Air Cleaner vs Air Purifier – What’s the Difference?

Air cleaners only filter the harmful particles out of the air, whereas air purifiers not only filter out the airborne particles but also sanitize the air. The air is sanitized using UV lamps, a bit of ozone, negative ions, static electricity, and other such methods that cancel out the harmful effects of pollutants.

If you’re someone who likes to dive deep into the specifics, all air purifiers are air cleaners, but not all air cleaners are air purifiers. Apart from air cleaners vs purifiers, there is an ongoing debate about air filters vs air purifiers. Also, because of all the confusion around these air quality products, numerous people are looking to buy products they don’t need.

We’ll explain each term in detail and will also help you decide which machine you need.

What is an Air Sanitizer?

Air sanitizer is a disinfectant that can neutralize microbes. They are targeted at bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Air sanitizers do not trap any air inside them and can act on the biological pollutants in open space. They can do so by emitting glycol vapor among other such compounds that can neutralize microbes. This is supported by evidence from EPA studies (EPA, 1980).

What is an Air Filter?

An air filter is any device made from a porous material that stops airborne particulates. Pollutants can include dust particles, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, molds, pollen, etc. Air filters are of many types and include HEPA filters, activated carbon filters, and pleated paper filters among others. The recommended type of filter depends on the types of pollutants in the vicinity and can require replacement depending on the contamination levels. (Air Filters, 2022)

What is an Air Cleaner?

Air cleaners are all such devices that clean the air by removing contaminants and hence help in improving the overall indoor air quality. This broad definition means that an air filter will also classify as an air cleaner and so will an air purifier. Also, portable air cleaners can filter out airborne pollutants, including airborne toxins, and are proven to reduce the frequency and risk of asthma attacks.

What is an Air Purifier?

An air purifier is a portable air cleaner that can bring down particle levels in the air using one or a series of filters. Some air purifiers also feature UV lights that help the machine sanitize the air, keeping your indoor environment clean and safe. Air purifiers can also feature a carbon filter allowing it to deal with odors and other gaseous pollutants.

Difference Between Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states that air cleaners can help reduce indoor air pollution by removing very small particles from the air and states that air cleaners are also called air purifiers or air sanitizers.

Recent innovations in both purifiers and cleaners mean that the line separating these two appliances is blurred beyond recognition. Both the terms air cleaner and air purifier are being used interchangeably these days. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also uses the same definition for both air purifiers and air cleaners now.

Air Filter vs Air Purifier

Air filters are devices installed inside HVAC systems and other air delivery systems like car air conditioning. There can be different types of filters in a single machine including HEPA filters that can filter air down to 0.3 microns.

Air purifiers are machines that purify the air using air filters of different types and various other techniques like static electricity, ionization method, ultraviolet light, etc.

Air Sanitizer vs Air Purifier

Air sanitizers only sanitize the air and do not take out any physical contaminants. The particulate pollution is not removed because of the absence of a dedicated filter. Air sanitizers sanitize air without sucking it into a chamber.

An air purifier provides more thorough protection as it features air filters and can also act as an air sanitizer machine, depending on the type of purifier that the customer opts for.

Conclusion: What’s the Best Choice?

Air cleaners or air purifiers that employ more than one type of purification technique are the best. Modern air purifiers use medical-grade HEPA filters, activated carbon, and electrochemical oxidation to deal with the likes of VOCs, pollen, dust mites, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful contaminants.

When buying something to improve the air quality, it is best to consider the circumstances at hand. A purifier with a dense filter will perform best against particulate matter, particularly if the filter is HEPA, but is ineffective against odors. To deal with odors, some portable air purifiers have a carbon filter that can effectively neutralize cigarette smoke, pet odors, and even wildfire smoke.

Apart from the type of filters, it is recommended to look at the CADR (clean air delivery rate) or air exchanges per hour to know how effective the purifier will be. Some commercial air purifiers can be attached to air ducts right out of the box and have a high CADR rating.

Regardless of whichever kind of air purifier you choose, it will definitely improve the air quality. According to EPA and AAFA, using the right air cleaner can help alleviate asthma symptoms and will also help reduce allergy symptoms as it not only filters but will also sanitize the air (United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2020)

We hope you better understand the difference between air cleaners and air purifiers now. With the high rate of technological change, air purifiers are improving each day to ensure the reduction of particulates and indoor pollution.

The coronavirus outbreak rejuvenated the public’s interest in air quality. While the ultimate solution is clean environments, until society unites to make that happen, air cleaners/purifiers are our best bet for ensuring a safe indoor environment.