Portable air purifiers filter out pollutants and allergens like their larger counterparts. However, they’re so small that you can carry them from room to room, use them in the car, or even wear them. Portable purifiers often have different filter types to target specific particulates.
Depending on the filter and portable air purifier design, the air purifier can filter allergens, odors, or air pollutants. Many models contain a combination of filters to remove more than one type of air particulate. Once the filter has trapped and removed the contaminants, the air purifier recirculates clean air into the breathable air space. Take a look at some of the most important portable air purifier features in our shopping guide, along with the best portable air purifiers on our list.
- BEST OVERALL: Levoit Air Purifier for Home
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pro Breeze Mini Air Purifier
- BEST FOR CAR: Purggo Car Air Freshener
- BEST WEARABLE AIR PURIFIER: 4WDKing Aurora Electronic Air Purifier
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Munchkin Portable Air Purifier
- BEST FOR ODORS: Levoit Core Mini Air Purifier
- BEST FOR PETS: Osimo Portable Air Purifier with HEPA Air Filter
- ALSO CONSIDER: Pure Enrichment PureZone Mini Portable Air Purifier
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Air Purifier
Portable air purifiers come in different sizes, contain different types of filters, and have various settings that affect how well they work for any single user. When shopping for one, also consider noise levels and energy efficiency.
Portable air purifiers are much smaller than large-room or whole-house purifiers. The largest air purifier that’s still considered portable measures under 8 inches by 8 inches by about 12 inches, but many of the units on this list are well below this size. Wearable models also are available. Users connect them to a mask via a hose and wear them around their necks or on their arms.
When choosing a size, consider how the air purifier will be used. A purifier that will move from room to room doesn’t need to be as small as one used in the car or packed in a suitcase.
Several types of filters are used in portable air purifiers. In this guide, we focus on mechanical and activated carbon filters. We note the other types, but these purifiers can potentially release ozone, which can cause respiratory issues in people and pets.
Mechanical filters include physical filters through which the air purifier pulls air. Particles become trapped in the filter as the air passes through. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, one of the most effective types, fall into this category.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that HEPA filters can remove approximately 99.97 percent of bacteria, dust, mold, pollen, and other airborne particles at a size down to 0.3 microns, or 0.00004 inch. HEPA filters can trap particles invisible to the human eye. Watch out for models with HEPA-like filters rather than true HEPA filters, because these imposters don’t perform as well as the real deal.
HEPA filters must be cleaned or replaced regularly because they eventually fill up. The downside to their efficiency is that they fill more quickly than other types of filters and can be costly to replace.
Activated carbon filters absorb odors and gases in the highly porous surface of the carbon. For example, they can absorb smoke, some volatile organic compounds (VOCs), cooking odors, or pet odors. They are not usually the only filter in an air purifier; instead, they typically are used along with a HEPA filter to maximize particle and odor removal. Carbon filters must be replaced periodically. Like mechanical filters, they reach a saturation point, though they don’t usually fill as quickly as a HEPA filter.
No matter the filter type, replace it regularly, especially if the purifier is used frequently. If the filter becomes clogged or full, it won’t work efficiently and may not move as much air.
Other Filter Types
The other filter types used in portable air purifiers are:
- Ultraviolet to germicidal irradiation (UVGI) for killing viruses, fungi, and bacteria
- Ozone generators
- Electrostatic precipitators and ionizers
- Photocatalytic oxidation
These filter types can potentially release ozone, although UVGI and photocatalytic oxidation filters release minimal amounts. Portable ionizers and ozone generators can release ozone and should be avoided. Research the ozone release from any air purifier filter with reputable information from a third party, not just the manufacturer.
The clean air delivery rate (CADR) indicates the volume of clean air in cubic feet per minute that a purifier emits at its highest setting. A high CADR indicates a more efficient air purifier. CADRs can be broken down by the following:
- Excellent: 180 to 240
- Very Good: 120 to 179
- Good: 60 to 119
- Poor: Under 60
However, not all manufacturers indicate the air purifier’s CADR, so don’t expect to find it on every label.
Portable air filters have fewer settings than larger models. At minimum, look for a purifier with a low and high setting for purification and noise levels. Some of the more expensive portable models may have three or four speed settings.
Some air purifiers have built-in timers, which are useful for temporary spaces. In theory, the air purifier must run 24 hours a day to maintain clean air; however, portable air purifiers are more likely to run for just a short while. A timer ensures the air purifier is turned off when not in use, saving battery power and money.
An air purifier must run continuously for it to be effective, which means it probably will run while users are watching TV or talking. Not all manufacturers include decibel levels on their air purifiers. However, if they do, look for a decibel level of around 50 or less, the equivalent of the noise a refrigerator or freezer makes.
Because they are worn close to the body, a portable air purifier necklace or portable personal air purifier, may seem louder and more disruptive than a freestanding unit. Those who are sensitive to noise may find that a wearable air purifier is too noisy.
Portable air purifiers are powered or recharged by a USB or DC adapter or run on standard batteries. They aren’t designed to run nonstop, but they should be able to run for as long as needed without access to an electrical outlet.
Battery life in battery-powered models is an important factor, especially if the air purifier will be used in the car or while traveling. A portable air purifier for car air should be able to run for several hours.
Energy Star-certified or Energy Star-rated models are more energy efficient and will save money over the course of the purifier’s lifetime.
Our Top Picks
We researched air purifiers that not only have a track record for high performance, but that also have features that support their designed purpose. We prioritized those from reputable brands.
The Levoit Air Purifier for Home provides three layers of filtration, starting with a prefilter that removes pet hair, fibers, dust, and lint. Next, air passes through an H13 true HEPA filter that removes 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.3 micrometers, including smoke particles, airborne mold spores, pollen, and dander.
This portable air purifier with a HEPA filter also can remove live organisms, such as dust mites, as long as they’re close to the purifier. An activated carbon filter absorbs odors, smoke, fumes, and VOCs. Levoit provides four types of replacement air filters, each targeting specific particles, such as air pollutants, smoke, or pet allergens.
On the high setting, this Levoit can clean a 547-square-foot area in 30 minutes. The smaller the area, the faster it cleans. However, even on high, it runs at only 24 decibels, so it’s a good option for bedrooms. This 8.7-by-8.7-by-16.25-inch air purifier contains a built-in timer with four settings, and it’s Energy Star certified.
The Levoit has a plastic smell right out of the package, but the odor dissipates fairly quickly. This model also pushes the boundaries as to what’s considered a portable air purifier. However, at 7.48 pounds, it’s light enough to carry from room to room.
- Dimensions: 8.7 by 8.7 by 16.25 inches
- Weight: 7.48 pounds
- Speed settings: 3
- At 24 decibels, it’s quiet
- Effective in a small contained area
- 3 levels of filtration
- Specialized replacement filter options
- Initial odor
- Quite large for a portable unit
Get the Levoit portable air purifier for home on Amazon, Levoit, and Walmart.
The Pro Breeze Mini Air Purifier has a two-layer filter system. The first layer filters large particles, while the inner HEPA filter takes care of 99.97 percent of any other airborne particles. Its small 4.9-by-4.9-by-5.3-inch dimensions and 1-pound weight allow it to sit on top of a dresser, desktop, or nightstand without consuming valuable square footage.
This portable air filter features one-button control and has only one speed setting. A built-in night light is a bonus feature for children’s bedrooms, but the night light can be turned off if desired. The Pro Breeze is powered by either a USB cord or DC adapter.
- Dimensions: 4.92 by 4.92 by 5.31 inches
- Weight: 1 pound
- Speed setting: 1
- Powers or charges via a USB cord or DC adapter
- 1-button control
- Built-in night light
- Small footprint
Get the Pro Breeze portable air purifier on Amazon.
The Purggo Car Air Freshener attaches to a car-seat headrest. The slim unit, which measures 13.58 by 5.31 by 1.57 inches, uses its activated carbon filter to absorb odors. Activated carbon is highly porous, acting like a large sponge to absorb odor-causing particles.
The Purggo lasts for up to 365 days, though its filter can get full sooner. It’s made from sustainable bamboo and hemp, making it environmentally friendly. While this air purifier may not remove pollen, dander, and other large particles, it does handle odors. Plus, it doesn’t require batteries or charging.
- Dimensions: 13.6 by 5.31 by 1.75 inches
- Weight: 0.8 pounds
- Speed settings: None
- Large carbon filter lasts up to 365 days
- Absorbs odors well
- No batteries or charging
- Can’t filter large particles
Get the Purggo portable air freshener on Amazon and Sears.
The 4WDKing Aurora is designed to purify personal breathing air by connecting directly to a specially designed mask. The small unit, which measures 7.25 by 4.5 by 2.25 inches, attaches via an armband. A flexible hose connects the air purifier to a specially designed nonwoven mask. The breathing air stays within the mask.
This purifier can have a bit of an odor, and some units aren’t as tightly sealed as others.
The 4WDKing Aurora uses a three-stage filtration system that includes an H13 HEPA filter to remove 99.97 percent of particles. Each filter has the potential to run 500 hours, with the battery lasting from 8 to 10 hours on a full charge. It has three speeds, but the higher the speed, the faster the unit uses batteries. At 27 decibels, this model is fairly quiet.
- Dimensions: 7.25 by 4.5 by 2.25 inches
- Weight: 0.7 pounds
- Speed settings: 3
- Personal air filtration system
- Lightweight and straps to the arm
- Provides fresh, clean air when a mask is necessary
- Decent battery life
- Requires specialized masks
- May have an odor
- Some units are not sealed tightly
Get the 4WDKing Aurora portable air purifier on Amazon.
This compact Munchkin Portable Air Purifier, which measures 2.75 by 2.75 by 7 inches and weighs only 1.08 pounds, is one of the best portable air purifiers. It can maintain clean air in a 7-square-foot space to create a personalized clean air bubble.
This model has a built-in gas sensor that automatically adjusts to one of four speed settings according to the air quality. One of those four speeds is an ultra-quiet mode. However, the manufacturer doesn’t provide its decibel level. A replacement filter is available only from the manufacturer, which makes the filters more expensive than for other units.
The Munchkin has a four-stage HEPA filtration system, offering good filtration within close air space. The rechargeable battery can last up to 10 hours, depending on the speed setting.
- Dimensions: 2.75 by 2.75 by 7 inches
- Weight: 1.08 pounds
- Speed settings: 4
- Built-in gas sensor automatically adjusts speed setting
- Lightweight and compact
- Good battery life at 10 hours
- Expensive replacement filters
Get the Munchkin portable air purifier on Amazon and Munchkin.
This small 6.5-by-6.5-by-10.4-inch Levoit air purifier contains a three-stage filtration system. The system includes a prefilter that traps pet fur, lint, hair, dust, and other large particles. The air then passes through a HEPA filter to remove 99.97 percent of particulates. Finally, an activated carbon filter neutralizes fumes and odors.
To supplement the filtration system, this model also contains a small aromatherapy pad to distribute essential oils around the space. Users can choose their own scents.
However, some users report that the aromatherapy pad doesn’t release as strong a scent as they would like. This model runs at 25 decibels on the lowest setting, so it’s a good choice for bedrooms. It’s Energy Star rated and offers three fan speeds.
- Dimensions: 6.5 by 6.5 by 10.4 inches
- Weight: 3.08 pounds
- Speed settings: 3
- Balance of size and filtration power
- Can use essential oils
- Excellent 3-stage filtration system
- Oil scents may not strong enough
Get the Levoit mini air purifier on Amazon, Levoit, and Walmart.
The Osimo portable air purifier’s three-stage filtration system includes a spongy prefilter and targets pet dander, pet hair, and other large particulates. The spongy prefilter makes a difference in eliminating pet-related odors and allergens within a 215-square-foot space.
Control the three fan speeds with a single button. The lowest setting, a sleep mode, runs at a quiet 22 decibels. This model also boasts easy filter replacement. Simply unscrew the bottom and remove the filter. However, it may be difficult to find replacement filters for the Osimo, and the filters usually fill quite quickly.
The Osimo has a small 6.2-by-6.2-by-8.7-inch footprint and weighs only 1.44 pounds, making it small enough to carry from room to room or take along when traveling.
- Dimensions: 6.2 by 6.2 by 8.7 inches
- Weight: 1.44 pounds
- Speed settings: 3
- Lightweight and a small footprint
- 3-stage filter system targets pet dander and odors
- At only 22 decibels on low, it’s quiet
- Easy-to-use single button control
- Hard-to-find replacement filters
Get the Osimo portable air purifier on Amazon.
The Pure Enrichment PureZone Mini Portable Air Purifier contains a USB-powered rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can last up to 12 hours on the lowest setting. Because it weighs less than 1 pound and measures only 8.5 by 3.3 by 2.7 inches, it packs easily for airline or car travel.
This portable purifier has a unique, versatile design. The carrying handle can lock into the down position, so the air purifier can be used upright or on its side without blocking airflow. The Pure Enrichment air purifier also features two-layer filtration with an activated carbon prefilter and a HEPA filter to remove 99.97 percent of particulates.
This versatile portable HEPA air purifier includes five fan speeds, so users can adjust it based on the size of the space and acceptable noise levels. However, some users report that it doesn’t have enough suction power for larger spaces.
- Dimensions: 8.5 by 3.3 by 2.7 inches
- Weight: 0.6 pounds
- Speed settings: 5
- Versatile design with a carrying handle
- Slim, lightweight profile
- 2-layer filtration, including HEPA filter
- Long battery life
- Suction may not be strong
Get the Pure Enrichment portable air purifier on Amazon and Pure Enrichment.
The Levoit portable air purifier for home takes the top spot because of its quiet but efficient performance. Levoit also offers specialized replacement filters to target specific air-quality issues. For those on a tighter budget, the Pro Breeze portable air purifier is a quality option for its small footprint and powerful filtration within a small square footage.
How We Chose the Best Portable Air Purifiers
When researching air purifiers, we considered not only their features, but how those features interact within the design. We considered noise levels, filtration stages, size, and weight.
- Noise levels: Not all manufacturers provide the decibel levels of air purifiers. However, for those that did, we looked for an optional low-decibel setting.
- Filtration stages: The most common filtration stages are a mechanical HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter. We considered the effectiveness of each and how well they worked to remove particulates and odors.
- Filter maintenance: We looked at the ease of replacing filters and how often they need replacing. We noted models with difficult-to-replace filters.
- Size and weight: A portable air purifier needs a small footprint and low weight. We looked for models that stayed under 8 by 8 by 12 inches and 5 pounds. However, we made a few exceptions when the design was still portable.
You may have a few lingering questions before buying a portable air purifier. We’ve answered the most common ones to wrap up your search.
Q. Are portable air purifiers worth it?
For people with severe allergies, who are sensitive to odors, or who live in areas with high air pollution, portable air purifiers are worth the purchase price.
Q. Should I run my air purifier all day?
To maintain the air quality of a single room, an air purifier must run all day. With a portable model, run the air purifier when necessary. If sleeping in the room, leave the air purifier running for as long as possible to maintain consistent air quality.
Q. Are air purifiers good for Covid-19?
No conclusive evidence exists that air purifiers can filter for the coronavirus. HEPA filters can trap the air droplets that contain a virus, making them the best portable air purifier for Covid-19. However, those droplets must be airborne for the air purifier to be effective.
Q. Do I need a smart air purifier?
You don’t need a smart air purifier, especially in a portable model. Portable models are basic and lightweight. Most people turn them on while they’re in the car or use them when traveling. Save smart air purifiers for models that will run continuously in your home.
Q. Where is the best place to put an air purifier?
Place the air purifier away from any obstructions like curtains, blankets, or pillows that could restrict air circulation. It also should be placed in a fairly central location to equally distribute clean air.