The 8 Best Air Purifiers for Smoke
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Remove harmful smoke from your home, whether it's from tobacco, wildfires, or candles, with these expert-approved air purifiers.
Using air purifiers for smoke
Exposure to smoke, especially in high concentrations or for long periods of time, can lead to a variety of symptoms and conditions throughout the body, explains Sanjeev Jain, MD, board-certified allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy, which has clinics in California and the Pacific Northwest.
(These are the most common indoor allergens.)
“Smoke is made up of microscopic particles that can easily irritate the mucous membranes within our body including our eyes, nasal passages, and lungs,” he says.
Smoke exposure can lead to symptoms such as irritated, watery, red eyes, as well as coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath.
It also can cause bronchospasms, or temporary tightening of the airways, in people with asthma or reactive airway disorders, Dr. Jain says.
He adds, “When smoke particles enter a building such as your home, they also settle on cloth surfaces, carpeting, rugs, and bedding leading to persistent symptoms and prolonged exposure.”
Who should get an air purifier?
If you or someone in your household has asthma or asthma symptoms, an air purifier makes even more sense, according to Saul Greenbaum, MD, internal medicine physician at Premier Allergy & Asthma, a clinic in Columbus, Ohio.
“It is estimated that up to 30 percent of children in the United States are exposed to indoor secondhand smoke on a regular basis, and that more than half of all children with asthma in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke on a regular basis,” he says.
“Of course, tobacco smoke contains solid and volatile particles that can irritate the airways, and especially the developing airways of pediatric patients.”
For this reason, he always urges families that are exposed to smoke to invest in air-cleaning devices such as air purifiers.
(Learn more about who needs an air purifier.)
What exactly is an air purifier?
The best solution is to rid your home of anything that could possibly cause smoke particles to linger. However, the more realistic approach for some is to purchase an air purifier to help filter out the bad air that’s circulating.
(Air purifier vs. humidifier: find out which one is right for you.)
Air purifiers can help remove smoke odors as well as harmful chemical components in two main ways: Through the use of a HEPA filter, which also can help remove allergens, and through activated carbon.
After smoke is burned or exhaled, a HEPA filter captures them before they spread through your home, explains Sima Patel, DO, allergist and immunologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“Carbon filters help remove gases and odors so long as they are replaced every so often, depending on which air purifier you buy,” she says.
(Here’s what to know about ozone air purifiers.)
What to look for in an air purifier for smoke
An effective air purifier for smoke needs to have a filter that can trap small particles and prevent them from continuing to circulate throughout the room, explains Dr. Jain.
He recommends looking at the specific product specifications to ensure the air purifier has a filter that can remove particles as small as 0.3 microns.
The air purifier should also promise to remove 99.97 percent of the particles to ensure that you’re getting proper protection.
One of the reasons purifiers can eliminate nearly all of the contaminants in the air is their HEPA—high-efficiency particulate air—filter. These are pleated, mechanical air filters that trap dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Dr. Jain recommends only purchasing air purifiers that contain HEPA filters.
“Filters within air purifiers will become clogged after a while leaving the device less effective, so it is important to buy a product that has replacement filters available or the ability to wash the filter,” he says.
“HEPA filters within your HVAC system, vacuum cleaners, and an air purifier can all help to remove smoke particles from your indoor space.”
(Here are more ways to improve indoor air pollution at home.)
Clean air delivery rate
Also known as CADR, this value determines the square footage that a certain air purifier can reach. “The size of the air purifier appropriate for you will depend on the size of the space you wish to filter,” says Dr. Jain. “Most air purifiers contain specs to indicate the size of the room it is able to adequately filter.”
Ratings and certifications
It’s important to check the certification on any air purifier that you purchase to ensure that it is doing the job that it promises and is backed by industry standards.
A popular certification is Energy Star, which ensures that a product meets strict energy performance standards set out by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Another certification is the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which analyzes the most suitable size of the room for that purifier.
(Find out if UV air purifiers really work.)
The best air purifiers for smoke
Of course, the most effective way to purify your home from smoke is to not bring it into your home in the first place. However, an air purifier can make a big difference.
Here are some of the best air purifiers designed specifically to tackle smoke and other allergens.
Honeywell HPA030 Tower
Air purifiers can be extremely pricey, so it’s refreshing that Honeywell was able to create one so affordable but also very efficient. This one comes in two sizes—one for smaller rooms up to 80 square feet and a large one that’s good for up to 150 square feet.
It utilizes four air cleaning levels with a single-touch LED control and automatic filter. And yes, it uses a HEPA filter to capture up to 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns, removing smoke, mold, dust, pollen, and more.
(These are the household items poisoning your air.)
Dyson Pure Cool
This is a great choice for protecting your home or indoor space against smoke especially in the heat of the summer, notes Dr. Jain. This is the latest series from Dyson. Along with it’s hyper-efficient HEPA filtration, it has up to a 350-degree oscillation to direct airflow to each area of your room, Alexa-enabled voice control, and a large LCD display.
The Levoit MetaAir
Smoke isn’t the only allergen this extremely affordable air purifier is able to tackle—it also takes care of pet dander, mold, pollen dust and even eliminates nasty odors. This Levoit model’s HEPA-based filtration can cover a 538-square-foot indoor space.
“This purifier is a great option for someone who wants air filtration without extras of humidification or a fan,” adds Dr. Jain.
(This is how your house is making you sick.)
Rabbit Air MinusA2 Ultra Quiet
With a highly advanced six-stage filtration system, this top-rated air purifier from RabbitAir not only offers the usual HEPA-based filtration, but it can also target particles less than 0.1 microns at 99 percent efficiency.
Whether you’re looking to rid your home of smoke, odors, volatile organic compounds (VOCs—gases emitted in indoor air from products and processes), pet dander, or dust, this air purifier offers extra levels of protection with a pre-filter, medium filter, HEPA filter, customized filter, and charcoal filter.
TruSens Air Purifier
Here’s another bargain air purifier that doesn’t come close to sacrificing quality. With its 360-degree DuPont HEPA filtration system combined with UV-C light, it helps eliminate smoke, ash, odors, VOCs, viruses, and germs from your home.
This TruSens air purifier also has bi-directional airflow, which purifies the air even more effectively than single-directional airflow. For those who like to keep it simple with controls, you’ll appreciate its simple display settings along its front surface.
(Find out if UV light kills coronavirus.)
Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool
This is another extremely efficient air purifier from Dyson for smoky conditions because of its HEPA and activated carbon filter.
“This specific model also humidifies the air which can aid in exacerbating asthma and nasal symptoms that can occur from extremely dry air that is common during fire season,” says Dr. Jain. “Dyson has UV technology built in to remove bacteria in the water to ensure your air stays clean during the humidification process.”
Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier
Reviewers love the retro look of this air purifier from Bissell, but are even more impressed with its air filtering capabilities: A three-stage filtration system, including a fabric prefilter, an activated carbon filter, and a HEPA filter.
In addition to smoke, this air purifier captures gases, VOCs, pet dander, hair, pollen, and dust. Features include an automatic CirQulate System that constantly monitors indoor air and provides detailed readings in real-time as well as a quiet fan speed and automated night mode.
(Here’s how to cope with allergy symptoms while you work.)
IQAir HealthPro Plus
If you’re open to shelling out a pretty penny to ensure that the air circulating throughout your home is free from a myriad of allergens, including smoke, viruses, and mold, this is a great choice.
This Swiss-based air technology company created an air purifier that is capable of filtering out even ultrafine particles that are smaller than 0.1 microns in diameter and has a HyperHEPA filtration that is proven and certified to filter at least 99.5 percent of all particles down to 0.003 microns.
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- Sanjeev Jain, MD, PhD, board-certified allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy
- Saul Greenbaum, MD, internal medicine physician at Premier Allergy & Asthma in Columbus, Ohio
- Sima Patel, DO, allergist and immunologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York CIty
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke"
- EPA: "What is a HEPA filter?"