Smoke is one of the most bothersome air quality causes around. Dealing with the lingering effects of smoke and the terrible odors can be tough. The great news is that a good air purifier can help tremendously. But what is best air purifier for smoke? And what should you be shopping for?
Smoke covers surfaces in microscopic particles which cling to nearly everything as they circulate in the air. In order to combat that, I’ll share some helpful background information and explain more about what you need to know before spending a cent. I’ve also got great recommendations and the pros & cons of several of the best air purifiers for smoke sold today.
Infographic – Smoke and air purifier facts
What kind of air purifier do I need for smoke?
While there are many low-cost “air filters” and “air cleaners”, etc., on the market, you need to shop for a filter-based product. Not just that, but you should also be sure to shop for the following kind:
- Uses a quality High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter
- A purifier that includes an activated carbon filter
What is a HEPA filter?
A HEPA filter is an air filter used to remove very small particulates from the air. “HEPA” is name used to describe an old standard created in the United States back in the 1950s to ensure the cleaning efficiency of air filters.
This type of filter is excellent at removing and amazing 99.7% of the contaminants that enter it when air is forced through it. This means that only a tiny 3 out of every 10,000 particles that enter it are able to escape!
They can trap microscopic particles down to an incredibly small 0.3 microns in size. This is less than 1/1,000,000 of a meter! For references, the human eye can only see particles which are a bit larger than 5 microns in size.
As smoke contains particles that range from below 1 micron to above 1 micron, it’s critical to have this amount of filtering ability to remove smoke by-products from your air.
However, as effective as these filters are, they’re not able to trap odors and other vapors that smoke introduces in your air. You’ll need a carbon filter also for that.
What is an activated carbon filter?
An activated carbon filter (shown here in black) is often made with a course/thin pre-filter material. These are typically used in conjunction with a HEPA filter for better smoke air filtering. The activated carbon filter traps odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The pre-filter is great for dust and hair. The HEPA filter permanently removes microscopic smoke particles from the air around you.
An activated carbon filter is a somewhat thin air filter section which is dark in color. They’re normally black due to the very small pieces of carbon used in them. Activated carbon attracts and traps odors and other chemical substances in the air.
This includes odors and other emissions from smoke which cause discomfort and breathing problems. No only that, but they’re great for removing those awful smells that come from cigarette and other smoke sources.
Carbon filters aren’t normally used by themselves – in air purifiers, they’re used alongside a dense HEPA filter to form a more comprehensive air purification system.
They’re especially important when it comes to dealing with smoke by-products and odors. You shouldn’t purchase an air purifier without one. As I mentioned earlier, a HEPA filter alone can’t remove odors and gaseous substances in the air.
Air purifier filter replacement
Replacing the expired filters in an air purifier usually means buying a replacement set made by the manufacturer. Pricing depends on the specific product and brand, but around $30 is typical. However, for some models it is possible to replace only the pre-filter & activated carbon filter section for less money. These are sometimes sold both by the air purifier manufacturer and from 3rd party companies. In that case you can extend the life of the HEPA filter section. Shown here is a replacement filter set for the GermGuardian AC4825, one of the most popular air purifiers sold today. It’s a great choice for smoke.
Trapping unwanted elements in the air is the basis for how air purifiers work. This also means that eventually they’ll become saturated with debris and particles.
Average replacement times for the HEPA filter section are about 6 to 8 months, although that varies with how dirty the air is where the purifier is used.
Optionally in some cases it’s possible to replace only the pre-filter/carbon filter section and extend the life of the HEPA filter. This can save quite a bit of money as well – often by 1/2 the cost of replacing both.
Many air purifiers sold today include a replacement reminder. In that case you’ll be reminded to check the filter and replace only if necessary. However, bear in mind that for smoke use you should at least replace the carbon filter section every 6 months and possibly sooner if heavy smoke is present.
5 of the best air purifiers for smoke
Reviews and pros/cons
1. GermGuardian AC4825 – A best selling, all-around good value and great performing model.
Another purifier with wonderful buyer reports and a top seller, the AC4825 doesn’t include the same features as the Levoit LV-H132 but offers more room coverage and also includes an ultraviolet (UV) germ killing feature. A true HEPA filter design ensures it cleans your air well and leaves the room fresh and allergen & dust-free. The pre-filter, an activated carbon filter, handles larger particles and odor removal. Additionally it provides nearly twice the room coverage of the Levoit.
It’s a great overall value and an excellent choice. I’m a proud owner and you can read more about it in my detailed review here.
A 3-speed fan control is provided and a great choice for those who prefer simple controls & operation. The filter is easy to remove and replace by opening the rear door and simply swapping it out. A replacement reminder is included too.
At 22 inches in height, it’s not a compact as others listed here but the small base size allows it to fit well in corners and small places where height is not an issue. Replacement filters cost about $30 and last approximately 6 months, depending upon use.
You can also find 3rd party brand filters which are cheaper.
- Simple 3-speed fan switch is great for nearly everyone
- Good overall value for performance & room size vs. the Levoit LV-132
- Great filtering performance
- Quiet fan operation on low speed setting
- Germ & microbe-killing UV-C feature not found in many others
- Filter replacement reminder
- Soft LED when power is on
- Vertical size is great for corner or areas with more vertical space
- Good room size coverage (155 square feet)
- 3-year limited warranty
- No auto-sensing modes
- No electronic controls
- No auto-off feature
- Cannot wash & reuse filter
- Design is less stylish and attractive than other competitors in its price range (ex. Levoit LV-H132)
- Warranty requires paying for return shipment for service
Even better, it’s also available in a sharp-looking version called the AC4900CA. It’s identical in performance as well. Note that prices are often slightly different between the two despite being functionally identical.
I personally own a AC4825 and now I understand why it’s a best seller. It’s well made, works great for cleaning the air, and is frustration-free. You’ll find the best price and thousands of happy buyer reviews over at Amazon.
2. Levoit LV-H132 – Sleek and with nice features. Many happy buyers agree it’s a great choice.
One of the most popular units available, the Levoit LV-H132 (smaller sibling to the Levoit LV-PUR131) is a great choice for the money. If you’re wanting to remove smoke odors & particles that aggravate breathing & allergic reactions but prefer more features this is an excellent option.
Like its competitors, it features a true HEPA filter with 3-stage filtration for good performance when removing smoke & odors.
Although it provides less coverage than competitors like the GermGuardian AC4825, the Levoit makes up for this by including more. It’s also a great looking choice for small rooms or light duty use in medium-sized rooms.
Not only this but buyer reviews are excellent and it’s a top seller in its category.
It offers some of the most features in its price range. The fan offers pleasant and quiet operation on low speed. A built-in night light with 2 brightness settings is a bonus feature. A convenient filter replacement reminder lets you know when it’s time to change the filter and replace it if needed.
Replacement filters run around $30 and are simple to replace by opening the top cover.
- Shorter height than competing tower purifiers
- 2-year warranty
- 3 fan speeds
- Night light with 2 brightness levels
- Nice looking, modern design
- Electronic soft button controls
- Quiet operation on low level won’t disturb sleep
- Filter replacement reminder
- Great build quality & high reliability
- Easy filter replacement
- Smaller room coverage than others in its price range (89 sq. ft.)
- No auto-off timer feature
- No air quality sensor
- Electronic controls may not be suitable for some
- High speed is not quite a fast as other products
It’s an excellent purifier with wonderful buyer reviews and great air cleaning performance. Be sure to check out why it's one of the best sold today and was awarded the Amazon's Choice label.
3. GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1: Great for your office, dorm room, or bedroom. Small but good!
A great mid-price model, the AC4100 has an excellent reputation and is a great looking, well performing purifier. Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, it also uses a true HEPA filter & charcoal section to produce fresh, clean air and permanently remove the nasty substances found in your home, office, and especially places like a dorm room.
As an added bonus the UV light along with titanium dioxide kills germs to make your air more safe and prevent illness. A replacement filter costs about $18 and there’s a filter installation date wheel on the rear to help you know when it’s time to replace it.
Operation is simple: a 3 speed fan control. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high sound similar to white noise is produced.
Unlike its bigger brothers the AC4825 and AC4900CA, the UV germ killing switch is an on/off type control rather than a push button. I don’t like is that there’s no indicator light for the UV feature like the larger models. However, that’s a pretty minor complaint.
- Simple 3-speed fan control and on/off UV-C switch
- UV & titanium dioxide design to kill germs
- Great filtering ability for its small size
- High speed setting moves a lot of air for purifying quickly
- Filter replacement reminder wheel (month installed)
- Low filter replacement price (about $19)
- Filter replacement date wheel (marks month installed)
- Sleek, modern design
- 1 year warranty is shorter than other models
- Fan speed on high could be slightly better
- No filter replacement light
- No additional colors offered
Following the same great quality that has made GermGuardian purifiers some of the best today, it’s a great choice. Definitely worth reading the many great buyer reviews and that helped it receive the Amazon's Choice rating.
4. Levoit LV-PUR131 – Great smoke & odor removal for med/large rooms with auto-sensing.
For those who need to remove smoke in a larger room, this Levoit model is one of the most popular and well-reviewed units you can buy today. It’s stylish, powerful, and has several cool features that really appeal to someone like me who worries about being able to sleep with electronics running. Check out the reviews – it’s an excellent addition to your home, office, or even workplace and great at removing smoke odors & residual particles in the air.
Levoit air purifiers are well-regarded and feature great design & a modern appearance too. The LV-PUR131 is no different. Electronic controls are simple to use (similar to its smaller sibling the LV-H132) and it includes a sharp-looking LCD display.
A fantastic sleep mode option is provided to ensure the LV-PUR131 doesn’t disturb you at night time and is a quiet as a mouse. The timer lets you set and forget it – it will turn itself off automatically after 1-12 hours of operation!
What makes this Levoit model such a wonderful choice is not only the same 3-speed push button fan control but also an automatic mode which increases or decreases fan speed as need when the air filtration is especially more demanding.
Filters are typically replaced about every 6 months and the replacement reminder will let you know when it’s time to check the filter. Expect to pay around $35 for a replacement, which still relatively economical when compared to other competitors in its price range.
A quiet sleep mode ensures that you’re not disturbed by noise as it provides a very low level of noise during operation. As it’s only about 11.2 lbs in weight and 14.5 x 7.2 x 18.5 inches in size, the PUR131 provides more square feet coverage (322 square feet) than others but can be placed on many counter tops, shelves, and desks if needed.
A 2 year warranty is provided.
- More room coverage for the money (322 sq ft)
- Auto-sensing mode adjusts fan speed automatically
- Sleep mode for very quiet operation
- Electronic, simple controls
- LCD display
- Auto-off feature: 1 to 12 hours for “set and forget” operation
- Great smoke removal performance
- Excellent overall reviews and customer satisfaction
- Lower weight and smaller size than others – can be used more places
- 2 year warranty
- Nice, modern appearance
- No remote control
- Auto-sensing mode does not indicate air quality levels visually
- No night light
- Replacement filters aren’t the cheapest (near $35 or so)
- Warranty is shorter than some competitors
- White color only
As it’s a fantastic compromise between cost, room size coverage, features, and performance it’s a purifier you can’t go wrong with. Not only that, but it's a #1 best seller with wonderful reviews!
5. Honeywell HPA300 – Bigger room coverage and turbo air cleaning mode. More powerful smoke removal!
The Honeywell provides the greatest room size coverage and smoke filtering ability of the units listed here. It’s a great unit with excellent reviews and some of the best smoke and odor removal ability you’ll find anywhere. It’s not short on features, either!
As it is a true serious unit, the HPA300 is a large and heavy unit, weighing about 21 lbs. The filters (carbon/pre-filter section, and separate true HEPA filter sections) are more complex but not difficult to replace. Expect to pay around $68 or so dollars for a complete 3-filter supply for your purifier. Replacement time is about 3-5 months depending on how heavy the purification work was.
It’s easy to use and has electronic tap controls for fan speed, light dimmer, and auto-operation. Indicator lights give separate reminders for both the HEPA filter sections and the pre-filter carbon filter section.
For very heavy-duty air cleaning the high-speed mode provides its maximum cleaning ability although it’s far quieter at minimum fan speed. Automatic mode shuts off the unit after either 2, 4, or 8 hour operation. The HPA300 also has 3 operational modes: allergen, general, and germ for maximum effectiveness if you’re not using it for only smoke odor & particle removal.
Hit the Turbo button for a great boost in air cleaning speed!
I bought the HPA300 myself and gave it a great going-over, and I’m impressed! Check out my in-depth review of the HPA300 here.
- Electronic touch controls
- Maximum room size capability for the money (below $300 range)
- Turbo mode for heavy air cleaning operation on demand
- Automatic operation with 2, 4, and 8 hour settings
- Quiet low speed operation
- Largest room/house coverage (465 sq. ft)
- Filter replacement reminder for both HEPA and pre-filter sections
- 5-year warranty
- Dimmer control
- Auto-off timer adjustable only in increments of 2 hours – no 1hr settings
- Not as sleek-looking as some competing products
- No auto-sensing mode for self-adjusting ability
- Black color only
Dealing with smoke in your home and larger rooms? Then you can’t go wrong with the HPA300. Find out why it's one of the best larger room air purifiers for smoke sold today.
Is the HPA300 a bit too big and expensive for you? Great news! The HPA200 has the same exact features in a smaller size for a bit less money. It’s great for large rooms. Find out the current price and read how many people love it here.
Just like it’s big brother I wrote a thorough review you can check out here as well.
A tip on filter replacement and use
Air purifiers with filter the replacement reminder feature operate based on operation time and cannot sense how much filtration work was actually done. You’ll want to check the filters and determine whether or not the filter truly needs replacement or not.
When an air purifier is not used heavily – say periodically, for example – the actual time between filter replacement is extended. For heavy smoke filtration, don’t forget that the pre-filter/carbon filtration section is essential for removing many odors and therefore will definitely need replacement after regular use.
If the GermGuardian AC4825’s style doesn’t appeal to you, also check out the AC4900CA. It’s also identical in performance but with a different design style. I highly recommend these for smoke!