What Does an Air Purifier Do and How Do They Work?

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on January 25, 2022

In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that indoor air could contain up to five times as many pollutants and contaminants as outdoor air. These harmful particles include chemical compounds like carbon monoxide, biological spores from mold and dust, and volatile organic compounds (VACs) like benzene.

When you invest in a premium-grade air purifier, you’re using an appliance that sanitizes and cleans the air inside your house. These models use a range of media to deactivate, destroy, and trap allergens, microbes, pathogens, and carcinogens that are floating around your living room or bedroom, allowing you to breathe fresh air indoors each day.

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Table of Contents

Different Types of Air Purifiers and Their Purposes

So, what does an air purifier do? Air purifiers are devices that clean the air in your house by using integrated or built-in technology to remove the surrounding pollutant and contaminant particles like VACs. 

There are several types of air purifiers. While each is unique, they share many similarities.

baby air purifier
  • Activated Carbon Air Purifiers

These units are particularly effective at removing VACs and other organic gases from the surrounding air. They contain a built-in carbon-based media and work by pushing the air through this activated layer and trapping odors and gaseous compounds, releasing sanitized air back into the room.

  • Purifiers with HEPA Air Filters

This type of air purifier has an integrated High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filter made of a fine mesh material. These filters trap particles that are as small as 0.2 microns in size. If you suffer from allergies, you should invest in one of these appliances since they’re designed to remove allergens like mold, dust, and pollen from the surrounding air. 

  • Ultraviolet Air Purifiers

Ultraviolet (UV) air purifiers shoot light of ultraviolet wavelength at airborne pathogens and microbes, including dust mites, mold allergens, and various destructive viruses. This type of light can deactivate these microorganisms by distorting their DNA structure and destroying their ability to cause harm to other living organisms.

  • Ionic (Electrostatic) Air Purifiers

Ionic air purifiers emit negatively charged ions that lend a charge to destructive airborne contaminants and microbes. Due to the forces of electrostatic attraction, these newly charged particles then move toward the positively charged plate inside the main section of the purifier unit. If you want to remove smoke fumes, dander, various allergens, and pathogenic organisms from the surrounding air, you should purchase an ionic model.

  • Central Air Purifiers

If you’re looking for a unit that sanitizes the air throughout your entire house, you’ll want to invest in a central air purifier. You can integrate these filters into your home’s ventilation and air conditioning system so that it decontaminates and purifies the air in every room. When choosing a central air purifier, you’ll need to pick between a HEPA, activated carbon, or an electrostatic filter option.

Air filters and air purifiers serve different purposes. While a high-quality air purifier cleans and sanitizes the surrounding air, an air filter is designed to catch and trap allergens and dust. If you want to invest in an air purifier unit that’s truly effective, you should pair it with a premium-grade filter system. By taking this tactic, you’ll remove contaminant compounds, gas, and allergenic particles like pet dander from the surrounding air all at once.

Main Benefits of an Air Purifiers

Once you’ve answered the question, “what does an air purifier do?” it’s helpful to learn about the specific benefits of air purifiers. There are several key advantages to investing in a high-quality air purifier. These models can help neutralize unpleasant smells and deactivate harmful airborne particles from your living room, kitchen, or bedroom. Here are the four main reasons you should purchase an air purifier for your home today.


1. Reduce Carcinogenic Particles Like Radon From Your Air

Many building materials like sandstone, brick, concrete, and stone contain radioactive elements, and sometimes these organic substances decay, releasing the dangerous radon gas into your house. This is a particularly sobering fact when you consider the EPA predicted that over 21,000 deaths of Americans from lung cancer were radon-related in 1995. 

Carbon-based air purifiers effectively use activated charcoal or coconut shell media to trap and extract radon particles from the air. Purifiers that come with an integrated HEPA filter effectively catch radon gas and remove carcinogenic substances from your house. These units also trap any airborne asbestos particles, preventing you or your family from ingesting these particles and developing the debilitating condition of asbestosis.

2. Reduce Symptoms of Asthma and Respiratory Issues

If you have asthma triggers that include pollen, dander, dust mites, or various types of pollutants, you’ll want to purchase a premium-grade air purifier unit. UV-based options effectively destroy and deactivate many different allergenic particles, while HEPA filters catch mold and dust mites.

Electronic units deposit common allergenic irritants on an integrated and positively charged collector plate. However, if you want to buy an electrostatic or ionic unit, you should be aware that it probably creates ozone as a byproduct of the ionic process, which can congest the airways of people with asthma and heighten their symptoms.

3. Remove Unpleasant Odors

Whenever you paint a new piece of furniture or spray some deodorant or air freshener in your bathroom, you release an assortment of VOCs like formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, and gasoline into the air. These vapors mix with the surrounding air to emit an off-putting and pungent smell. If you want to neutralize these smells, you can get an activated carbon or central air purifier with a HEPA filter. These units trap VOCs and remove them from the air, so you won’t have to worry about the smell anymore.


4. Improve Your Sleep Patterns

If you find that your allergies get worse when you’re indoors, there’s likely a lot of dust hidden around your house and floating through the air. You also might find fungus and mold growing indoors. These organisms emit allergenic spores into the surrounding air, which can cause you to sneeze and cough while you try to get to sleep. Buying an air purifier with a high-quality HEPA filter helps you sanitize and decontaminate your bedroom, allowing you to sleep without disruption.

Get an Air Purifier to Deactivate Airborne Contaminants and Alleviate Your Allergies

Air purifiers can be incredibly effective at sanitizing and purifying the air inside your home, but you must make sure that you’re investing in a model that’s the right size for your room. 

For example, if you purchase an air purifier designed for a small space and install it in your large, spacious living room, it won’t be that effective as a filtration and cleaning unit.

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