Nobody wants to breathe in dust mites, dander and mold, or pollen. Unfortunately, though, the air in our homes is loaded with these pollutants, thanks to poor ventilation and the use of household chemicals, gas-burning appliances, and smoke-producing tobacco products. Once airborne, these irritants often negatively affect those with allergies and asthma.
Air purifiers are designed to act as a filtration system, catching contaminants and removing them from the air. The best air purifiers draw air through one or more filters. The filtration traps the impurities before recirculating clean air back into the room. The higher the quality of a filter, the better it can remove pollutants from the air, such as dust, pollen, pet hair, animal dander, and mold spores.
Choosing an air purifier might seem like a simple decision, but there are actually a number of considerations to weigh. Before making a purchase, learn about some of the most important features to look for when shopping for an air purifier—and then choose the best air purifier for allergies on the market to meet your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Alen BreatheSmart FLEX Air Purifier
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Winix 5300-2 Air Purifier with True HEPA
- UPGRADE PICK: RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
- TECH PICK: Coway Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier
- BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Coway AP-1512HH White HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: Molekule Air Mini+ Small Room Air Purifier
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Dyson Pure Hot + Cool HP01 HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST FOR PET OWNERS: LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home
- BEST PERSONAL: AirTamer A310 Personal Air Purifier
- BEST PORTABLE: Blueair Blue Pure 411+ Air Purifier for Home
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Purifier
While it’s easy to assume that all air purifiers perform similarly, a number of factors affect their functionality. The best air purifiers have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, are the correct size for your space, and operate quietly. Keep reading to learn about some of the most important qualities to consider when shopping for the best air purifiers for allergies.
Filter Type and Cost
Air purifiers come with different types of filtration, some more suitable for alleviating allergy symptoms than others.
- HEPA filters are the most effective at catching airborne irritants that plague those with allergies and asthma. These filters are certified to trap 99.97 percent of all particles of a certain length (0.3 microns or larger). The downside of true HEPA filters is their replacement cost. Look for a purifier that incorporates additional filters to trap larger particles before they reach the HEPA filter. That can ultimately help your HEPA filter last longer.
- Carbon filters can reduce the amount of some volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are gaseous particles often found in paint, varnish, cleaning products, carpeting, wood preservatives, and other common household items. These filters can also remove odors. But they, too, must be replaced every few months to maintain effectiveness. For best results, carbon filters should be included as part of the prefiltering system in units that also contain HEPA filters.
- Ozone-producing air cleaners claim to work by increasing oxygen molecules and activating negative ions to eliminate harmful airborne bacteria. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined, however, that ozone is detrimental to the human respiratory system. For that reason, some health experts discourage the use of ozone-producing air cleaners, and their use is often regulated.
- Ion-exchange technology and electrostatic technology can increase the effectiveness of filter-type air purifiers by attracting particles through static electricity and trapping them. When combined with HEPA filtering, these products can be quite effective. They require frequent cleaning, however, to keep them working well. Some ion exchange and electrostatic purifiers can emit harmful ozone as a byproduct of purifying the air, so check the purifier’s operating manual (or the information on the box) to ensure that your purchase does not emit ozone.
When shopping for a purifier, consider the filter replacement cost as well as the machine’s initial price. An inexpensive unit that requires expensive replacement filters may not be a bargain.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters range from the small and low-priced all the way up to high-capacity models with multiple filtering systems that treat large areas. To increase the useful life of any HEPA filter, take additional steps to keep the air clean, such as vacuuming and dusting daily, banning indoor smoking, and limiting the use of candles.
Air purifiers are labeled for specific room sizes, which are described in square feet. You can calculate square footage of a room by multiplying the length by the width. If you’d like to buy one air purifier to handle multiple rooms, add up the square footage for each room.
These machines are also labeled with a clean air delivery rate (CADR). This value is influenced by filter efficiency and airflow in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the CADR rating, the faster the unit can deliver clean air. CADR values can reach a maximum of 450 for smoke and pollen, while 400 is the highest score for dust.
While CADR is a standard for air purifier performance in the U.S., the values can be misleading for purifiers that contain filters other than standard HEPA filtration. Some manufacturers design air purifiers to circulate a lot of air at a faster rate, filtering only the larger contaminants. The CADR test does not take into account gases, odors, or VOCs, which are targeted by carbon filters.
Another figure to keep in mind is the number of air changes per hour (ACH). This number shows how many times per hour the entire air volume of a room will be filtered. The rating may be shown for a different room size than the product’s “filters up to X square feet” statement, so be sure to read the fine print.
Energy Star is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The program’s goal is to help customers, businesses, and industries save money and protect the environment using energy-efficient products and practices.
An Energy Star certification means that the unit uses less energy than standard products. These certified energy-efficient appliances usually have lower operating costs and create less air pollution than standard equipment. Look for the blue Energy Star logo to find certified products.
Air Quality Indicator
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a national system managed by the EPA that is used to measure and report air quality. AQI is affected by five major pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. A benefit of using a home air purifier is that it can improve the AQI inside the home.
AQI ranges from 0 to 500, with high values indicating greater air pollution levels. Good air quality conditions fall in the 0 to 50 range. Unhealthy values start at 100, indicating the air is a moderate health concern for sensitive groups including people with lung or heart disease, older adults, and children. Air is considered unhealthy for everyone if the AQI value is greater than 151, with the risks of adverse health effects increasing until conditions are deemed hazardous between 300 and 500.
If you live in an area associated with higher levels of air pollution, such as a city or town with industrial factories, power plants, or chemical facilities, awareness of AQI is especially important. Certain home air purifiers feature an air quality indicator, which typically uses an infrared beam and sensor to detect particulate matter. Some smart air purifiers are capable of automatically adjusting in response to higher or lower detected air quality levels.
Noise level can be an important factor when selecting an air purifier. Many air purifiers operate at about 60 decibels (dB), about the same noise level as a normal conversation. Quiet air purifiers operate at a noise level below 55 decibels, making them a better alternative for bedrooms and home offices. There also are quiet models that operate at 25 dB or lower.
Various smart technologies help home air purifiers perform efficiently and maximize user control. Onboard air quality sensors can automatically adjust the output of the unit in response to the air quality in a home. Bluetooth connectivity, smart device apps, and compatibility with personal digital assistants allow you to monitor air quality conditions and control the unit while away from home.
Different comfort and convenience features can make a good air purifier even better. Popular features include quiet operation, easy access for filter maintenance, dimensions that fit well in your home, caster wheels, handles, remote control, multiple speeds, and filter change indicators.
Filters need to be changed periodically, so it helps to have indicator lights that remind you when it’s time for a change. Changing a filter tends to be easier when filter covers and access points are located near the top or front of the machine and are fastened with magnets or sliding latches instead of screws.
Handles and caster wheels make it easier to move the machine when needed. Variable-speed options allow you to increase or decrease filtration power in response to changing conditions, like when there’s a fire in the fireplace. Remote control ability using a smart device app makes it easier to adjust operation from other places in the home or away from home.
Some air purifiers have additional functionality, acting as humidifiers, heaters, or fans.
Some air purifiers are designed for travel. These small, portable air purifiers can help you sleep better in a new environment by reducing exposure to pollutants. These devices perform the same function as larger devices but are sized for smaller rooms. If you need an air purifier for travel, you may want to look for a purifier with a minimum CADR of 217, suitable for an average hotel room size of about 325 square feet.
Our Top Picks
This list of products takes into consideration factors like filtering systems, capacity, tech features, and total cost to determine the best air purifier options on the market.
For relief overnight, you need an ultraquiet air purifier like the Alen BreatheSmart FLEX, featuring WhisperMax technology that limits noise to a soft, almost pleasant hum. The manufacturer does not perform CADR testing but emphasizes the unit’s high-capacity HEPA-Pure filter, designed to trap airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns.
Treating rooms up to 700 square feet in area, the FLEX operates in four modes, including sleep mode, all while its sleek design (available in 14 designer colors) allows the unit to look at home in your space. Purchase replacement filters separately, and change out once every 6 to 9 months.
Despite its relatively low price tag, the Winix doesn’t skimp on features or effectiveness. Of course, it removes dust, pollen, and smoke, delivering competitive CADR numbers for each. But it also goes further than many air purifiers.
Winix PlasmaWave technology filters out disagreeable odors and chemical vapors, while a smart sensor reads the air and automatically modulates the air purifier’s fan speed up or down as needed. Filter replacement costs are lower than that of many competitors, which is a plus considering replacement may be necessary as often as four times per year.
Entertaining at home is nothing to sneeze at. Ensure easy breathing in a large great room or family room by purifying up to 700 feet of living space with the RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier. Thanks to its combination of a high-efficiency HEPA filter, two pre-filters, and an activated carbon filter, the RabbitAir achieves impressive CADR numbers: 200 for pollen, 193 for dust, and 180 for smoke.
This unit has five daytime and operating speeds in addition to a night mode. The filter lasts a relatively long time, too, and typically needs replacement only once per year.
Though it’s more expensive than the other options on this list, the Coway Airmega 400 Smart Air Purifier is worth the upgrade for its impressive technology features. This model’s pollution sensor communicates indoor air quality in real time via a brightly colored LED ring.
Based on the current air quality, the Coway Airmega’s Smart Mode automatically adjusts its fan settings to provide the most effective and energy-efficient air cleaning action. This purifier can clean the air in a room twice in 1 hour, thanks to its fast and powerful dual suction. Best of all, it has a massive capacity of 1,560 square feet, so it’s perfect to use in virtually any size room.
For many, quiet operation is a top concern when shopping for a bedroom air purifier. That’s what makes the Coway AP-1512HH such an excellent choice. Despite having a coverage area of 361 square feet—which is large enough for most bedrooms—it operates quietly at just 24.4 dB when on the lowest setting. Even when working at full power, it produces only 53.8 dB of sound.
It’s also extremely effective at filtering out allergens due to its four-stage filtration system, which includes a pre-filter, a deodorization filter, a true HEPA filter, and a vital ion filter. A pollution sensor evaluates air quality and displays the air quality level using LED lights. The auto mode automatically selects the fan setting based on the air quality in the room. The fan even powers off after 30 minutes if the device fails to detect any pollutants in the room.
Those living in small spaces may not have room for a large air purifier. While the Molekule Air Mini+ is small—measuring 12 inches tall with a diameter of 8.26 inches—it packs a serious punch, filtering the air in a 250-square-foot room every hour. With Auto Protect Mode, the device regulates the fan speed based on the room’s air quality.
It uses a PECO filter, which harnesses nanotechnology to completely eliminate potentially harmful particles, including viruses and VOCs. You can track the filter’s status and be notified when it needs to be replaced. Using Molekule’s Silent Mode, the purifier operates at just 30 dB, making it quiet enough to use while you sleep.
The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool is a powerful appliance that is capable of filtering the air in spaces as large as 999 square feet. Not only does it act as an air purifier, but it also functions as a fan or space heater, depending on the weather. It’s capable of automatically detecting airborne particles and reporting them so you have a full picture of your home’s air quality.
Using a sealed HEPA filter, it captures 99.97 percent of allergens as small as 0.3 microns. The filter should be swapped out once per year. It features 360-degree oscillation, 10 air speed settings, and a nighttime mode that operates quietly with a dimmed display.
Pet owners require serious air quality control, especially if there are allergy-sufferers in the home. The LEVOIT H13 Air Purifier uses a three-step filtration system, which includes a washable preliminary filter that traps large particles of dust and hair. A true HEPA filter captures small particles of pet hair and dander along with other pollutants and allergens. Not only that, but the carbon filter works to absorb odors in order to keep your home smelling fresh.
It works well in large spaces, purifying the air in a 1,076-square-foot room in just half an hour. The Auto Mode monitors air quality and adjusts the fan speed accordingly in order to save energy. On the lowest setting, the purifier is nearly silent at just 25 dB.
When traveling, working, or commuting, a personal air purifier is a handy tool that filters the air around you in high-pollution areas. This model by AirTamer is designed to be worn around your neck and provides a 3-foot radius of clean air so that you don’t have to worry about breathing in irritants no matter your surroundings. It functions by emitting negative ions, which push airborne pollutants away.
It’s compact and discreet, measuring 3.5 inches tall and 1.65 inches wide. With its rechargeable battery, the A310 model operates for 150 hours on a single charge. Each purchase also includes a metal carrying case.
While some larger air purifiers are bulky and difficult to move from room to room, this model by Blueair is lightweight and portable, weighing just 7.98 pounds. Despite its small size, it’s extremely effective at filtering air in rooms as large as 185 square feet every 12 minutes.
The purifier uses HEPASilent filtration technology, which purports to be quieter and more energy-efficient than true HEPA filters while still filtering 99.97 percent of particles of 0.3 microns or larger. An activated carbon filter helps to eliminate odors. It’s extremely quiet, operating at 17 dB on its lowest setting and 46 dB on the highest.
FAQs About Air Purifiers for Allergies
Though you now know more about air purifiers, you might still have questions about how to use them. The following are answers to some of the most common questions about how to select and maintain an air purifier.
Q. Which brand of air purifier is the best?
When shopping for an air purifier, consider a product from a reputable brand like Coway, LEVOIT, Dyson, or Honeywell.
Q. Do air purifiers help with seasonal allergies?
While an air purifier can’t completely eliminate seasonal allergy symptoms, it can remove a significant amount of irritating pollen, dust, and dander from the air in your home.
Q. What type of air purifier is best for allergies?
Allergy sufferers should purchase a true HEPA air purifier, which filters out irritants like mold, dust, pet hair, and pollen.
Q. What is the best personal air purifier?
The AirTamer A310 Personal Air Purifier is one of the best personal air purifiers on the market because it’s compact yet effective.
Q. What is the best portable air purifier?
The Blueair Blue Pure 411+ Air Purifier for Home is an excellent pick due to its quiet operation and light weight.
Q. What is the best air purifier for pets?
Pet owners will appreciate the LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home due to its true HEPA filter and wide coverage.
Q. What is the best air purifier for large rooms?
Those hoping to filter the air in a large space should consider the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool, which can handle a 999-square-foot area.
For those suffering from allergies and asthma, a high-quality air purifier is a must. The best air purifiers act as an allergen remover and an air filter, removing irritants like dust, pet hair and dander, mold, and pollen. When choosing an air purifier, consider your budget, the room size, and the air quality in your area before making a purchase. Don’t forget to take note of the filter type, EPA rating, noise level, and any additional features. After reading this guide, you should feel equipped with the necessary information to choose the best air purifier for your home.