It turns out, air purifiers may be able to help prevent the spread of viruses and germs in your house. 

By Brittany Loggins
March 13, 2020

Air purifiers are always a good idea for those with allergies, but if you tend to work from home or are planning to spend a lot of time indoors (and with recent quarantines, lockdowns, and practicing social distancing, that could be in the cards) they might be worth considering.

First and foremost, air purifiers can help with all of your normal indoor allergens—including dust, mold, pet dander, and even smoke from cooking and tobacco. While experts at the CDC have noted that the best way to improve indoor air quality is to open a window, this may not be an option for people with asthma or other seasonal allergies. In these cases, the EPA specifies that air purifiers, especially when left to run at high fan speeds for long amounts of time, can help improve air quality. 

But can air purifiers actually rid the air of viruses (like the coronavirus, COVID-19) and germs? Sounds too good to be true, right? Here, experts weigh in on if these gadgets can play a role in improving the health of your home.

First, it pays to know what types of filters are at work in air purifiers. Most are high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which are basically a bunch of interlaced fibers that capture particles. In addition to HEPA filters, air purifiers can also contain carbon filters, which are designed to remove gases—and the thicker they are, the better. UV filters are intended to eliminate airborne pathogens; however, the EPA notes that they haven’t been found to be effective in households. (Related: What to Look for When Buying an Air Purifier to Help with Your Allergies)

As for COVID-19? HEPA filters work by filtering air through superfine mesh, and can usually remove particles from the air greater than 0.3 microns in size, explains Rand McClain, M.D., the chief medical officer of LCR Health. “The COVID-19 virions (viral particles) are roughly 0.1 microns, but can still be intercepted because of a process called diffusion that involves Brownian Movement,” explains McClain. To break it down: Brownian Movement refers to the random movement of particles, and diffusion happens when these random movements cause the particles to get caught in the fibers of the purifier’s filter.

Niket Sonpal, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified internist faculty member at Touro College of Medicine, doesn't exactly agree that air purifiers can offer a benefit. Air purifier filters aren't fine enough and don't expose the virus to enough UV light to destroy it, he counters.

That said, COVID-19, or coronavirus, is typically transmitted person-to-person—so even if a HEPA filter can potentially help remove COVID-19 from the air, it won't stop transmission of the virus, notes McClain. “A likely faster/better way to clear virions from the air in a room is to simply open two windows to allow the virions to escape and replace with fresh, uninfected air,” he adds. In other words, it really might only be helpful if someone in your home has already contracted the virus, and opening windows might do just as good a job. In the meantime, your best bet for COVID-19 prevention is to continue washing your hands, minimizing exposure to public spaces, and keeping your hands away from your face, says Dr. Sonpal. (Related: How to Keep Your Home Clean and Healthy If You're Self-Quarantined Because of Coronavirus)

But if you're planning on spending a significant amount of time indoors, an air purifier definitely won’t hurt. Plus, it can also circulate and introduce fresh air to rooms that might start to feel stagnant. Ahead, the best air purifiers, according to customer reviews. 

Levoit Air Purifier

AMAZON

Intended to cleanse an entire room, this air purifier contains three different filtration systems that work to rid your home of allergens, pet hair, bacteria, and viruses. It boasts three different fan speeds, and the compact size makes it convenient for city dwellers. It also notifies you when it’s time to change your filter, which is typically required every six to eight months depending on usage and air quality. 

Buy It: Levoit Air Purifier, $90, amazon.com

Partu Hepa Air Purifier

AMAZON

This filter is super small—just over 11-inches tall—but it can purify up to an impressive 107 square feet. It has three-stage filtration (a pre-filter, a HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter) and three different fan settings. Even better? You can mix a drop of essential oils with some water and add it into the sponge below the purifier air outlet to freshen your space.

Buy It: Partu Hepa Air Purifier, $53, $60, amazon.com

Dyson Pure Cool Me Personal Purifying Fan

AMAZON

If you sit at a desk or table in your house all day (especially if you work from home) this could be a real game-changer. It has HEPA and activated carbon filters, which work together to capture 99.97 percent of allergens and pollutants, including pollen, bacteria, and pet dander. It's can oscillate or deliver personal cooling by projecting air precisely where you need it.

Buy It: Dyson Pure Cool Me Personal Purifying Fan, $298, $350, amazon.com

Koios Air Purifier

AMAZON

Don't underestimate this small air purifier. It contains a three-stage filtration system—including a pre-filter, HEPA filter, and activated carbon filter—to remove odors from pets, smoking, or cooking, and doesn't use UV or ions, which can produce trace amounts of ozone, a harmful air pollutant. Bonus: It has only one button (for easy use) that adjusts its two fan speeds and its nightlight settings.

Buy It: Koios Air Purifier, $53, amazon.com

Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter

AMAZON

With almost 7,000 five-star Amazon reviews, you know this filter is doing its job well. Not only does it have a pre-filter and a HEPA filter to remove allergens from your space, but it also features a UVC light, which helps kill airborne viruses like influenza, staph, and rhinovirus. Customers also note how quiet it is, even though it can purify the air in rooms up to 167 square feet. 

Buy It: Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter, $97, $150, amazon.com

hOmeLabs Air Purifier

AMAZON

Designed for rooms up to 197 square feet, this under-$100 air purifier offers three-stage filtration that claims to even capture particles as small as 0.1 microns in size (read: the size of COVID-19 virions). While that feels like a win, each filter also lasts up to 2,100 hours, so you can replace them less. You can adjust both the fan speed and the light brightness, and users promise it's super quiet.

Buy It: hOmeLabs Air Purifier, $70, $100, amazon.com

Dyson Pure Hot + Cool HEPA Air Purifier

AMAZON

This purifier is super powerful, projecting 53 gallons of air per second. It has a HEPA filter, which will capture bacteria, germs and viruses, and an activated carbon filter that removes gases and odors. Also great? You can adjust it to oscillate or target the airflow in one specific direction, as well as set it to act as either a heater or a fan.

Buy It: Dyson Pure Hot + Cool HEPA Air Purifier, $399, $499, amazon.com

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