- The Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier is the best air purifier overall because it can clean a 650-square-foot room in 15 minutes, has an indicator that lets you know when to clean or replace the filters, and complements any decor.
- We tested and researched more than 10 air purifiers from a wide spectrum of brands to determine the best ones for your needs and budget.
- Our guide features air purifiers that are easy to maintain, remove a broad array of irritants from the air, and performed well in our tests.
- As of 9/18/2020, most of the air purifiers in this guide are out of stock online due to increased demand so we've interviewed Dr. Junfeng Zhang from Duke University on how to clean indoor air if you don't have an air purifier.
Intense wildfires raging in California and Oregon have burned more than 3 million acres, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and blanketed cities hundreds of miles away from the epicenters in ash and eerie orange skies. Between wildfires and the novel coronavirus, air quality is at the forefront of many minds.
An air purifier is a useful appliance that can greatly help improve the quality of indoor air. According to the EPA, air purifiers outfitted with a HEPA filter are an effective way to remove particles from smoke and ash, and can be particularly helpful in improving symptoms for individuals with asthma or COPD that are triggered by wildfire smoke.
If you're considering an air purifier to help protect against the novel coronavirus, according to the EPA, a portable air cleaner by itself is not enough. However, when used along with other best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such as hand washing and social distancing, operating an air cleaner can be part of a plan to protect you and your household.
Our guide of the best air purifiers recommends models that are easy to maintain, remove a broad array of irritants from the air, and performed well in our tests. When we examined each model, we considered its Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), noise level, long-term costs, maintenance, and filtration systems. We also noted how easy they are to use, as well as any other useful features.
We explain our testing methodology more at the end of our guide, and included other models we looked at that didn't make the cut as well as air-purifying techniques.
Here are the best air purifiers:
- Best overall: Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier
- Best on a budget: Honeywell HPA300 True HEPA Air Purifier
- Best wall-mounted purifier: RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
- Best splurge: Coway Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier
- Best ionizing purifier: Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier
Prices and links are current as of 9/18/2020. Many air purifiers are out of stock online due to the intense wildfires along the West Coast so we've also interviewed Dr. Junfeng Zhang, Ph.D. and Professor of Global and Environmental Health at Duke University for advice on how to clean indoor air if you don't have an air purifier.
The best overall
The Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier filters the air in medium-to-large rooms up to five times per hour, and it's so quiet that you won't notice it's operating.
The Blueair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier is designed to remove bacteria, mold, pet dander, dust, pollen, viruses, and other airborne pollutants. And, with a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of 350 cubic feet per minute, it can clean the air in a 650-square-foot room approximately four times in an hour. Plus, it's small and lightweight enough for you to effortlessly move it from one room to the next.
The Blue Pure 211+ has three-stage filtration: a fabric pre-filter, particle filter, and carbon filter. And, the unit tells you when it's time to clean or replace the filter. Replacing the filter can be quite pricey though it should be done every six months to ensure you continue to breathe properly filtered air. The Blue Pure 211+ is Energy Star-certified and has relatively low energy costs (using 30 to 60 watts).
Another nice feature is that it runs quietly, ranging from 31 decibels on its lowest setting and 56 on its highest — quiet enough to use in a bedroom.
Due to high demand, the Blueair 211+ is sold out at many online retailers or are selling at marked-up prices. We don't suggest buying items that are marked up if you can help it. As of this update, it's only available on Amazon via third-party sellers, which we don't recommend as shipping dates and prices are unreliable, and return policies are dubious at best.
Pros: Does an excellent job of removing dust, pollen, and smoke; indicator lets you know when to clean/replace filter; attractive appearance; easy to use
Cons: Filter replacement is expensive$299.99 from Amazon
The best on a budget
If you're looking for an air purifier that offers an impressive balance of price and performance, the Honeywell HPA300 True HEPA Air Purifier is your best bet.
Honeywell is a trusted brand when it comes to air purifiers, and the HPA300 True HEPA Air Purifier is the company's most acclaimed model. In a crowded field of expensive models, this Honeywell unit does the best job of balancing performance with price.
With a CADR of 320 for dust (300 for smoke and pollen), the HPA300 is suited for rooms of up to 600 square feet. It has an activated carbon pre-filter, which needs to be replaced every three months, and three HEPA filters, which need to be replaced every year. A year's supply of replacement filters will run you approximately $70, so the operating cost is quite high. An indicator light lets you know when it's time to change the filter.
The biggest drawbacks are the high costs for filter replacement and operation.
This is currently sold out at Walmart and other retailers, but you can sign onto the waitlist for email notifications.
Pros: Affordable; intuitive controls; easy to transport; does a very good job of removing smoke, dust, and pollen
Cons: Complaints of odors; might be too loud on high speed for some; expensive replacement filters$219.99 from Walmart $249.99 from Best Buy
The best wall-mounted purifier
The RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier can be mounted to a wall for an attractive and unobtrusive appearance.
When installing an air purifier, you not only have to account for the space the unit takes up, but you also have to provide clearance around it to allow for airflow. When real estate is at a premium and appearances are important, the wall-mounted RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier addresses this.
The MinusA2 has a six-stage filter: pre-filter, medium filter, patented BioGS HEPA filter, charcoal-based activated carbon filter, optional negative ion generator, and a customized filter. The custom filter is unique in that you can choose to target toxins, odors, pet dander, or germs depending on your needs. The filter replacement kit is expensive, but you only need to budget for it every two years or so.
This is still available online with no obvious delays in stock.
Pros: Low filter and operating costs; silent operation; wall-mounted; outstanding at removing particulate matter; attractive appearance; five-year warranty
Cons: Expensive upfront cost$599.95 from Amazon
The best splurge
The Coway Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier barely makes any sound and adjusts the fan speed based on the air's pollution level.
The Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier is Coway's top-of-the-line model. It features two sets of filters on each side of the unit: the easy-to-clean pre-filter and the Max2 filter, which is a combined True HEPA filter and activated charcoal. When it's time to change the filters, the indicator light turns on. The Airmega 400 can monitor the air quality and adjust the fan speed to quickly filter the air.
I tested this air purifier on the main floor of my home in a centrally-located spot. Although it's designed for rooms up to 760 square feet, it still did a great job in my open, 1,400-square-foot area, filtering the air in about 15 minutes.
In Smart mode, the fan speed ramps up when I get overzealous with my meat searing in the kitchen. After a year of use, I'm just now nearing the end of the original filter's lifespan. Replacing the filters is incredibly pricey, however.
While some recommend the Wi-Fi-enabled version, the Airmega 400S, the only real difference between the 400S and 400 is the app-connectivity and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Other than that, performance is essentially the same.
It's currently out of stock at many online retailers but there are email notifications you can sign up for.
Pros: Quiet; attractive design; energy-efficient; cleans the air in a 760-square-foot room in 15 minutes
Cons: Expensive filter contributes to the overall price$649.00 from Walmart $699.99 from WayFair $649.00 from Amazon
The best ionizing purifier
In addition to three filters, the Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier includes ionization, and the fan speed adjusts based on the air quality.
Coway is one of the top names in air purifiers and the Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier is its most popular model. It has an array of high-end features, including an air quality indicator, an auto mode that adjusts the fan speed to the air quality, and a shut-off timer.
The Mighty has a CADR of 246 cubic feet per minute for dust, 240 for pollen, and 233 for smoke, which makes it a good option for rooms of up to 460 square feet. The air goes through four filter stages: pre-filter, odor filter, true HEPA filter, and an ionizer. An ionizer electrically charges air molecules for purification; it can lower bacterial infections by removing particles in the air. But note that the effectiveness has been questioned and may emit ozone. Fortunately, any ozone exposure is minimal, and you can turn the ionizing feature off if you're concerned.
The Coway Mighty is one of three air purifiers I'm currently running in my home. My son has it in his bedroom so we can minimize our home's "teen odor index." We've had it for a year, and it does an outstanding job. And, I like how easy it is to clean the pre-filter: When the indicator light tells me it's time for cleaning, I just run a cordless handheld vacuum over it. So far, I haven't had to replace the filter, but it's pretty affordable and it lasts for a year.
If you're looking for a similar model, Coway has a newer version called the Airmega 200M. Based on our testing, the 200M is more powerful but is otherwise similar in performance to the Mighty. Depending on the color, you can sometimes find the newer Airmega 200M to be significantly cheaper than the Mighty. If you come across this, we suggest going with the cheaper of the two because performance is so similar. We think you'll be satisfied with either.
The Mighty is currently out of stock online but you can sign up for a waitlist. The Airmega 200M is also unavailable online.
Pros: Automatically adjusts fan speed based on pollutants in the air; timer; four-stage filtration; eco mode
Cons: High power consumption, gets loud on high$196.69 from Walmart $173.79 from Amazon
What else we considered
While researching this guide, we looked at numerous models and brands of air purifiers. Many of them just missed the cut, but are otherwise strong products in their own right. Here are five that almost made it:
How we test air purifiers
When I test an air purifier, there are several things I look for such as the rate in which it cleans, noise level, and more.
In addition to hands-on testing, I turn to other established reviewers, such as Wirecutter and Consumer Reports, for their assessments. Based on my and other experts' research and testing, and looking through the manufacturers' specs, I'm able to compare the key performance indicators of the top models.
Here are the main attributes when testing air purifiers:
CADR: Clean Air Delivery Rate is a rating developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers that is used to determine how many cubic feet of air an appliance can clean in a minute. If you multiply the CADR by 1.875, you can determine what room size the air purifier can clean four times in one hour, which is the recommended minimum number of air changes per hour (ACH). This calculation assumes an average ceiling height of 8 feet. Don't worry if this sounds confusing: We put it in easy-to-understand terms in our guide.
Noise level: A good air purifier will operate in the background without most people noticing it. Loud air purifiers are a deal-breaker. I use a sound meter positioned four feet from the air purifier and measure the decibels when the fan is at its lowest speed and highest speed. The average unit should register less than 40 decibels (like a light rain) most of the time and about 60 decibels (normal conversation) on high.
Long-term costs: Air purifier filters don't last forever. They need to be replaced every 3 to 24 months, depending on the type of filter. When buying an air purifier, you need to factor in filter costs and operating expenses. Look for Energy Star-certified units if you want to save money on electricity.
Maintenance: If your filters are dirty, then they won't perform well. You need to clean your filters regularly. I prefer air purifier that tells me when it's time for a cleaning. A cordless hand vacuum is all you need to clean most filters. You can clean some with water, but read the user's manual to make sure it's okay before doing this and be sure to thoroughly dry the filter before using it again.
Filtration: You want a true HEPA or HEPA-type filter that can remove at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron airborne particles. The purifiers in our guide all meet this requirement. Additionally, some models have ionizers. Ionizers are controversial, but they reportedly produce negative ions that cling to air pollutants, which makes them easier to filter or vacuum up.
How to keep your air clean if you don't have an air purifier
The smoke from the wildfires in the western US has led to a run on air purifiers, and now, many models are out of stock. This will likely be a problem for several months as manufacturers struggle to catch up with demand.
With so many people struggling with the poor indoor air quality, we spoke with Dr. Junfeng Zhang, Ph.D., Professor of Global and Environmental Health at Duke University, for advice on what you can do if you don't have an air purifier.
Dr. Zhang is particularly concerned about how individuals with asthma, COPD, heart disease, and other pre-existing diseases will cope with the poor air quality on the west coast, which is currently the worst in the world. "In the absence of a HEPA-based air purifier," Dr. Zhang advised, "I'd suggest that people, especially those who are more susceptible/vulnerable, wear N95 face masks, even when staying indoors."
Unfortunately, true N95 masks are still hard to come by and should be reserved for medical workers but there are some more widely-available alternatives, such as KN95 masks, which can provide a decent level of filtration. The CDC has released respirator assessment results for some of these. There is a lot of misinformation and counterfeit products floating around, so be extra cautious in ensuring that you're buying from a trusted seller.
And think again before filling your house with plants. Dr. Zhang said he didn't think they were helpful, and a 2019 article in The Atlantic cites research showing that indoor vegetation will not remove significant pollutants from the air.
If you are one of the lucky ones with an air purifier, remember to clean your filter thoroughly and often so it can do its job. But for an effective multi-pronged attack on pollutants, you'll want to test and improve your air. Here's a guide on how to test and improve indoor quality and simple steps you can take to clean your air more effectively:
- Clean regularly: Irritants can collect on surfaces and cause sneezing fits when disturbed. When you clean regularly — including dusting and vacuuming — you remove allergens and more. Check out our guides for the best vacuum cleaners, best robot vacuums, best budget vacuums, and best cordless vacuums.
- Ventilate: This could include installing ventilation fans in your bathroom or kitchen, or running (well-cleaned) ceiling fans. Freestanding fans can also help clean air circulating, here are the best ones. Be sure not to open windows or doors to prevent polluted air from coming inside.
- Store chemicals outside of your house: Abrasive cleaners and other harsh chemicals are often a source of irritation. Store them in your shed or garage and not where you will be exposed to them regularly.
More helpful buying guides to improve air quality
An excellent humidifier can make your home's air much more comfortable to breathe, particularly when the air becomes too dry. Here are our top picks.
A tower fan can move a substantial amount of air, creating appreciable cooling even in large rooms despite occupying less than a square foot of floor space. Some multifunction tower fans also have heating functions, making them ideal for use in all seasons, albeit usually with an added cost. Check out our favorite options.
A good dehumidifier removes excess humidity from the air, which can help prevent mold and mildew buildup and eliminate allergens. These are the best you can buy.
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