Air Cleaner vs. Air Purifier: Which Is Best for You?

Updated on January 20, 2022 by Joseph D. Nielson

Table of Contents

Bedroom with white bed and chair. Lady stands to the right of the bed touching an air cleaner

As technology evolves, cleaning methods are doing their best to keep up. To combat dirty home and office problems in today’s time, many companies have created top-notch solutions. Due to this, many air cleaners and air purifiers are on the market today. So, which one should you buy? 

When comparing an air cleaner vs. air purifier, the final decision will depend on your needs, how often you need a filter change, and which features interest you most. 

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between an air cleaner and an air purifier so that you can make the best decision for your home or office.

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What Is an Air Cleaner?

An air cleaner is a device that cleans the air in a room by removing dust, pollen, and other allergens from the air. Air cleaners come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are large units that sit on the floor, while others are small units that can be mounted on a wall or window.

There are two types of air cleaners: mechanical and electronic. A mechanical air cleaner has a fan that pushes air through the unit. The dirty air goes in, and clean air comes out. An electronic air cleaner uses ultraviolet (UV) light to kill bacteria and viruses as the air passes by them.

One of the main reasons people purchase these devices is because it is an effective solution for allergy relief or asthma management. Other common reasons include reducing dust levels, pet dander, mould spores, pollen, and other allergens found in their homes. The result is an overall healthier living environment for everyone.

There are many benefits to owning an air cleaner. 

Better Air Quality 

An air cleaner can help improve your breathing quality, especially beneficial for respiratory problems like asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, air cleaners are a few methods proven to reduce asthma symptoms.

During your selection process, you must be mindful of the type of air cleaner you pick. If you’re considering an air cleaner that uses ionizers, try to ensure it does not use dangerous ozone levels, as it is a health hazard for all household members. Ozone is a lung irritant that can cause chest pains, coughing, and shortness of breath, even in people with asthma and other lung ailments. 

Reduced Cleaning Time

Other benefits of using an air cleaner include the reduced time it takes to clean your home, giving you more free time for other activities. Air cleaners reduce pollutants in your home, often responsible for leaving behind dirt and larger dust particles on surfaces.

Glass table with layer of cleaning solution and a hand with a cleaning cloth wiping it down

Air cleaners capture pollutants in the air, such as dust and smoke particles, and trap them inside the unit. Once the cleaner has reached its capacity, it will need to be cleaned or replaced with a new filter.

Most people who own an air cleaner swear by their benefits and are unlikely to go back to living without one. A range of products is available, allowing you to pick one that best suits your home’s needs. If you’re on the fence about purchasing one, you can test some out in your home before committing.

What Is an Air Purifier?

An air purifier is an electronic device that helps cleanse and circulate fresh air, improving air quality. Air purifiers mainly remove gaseous pollutants in the air using mechanical filtration, absorption, or both.

A standard air purifier may be composed of several components: pre-filters to remove large dust particles, activated carbon air filters to reduce common odours and chemicals, and a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) for removing fine dust particles. The additional user interface allows you to operate your unit efficiently at home.

An ozone generator can reduce odours, smoke particles, and chemicals from the air. An indoor air purifier does not have any ozone production capabilities. Still, it will help reduce common household odours such as cooking smells or pet dander by using a pre-filter to trap the airborne particles.

The size of the purifier also matters because if it is too small, it will not be able to circulate enough air for the entire room and vice versa. You want to make sure that the unit you choose can cover the square footage of your home.

Standard air purifiers include ionizing purifiers, adsorbent purifiers, and UV light purifiers. Ionizing purifiers use high voltage to convert air molecules into a charged state. 

Adsorbent cleaners use a variety of substances to remove indoor pollutant sources from the air through adsorption, which is when gases and more powerful air particles bond with the surface area on an object. 

UV light purifiers work by emitting ultraviolet rays that directly kill germs and bacteria in the air.

Living room with two couches and a table in the middle.

Air Cleaner vs. Air Purifier

Air cleaners and air purifiers are used to clean polluted or dirty indoor environments. 

Both products are highly beneficial for people with breathing issues, particularly those with allergy symptoms or sensitivities to dust mites, pollen, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and other irritants. 

However, there is often confusion surrounding these two types of cleaners, as the two terms are generally used interchangeably. Although they have similar functionalities and benefits, each product is unique in its way.


An air cleaner is equipment that removes solid pollutants from the air by trapping the particles on a filter. The most common type of air cleaner is the mechanical filter which uses a fan to draw in polluted air and push it through the filter.

An air purifier uses a process known as electrostatic precipitation, chemical reactions, or filtration to remove gaseous pollutants from the air.


Another difference between an air cleaner and an air purifier is the price. Air cleaners are typically less expensive than air purifiers, making them more affordable for some families.

Features & Benefits 

The best way to determine which of these two appliances is suitable for you and your family is by researching each product’s specific features and benefits.

If easy maintenance with changing regular air filters is essential to you, an air cleaner may be suitable for your family. If odours or chemical sensitivities are what you’re trying to avoid, an air purifier will probably work best in your home.

Air cleaners and air purifiers can be effective ways to improve your indoor air quality. It’s essential to research and find the right product for you and your family.

Benefits of Using Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers 

Air cleaners and air purifiers are great ways to improve the quality of your home’s indoor air. Here are some benefits of using these devices:

  • They reduce allergens in your house. Allergens include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mould spores, and other finer particles contributing to allergies, asthma attacks, stuffy noses, and other respiratory conditions.
  • They improve your lung health by reducing the presence of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants. Examples include tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paints and furniture polishes, and radon gas from the soil under your house.
  • They improve air quality which can help you sleep better at night because they reduce noise caused by traffic or loud neighbours.
  • Your house will smell fresh due to better air quality which helps keep odours at bay. This is especially helpful for pet owners.
  • They help you save money because they reduce the need for air conditioning and heating, expensive to run. Portable air purifiers are also easy to handle.
Woman sleeping in bed with a smile on her face

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between An Air Purifier And An Air Cleaner?

Air cleaners physically remove particles from the airstream, while air purifiers use a filter to cleanse the airstream of pollutants. Not all mechanical air filters are created equal. For example, HEPA filters are the best type for trapping small particles, while activated carbon filters remove gases and odours.

What Is The Difference Between An Electronic Air Purifier And A Mechanical One?

Electronic air purifiers work by using an electrical current to create a field that attracts indoor air pollutants. Mechanical air purifiers use a fan to draw in air, passing through a series of filters.

How Often Should I Change My Air Purifier Filter?

Depending on the type of filter, you can go anywhere from a few months to a year before needing to replace it. Check your owner’s manual for more information.

How Loud Is An Air Cleaner Or Air Purifier?

Air cleaners and purifiers come in a variety of sizes and noise levels. Some are very quiet, while others can be pretty loud. If you’re concerned about the noise level, be sure to check out the product specifications before making a purchase.

What Is An Air Ionizer?

Some air cleaners and purifiers use an ionizing process to attract particles like allergens, smoke, odours, and chemical fumes. An ionic air purifier essentially works using a small electrical current that runs through metal plates or wires at high speeds to create charged ions (negatively-charged molecules). These negative ions are then attracted to positively-charged particles in the air.

Are Air Purifiers Good For Lungs?

If you or a family member living with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), high amounts of air particles in your home can worsen your health. Pulled air particles can cause swelling in your lungs, breathing problems, worsening cough, and congestion. It can also contribute to other health problems, such as increased blood pressure.

Having an air purifier or cleaner is particularly helpful when concerned about lung health. An air purifier or cleaner can ease COPD symptoms, allowing members of your home to lead a better quality of life. 

Woman coughing covering her mouth while sitting up in bed. To the side is a table with some pills and a glass of water.

Do Air Purifiers Reduce Oxygen From The Air?

Air purifies do not reduce the oxygen you breathe in and do not adversely affect your health. Some air purifiers take up oxygen from the air. However, this does mean you have lower levels of oxygen to breathe.

Activated carbon filters take up a minimal amount of oxygen, but the quantity is too low to affect your home or health. There will be no measurable difference in the oxygen content of the air. Fortunately, the activated carbon filters prefer to take up pollutants over oxygen, leaving you with a cleaner environment.

Can Air Purifiers & Cleaners Weaken Immune System?

One of the most popular myths regarding air purifiers and cleaners is that it weakens the immune system. Exposure to polluted air can cause irreversible damage, resulting in asthma, COPD, cancer, and other issues. However, air purifiers and cleaners reduce the air pollutants, allowing you to breathe in cleaner air, which can boost your immune system.

Is a Humidifier The Same As an Air Purifier?

A humidifier and air purifier positively impact air quality wherever the device is placed. However, they do not possess the same features or benefits. An air purifier cleans the air to support health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, and respiratory irritations. But, it does not add moisture to the air. 

Humidifiers add moisture to the air, reducing health issues due to dry air, such as bronchitis or irritated skin. 

Whether you need an air purifier or humidifier can depend on your purpose of purchase. For example, a humidifier can benefit a baby if dry air in the nursery is the main problem. On the other hand, an air purifier is better for allergens. 

Both devices have their unique advantages, so it is best to research to pick one that works best for your home.

What Are the Signs That Your Home Needs An Air Purifier or Cleaner?

It might be challenging to determine when your home needs to help of an air purifier or cleaner. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • You or your family members are continuously sneezing due to dust particles
  • The air feels stuffy
  • You snore loudly due to pollen and dander
  • Your house smells of varnish and disinfectants
  • You notice a lot of dust mites, requiring frequent cleanups
Woman wearing yellow gloves wiping down a table with a cleaning cloth


An air cleaner is a device that cleans the air in your home. It does this by using filters to remove dust and pollutants from the air, then releasing them back into the room.

In contrast, an air purifier removes particles and gases from the indoor environment with filters, ionizers, or ultraviolet light sources while reducing odours caused by pets, smoking, or cooking food.

When choosing between an air cleaner vs. air purifier, it’s essential to understand the difference between the two before making your final decision. While these two products serve different purposes and have various features, what we can say for sure is that both will help to improve your indoor comfort by cleansing the air of allergens and other potential irritants.

Joseph and Family
About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!