Most buyers will have a fairly easy time finding an air purifier to remove dust and other allergens from their homes. However, buyers looking to eliminate odors face a significantly bigger challenge. Tracking down the best air purifier for odor, requires that you look past the clever advertising and find a purifier that is build for odor elimination.
The first question you might ask is “do air purifiers remove odors?” The good news is that yes, with the right filter a humble machine transforms into a beast of an odor eliminator. Our guide to the best air purifier for odor removal will help you sift through the jargon and make an informed decision. Our goal is to help rid your home of odor… and buyer’s remorse.
Our Favorite Purifiers for Fighting Odor
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted in February of 2015, and has been completely revised for accuracy, relevance, and in consideration of new developments in purifier technology. (in other words we’ve learned a few things since then…)
Odors in Your Home
Odors come from a wide variety of sources. Whether it’s a diaper bin’s brutal attack on your beautifully decorated nursery, or that foul litter box in the laundry room… your objective is clear. You must kill the smell and get rid of the evidence. And while everyone from candle makers to purveyors of odor masking sprays will tell you they have the tools you need, the truth is eliminating odor is pretty straight forward. First, identify the source. Well used litter box… check. Next, eliminate the source. Change the litter…easy. Final step, remove any lingering odor from the air. Window open or hello purifier. Pretty much any odor can removed in by taking these easy steps.
But, remember this… the best air purifier for odors will come equipped with an activated carbon filter (or pre-filter). Sure, some of the other “tech” works, but activated carbon is really the key.
Pets produce some of the most common odors that buyers seek to eliminate. And, while some significant other might advise us to rethink pet ownership… you and I know that’s not the answer. So, for pet owners who want to tackle allergies and odor. Look for a combination of HEPA filters and activated carbon. The HEPA will strip anything larger than .3 microns from the air and that carbon will lock away any stink that passed through the machine.
For the most part you won’t need anything too heavy duty for the average dog smell. But, as many of us know cats are responsible for the most difficult to tackle pet odor. Their litter boxes are a notorious source of nearly disabling odors and can even be hazardous to your health (hint: feline excrement contains toxic pollutants). So if you’re battling a litter box, hamster smell, or anything that requires a lot of odor scrubbing power be ready to invest in a better unit.
Smoke is another common odor that buyers seek to eliminate. It will permanently damage a home, furniture, or clothing if you don’t pull it from the air ASAP. That smoke will stain walls, and make itself at home in carpeting and fabric. This is a huge problem for renters and homeowners when its time to hand over the keys. We really recommend smoking outside, but know that is sometimes easier said than done. So, look for a lot of carbon and a air purifier that can move a ton of air – fast.
Volatile Organic Compounds depart many household items and materials only to float around aimlessly in the air you breathe. And, they’re dangerous. VOCs are most commonly found in cleaning supplies, and even the materials used in the construction of your home. Fortunately, things are getting better and regulations are combating the amount of VOC’s common products release. But, since VOCs both dangerous and stinky… we think you should do your part to keep them down. Through ventilation and with the help of a quality purifier.
Unfortunately VOCs are a form of gas molecule, which are very small in size at 0.001 microns. This means that they will slip through even the best HEPA filters. The solution, once again, is activated carbon. It’s porous structure will trap VOCs thus improving the air you breathe.
The smell of cooking brings back a lot of great memories. Fresh cookies, bread in the oven, or the symphony delightful smells produced on Thanksgiving day. But, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Cooking can create some nasty smells, which result from the enthusiastic preparation of strongly scented foods or from a poorly ventilated kitchen. Fortunately, the odors associated with cooking are not health hazards.
However, their composition is very similar to their more serious counterparts. How? Cooking food releases vapors and other gases into the air that are too small for most filters, too strong for odor masking sprays, and are too small for a HEPA filter alone.
The Difficulties of Odor Removal
Most air purifiers are designed to remove particles like dust, pollen, and pet dander from your home. However, the technology that makes for a good allergy machine is not at all similar to what you’ll need to remove odor.
Filters eliminate particulate pollutants mechanically through the use of a filter that screens the air and strips the particulate matter from the passing air. HEPA filters are the industry’s gold standard because they remove up to 99.97% of particles (those larger than 0.3 microns in size), which covers the majority of microscopic particles like mold, dust, and pollen.
Odors, however, often attack our senses in the form of gas molecules that are smaller than 0.3 microns. Many are as small as 0.001 microns, meaning they will stroll right through a HEPA filter. So as we said earlier… you’ll need some carbon.
The Best Technology for Eliminating Odor
We keep pointing out that HEPA filters are great for general air purification needs. And, that’s the absolute truth. However, if you are looking specifically to remove odors will want to purchase a machine that supplements the awesomeness of HEPA with something that addresses the tiny particles.
People have used activated carbon to filter out harmful substances for thousands of years. And now it’s the go to solution in odor elimination purifiers. Activated carbon is effective at eliminating odors because it is an extremely porous material that has the unique ability to absorb (technically its adsorption, but you get the picture) the smallest pollutants in the air. Even gases, for the most part, can’t escape activated carbon.
One pound of activated carbon has a surface area of over one hundred acres. Crazy, right? That creates a lot of real estate for stinky odors and harmful gases. Many models claim that they are effective at eliminating odors, but contain cheap filters with very small amounts of activated carbon. The best air purifier for odor removal should have a measurable amount of activated carbon. Look for the number. It’s important.
Reviews of the Best Air Purifier for Odor
Austin Air HealthMate Air Purifier
Austin air purifiers were chosen by FEMA and the Red Cross in the aftermath of 9/11 in a push to restore clean air to indoor spaces throughout New York. Austin Air machines are simple in appearance, but they contain one of the industry’s most brilliant air purification designs. It also packs a surprising amount of carbon into its square shaped body, more than almost any other machine on the market – making it the perfect choice for eliminating the smallest pollutants from the air.
Highlights of the Healthmate Air Purifier
- 15 pounds of activated carbon
- 60 square feet of medical grade HEPA filtration
- 360-degree air intake
- Large and medium sized pre-filters
- 3 fan speeds
- Large machine rated to clean rooms of up to 1500 square feet
- Produces more noise than other machines
Blueair 650E Air-Purification System
Blueair is another reputable brand that specializes in designing powerful air purifiers. The 650E is Blueair’s premier model, capable of purifying large rooms of up to 700 square feet. One feature unique to the 650E is a digital interface that displays the current level of odor in the air. We love Blueair purifiers, and think you’ll definitely be pleased with any of their models.
Although the included filter is effective at eliminating odor, Blueair also sells a separate SmokeStop filter with extra activated carbon for buyers with exceptionally poor air quality.
Highlights of the 650E
- HEPA filter with electrostatic technology
- Industry leading clean air delivery rate of 450 cubit feet per minute
- Automatic setting
- 4 manual fan speeds adjustable with included remote
- Zero ozone emissions
- Larger machine that takes up a lot of space
Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0 SPA-550A
The Rabbit Air is one of the most aesthetically pleasing machines on the market but that doesn’t make it any less effective. It features cutting edge technology but remains very user-friendly. Users rave about its ability to reduce smoke and it is also effective at eliminating other odors as well. In fact Cigar Aficionado recommends Rabbit Air for cigar smokers.
Highlights of the BioGS 2.0
- 4-stage filtration system
- Activated carbon filter
- BioGS HEPA filter prevents bacteria growth
- Extremely quiet BLDC moto
- Automatic mode
- Ionizer with on/off switch (we recommend that you keep it in the off position unless you know the risks)
- Includes a remote
- Smaller machine rated to clean up to only 550 square feet
While all three of these machines are excellent choices for odor removal, the Austin Air Healthmate is the clear winner. It contains a much greater amount of activated carbon than the other two machines, making it more effective at eliminating odors and harmful VOCs from the air. If you are not as concerned with VOCs, the other two models are excellent choices to eliminate pet odor as well as cooking odor.
Although these machines are great at odor control, keep in mind that they are all top-of-the-line machines suitable for a variety of uses around your home.