How Does an Air Purifier Works: What Does an Air Purifier Do?

how does air purifier work
How does an air purifier actually purify the air? © Canva

An air purifier is a device that purifies the air. Small dust particles, pet hair and even odors can be filtered out of the air. But, how does an air purifier actually do this?

Because there are still many questions about how an air purifier works, I decided to write an article about it. I describe in simple language how an air purifier works and is able to improve air quality.

An air purifier filters particles from the air

The operation of an air purifier is actually very simple. You turn it on, after which the air purifier sucks in air (often through the sides). The sucked in air then passes through all kinds of filters, where small particles are filtered out of the air.

After the air has passed through the filters, the purified air (often through the top of the device) leaves the purifier and is blown back into the room. See the image below for a simplified view.

how an air purifier works
A simplified view of how an air purifier works. ©

Type of filter important for how well an air purifier works

How well an air purifier can filter the air depends on the filter level. A distinction is often made between fine particles (particles between 10 µm and 0.1 µm) and ultrafine particles (< 0.1 µm).

Here are a few examples for each type:

  • Fine dust: Pollen, allergens, bacteria, mold spores and exhaust gases
  • Ultrafine dust: Formaldehyde, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and benzene

An air purifier can have different filters

It also depends on the type of filter what an air purifier can filter out of the air. Most air purifiers have multiple filters, so that different types of particles can be filtered out of the air.

View below common filters of an air purifier:

  • Dust and hair filter: for dust and (animal) hair
  • HEPA filter: pollen, smoke, bacteria and viruses
  • Active carbon filter: for bad odors
  • Antibacterial filter: kill bacteria
  • Cryptomic filter: can break down particles

This last filter is the very latest filter that I have only come across with Dyson air purifiers. Unlike other filters, this filter does not need to be replaced.

Filters need to be replaced regularly

To keep an air purifier working properly, it is very important to replace the filters regularly. If you don’t do this, the air purifier can get clogged, purify the air less well or even break.

How often and how you have to replace these filters depends on the air purifier model. The costs for new replacement air purifier filters can also vary greatly. In some cases you can clean air purifier filters.

Some air filters work with an ionizer

Then there are air purifiers that work with a so-called ionizer. An ionizer shoots negatively charged particles into the air. Dust particles can stick to this, after which they end up on the ground. You can then vacuum or mop the floor to remove the dust particles.

how an ionizer works
This is how an air purifier with an ionizer works. ©

Because ozone can be released from an ionizer, it can be dangerous and this form of air cleaning is therefore a bit controversial. If you use this, it is important to do this if you are not in the same room as the air purifier. Read more information about an ionizer air purifier.

Air purifiers work to a maximum surface area

It is good to know that an air purifier always works to a maximum surface area. This is therefore always stated with an air purifier. Therefore, think carefully in advance where you place an air purifier and only then look for an air purifier that is suitable for this.

It is good to know that an air purifier always works to a maximum surface area.

An air purifier is often controlled with an app

When we look at the operation of an air purifier, it is often controlled via an app. This allows you to switch the air purifier on or off, analyze data or receive notifications via your smartphone. A selection of the possibilities that I have come across in an application:

  • Turn air purifier on or off
  • Turn it up or down
  • Select other mode
  • Spin the air purifier
  • View and analyze data
  • Get notifications when it’s necessary to clean the air
  • Let the air purifier cool or heat up

Of course, the above functions depend on the air purifier model you have. For example, not all air purifiers are equipped with a heating and cooling function. Something the new Shark Air Purifier 3-in-1 does have.

I hope my guide has given you more clarity on how an air purifier works. If you have any questions you can leave them at the bottom of the page!


Bram Tigchelaar

Bram Tigchelaar

Bram is the co-founder of Together with his brother, he gives advice for cleaner air quality in your home. He combines decades of experience in the world of air quality products with a passion for product testing. Questions about his approach? Feel free to send him a message!

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