The Winix 5500-2 cleans the air with a true HEPA filter, carbon filter, and plasma technology that helps remove odors. It has intuitive controls and thoughtful extras like a sleep mode, and timer.
Now more than ever, keeping a home free from virus particles, allergens (like pet dander and dust mites), smog, and even wildfire smoke, is one of the most important things we can do to keep healthy.
And one of the most effective ways to mitigate these invisible airborne pollutants is to invest in an air purifier using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, like our favorite, the Winix 5500-2(available at Best Buy for $179.99). If you're primary concern is getting the absolute best HEPA particle filtering device, we recommend the Medify MA-50 (available at Amazon).
After extensively testing dozens of these appliances over the past several years in Reviewed's labs, we’ve found that the HEPA filter is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the best air purifiers, but one that in these times is becoming more important.
Here are the best HEPA air purifiers we tested:
Aeris Aair Lite
Cuisinart PuRXium CAP-500
Honeywell PowerPlus True HEPA
The Winix 5500-2 is our top pick, scoring well for particle and chemical removal, ease of use, and low filter replacement costs.
The high score for purifying performance comes from the combination of several filtering steps. A washable pre-filter stops the largest items, including pet hair, and protects the other filters from being clogged too quickly. A carbon filter absorbs chemical pollutants, like VOCs from paint and cleaning products and is washable to extend its life. Next comes a true HEPA filter rated to capture microscopic particles. Finally, the Plasmawave stage produces reactive ions that break down chemical pollutants.
We love the automatic features. An air sensor adjusts performance to match the air quality, and a light sensor dims the controls and turns down the fan for sleep mode when the room goes dark. The washable filter stages and relatively long filter life also keep down the annual filter replacement costs.
The Medify MA-50 is a powerful air purifier with true HEPA filtration. Its efficient design, with a central fan pulling air through filters on all four sides, packs a lot of filtration into a relatively compact design.
The Medify’s filters are rated HEPA 13, a high-efficiency type often used in medical facilities that are effective at removing the aerosols that spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.
The downside to high-quality filters is that they’re expensive, so the annual filter replacement costs are high. Also, the better the filter, the more it blocks airflow. This means that the fans need to be powerful in order to pull air through the filter, making the fans noisy at the higher settings. Pricy filters and powerful fans are a feature of all high-capacity HEPA air purifiers.
The MA-50 is designed for large rooms, so it is better suited to an open plan home or office. Fortunately, Medify also has a range of air purifiers with the same HEPA filtration rating, but for smaller spaces. These are the Medify MA-40, MA-25, and MA14. We didn’t test the smaller units directly, but their similar filter design should give equivalent high performance.
We challenged the air purifiers with high levels of dust, smoke, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in an enclosed space, measuring how quickly they could clean up the pollutants. They were also rated on noise and display light levels, how easy they were to set up and use, their looks, and the running costs to replace filters.
Hi, I’m Dave Ellerby, the Chief Scientist in the Reviewed labs. I got my Ph.D. from the University of Leeds in 2000, and my bachelor of science from the University of Manchester in 1997. I have wide-ranging interests. Before joining Reviewed, I worked in exercise physiology. I’m also interested in thermodynamics and testing the strength of materials, which is a fancy way of saying I occasionally have to set things on fire or break them in the name of science.
I oversee our lab testing, develop tests for new products, and update tests to ensure they’re as meaningful as possible. Pollen allergies in the spring and the year-round aroma of two large dogs make me particularly interested in indoor air quality.
The first set of products we tested was overseen by Julia MacDougall, Reviewed's former Senior Scientist.
We measured how quickly each purifier could remove particles and volatile organics compounds (VOCs) from the air. To do this, we built an airtight chamber in our lab. Inside the chamber, we added dust, smoke, and VOCs to create poor air quality. Fans inside the enclosure distributed the pollutants evenly. Each purifier was placed in the middle of the chamber and turned to its maximum fan setting. If extra filtration mechanisms were available, we switched these on. We monitored changes in particulate and total VOC levels to get a pollutant removal rate for each purifier. For particles, we focused on those smaller than 10 microns as they’re small enough to make it into your lungs.
We also assessed how hard it was to get the purifier running and change its filters, how many settings and filter stages it had, and the yearly cost of replacing the filters on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. The air purifiers also went home so we could see if fan noise and display lights affected sleeping, conversation, and TV watching. This also allowed us to assess how they look in a domestic setting.
What is a HEPA Air Purifier?
Similar to space heaters and air conditioners, air purifiers draw air in using a series of fans, then condition the air in some fashion, and finally blows the air back out into the room. Inside the unit, a HEPA filter (which stands for high-efficiency particulate air) removes particles so the air blowing out is cleaner than what came in.
While there are many types of air filters these devices use, and sometimes in combination with each other, HEPA filters, are known to be the most effective. These filters are often highly folded and made up of a bunch of fibers that have been forced together at a bunch of different angles so as to increase the likelihood of catching a particle, large or small, and removing it from the air.
While the Environmental Protection Agency says there's no widely accepted definition of HEPA performance in consumer products, a "True HEPA" air purifier is known to be the most effective and can capture particles as small as 0.3 microns.
The most common HEPA-related marketing claims you'll see from manufacturers include:
True HEPA filters which have the highest efficiency rate of filtering out air pollutants, at 99.97 percent. Filters with a numeric rating, like H10 and H11 are often described as "True HEPA," while those with even higher ratings such as H13 and H14 are considered "Medical Grade."
HEPA filters generally have a 99 percent efficiency rate.
HEPA-like/99% HEPA/HEPA-type/HEPA-style filters are filters that are less effective and not considered pure HEPA filters.
A note for pet owners: Be sure to look for a purifier with a pre-filter. These trap larger items, like pet hair, before they get to your other filter stages. There’s no point paying for a high-end HEPA filter if it quickly gets clogged with cat hair!
What Does the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) Mean?
While researching these appliances you'll often see a CADR rating mentioned. The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), unlike the HEPA filtration system, is determined and verified by an independent testing lab using AHAM standard AC-1.
Look for higher CADR ratings to guide your eye, but again, don’t let it make your break your purchasing decision. Be aware that the CADR value is an ideal value, and know that your typical CADR rating may be lower than the number on the product's box.
Other HEPA Air Purifiers We Tested
The OdorStop OSAP5 combined the most filtering mechanisms of any purifier we tested. There’s a HEPA filter and an ionizer for particles, plus an activated carbon filter and UV light for chemicals. There’s an air quality sensor built-in, so in automatic mode, it monitors and adjusts to the current air quality.
Its circular shape with a central fan also allows for a large filter area in a relatively small space. The OdorStop was also one of the quieter purifiers we tested. The low noise, plus the dimmable display, make this a good choice for bedrooms.
Filtrete Smart Room Air Purifier FAP-SC02W, Medium
The Filtrete FAP-SC02W is a smart purifier designed for smaller rooms. It comes supplied with a HEPA filter only, so the basic unit isn’t equipped to tackle chemical pollutants like VOCs. You can add a carbon chemical filter as an option, though.
This purifier is packed with smart features that allow automatic air quality monitoring and connectivity with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can also monitor purifier performance via a phone app.
If particle filtering is your main concern, and you want a purifier you can set and forget, then this is a good choice for you.
The Aeris Aair Lite has an outer fabric cover that comes in three colors. The fabric makes for an attractive appearance relative to the plastic construction of most air purifiers. The fabric isn’t just for decoration; it contains zinc pyrithione, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties. We weren’t able to test the effectiveness of this filter stage directly, though.
This is another purifier where the emphasis is on particle removal, and it contains a HEPA filter rated for high performance at removing even the smallest particles from the air. An air quality sensor also allows the purifier to run in automatic mode, adjusting the fan setting to the current air quality.
The Cuisinart PuRXium has multiple filtering stages: HEPA, carbon, and UV light. The HEPA filter has a high-performance H13 rating, with efficient removal of the smallest particles. A large filter that wraps around all four sides of the purifier packing a lot of filtering capacity into a relatively small footprint.
The Cuisinart performed well at both VOC and particle removal in our tests. Like all high-grade HEPA purifiers it suffers from high filter replacement costs. The power needed to pull air through the filter also means the higher fan settings are noisy. There is a sleep setting though, that dims the display and turns down the fan speed.
The controls and settings are simple to use. There’s no air sampling feature, and this means you’ll need to be more hands-on with choosing the fan speed as there’s no automatic mode to adjust to air quality.
The Honeywell PowerPlus True HEPA was a solid performer at both VOC and particle removal. There’s also an optional extra carbon filter to increase VOC removal. The particle filters are HEPA, although the manufacturer doesn’t give the exact rating of the filters. The large filter size allows for a high air filtering capacity, but it also makes for expensive filter replacement costs.
There’s also an air quality sensor that allows the purifier to run in automatic mode, changing its fan level to match the air conditions. Although the display lighting can be dimmed, this was one of the noisier purifiers we tested, so you’ll need to turn down the fan at night for sleeping.
The Crane EE-7002AIR HEPA is one of the least expensive air purifiers we tested. It is limited to particle filtering and has no filter stages to trap chemicals. It has a simple, circular design with a central fan and a wrap-around filter.
It’s also one of the simplest and quietest air purifiers we tested. There are three fan speed settings, and at the lowest setting, you can barely hear it running. A major limitation is that although it is branded as a HEPA air purifier, the filters are described as ‘HEPA-like.’ This description means that their particle trapping performance isn’t clearly defined. The measured particle trapping performance was the lowest of the purifiers we tested.
Overall, if you’re concerned about larger particles like pollen and dust, the compact size and quiet fan could make this a good choice for a smaller room size like a bedroom.
If you're a big fan of smart home devices, clean air, and sleek design aesthetics, then you are going to be pleased as punch by the LG PuriCare 360-Degree (model AS560DWR0). In our first round of testing, we gave this an award for "best smart purifier.'
It's essentially two smaller units stacked on top of one another, with an additional fan on top. It looks like a robot from the future, especially when you turn it on, the fan (the "booster") slowly rises, and the display lights up. To purify the air, it uses an ultra-fine pre-filter, a True HEPA filter, and a sorbent filter. It's also been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
With the tap of a button, you can bring up the modules that show you the concentrations of particulates, make the whole unit rotate, check the filter status, and more. You can even track your air quality on your phone though the SmartThinQ app, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
During testing, the LG PuriCare excelled at removing fragrance smells (one of the few that did), but didn't do as well with cigarette smoke. The wide range of settings and options means that you can easily find a setting that isn't too loud during the day or night. But it's tall (nearly 4 feet tall), heavy (more than 40 pounds), and difficult to move.
Really, though, this air cleaner belongs in one corner of a high-end living space, where it can be functional and admired. If you have disposable income, embrace the Internet of Things, and want to be able to know your air's quality with the touch of a button, the LG PuriCare will fit in perfectly with the rest of your lifestyle and home decor.
The Sharp FPK50UW is a sleek but powerful air purifier with enough options for those who want some flexibility with their air purification, but don’t need or want a smart appliance. It features three fan speeds (including a “Sleep mode”) and a “Express Clean” option that uses ionized particles to remove contaminants from the air for up to 60 minutes. There’s also a timer option for two, four, and eight hours.
It has an “Express Clean” setting, which we found cleared kitty litter dust from the air with ease. However, it had a bit of a tougher time removing the smell of bacon, but did a decent job of removing the smell of cigarette smoke.
While “Express Clean” and the high fan speed are both very loud, either setting can be used to quickly a small room with a door that closes. With its small size, low weight, and deep handle, the Sharp is very portable. For proof that good things come in small packages, check out the Sharp FPK50UW.
The Wynd Home Purifier has four fan modes (including an “Auto” setting), and is big enough (and powerful enough) to quickly clean the air in a larger room or multiple rooms arranged in an open floor plan.
While you can use the Wynd app (iOS/Android) to change a couple of settings (namely the lights and “Auto” mode), those who are passionate about their air quality will want to use the Wynd Home purifier in conjunction with the Wynd Halo, a portable sensor that usually comes as part of a bundle.
Once the Wynd Halo is set up, the purifier will use the data to automatically ramp up its cleaning to remove odors or contaminants it senses with the Halo.
In the Wynd app, you can also take a look at your air-quality stats, both in your home and in your city. We found the Wynd app to be a bit buggy, but responses to user feedback on the Android and iOS app stores indicate that Wynd will be releasing another version of the app shortly.
Note: the smart aspect of this product only works on 2.4 GHz wi-fi networks, so if you only have a 5 GHz network in your home, you might not be able to take advantage of the Wynd’s smart features.
During testing, the Wynd struggled a bit when it came to fragrance smells (most air purifiers do). While it can be tough to tell whether you’ve actually pressed one of its buttons, the accompanying status lights means that it only takes a couple of times before you start to figure out its responsiveness.
The noise level is high only on the fastest fan speed, but again, that’s to be expected. While its size makes it a bit awkward to handle, with its relatively low weight and side handles, it’s pretty easy to move and lift this appliance. The Wynd Home Purifier will both purify your air and help you to gain valuable insights about your indoor and outdoor air quality.
App contains lots of great air quality info
Smart features only work with 2.4 GHz wi-fi networks
Beneath its industrial-looking exterior lies an air purifier that can get the job done. Using the company's HEPASilent filter, which is similar to a True HEPA filter, the Blueair Classic 205 has a very basic control panel only consisting of the power/fan control, the WiFi network indicator, and the filter status light.
The Classic 205 can be activated, adjusted, and monitored from the Blueair mobile app, allowing you to improve your air quality even while you're on the go. The panel has a discreet cover that really helps at night when you don't want to be bothered by extra ambient LED lighting.
The Classic 205 had a tough time removing cigarette smoke, but it did a pretty good job of cleansing the room of the stench of fish oil, so we'd recommend using this air purifier near the kitchen so as to help eradicate unpleasant cooking, food, or food waste smells.
While some of its settings can be a bit loud, we think the Blueair Classic 205 is a solid choice for those bothered by food odors, and for those who don't want to grapple with a ton of options and settings.
The Bissell air220 is intuitive and unobtrusive. It has a single power button and a fan speed dial with five fan speeds and an “Auto” mode. It has a tiny display panel that shows the fan setting, and three different LEDs give you general information about the ambient air quality.
The air220 is designed to fade into the background, rather than draw the eye, a fact that will please those who don’t want a big obvious air purifier to break up the visual appeal of a room. It's purification methods include HEPA filters, carbon filters, and a pre-filter.
During lab testing, it wasn’t quite able to dispel the smell of peppermint from our sealed test room after running for four hours.
The fastest fan setting isn’t too loud, and it automatically switches over to night mode and turns off the machine lights when it senses low ambient light levels. The Bissell has a nice cord storage system, but the too-shallow handle means that you have to hold it with two hands when moving it around. If you prefer the set-it-and-forget-it approach to air purifying, then you’ll appreciate the Bissell air220.
The Vornado AC550 favors simplicity over aesthetics with carbon and True HEPA filters to clean the air. It's interesting to look at, if not particularly modern in its design and operating it is very easy. With only a plus and minus sign button to toggle between the four fan speeds, sleep, and auto modes, and filter status lights, this air purifier is for those who don't want to read an entire manual front-to-back in order to understand how to make it work.
In Auto mode, the dust sensor, located on the side of the unit, dictates the fan speed at any given moment, meaning that you won't have to constantly adjust it when the interior air quality changes.
When it came to our smell tests, the Vornado had a tough time removing the scent of a peppermint essential oil; most of the other air purifiers we tested also struggled with filtering out fragrance smells. It did pretty well when it came to the stench of fish oil, though, so it may be more successful in removing food and cooking smells. While some of the settings on the Vornado are loud, most are quiet enough that they weren't bothersome during quiet time or conversations.
Our at-home testers appreciated that the Vornado is very light, and can be moved with one hand, using one of the pocket handles on the side of the machine. If you want a device that you don't have to babysit, and is portable and user-friendly, we'd recommend the Vornado AC550.
The Honeywell HPA200 is one of the more basic appliances on the market today. With its sorbent pre-filter and True HEPA filter, this air purifier is effective and user-friendly.
While its interface is simple, it has four different cleaning modes (General Clean, Allergen, Germ, and Turbo), and those options offer enough flexibility that you'll be able to use it in a number of different circumstances, particularly when pollen is bad or when family members get sick.
Other features include a timer, filter status lights, and a dimmer function that allows you to adjust the level of panel lighting as needed.
While the HPA200 did a pretty good job of filtering out fish oil during our smell test, it had a tougher time removing the lemon essential oil smell from our test room. The HPA200 should put a decent dent in your cooking smells, and drastically reduce the number of airborne particles and allergens.
Some of the settings got pretty noisy, so you might have to either use the timer function or run it on a lower setting if you want to run it while sleeping. The Honeywell HPA200 air purifier is unobtrusive, easy to use, and a good companion in the constant battle with airborne allergens.
Looks can be deceiving when it comes to the Honeywell HPA250B. Despite its old-school aesthetics (it looks identical to its sister product, the HPA200), its interface and capabilities are both modern and highly relevant to today's air quality concerns.
The device uses a sorbent pre-filter and a True HEPA filter.
In addition to the same cleaning modes found on the HPA200, this air purifier also has a VOC sensor, which, when activated, automatically sets the level of air cleaning to best eradicate any VOCs detected.
Even better, with the Honeywell Portable Air Purifier app, you can connect with your device via Bluetooth. In the app, you can change the settings, set alerts for allergen levels, order filter replacements, and set a weekly operation schedule.
The HPA250B did a pretty good job at filtering out the smell of the nutmeg essential oil but did not perform as well when it came to filtering out cigarette smoke. Testers who took the Honeywell home noticed a definite improvement in their air quality with respect to the rapid removal of cooking smoke and smells.
While some of the fan settings got pretty loud, this is offset by scheduling it to run while you're out of your house.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.