Written by Grove Collaborative

Do air purifiers actually work?

Last Updated: December 14, 2021


Air purifiers make big promises, but do they really work? We uncover the how’s of air purifying and set the record straight on whether it lives up to its name.

In the warmer months, leaving your windows open to ventilate your living space is natural behavior. That whiff of fresh air livens up your space and energizes your spirit to get s**t done.


But, what about when it’s cold and dreary outside? How do you freshen your space and clean out that old stuffy air? Of course, furnaces and HVAC heaters have built-in filters, but as COVID lingers and flu season comes knocking, you begin to wonder whether that filter could use a bit of help.


Enter air purifiers. And we’re here to investigate how they work and whether or not their up to the task of cleaning your indoor breathing air.

First, how dirty is the air in your home?

Conventional wisdom has led parents to shoo children outside for over a century to “get some fresh air!” Are they implying that the air inside isn’t as fresh as outside air? As it turns out, those parents were onto something.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns us that indoor air can be saturated with pollutants, including gases and particles from household cleaning products, building materials, and fuel-burning combustion appliances.


Additionally, a potpourri of biological pollutants in your home’s air could be wafting into your nostrils — plant and dust pollen, mold spores, cockroach and dust mite poop (ugh!), dried rat urine (double ugh!), viruses, bacteria, and dander (skin flakes) from your beloved pet (he’s very sorry).


Long story short: The air you and your family breathe in your home could be pretty, well, gross.

The air purifier’s promise: Do air purifiers really work?

When the air quality in your home is poor, your health suffers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.8 million people a year die prematurely due to illnesses attributable to household air pollution. Alarmingly, indoor air pollution is responsible for nearly half of the pneumonia deaths in children under the age of five.


However, extreme illness aside, indoor allergens can also simply make your life more uncomfortable! All of those disgusting invaders in the air wreak havoc on your preexisting allergies and can make your asthma worse.


The air purifier promises to keep these various nasties out of your indoor air and help keep your family healthy. But, does it actually do this?

How do air purifiers work?

It seems obvious that a product called an “air purifier” would purify the air. Less obvious, though, is how exactly it does that?


A basic mechanical air purifier uses a fan to push air through a filter, or various filters, to remove unsavory particles from your breathing air.


Originally used in hospitals, High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters, in particular, trap the smallest particles from the air.


An electronic air purifier, on the other hand, uses an electric charge to force the particles to stick to metal plates inside the machine that you wipe off when it’s full.


In either case, some user-involvement is necessary, whether to change the filters on a regular basis, or to wipe the metal plates clean.


What about plants? Can they help clean the air in your home? Find out the truth in our article that dives into the science behind this popular claim.

Do I need an air purifier?

On its own, an air purifier isn’t going to cure your asthma or single-handedly defend your home from COVID. But air purifiers do help reduce airborne contaminants — including viruses.


The EPA suggests that an air purifier, used along with air-cleaning recommendationsTEXT by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), can be a helpful ally against the COVID pandemic and other illnesses. This is particularly true in winter, when it’s too cold to open doors and windows for ventilation.


Studies also show that air purifiers can alleviate the severity of asthma in children. While the simplest way to avoid aggravating an allergy to pet dander is to avoid having a pet, an air purifier does work for allergies and will help remove dander and other allergens so you can cuddle Snoopy or Garfield without the sneezing, eye-watering discomfort of an allergic attack.

What to keep in mind when choosing an air purifier

If you want to keep the air in an entire room clean at all times, you’ll need to choose an air purifier that’s big enough to do the job. But if you want to keep the air in all of your rooms clean at all times, well, that could get a little expensive.


Your best bet is to install a large portable air purifier in your bedroom, where you spend one-third of your life, and opt for a smaller, even more portable air cleaner to carry around with you.


The Wynd Plus Portable Air Purifier is portable in the truest sense of the word — you can (and should!) take it with you. It’s the size of a water bottle (friendly reminder to hydrate, y’all!) and fits easily into your car’s cup holder. Set it on the desk in your office, take it into the bathroom with you during pit stops, and keep it close at hand everywhere else you find yourself in a day.


We bet you’re wondering: Do personal air purifiers work? Well, this one was designed by engineers from NASA, and it creates a bubble of clean air around you wherever you go. No joke: It purifies up to 8 liters of air per second!


Keeping your home’s air clean is also easier when you use nontoxic household cleaners and personal care products that don’t leave harmful pollutants lingering in your air.

Shop for purifying products from Grove.

What is Grove Collaborative?

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