During wildfire season, lingering smoke creates dangerous air quality conditions. Wildfire smoke consists of harmful gases and fine particles from burning plants and other materials. These extremely small particles are a health concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs. Reducing wildfire smoke exposure is critical—and that’s where air purifiers help.
Air purifiers help reduce airborne particle levels to improve indoor air quality. The best air purifiers for wildfire smoke use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap fine particulate matter.
- BEST OVERALL: Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST BUDGET: Blueair Blue Pure 411+ Air Purifier for Home
- BEST VALUE: Levoit Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier LV-PUR131S
- BEST SMART TECH: RabbitAir MinusA2 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Medify Air MA-40-W V2.0 Air Purifier with HEPA filter
- BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Bissell Smart Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Westinghouse 1804 Portable Air Purifier with True HEPA Filter
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Purifier for Wildfire Smoke
Because of the possible health hazards of wildfire smoke, it’s important to choose your air purifier thoughtfully. Air purifiers are nearly essential during smoky seasons, but they are useful year-round to maintain good indoor air quality. Besides smoke, the best air purifiers filter a range of common pollutants and allergens like dust, pet dander, and pollen.
Technical features like filter type and coverage area are important considerations for an air purifier meant to stand up to wildfire smoke. Many of the best air purifiers also include smart features, air quality monitoring, and energy efficiency. Since air purifiers usually stay in the most lived-in rooms, the look and design might be important aspects, too.
The best home air purifiers use mechanical HEPA filtration to remove larger unwanted particles combined with activated carbon filtration, which targets smaller pollutants. HEPA filters trap 99.97 percent of particles with a size of 0.3 microns or larger. That includes a range of pollutants and allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mite waste, mold spores, and smoke.
- HEPA filters last 6 to 12 months and then need to be replaced. Look for an air purifier that uses “true HEPA” or “HEPA” filters. Purifiers labeled “HEPA-type” or “HEPA-like” often don’t have a real HEPA filter at all. These types of filters don’t always meet U.S. Department of Energy standards, which requires 99.97 percent filtration of 0.3-micron particles. Keep in mind that HEPA filters trap particles, not odors and gases. For filtering smoke, consider an added activated carbon filter. Activated carbon filters capture and hold airborne molecules like odors and gases on their surface. People use them to eliminate common home odors like pet odors and cooking smells. They may also capture some of the gaseous molecules found in wildfire smoke and reduce the strong odor of it.
- Prefilters capture large particles in the air before reaching and clogging the filtration system. HEPA filters are more costly to replace than prefilters, so the inclusion of both saves money in the long run. Maintaining the prefilter involves monthly cleaning and replacing it if it gets damaged.
- Activated carbon filters remove unwanted odors and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are commonly found in household products. These contaminants are removed by absorption and adsorption. The carbon filter chemically attracts the unwanted elements and traps them in interior pores (absorption) or on its textured surface (adsorption). Carbon filters should be replaced every 3 to 6 months, following manufacturer recommendations.
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 times 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 air flow 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 large air purifiers operate at about 60 decibels (dB), at about the same noise level as a normal conversation.
Quieter air purifiers operate at a noise level of 40 to 55 decibels, making them a better alternative for bedrooms, living rooms, and home offices. Models that are as low as 20-30 decibels are made for bathrooms, small bedrooms, or even for traveling as they emit very little sound (as much as a muffled hum).
Some air purifiers are designed for travel. When in a new environment, they can help you sleep better and reduce exposure to pollutants by using a small, portable air purifier.
Handles and caster wheels make it easier to move the machine when needed. 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.
Different comfort and convenience features can make a good air purifier even better. Popular features include smart technology, remote controls, operating modes, and easy access for filter maintenance.
- Smart technology: 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.
- Remote control: Most air purifiers come with a remote control, allowing users to operate the device without accessing the control panel. With smart air purifiers, an app functions as the remote control, allowing users to adjust the device from virtually anywhere.
- Programs/settings: Many air purifiers offer variable speed settings, allowing you to increase or decrease filtration power in response to changing conditions, like when there’s a fire in the fireplace. Some include sleep mode, which runs the purifier at a lower, quieter setting, with or without a built-in night light. With some smart air purifiers, these operating settings can be programmed to run at specific intervals.
- Filter replacements: 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.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about air purifiers, it’s time to start shopping. These recommendations are among the best air purifiers for smoke in their respective categories for clearing toxins and particles from the air.
The Hathaspace smart air purifier boasts a 5-in-1 filtration system that targets pollen, dust, pet pander, mold, bacteria, VOCs, smoke, and odors. This unit includes a washable prefilter, polypropylene prefilter, H13 medical grade HEPA filter, activated carbon filter, and cold catalyst filter that together eliminate over 99% of allergens and pollutants down to 0.1 microns. This powerful Hathaspace purifier cleans air in a 1,500-square-foot room up to 24 times per day, with Energy Star, CARB, and ETL certifications for energy efficiency and safety.
Using the sleek touch panel, users can enable Auto Mode or a quiet Sleep Mode and choose from five operating speeds. The Hathaspace includes an air quality sensor based on AQI; when the device is on Auto Mode, this monitoring feature will automatically adjust the fan speed to meet air quality needs.
- Filtration: 5-in-1 filtration
- Room Size Recommendation: 1,500 square feet
- Noise Level: 30 decibels
- Purifies 24 times per day
- Energy Star, CARB, and ETL certifications
- 5 operating speeds
- Includes air quality sensor
- Replacement filters are expensive
- Limited portability
While some larger indoor 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 clean 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 also helps to eliminate odors. It’s extremely quiet, operating at 17 dB on its lowest setting and 46 dB on the highest.
- Filtration: HEPASilent filtration technology
- Room Size Recommendation: 185 square feet
- Noise Level: 17-46 decibels
- Filters every 12 minutes
- Lightweight and portable
- Filters items 0.3 microns or larger
- Not suitable for large spaces
The Levoit smart air purifier offers proficient filtration capability and several convenient features. A cloth prefilter and HEPA filter remove larger pollutants like pet hair, dust, and pollen, while an activated carbon filter removes VOCs and harmful odors. Operating on Max Mode, this Levoit purifier cycles clean air in a 900-square-foot room once per hour, or every 15 minutes for a 500-square-foot room. For individuals with allergies, the Levoit functions best in rooms up to 350 square feet.
This Levoit purifier has three operating speeds and runs at a quiet 27 decibels on the lowest setting. An air quality sensor automatically adjusts the operating speed in response to higher or lower air particulate content. The Energy Star-rated unit works by voice command with the Vesync app via Alexa or Google Home Assistant. The Vesync app comes with over 10 advanced features including direct control, scheduled air purifying, air quality display, cleaning modes, and filter life.
- Filtration: Prefilter and HEPA filter
- Room Size Recommendation: 350-900 square feet
- Noise Level: 27 decibels
- Energy Star-rated unit
- Smart home compatible
- 3 built-in operating speeds
- Comes with app for monitoring
- Replacement filters are expensive
RabbitAir’s smart air purifier is both functional and versatile. Wi-Fi connectivity allows control from anywhere through the RabbitAir app. Users can monitor real-time air quality and control a range of features, including timers and the dimmable LED display and mood light from their smartphone.
Instead of a true HEPA filter, the RabbitAir uses a BioGS HEPA filter. According to the manufacturer, it traps 99.97 percent of 0.3-micron particles just like a true HEPA filter. The six-step filtration includes prefilters, a BioGS HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter, and an optional ionizer.
The sleek unit sits on a desk or the floor or mounts to a wall to maximize space. It’s recommended for rooms of up to 815 square feet. It provides up to four air changes per hour in rooms up to 350 square feet, and two air changes in 700-square-foot rooms.
- Filtration: 6-stage filtration system
- Room Size Recommendation: 350-815 square feet
- Noise Level: 25-51 decibels
- Smart home compatible
- Adjustable LED light display
- Removable base mount; tabletop or wall mounting
- Heavy; limited portability
- Replacement filters are expensive
Medify Air’s efficient air purifier has a three-stage, all-in-one filtering system. The prefilter, H13 HEPA filter, and carbon layer are in one easy-to-change piece. An H13 HEPA filter is a higher grade filter that takes filtration up a small notch over standard true HEPA filters.
This Energy Star-certified unit cycles the air in a 420-square-foot room four times an hour and once an hour in a 1,600-square-foot room. The stylish glass display includes controls for the three fan speeds, night-mode setting, timer, child lock, and the optional ionizer.
The optional ionizer uses electrically charged molecules to remove contaminants from the air, which may create some ozone by-product, a gas that could irritate the lungs. Those who are concerned about ozone can switch the ionizer off. But, bear in mind, this air purifier is CARB (California Air Resources Board) certified, which means it meets CARB’s acceptable ozone emission limits.
- Filtration: HEPA and activated carbon filters
- Room Size Recommendation: 420-1,600 square feet
- Noise Level: 46-66 decibels
- Multiple settings included
- Energy Star, CARB, and ETL certifications
- Child lock feature
- Tempered glass touch screen
The Bissell smart purifier looks like a stylish furniture piece; its four legs and rounded corners give it a midcentury modern aesthetic. The soft-touch dial is easy to use and doesn’t detract from this machine’s sleek design, so it won’t be an eyesore in a bedroom. The easy-access front filter hatch and discreet cord wrap add function to its attractive form.
A prefilter, true HEPA filter, and activated carbon filter keep the air clean and odor-free. A color-coded air quality indicator monitors and responds to air quality in the room in real time. When the air quality drops, the fan speed adjusts accordingly. This unit has five speeds, including a quiet mode and auto-dimming display for nighttime.
The Smart Purifier is recommended for rooms under 800 square feet. However, since it only circulates air once an hour in a room that size, it will do better in smaller rooms.
- Filtration: 3-stage filtration (prefilter, HEPA filter, activated carbon filter)
- Room Size Recommendation: 1,000 square feet
- Noise Level: 34-51 decibels
- Adjusts air purification automatically
- 5 operation speeds
- Convenient front panel filter access
- Elevated legs under unit for easier cleaning
- Heavy; limited portability
Weighing in at only two pounds, this compact portable air purifier is well suited for travel. It measures 6.3 inches by 6.3 inches by 3.5 inches and has a stylish leather carrying handle. The rechargeable battery lasts for eight hours on a single charge, so there’s no cord to worry about.
Despite its small size, this purifier has a three-stage filtering system, which includes an oxygen generator, true HEPA filter, and NCCO reactor. The NCCO feature uses active oxygen to destroy pollutants like bacteria and viruses. Two fan speeds provide efficient filtration in spaces under 100 square feet, such as cars, sleeper cars, and hotel rooms.
- Filtration: HEPA and nanoconfined catalytic oxidation (NCCO) technology
- Room Size Recommendation: 100-300 square feet
- Noise Level: 38 decibels
- Affordable model
- Rechargeable; 8 hours of run-time per charge
- Lightweight at 2 pounds
- Includes a leather carrying strap for easy transport
With a 5-stage filtration system, medical-grade HEPA filter, and ample coverage over 1,000 square feet, the Hathaspace smart air purifier is our first choice for wildfire smoke issues. This reliable unit includes 5 operating speeds and an air quality sensor, with Energy Star, CARB, and ETL certifications for efficiency and safety.
Alternatively, the Levoit smart air purifier offers the most value for its features. This Energy Star-rated air purifier offers 350-900 square feet of coverage and operates at a quiet 27 decibels, featuring a prefilter and HEPA filter, smart home compatibility, and 3 operating speeds.
How We Chose the Best Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke
The right air purifier can neutralize harmful gases, particles, and chemicals for better air quality in your home. Each of these picks for the best air purifier for wildfire smoke was selected for its filtration efficiency, area coverage, noise level, number of operating speeds, and other special features.
The above picks are made with effective filtration in mind by incorporating HEPA filters, prefilters, or multiple filters in one system. Select systems listed above can help to filter out gasses, toxins, smoke particles, allergens, odor, and more. Plus, many of these above picks cover areas ranging from 100-1,600 square feet depending upon the size of the space you want to purify.
The above selection is also conscious of not filling your home with noise as most systems are made to operate at under 60 decibels. Select options also come with multiple operation speeds depending upon how much purification is needed as well as automatic functionality day and night. Finally, some of these air purifiers are made with LED or glass screens, wheels, or wall-mounting capability to fit in your ideal space.
Q: How do air purifiers work?
A typical filtration system includes a HEPA filter for larger particles including dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens. Some include an activated carbon filter for VOCs, gases, and odors. Additionally, certain air purifiers also include a fabric prefilter to trap larger particles before reaching and clogging the other filters.
Q: How well do air purifiers work for smoke?
How well an air purifier works is dependent on the type of smoke, which relates to particle size. The best air purifiers can effectively reduce particle concentration of visible smoke. For example, they remove wildfire smoke by up to 85 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Q: Does a HEPA filter remove smoke?
Yes, though only some types of smoke. A HEPA filtration system is the best solution for smoke available in purifiers, but certain forms of smoke contain particles that pass through the filter. Smoke particles can be as small as 0.001 microns, while HEPA filters trap 99.97 percent of particles between 0.3 and 10 microns. HEPA filtration traps visible matter, such as smoke from wildfires, cigarettes, and burning food.