV lights are technically considered pesticidal devices—”an instrument or other machine that is used to destroy, repel, trap or mitigate any pests, including bacteria and viruses”—according to the EPA, and it does not review, and therefore cannot endorse, those. UV light creates potentially harmful ozone, as well, although the amount is small.

Final thoughts on the best air purifiers

In almost every category, the best air purifiers have a true HEPA filter and a carbon filter. Together, they get you the most coverage in terms of the breadth of pollutants the purifier will attack. Beyond that, the most important qualities are energy efficiency and picking the right model for the size of your room. Everything else—design, whether the device is app-enabled, UV lighting—is just gravy.