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What's behind our air purifier Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 22 models in air purifiers to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is mainly how well models removed dust and smoke from a test chamber, plus quietness.
  • Dust/pollen/smoke removal (high)
    Dust/pollen/smoke removal is how well a model cleared air of fine clay dust and cigarette smoke when operating at its highest speed. A model that scores well for dust removal should perform comparably for pollen.
  • Dust/pollen/smoke removal (low)
    Dust/pollen/smoke removal is how well a model cleared air of fine clay dust and cigarette smoke when operating at a low speed that was typically one setting above the lowest speed. Many models have multiple speeds and the lowest is not as effective at cleaning the air. A model that scores well for dust removal should perform comparably for pollen.
  • Noise (high speed)
    Noise is based on instrument measurements with the model running at its highest speed.
  • Noise (low speed)
    Noise is based in instrument measurements with the model running at a low speed. The lowest speed may provide even quieter operation but will not be as effective at cleaning the air.
  • Annual cost
    Annual cost is a combination of yearly filter and energy costs.


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Recommended air purifiers

Recommended air purifiers are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Most people buy air purifiers to ease asthma or allergies. But despite product claims, there's little definitive medical evidence that air purifiers help to relieve respiratory symptoms. If you're looking for information about air purifiers, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ air purifier reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our air purifier buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased ratings and air purifier reviews to help you choose the best air purifier for your needs.

Recently reviewed air purifiers

has a filter indicator and and 3 speeds. It’s designed for floor or tabletop use in a medium-sized room. and weighs 8.8 pounds.

Air purifier buying guide

Before you buy an air purifier, try some simple, common-sense steps to reduce indoor air pollution. Begin by vacuuming often, banning smoking indoors, minimizing use of candles and wood fires, and using exhaust fans in kitchen, bath, and laundry areas. Test your home for radon gas, which can cause lung cancer (test kits cost about $15). Don't store chemicals, solvents, glues, or pesticides in your house. Minimize the risk of deadly carbon monoxide gas by properly maintaining and venting heating equipment, wood stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and vents--and by installing carbon-monoxide alarms on all levels of your home. And don't idle your car, run fuel-burning power equipment, or light a barbecue grill in your garage, basement, or in confined spaces near your home.

The better air purifiers do especially well at filtering pollutant particles such as dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other types of gaseous pollutants, however, are another matter. Some portable models with carbon pre-filters are claimed to filter VOCs, known respiratory irritants that arise from adhesives, paints, and cleaning products. But the Environmental Protection Agency warns that such filters are specific to certain gaseous pollutants, not for others, and that no air purifiers are expected to remove all gaseous pollutants found in the typical home. Carbon filters also must be replaced often, typically every 3-6 months, or they stop working--and can even, when full, release trapped pollutants back into the air. The safer course: Heed strict product-label warnings such as "use only in well-ventilated spaces."

Air-purifier models with an electrostatic precipitator remove pollutant particles by charging them as they pass through and collecting them on an oppositely charged metal plate or filter. In the process, they produce some ozone as a byproduct. You'll also find dedicated ozone generators, which produce relatively large amounts of this gas by design. While ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from the sun's ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone is an irritant that can worsen asthma and compromise your ability to fight respiratory infections. We believe that air purifiers that emit even small amounts of ozone are a poor choice if someone in your household has pulmonary problems or allergy symptoms. We also suggest that you avoid dedicated ozone generators entirely, given their high ozone emissions.

The very best portable models we tested were effective at cleaning the air of dust, smoke, and pollen at their highest or lowest speed. For whole-house purifiers, our recommended models did best at filtering dust and pollen without impeding the airflow of forced-air heating and cooling systems. The worst models weren't terribly effective at any speed.

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