According to the EPA, the concentration of pollutants like pollen and mold are often two to five times higher indoors than they are outside. And given that we spend more than 90 percent of our time inside, we want to ensure that our space is as clean as possible, especially if we suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory illnesses (like recovering from COVID-19). In this case, we recommend looking into a home air purifier.

Looking for other ways to improve your breathing and health? Check out our tips for naturally boosting your immune system!

How Do Air Purifiers Work?

The simplest way to think of an air purifier is like a colander or sifter: When you’re draining pasta, for example, the slits allow the water to come through while still holding on to the food. The same applies to an air purifier. Using an internal fan, the machine sends air through a filter, trapping pollutants, irritants, and even odors. Clean air is then released. This process continues throughout the day to ensure you’re circulating the freshest air. Some air purifiers also use electronic technology that ionizes particles and traps them. However, this can lead to ozone emissions, so it’s important to do research to see what best fits your needs.

Whichever style you prefer, air purifiers can catch all kinds of irritants, including pollen, pet dander, mold, smoke, dust mites, pesticides, ozone from air cleaners, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from chemicals, and even radon.

The Health Benefits of Air Purifiers

If you have pets or are near smokers, you may understand firsthand how badly allergies can act up in enclosed spaces. In the short term, pollutants can cause asthma-like symptoms like irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat or headaches, and—in the long term—even respiratory diseases. So alongside regular cleaning and strong ventilation, air purifiers can be a real game-changer to remove those potent allergens and irritants.

Note: While air purifiers can soothe allergies or asthma-related issues, it may not be a cure-all for your specific health needs. Please consider reaching out to your primary care doctor for long term relief.

What To Shop For

To begin, think about the size of your space. Are you looking for a portable home air purifier to use between your bedroom and office, or one standalone machine for an entire apartment? Some options work for 20 square feet spaces while others work across 1,000 square feet. Some homes even need multiple air purifiers, so consider your overall quantity first.

Once you have a sense of your needs, decide which kind of air filter or system you want. The most effective filters are called High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which have multiple layers of screening to capture even the tiniest particles. Some filters are made of paper, fiber (like fiberglass), or mesh, and almost all of them require regular maintenance every few months. If you’re looking for filters that remove odors and smoke as well, look into an activated carbon filter to help neutralize those pollutants. Ideally, set aside a budget for regular refills for whichever filter you choose as well as how much electricity the purifier will use—especially if it’s always running.

When it comes to quality, look at the Clean Air Delivery Rating (CADR), or the cleaning speed. While industry standards vary on the optimal range, we recommend generally looking for CADRs of 100+, with a score above 350 being extremely effective. (Generally speaking, a purifier should be able to remove at least 99.97 percent of particulates measuring 0.3 microns or more, which is to say, it should capture almost anything the eye can see.)

“Ideally, set aside a budget for regular refills for whichever filter you choose as well as how much electricity the purifier will use.”

Lastly, consider any certifications, sustainability, and safety ratings like the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) verification. If an air purifier is reputable, it will likely have this verification or, at the very least, strong CADR ratings.

Now that you have the 101, it’s time to check out some of the best and most sustainable home air purifiers on the market. These five brands (and an all-natural bonus 😉 ) will have you breathing easier in no time.

1. Brondell

Purifies Up To | 1655 square feet
Eco-Friendly Features | Nanocrystalline filter, plasma generator, ozone-free
Brand Ethics | Member of 1% for the Planet, plants trees, recycles materials
Price | $800

The Brondell Pro Sanitizing Air Purifier is the industry leader in air purifiers, with multiple certifications and third party-testing to verify its performance features. Not only does it remove 99.97% of the dust, dander, pollen, smoke and bacteria from the air, but it’s also proven to eliminate 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 within 15 minutes with just the push of a button. Testing by MRIGlobal and SGS lab testing also showed that the Pro eliminates 99.9% of H1N1 and H3N2 influenza viruses within one hour. With a sleek design, a filter lifespan of 8-12 months, and the ability to purify air up to 1655 square feet, this filter is the dream.

2. Blueair

Purifies Up To | 526 square feet
Eco-Friendly Features | ENERGY STAR rated, activated carbon filter, certified for ozone emissions and electrical safety, AHAM Verifide
Brand Ethics | Gives back
Price | $170

Get (or give!) a better night’s sleep with Blueair’s Blue Pure 411 air purifier. Equipped with HEPASilent™ technology, this baby quickly cleans over 200 square feet in under 13 minutes. This smart purifier goes on standby when you leave the house and turns back on when you’re getting close. With a CADR of 141 cfm and voice activation, it’s easy for this filter to catch everything from foul odors to pollen and dander. Even if you use it around the clock, the filter only needs to be replaced twice a year. Hit the one-touch auto mode, and almost immediately, you’ll notice a difference. This model is ideal for small spaces, and it’s quiet, never louder than 46 decibels.

3. Molekule

Purifies Up To | 1000 square feet
Eco-Friendly Features | Ozone-free
Brand Ethics | Gives back
Price | $1015

While most air purifiers seek to attract ultra-fine particles to a filter, Molekule aims to destroy pollutants all together with its PECO purification technology. Family-founded and operated, Dr. Yogi Goswami and his two children started the company when co-founder Dilip suffered from asthma and allergies. Today, the company shares its innovative tech with businesses, medical institutions, and consumers looking for fresher air. With four different options for various sizes, we love the Air, which can work in spaces of up to 600 square feet.

4. Rabbit Air

Purifies Up To | 815 square feet
Eco-Friendly Features | ENERGY STAR certified
Brand Ethics | Gives back
Price | $600

If you’re more concerned about certain pollutants over others (i.e., animal dander), you’ll like Rabbit Air’s customizable MinusA2 air purifier. In addition to catching common pollutants like dust mites, mold, and bacteria, the purifier’s specific filters trap and remove irritants like foul odors or toxins. Several models are also WiFi-enabled and work with Alexa or Bluetooth connections, so you can keep things running even when you’re not in the room. With CADR levels at 200 cfm, a Rabbit Air purifier is sure to be a worthwhile investment.

5. Briiv

Purifies Up To | 385 square feet
Eco-Friendly Features | 100 percent renewable filters, ozone-free, plastic-free
Brand Ethics | Natural and biodegradable materials only
Price | $344

For an extra sustainable option, certified B Corp Briiv is a Kickstarter-backed air filter made entirely from natural and biodegradable materials like coconut, moss, and wool that trap specific irritants. Once the plastic-free filters are used up, they naturally degrade over time. Plus, it works well with technology, too, running on a 5V USB and compatible with apps like Alexa and Google Assistant. No watering, waste, or real effort is needed. Plus, no eye sores here: the filter not only looks like a houseplant, but has the same air-cleaning power as over 3,000 medium-size houseplants!

Bonus: Plants! 🌱

Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention the most natural air purifier: Plants! Plants like ivy, spider and snake plants, and even aloe vera can help clear the air. Check out our favorite online plant shops here, and then head to our indoor houseplant guide to learn how to care for them!