Now more than ever, keeping a home free from allergens (like pet hair and dust mites), virus particles, 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 best tested Winix 5500-2(available at Amazon for $159.99).
After testing nearly two dozen 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 ranked, in order:
Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic
Blueair Classic 205
LG PuriCare 360-Degree
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The Winix 5500-2, while not the most technologically advanced product on our list, uses a True HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter, and plasma to clean the air.
It has intuitive controls and thoughtful extras like a sleep mode, a timer, and a light sensor that automatically adjusts the back-lighting on the control panel. It also comes with a number of status lights for the filter integrity, air quality, and odor detection.
Changing the filters is easy, and most of the fan settings were quiet enough to not prove disruptive during conversations or at night.
While the Winix 5500-2 employs plasma as one purification method, it is certified by the California Air Resources Board, meaning that it emits minimal, safe levels of ozone. If you have a strong ozone sensitivity, though, all you have to do is turn the PlasmaWave function off.
The Winix 5500-2 did well in our smell tests; it was able to noticeably remove odors like cinnamon and cigarette smoke. Of the two scents, cigarette smoke seems to be more pervasive, so the fact that the Winix was able to remove enough smoke that not all of our testers could immediately identify it is praise-worthy. These smell tests, it must be noted, were conducted without the PlasmaWave function, so regardless of whether you use it or not, you should see strong cleaning performance.
Our testers also commented favorably on the Winix's ability to make a basement seem less musty, and to noticeably diminish cooking smells as well as the number of allergens. If you want to see an improvement in your air quality, and don't need a lot of high-tech features, the Winix 5500-2 won't let you down.
The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic (HP06) is the latest coup in air quality control from Dyson. While a lot of the features are similar to those in previous iterations of the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool air purifier, the presence of a permanent cryptomic panel helps to remove formaldehyde, alongside its HEPA and carbon filters.
The permanent cryptomic panel in the Dyson HP06 is said to trap formaldehyde particles and render them into less harmful particles such as water vapor and (minimal amounts of) carbon dioxide.
The information panel on both the machine and in the Dyson Link app (iOS/Android) provide real-time information about the temperature, humidity, and air quality of your room.
From the app, you can set voice commands (through Amazon Alexa or Siri) and change every setting on the HP06, with the exception of the temperature (which can be changed via the remote). This air purifier can also be used without the app; its unique shape makes it easy to lift and move around.
Filter replacement is a breeze. (Note: while replacement filters are relatively expensive, it is recommended that you purchase them directly from Dyson, as there have been counterfeit Dyson products sold from online retailers in the past.)
When it came to performance, we were just as impressed with the Dyson HP06 as we were with the HP04, which we tested in an earlier iteration of this article. Our tester loved the 350-degree oscillation option, which spins the appliance around in nearly a full circle.
In the at-home smell tests, the HP06 easily dispelled the smell of cooking bacon and bleach (but obviously not at the same time). During our smell test in the lab, the Dyson did a pretty good job of removing the smell of cigarette smoke; only a hint of a menthol smell remained after it ran for four hours.
The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Cryptomic is seriously expensive. But for gadget fiends, those with serious concerns about formaldehyde, or those who don’t have permanent heating or cooling options in their homes, it might be worth the investment.
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).
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.
The high price is doubtlessly driven by the fact that it has many extra features, strong air cleaning abilities, and a luxury aesthetic.
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.
I have allergies that follow me around wherever I go. My friends know that if they don’t see me flash a packet of tissues at least once while I’m out, chances are I’ve been replaced by an allergy-free clone. Naturally, I was hyped to test out air purifiers because I was curious to see if they really work.
The Testing Area
To test these devices in Reviewed's lab, I built an airtight 200-square-feet space to mimic the size of large rooms, like a bedroom or living room.
To begin testing, I set off a red smoke grenade to see if the air purifier could clear the room (spoiler alert: it can, but it completely clogs the filters), and as a result, the room’s walls were slightly red-tinged from then on, looking like a scene out of Dexter.
The room replicates the way someone might use one of these devices in their home, and without having to worry about external air currents or smells interfering with our tests.
I tested air purifiers for casual usage and whether it could eliminate odor. I asked volunteers to take two units home and use each for two weeks at a time. Volunteers then filled out surveys focused on user-friendliness and their impressions on how each unit worked in their homes.
The smell tests were conducted in the testing room I built by introducing a smell (cigarette smoke, fish oil, essential oils) into the sealed room for 20 minutes, running the device on its highest fan speed setting for four hours, and then asking people to identify what they smelled.
The more smell confusion recorded, the better the air purifier performed at removing a particular odor from the room.
Unfortunately, we were unable to measure the size and type of particulates in a room before and after using an air purifier. (If you want that information, check out the guides from our friends at the Wirecutter and Consumer Reports).
However, we’re confident in our testing, because it allows us to replicate the experience someone actually using the air purifier in his or her home would have, since air particulate differences detected by machines are not necessarily detectable by humans.
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 EPA 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Our in-home tester really loved the “Express Clean” setting, which cleared kitty litter dust from the air with no problem. It had a bit of a tougher time removing the smell of bacon from the air, but did a decent job of removing the smell of cigarette smoke from the airtight test room during lab testing.
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.
A relative newcomer, the California-based start-up Wynd recently expanded their popular personal air purifier line of products to include a whole-room air purifier with a HEPA filter. 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.
When it came to in-home testing, users subjected the Wynd Home Purifier to bathroom smells and burnt toast, both of which the Wynd dispatched with ease. During lab testing, however, 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. At-home testing revealed that the Classic 205 might also help to mitigate allergy congestion when you first wake up in the morning.
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 at-home testing, users found that the air220 did a solid job of getting rid of pot smoke, but it struggled a bit more to remove the smell of incense. In our lab, it performed similarly, where 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, as we learned during in-home testing, drastically reduced the number of airborne 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.