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.
We spend most of our time indoors, and the air quality in our homes and offices can be surprisingly poor. Poor air quality comes from many sources, including wildfire smoke, allergy-causing pollen and dust mites, viruses and bacteria, and common household chemicals. Air purifiers improve indoor air quality by removing these pollutants.
After extensive testing, we identified the Winix 5500-2(available at Amazon for $160.00) as the overall best air purifier, combining multiple filters to remove particles and chemicals.
When choosing an air purifier, focus on your main air quality concerns. If you suffer from allergies, are concerned about airborne viruses and bacteria, or encounter wildfire smoke, you need a particle filter. Particle filters don’t remove chemicals, though. To tackle these, your air purifier will need an activated carbon filter or other chemical removal stage.
For the tiniest particulate matter, like smoke and virus carrying aerosols, you need a high-efficiency particle (HEPA) filter.
The Medify MA-50 (available at Amazon) is the best we’ve tested for HEPA filtering power. This purifier combines high-quality HEPA filters that trap even the tiniest particles with a powerful fan that works well in larger rooms.
For a budget-friendly option, we recommend the IKEA Förnuftig (available at IKEA) as our best value pick. It performs well in small spaces and looks great, more like a vintage speaker than an air purifier.
Here are the best air purifiers we tested ranked, in order:
Aeris Aair Lite
Cuisinart PuRXium CAP-500
Honeywell PowerPlus True HEPA
Area coverage: 360 square feet
Dimensions: 15 x 8 x 24 inches
Color options: Black
Maximum noise level: 57 decibels
The Winix 5500-2 is our best overall performer, scoring well for particle and chemical removal, ease of use, and low filter replacement costs. The impressive all round performance comes from a combination of filters.
A washable pre-filter protects the other filters from large items like pet hair, and a true HEPA filter captures microscopic particles.
A carbon filter absorbs chemical pollutants, like VOCs from paint and cleaning products. This is washable to extend its life. Finally, the Plasmawave stage produces reactive ions that break down more chemicals.
We love the automatic features. An air sensor adjusts performance to match the air quality. A light sensor also dims the controls and turns down the fan for sleep mode after dark. The washable filter stages and relatively long filter keep filter costs low.
The IKEA Förnuftig is a simple, inexpensive purifier that’s well suited to smaller spaces. The replacement filters are an equally good value, so the running cost is low.
It also looks great. The fabric cover gives it the appearance of a speaker. It also has the flexibility to be free-standing or wall-mounted, the only air purifier we tested with both options.
The fabric cover acts as a prefilter, and, with the optional carbon filter in place, the Förnuftig was excellent at removing chemical pollutants like VOCs.
The main area where the Förnuftig falls short is particle filtering. The filter is EPA rather than HEPA rated. This means that although the filter is very effective at trapping particles, it has a slightly lower efficiency than HEPA-rated filters.
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, maximizes its filtering capacity.
The Medify’s filters are rated HEPA 13, a high-efficiency type often used in medical facilities. The HEPA filters can remove the aerosols that spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.
High-quality filters are 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 to pull air through the filter, meaning an intrusive noise level at higher settings.
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 small 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.
The OdorStop OSAP5 combined the most filtering mechanisms of any purifier we tested. A HEPA filter and ionizer trap particles, plus activated carbon and UV light tackle chemicals. There’s an air quality sensor built-in, so it monitors and automatically 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 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
Area coverage: 150 square feet
Dimensions: 12 x 10 x 18 inches
Color options: Black
Maximum noise level: 55 decibels
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 chemicals 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, this is a good choice for you.
The Aeris Aair Lite has a fabric cover that comes in three colors. The fabric looks good but isn’t just for decoration; it contains zinc pyrithione, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
This air purifier focuses on particle removal, containing a HEPA filter that removes even the smallest particles from the air. An air quality sensor also allows the purifier to automatically adjust 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. 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 increases fan noise. 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 or automatic mode. This means you’ll need to set the fan speed as there’s no automatic mode to adjust to air quality.
The Honeywell PowerPlus True HEPA was a solid performer at 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 allows for a high air filtering capacity, but it’s expensive to replace.
There’s also an air quality sensor that allows the purifier to run automatically, 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. You’ll need to turn down the fan at night for sleeping.
The Aura Air was excellent at VOC removal, but it was less effective at particle filtering. This was the only air purifier we tested that didn’t have a physical control panel. It has to be set up and controlled with an Android or iPhone app.
The performance data from the manufacturer shows effectiveness at virus removal, including Sars-CoV-2, the COVID causing virus.
The Aura Air combines multiple filtering mechanisms, a prefilter, a filter for particles, and VOCs. The filter also contains copper, which, combined with UV light, targets bacteria and viruses.
The Aura Air was the only purifier we tested that had to be wall-mounted. This location could improve airflow compared to floor units.
The fan is also powerful, but noisy. The downside of wall mounting is that once installed, you can’t move it to other parts of your home. Also, remember that you’ll need to mount it near a power outlet, and there’ll be a power cord running down your wall.
The Aura Air is a good choice if you are mainly concerned about VOCs, bacteria, and viruses and are happy with a wall-mounted purifier.
The Crane EE-7002AIR HEPA is one of the least expensive air purifiers we tested. It is limited to particle filtering only. It has a simple, circular design with a central fan and a wrap-around filter.
The Crane’s noise level is very low. There are three fan speed settings, and you can barely hear it running at the lowest setting.
A major limitation is that although it is branded as a HEPA air purifier, the filters are described as ‘HEPA-like.’ This means the filter properties aren’t clearly defined. The measured particle trapping performance was the lowest of the purifiers we tested.
If you’re concerned about larger particles like pollen, the compact size and quiet fan make the Crane ideal for a bedroom.
In our lab, we tested how well air purifiers could remove dust, smoke, and VOCs from an enclosed space. They were also rated on noise and display light levels, ease of setup and use, their looks, and annual filter cost.
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 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.
We tested how quickly the purifiers could remove smoke particles and volatile organics compounds (VOCs) added to an airtight chamber in our lab.
Each purifier was placed in the chamber and turned to its maximum fan setting. If extra filter mechanisms were available, we switched these on. We recorded changes in particle and VOC levels, measuring the air cleaning 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 assessed how easy it was to set up the purifier and change the filter and noted how many settings and filter stages it had. We also figured out the annual cost of replacing filters.
Finally, the air purifiers went home with the tester to see if fan noise and display lights affected sleeping, conversation, and TV viewing. This also allowed us to assess how they look in a domestic setting.
What You Should Know Before Buying an Air Purifier
Air purifier choice depends on the size of your space, your air quality worries, and how automated you want your purifier to be.
How Do Air Purifiers Work?
The heart of most air purifiers is a fan that pulls room air through the filters and returns cleaner air to the room.
All the air purifiers we tested had a particle filtering stage. Many had extra filter mechanisms to tackle chemical pollution, viruses, and bacteria.
Some purifiers include an air quality monitor that automatically adjusts fan speed to match the pollution levels in your home. This keeps down energy and filter use.
What is a HEPA Filter?
High efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA filters) are rated by how efficiently they remove particles down to 0.3 microns.
HEPA filters have a number rating from H10 to H14; the higher, the better. H10 and H11 filters are sometimes described as “True HEPA,” and H13 and H14 filters as “Medical Grade.”
HEPA filters stop smoke. Even though many viruses and bacteria are smaller than 0.3 microns, they’re spread in larger liquid droplets called aerosols. HEPA filters trap these and limit the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses, including COVID.
HEPA filters aren’t just for tiny particles, they trap everything larger than 0.3 microns. So if you have allergies, HEPA will help out with larger particles like pollen, mold spores and pet dander too. This means HEPA air purifiers are a perfect choice if you’re concerned about any type of airborne particle.
Be careful in your choice, as some filter manufacturers use the terms “HEPA like” or “HEPA type.” These are marketing terms that don’t clearly define filter quality.
If you’re investing in a HEPA filter, also 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 HEPA filter if it gets clogged with cat hair!
Room Size and Clean Air Delivery Rating (CADR rating)
Most air purifiers list a coverage area in square feet. For reference, a typical living room or master bedroom is in the 200 to 300 square foot range.
You should match the purifier to your room size. If it’s too small, it won’t filter the air effectively—too large, and you’re paying for fan power and a filter area you don’t need.
If available, the CADR is a more direct performance guide than recommended area coverage. You should choose a CADR value that’s about two thirds of your room square footage.
Removing Airborne Particles
Airborne particles come in a range of sizes. Allergens like pollen and mold spores are relatively large at 10 to 100 microns. If you’re allergic to these, you may not need the highest performance filters.
Most other problem particles are much smaller. Pet dander and dust mite allergens are in the 10 micron and less range. Smoke, and the aerosol droplets created when you cough and sneeze that spread bacteria and viruses are even smaller, at 1 micron or less.
Hairs are about 70 microns thick, so you can’t see most of the smaller particles. To stop smoke, bacteria, and viruses, you’ll need a HEPA filter.
Removing Chemical Air Pollution
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a major chemical pollutant released by paint, plastics, cleaning products, hair spray, and glue. Nitrogen dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels, and although traffic fumes are a major source, it can make its way into your home.
Nitrogen dioxide and some VOCs have negative health impacts.
Particle filters don’t remove airborne chemicals. If you’re worried about chemical pollutants, ensure your purifier has carbon filters or other mechanisms specifically designed to trap or neutralize them.
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.