7 Best Air Purifiers of 2023: For a Breath of Fresh Air
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Right now, tiny particles like pollen, smoke, and bacteria are floating all around you—heck, it’s probably why you’re looking for the best air purifiers. Covid-19 and wildfire smoke in 2020 (and beyond) didn’t do anything good besides make people fear the atmosphere, and even if it’s not something as drastic as that, you may just need some help clearing the air from a new dog, a sick kid, or a new cooking obsession. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that nowadays many more people are working from home than ever before. What breath in everyday is more important than ever, and so air purification is having a bit of a moment.
All of the air purifiers listed below will make your next breath feel crystal clear. Your decision will likely come down to size, style, and extra features. Do you want to be able to schedule when the air purifier will run, all from an app? How about filter alerts, so you never forget to replace a dirty one? Some of these models are on the larger side, so find a spot for your device that’ll ensure maximum usage. It won’t do much good sitting unplugged in your closet. Now, here are our picks for the best air purifiers to keep your air stay as clean as clean can be.
The Best Air Purifiers, at a Glance
No smoke and mirrors here, but if you don’t want to read our notes on the best air purifiers, you can get straight to the picks right here.
What is an air purifier?
Back to those tiny particles. Some of them, like pet dander and hair, are large enough that they’ll eventually drift to the ground to be swept into a dustpan. But the smaller ones like dust and bacteria or, smaller still, viruses, hang out in the air and can worsen allergies, transmit disease, and lead to respiratory discomfort for those breathing them in.
Luckily, home air purifiers can take care of these tiny tourists hanging out in your air. In its most basic form, an air purifier is just a fan and a filter. But unlike the thin, flimsy filter that you forget to change in your heating or AC vents, air purifiers use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which is the gold standard when it comes to trapping particles as small as viruses. The filters retain all the bad stuff, while the air purifier blows out clean, purified air. Just know that you’ll have to change your HEPA filter regularly because it’ll get clogged with all the nasty bits.
What to look for in an air purifier
Air purifier brands love to make bold claims about their machines, but let’s get through the smoke and marketing talk and see what’s actually worth considering when you’re looking for an air purifier.
Clean air delivery rate: Commonly referred to as CADR, this is a combination of how much air they move and how clean they can get that air. It might seem like a lot, but you want the air in a room to circulate at least three times per hour. “If you’re in a conversation in a room and that air is only being cleaned once or twice every hour, then the HEPA system is not going to be very effective,” said Dr. Sai Nimmagadda, an allergy & immunology specialist in Chicago. He says to consider airplanes, which completely change the cabin air every three minutes, or 20 times per hour.
HEPA filters: There is only one filter you want: a HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air, filter. Anything that says “HEPA-like” or something along those lines means you should immediately look for a different product. HEPA filters will grab upwards of 99.9% of fine air particles, including viruses, bacteria and pollen. These filters aren’t cheap. Depending on use, they may only last six months before needing a replacement, so make sure you factor this in when pricing out your options.
Pre-filters: A screen housed within an air purifier that traps larger air pollutants—like dust or pet dander—so that they don’t clog up the HEPA filter, which is meant for the microscopic crap. These are almost always washable, so that you don’t have to constantly buy replacements.
Carbon filters: Another air purifier filter, which is apt at taking care of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, aka the stinky stuff. Odors from cooking, cannabis and/or pets (or to be more technical, molecules like nitrogen dioxide, acetaldehyde and sulphur dioxide) are now trapped.
Coverage: Air purifiers are broken down by “coverage” or the largest room they can effectively clean, typically circulating the air two to five times per hour. This ranges from small kitchens to large family rooms, so break out the tape measure. In general, it’s better to have several small air purifiers in multiple rooms, rather than one large one for the entire house.
Where should I put my air purifier?
“You can’t put a small HEPA filter in the corner of the room expected to protect you when you’re on the other side of the room,” says Nimmagadda. For best results, place it in the room you spend the most time in, like your bedroom, and make sure it can circulate air effectively throughout the room, and that it’s not obstructed by pieces of furniture or hidden away in a corner.
What about allergies?
If you want to specifically keep one room clean from, say, pet dander, make sure to keep the room relatively sealed tight with an air purifier running before you enter. Nimmagadda recommends focusing on your specific allergies. For instance, if you’re allergic to tree pollen, keep windows closed in the springtime.
But unless there’s serious air pollution outside, you don’t want to keep your windows permanently closed as fresh air is important for air quality. “One of the theories of why asthma and other [respiratory] illnesses are on the rise is because these [new] homes that we build are so airtight that they don’t really have fresh air exchanges. That leads to more indoor air pollution,” says Nimmagadda, who explains that’s why smoke from poorly ventilated kitchens or dust mites in your carpet are so prevalent.
Do air purifiers protect you from Covid-19?
According to recent studies, “air filtration simulation experiments quantitatively showed that an air cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter can continuously remove SARS-CoV-2 from the air.” While companies are hesitant to make broad claims about Covid prevention, some have their air purifiers independently tested, like Coway, which showed a “99.98% removal of Covid-19 in under two minutes.” This effectiveness is especially good news with the upcoming winter season. Then again, the virus is spread through person-to-person contact, so if you’re sitting two inches away from someone who has the virus, that air purifier isn’t doing anything to stop you from getting infected.
Best Overall Air Purifier: Blueair Blue Pure 311 Auto
CADR: 250 for smoke, 250 for dust, 244 for pollen
For Room Sizes: 388 square feet
Noise Level: 23 to 53 decibels
Filter Price: $40
Filter Lifespan: 6 months
In our testing, the Blue Pure 311 hit the sweet spot of performance, operating cost, and design. Out of the box, we slipped on the hair-catching, washable pre-filter, which comes in five colorways, and simply plugged it in. It immediately entered auto mode, which uses integrated air sensors to optimize fan speed, and started purifying. The unit was so quiet that turning it on was a little underwhelming, which is a good thing.
Ever shake out your jeans or fluff a pillow, only to watch dust float through the air? It always leaves tidying up a bit unsatisfying, knowing the dust will resettle. We placed our Blue Pure 311 near a beam of sunlight and turned it on while we swept and vacuumed our living room. Watching the dust slowly drift toward the intake to be captured in the HEPA filter forever had us wondering how much we had spent cleaning up the same dust, floating through the unpurified air, over and over again.
This model won out over other high performing air purifiers due to its simple and discreet aesthetic. In our testing, a good looking air purifier is worth the money; to work well, these can’t be tucked away in a corner. Because the Pure 311 features 360-degree intake, it was easy to find a spot in any room (the interior-decor-conscious among us can match the pre-filter color with the room it’s placed in). Combined this with its size (20 inches tall by 10 inches in diameter) and it was easy to find a place for this purifier, even in our cramped bedroom. Note: There’s no timer or WiFi connectivity for remote control, which might be a dealbreaker for those that want to “pre-clean” their bedrooms before sleep.
Best Budget Air Purifier: Coway Airmega AP-1512HH
CADR: 233 for smoke, 246 for dust, 240 for pollen
For Room Sizes: 361 square feet
Noise Level: 24 to 53 decibels
Filter Price: $57.49
Filter Lifespan: 1 year
Due to frequent sales, this air purifier, which has been a favorite of clean air enthusiasts for the better part of a decade, can be had for the best price in regards to is CADR. Plus, its track record of reviews show it’ll easily last beyond its three-year warranty. With filter lifespans that last up to a year, the Airmega AP-1512HH becomes well worth the upfront investment.
Coway is a South Korean powerhouse of air and water purification, and its Airmega AP-1512HH is beloved for over performing at its price point and minimizing operating costs via ECO mode, which turns the fan off if the room is sufficiently purified. In addition to the pre-filter, HEPA filter, and deodorizing carbon filter, there’s also a bipolar ionizer for capturing ultra fine particles like bacteria or viruses, which is a rare 4th stage of filtration at this price point. While online reviewers praise the purifier’s small footprint (~1.5 paper towel rolls) we didn’t love that the purifier had a defined front and back, which limits placement options, and the design lacked the sleekness of other options, making it look a little out of place in some rooms.
Best Air Purifier for Large Rooms: Coway Airmega Icon
CADR: 173 for smoke, 194.1 for dust, 235.3 for pollen
For Room Sizes: 649 square feet
Noise Level: 21.7 to 49.3 decibels
Filter Price: $89
Filter Lifespan: 1 year
For those who want to trade hospital chic for something that looks more mid century modern, the IconS is the most aesthetically pleasing air purifier we tested. Newly released in 2022, Coway gave style-conscious customers an air purifier they can place next to a luxury couch without looking out of place. We particularly loved the footed design, which lifts the unit off the ground (a surprisingly rare feature among air purifiers) and allows for easy vacuuming underneath. Our allergy expert likes the longer-lasting filters and the option for eco mode, which can help keep operating costs low. However, while this air purifier is rated for better coverage, our allergy expert warns that you’ll have fewer air exchanges in rooms on the larger side of the coverage range.
Looking beyond aesthetics, the IconS can go filter-to-filter with the best purifiers on the market. But it was the new smart features that made this the most fun to test. The beige purifier features a real-time indoor air quality sensor that uses colors to indicate the health level of the air, which had us shaking out old blankets just to watch the levels fluctuate. Like other models, the unit automatically adjusts the fan speed for optimal cleaning, but also includes a barely audible sleep mode for light (emphasis on “light”) sleepers. We also loved the smaller conveniences, such as a soft touch touchpad, a top plate that pulls double duty as a wireless phone charger, and an app controlled timer that made scheduling easy.
Best Air Purifier for Small Rooms: Levoit Core Mini Air Purifier
For Room Sizes: 178 square feet
Noise Level: 25 to 44 decibels
Filter Price: $25
Filter Lifespan: 4 to 6 months
Its countertop size makes it perfect for the kitchen or a dorm room. But don’t let the size and inexpensive price point fool you, the Core Mini comes complete with three stage filtration, including an activated carbon filter for kitchen smells, an automatic check filter light, and three fan speeds.
Despite reviewers finding it ineffective in large rooms, we found that the source of most household smells can be narrowed down to rooms such as the kitchen or a pantry that houses litter boxes. In those cases, the Mini is perfectly sized to handle smoke or smells at the source. As a bonus, there’s also a compartment for adding essential oils if aromatherapy is your thing.
Best Air Purifier for Pet Owners: Levoit Core P350 Pet Care True HEPA Air Purifier
CADR: 141 for smoke, 140 for dust, 145 for pollen
For Room Sizes: 219 square feet
Filter Price: $36
Filter Lifespan: 4 to 6 months
Even if you’ve grown used to the dander and hair yourself, pets are among the first thing guests notice when entering your home, especially their smell. For those with allergies, a dedicated purifier for pets can be a secret weapon in keeping your home inviting to all. In these cases, this small air purifier is a no-brainer. Besides trapping dirt, hair, and dander with the upgraded nylon pre-filter, the Core P350 Pet Care traps more foul odors with a high-efficiency activated carbon filter that features 60% more activated carbon than your standard carbon filter. This makes it ideal for use next to a litter box or dog bed. As a bonus, the “pet lock” makes it so your dog can’t use their nose to change the settings.
Best Air Purifier for Germaphobes: Blueair Protect 7470i
CADR: 270 for smoke, 275 for dust, 280 for pollen
For Room Sizes: 418 square feet
Noise Level: 22 to 45 decibels
Filter Price: $90
Filter Lifespan: 6 to 12 months
Blueair’s massive Protect air purifier is perfect for those who want maximum clean air in their homes. These air filters come with the brand’s most advanced updates, including an RFID chip that monitors real-time usage and proactively judges when you’ll need a replacement, less dense construction (called “HEPASilent”) which keeps energy use and noise low, and “Germshield” which prevents bacteria growth on the filters while not in use. As for the air purifier itself, Coway’s new “SpiralAir” outlets delivery omnidirectional airflow to circulate air effectively throughout the room.
Besides being the best performer, it’s also the smartest air purifier on the list. The Protect features an LCD display that shows real time particle and VOC concentrations in the air and a geo-fencing feature that puts the Protect in standby mode when you leave your home, and turns it back on when you get home from work.
The Best Air Purifier for Formaldehyde: Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool Formaldehyde
For Room Sizes: 290 square feet
Noise Level: 46 to 60 decibels
Filter Price: $80
Filter Lifespan: 6 to 12 months
Formaldehyde is surprisingly everywhere in your home–from furniture to flooring—but you’ve probably never considered the silent killer’s presence until right about now. It’s also extremely difficult to capture, so much so that you need a special kind of filter to trap and destroy the harmful chemical compound, one that’s housed in this Dyson air purifier. A catalytic filter, which never needs replacing, features billions of tunnels, which trap formaldehyde and turns it into water and carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, the Dyson doesn’t use that converted water to help utilize the humidifier component of the air purifier, but we highly doubt the spent formaldehyde will produce enough water to make for an effective humidifier. While all air purifiers are essentially fans, Dyson notoriously engineered its air purifiers to work as fans to circulate (clean) air throughout your room. The air purifier touts a hefty price tag, but it’s one of those machines that you set and forget. And if you want to get some in-depth information about your home’s air quality, you can connect the unit to a companion app for realtime updates.
Photographs courtesy Getty Images; Collage by Gabe Conte GQ Recommends No more waking up in a pool of sweat.…