What is the best air purifier for removing odors? A quick search yields hundreds of brands claiming supremacy and needlessly long lists full of jargon. To cut through the noise, we have done the research and boiled it down to a few products that might work best for addressing your individual odor problems, along with the pros and cons of each.
In order for an air purifier to work on odors, here are some criteria to look for in a device:
- Because odors are made up of gaseous molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the unit should be able to trap or otherwise remove VOCs using a carbon filter or some other mechanism;
- In addition to odorous gases, some particles may contribute to odor as well (such as mold) and the unit should have a mechanical filter to address these particles;
- Especially if used in homes with sensitive groups, the purifier should not release any ozone (a harmful respiratory irritant) that is often advertised to help with odors;
- It must be able to remove odors from a standard sized room.
Furthermore, ease-of-use, size, and reliability are also important factors to consider when looking for an air purifier for odor removal.
What are the best air purifiers for odors
Though all odors are made up of VOCs, each type of odor, whether from pets, cooking or mold, have special considerations as to the type of air purifier that will work best. Here are some examples:
- Pre-filter and HEPA filter
- Activated carbon filtration
- Sensor to detect spikes in air pollution
- Best for small-medium sized rooms up to 400 sq. ft
- 10-year warranty
- HEPA filter replaced every 6-9 months and carbon filter every 9-12 months
The Oransi OV200 is relatively lightweight (10lbs) so it can be moved between rooms. With no ionizer or UV light feature, it does not generate any ozone. The sensor may also be helpful as a spike in pollution levels often corresponds with the introduction of bad odor, though the accuracy of consumer-grade air quality sensors is still in question.
The weight of carbon used in the carbon filter is not indicated, though we have no reason to assume it is a lightweight layer. The HEPA and carbon filters have different filter lifetimes (6-9 mos. vs. 9-12mos,) so it is one more thing you will need to remember in terms of keeping track of when it is time for replacement. Note that carbon filtration is a temporary method of trapping VOCs (there is the possibility for these gases to “unstick” from the filter).
For pet odors, the HEPA filter may help remove some pet dander (skin flakes) that could harbor smells, while the carbon filter can tackle VOCs, the components of pet odor. The Oransi OV200 may be suitable for the kitchen, where it might be used on a short-term basis during high-pollution cooking activities such as frying or baking depending on the ability of its sensor to detect pollution spikes during cooking and adjust airflow. If mold odors arise in various parts of the house, it is lightweight enough to move from room to room. However the unit may not be sufficient for constant sources of pollution, e.g, in the living room where pets hang out. In these environments it would have to run constantly, which may saturate its carbon filter more quickly.
Austin Air HealthMate Junior Plus
- 4-stage filtration system (including True Medical Grade HEPA)
- Over 270 cubic inches of activated carbon, potassium iodide impregnated carbon and zeolite (all assist in removing VOCs, formaldehyde, benzenes, gases and odors)
- Designed for continuous use at high RPM
- Five-year pro-rated filter warranty, five-year mechanical warranty
The activated carbon and zeolite with impregnated potassium iodide (KI) are designed to handle different kinds of odor molecules. The unit is made for smaller spaces (better suited for more intensive, single-room jobs). However, the unit contains wheels to allow for movement between rooms. The large amount of filter surface area and KI-impregnated carbon and zeolite would be suitable for removing VOCs—including formaldehyde.
While the intensity of the model may be a boon to users seeking a robust solution, the unit is still more appropriate for stationary, continuous usage for those who are especially sensitive to chemicals. It is functional as a portable 21-lb, wheeled unit, yet its intended use, namely, small, contaminated spaces, may make it impractical for transferring from room to room, for example from the kitchen to the bedroom, depending on the strength of the source of odors and where they arise.
Pet owners and cooks who favor placing the unit in one particular area might find relief in using this heftier solution, as well as those with chemical sensitivities. Also note that like many air purifiers bearing similar features, the VOCs and particles responsible for odor in the home are simply trapped in the filter and not destroyed outright. Some may find the purifier aesthetically unpleasing or bulky in their home, and it is simply too large to easily hide.
LEVOIT Air Purifier – LV-PUR 131
Price: $167.99 (Amazon)
- 3-stage filtration system
- Activated carbon filter
- “Sleep mode” enabling quiet night time cleaning
- Energy friendly; 1-year buyer assurance
- Smartphone app for remote control (+$22 optional)
This model’s size and price point make it an option for odor removal and air purification in medium-sized rooms, as well as portability. It performs the standard functions of combining a decent airflow with an activated charcoal filter, capturing odors and pet dander with a HEPA filter. Its “sleep mode” could be useful for placement in the bedroom, as the manufacturer lists 27dB as the lowest noise level, while the unit is sizeable and unobtrusive enough to work functionally in a small kitchen.
This air purifier contains traditional carbon technology for odors, which means the filter will eventually saturate and need to be replaced. You would need to replace the filter at least every six months—thus offsetting the attractiveness of this unit’s relatively cheap price. The WiFi, Alexa-enabled features are not included in the base unit.
This is an option for small rooms, but will not work well for spaces with more serious odors. The more obnoxious scents—especially stronger odors like pet smells, mold, and cigarette smoke—will likely require a much more powerful alternative. This should be considered a safe lightweight option for spaces with less challenging smells.
- Proprietary technology Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO)
- Dual-phase filtration system with Pre-Filter and PECO-Filter
- Covers 600 sq. ft
- Clean design and portability
The Molekule air purifier is our solution for poor indoor air quality. Unlike the filters listed above, which simply trap volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that make up odors or the particles that contribute to bad smell, the Molekule technology destroys them at the molecular level. This means that VOCs and allergens from pet dander, mold or other sources that pass through the device can be destroyed and are not released back into the air.
Air purifiers that cannot remove odors
Envion Therapure Ionic Pro Platinum, Silent Operation Negative Ion Air Purifier Tower
Price: $199 (Amazon)
- Washable filter
- Low energy costs
This unit is not a suitable option for combating odors as its primary way of cleaning the air—namely, its ionizer—is not well-equipped for the task. Ionizers change the weight of ions in the air and effectively drag some particles down to the ground or into their filters. This means the odorous particles will either remain in your home, or likely continue to drift from their source and waft in the air. Either way, the smell is not neutralized.
Holmes Allergen Remover Air Purifier Air Purifier Mini-Tower with True HEPA Filter
- Carbon filter (of questionable quality) with baking soda
- Washable pre-filter
- Low energy costs
While this unit has a carbon filter, it is relatively thin and will likely saturate very quickly. Furthermore, the unit is extremely small and is likely unable to neutralize even normal odors. While baking soda is useful, the fact that its use is an important aspect of this unit’s cleaning ability should betray its likely incapacity to play a serious role in removing odors from your home.
What is the best air purifier for odors?
The best air purifier for odors is ultimately the one that best suits your home environment and the conditions which you seek to remedy. If you are price-conscious, be sure to calculate and remember the cost of filter replacements, especially if the unit in question requires frequent or erratically timed maintenance.
Though some types of odors are not harmful in and of themselves, they may alert you to reduce the source of your exposure; for example, reducing levels of pet dander in your home, or preventing mold growth. Often what is truly harmful are the pollutants that do not have an odor, such as formaldehyde. We believe that our solution, the Molekule air purifier, is the best solution for indoor air pollution, because it destroys allergens like mold and pollen to the VOCs that cause odors. When choosing the best air purifier for odors, consider devices that are also good at handling other types of pollutants, which is ultimately the optimal solution for improving indoor air quality in your home for you and your family.