Cigarette smoke creates so many issues with smells and air quality that it’s hard to keep up with them all. The smoke, odors, and residue that seemed to get everywhere was unpleasant.
Dealing with cigarette smoke is tough. But what causes the odor? And why is cigarette smoke so hard to deal with? Maybe you’re already aware of how an air purifier can help.
If so, that’s great. But which air purifiers are the best to remove cigarette smoke and odors?
I’ve put together a list of the best choices to remove cigarette smoke to help you make a smart choice. There’s also some great information about smoke and how air purifiers work as well.
- 1 Infographic – Cigarette smoke and air purifier facts
- 2 What is in cigarette smoke?
- 3 How cigarette smoke builds and becomes worse
- 4 Do air purifiers help with cigarette smoke and odors?
- 5 What kind of air purifier do I need?
- 6 What is a HEPA filter?
- 7 ★ 5 of the best air purifiers for removing cigarette smoke ★
- 8 Summary – My top pick under $100
Infographic – Cigarette smoke and air purifier facts
What is in cigarette smoke?
A microscopic image showing two fine aluminum silicate particles in smoke from a Marlboro Medium cigarette. Note the size scale in the image is an incredibly small 1 micrometer (1um). A micrometer (or “micron”) is 1/1,000,000 of a meter. Cigarette smoke particles have been studied and measured (see below). Their incredibly small size is one reason they’re such a problem for odors and irritation. Microscopic particles can travel to many areas of your home and surfaces.
Smoke from pipe tobacco, cigarettes, and cigars contains a huge amount of chemical particles released when the tobacco burns. This is because tobacco is treated with a variety of chemicals and substances before being packed for used by smokers. Some aren’t intentionally added but occur as tobacco is cured.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug administration over 7,000 chemicals are released from cigarette smoke.
How cigarette smoke builds and becomes worse
Smoking indoors is a self-building problem: the more you smoke indoors, the more it builds and the worse it becomes. Smoke after-effects don’t disappear or “evaporate.”
As most homes or business aren’t open to outside fresh air, smoke particles are trapped inside and never leave. They build up over time and accumulate on surfaces and even your skin, clothes, and more.
I’ve seen the results of heavy smokers who stayed indoors and smoked. Over time, the white walls actually became dark yellow in color. It permeated nearly everything inside!
Once smoke particles bond to surfaces and fabrics, it’s very difficult to restore them to their original freshness. Taking preventative measures can prevent this easily.
Even if smokers don’t smoke indoors, they bring in odors and smoke residue which are strong and a source of irritation. I’ve been in contact with someone once who was a heavy smoker, and because of the smoke particles on her body it caused me to break out in a rash.
You’ve got to eliminate the problem as effectively as possible to remove smells and avoid causing allergic reactions, coughing, and other side effects of bringing in smoke residue.
Do air purifiers help with cigarette smoke and odors?
Yes, a good air purifier of the right type can effectively remove smoke, smoke by-products, and odors.
An air purifier removes smoke and related odors by using a fan to circulate air in the room which is passed through filters. These filters permanently trap smoke & its particles suspended in the air. Odors can be removed, too.
Air fresheners and other attempted solutions like that don’t work – they cover up (mask) the problem. Air fresheners cannot actually process the air or change the air contents as a purifier can.
One of the challenges of removing smoke isn’t just as simple as paper burning. Unlike smoke from other sources, cigarette and tobacco smoke is made of a huge range of microscopic particles. Gaseous chemical substances are released into the air, too.
Cigarette smoke typically contains elements that range in size from about 0.1 to 1.0 um in size.
You’ll need something that can eliminate these incredibly small elements in the air. That’s where an air purifier comes in – they’re practical, affordable, and most of all they’re effective. Air purifiers work well and get the job done safely.
What kind of air purifier do I need?
For best dealing with cigarette smoke you should be shopping for a filter-based air purifier. Avoid ionizers and ozone generators.
Purchase a product with the following features:
- A HEPA filter (see below)
- Activated carbon filter section
- Sufficient room coverage
- Filter replacement reminder (optional – recommended)
- Proven effectiveness
- Good buyer ratings
Note that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money! For example, for products with basic features but solid performance, you should plan to spend from $55 (small rooms) to around $100 (medium-sized rooms). For larger rooms and additional features plan for around $150 and above.
It’s better to spend a few dollars more the first time rather than be dissatisfied with your purifier. You’ll waste time and money if you end up buying a cheaper, lesser product and return it later.
What is a HEPA filter?
A HEPA filter is made of dense, accordion-like material inside of a frame in order to be replaceable. Once very dirty, the filter can be swapped with a new one. They’re extremely effective at removing smoke and smoke particles. In addition many include a “pre-filter” section. These include material for catching larger particles while the carbon filter removes odors and chemical substances.
A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter describes an air filter that’s made of very dense material. The name comes from a standard established many years ago to ensure effective air cleaning. Any filter sold as a “true HEPA” product must meet the standards set by this.
Because of their design and material used, they are able to trap microscopic particles down to as far as 0.3 microns in size.
HEPA filter effectiveness for removing smoke
Diagram showing the effectiveness of a HEPA filter on smoke particles. Unlike ionizers or ozone generators, a filter-based purifier is very effective at removing smoke and cigarette smoking by-products. The filter permanent removes microscopic particles in the air flowing through it. They remain trapped and out flows fresh, healthy air.
As I mentioned above, this type of filter is ideal for combating smoke. A HEPA filter will remove 99.97% of all smoke particles that enter it after the pre-filter and carbon filter section.
This means that for every 10,000 smoke chemical particles that enter, only 3 will be able to escape! That’s excellent efficiency!
Furthermore, as I mentioned also, a carbon filter is needed for smoke removal as well.
The good news is that if you HEPA filter isn’t completely used-up you can, in many cases, replace the carbon/pre filter section separately and save a bit of money.
Carbon filter effectiveness
Filter replacements for good air purifiers like the GermGuardian AC4100 contain activated carbon. This is a porous material used in many types of for both air, water, and much more. The carbon section in better models is separately replaceable. This section traps gaseous chemicals in the air as well as odors of various types. It’s highly effective in reducing cigarette smoke and related issues.
Activated carbon (also called activated charcoal) has properties which cause it to be excellent at gas absorption. This is especially helpful for the gases and chemical compounds released into the air from cigarette smoke.
Carbon filters are commonly used in the best quality air purifiers, as they work alongside the HEPA filter to capture elements the other filter cannot.
If you’re dealing with smoke or other odors they’re especially helpful.
★ 5 of the best air purifiers for removing cigarette smoke ★
Reviews and pros/cons
1. GermGuardian AC4825 – A best seller for many reasons! Solid performance and good room coverage with a germ killing feature too.
One of the most popular air purifiers sold today, the AC4825 doesn’t offer the fancier features of some competitors like the Levoit LV-H132. However, it’s a winner because of hassle-free ease of use, good performance, and good value.
It offers more room coverage and also includes an ultraviolet (UV) germ killing feature. The UV feature is safe and doesn’t produce any ozone like some other products.
The true HEPA filter design works very well to remove smoke and contaminates from your air. Filter replacement is easy and separate carbon filter/pre-filters are sold separately, allowing you to extend the HEPA filter life.
It’s so good that I had to buy one and try it myself! I’m a happy owner and you can read more about it in my detailed review here.
The AC4825 features one of the easiest-to-use control setups you’ll find. It’s incredibly easy to use! Set the rotary control to one of the 3 fan speed settings. Use the UV push button to switch the germ killing feature on or off. A power-on indicator LED lights when the purifier is working.
The 3-speed fan control is great for those who prefer simple controls & operation. To replace the filter, simply open the rear door and swap it out. The purifier also has a built-in replacement reminder which turns red when it’s time to check the filter.
The lovely blue trim ring lights up when the UV-C feature’s in use. Don’t worry though – it’s perfectly safe, as the ultraviolet light is trapped inside. It’s a great-looking way to see when the feature is on. I like it!
With 22″ height, it’s not smaller and compact like some here but the small base size allows it to fit well in corners. Replacement filters cost about $30 and last approximately 6 months.
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-H132
- 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
I own a AC4825 and I can vouch for why it’s a best seller. It’s well made, works great for cleaning the air, and is very simple to use.
2. Levoit LV-H132 – Compact and nice looking…a great purifier with good features.
Another super-popular purifier, the Levoit LV-H132 (smaller sibling to the Levoit LV-PUR131) is a great buy as well. If you’re wanting to remove smoke odors & particles that intrude in your living space you can’t go wrong here.
Like comparable competitors, it uses 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 providing additional features. It’s also a great looking choice for small rooms or light duty use in medium-sized rooms.
It’s a top seller in its price range and buyer reviews are excellent as well.
The Levoit LV-H132 is sophisticated yet still easy to use. Electronic touch controls are provided and beep when operated. After power is switched off the last settings are saved. Upon the next use, the purifier remembers your last settings and restores them automatically.
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.
Filter replacement is a bit different for the LV-H132, but very simple. Turn the unit upside-down, rotate the cover, and then you can pull out and replace the old 3-in-1 filter assembly. Note: unlike some competitors, in most cases you can’t replace the carbon prefilter separately. It’s something to keep in mind.
Replacement filters run around $30 and are easy to swap out by removing 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
I’ve owned and tested the LV-H132 and I have to say it’s a great one! Well-made, sleek, and has great filtering ability with the lowest noise levels I’ve measured yet.
NEW: Great news! There’s now a sleek new black version available.
3. GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1: Lower-priced and great for small rooms – but not short on performance!
A great lower-priced model, the AC4100 may be small but it features the same air purifying features as its larger siblings.
Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, the true HEPA filter and charcoal sections work together to remove cigarette smoke and odors anywhere you need it. It’s perfect for a small room, office, dorm room, and much more.
One advantage included is the UV light along with titanium dioxide. These kill germs to make your air more safe and prevent illness.
Filter replacement on the AC4100 is easy! Just open the rear cover, pull out the old filter, and insert the new one. You can also use a vacuum to remove larger particles like dust. As you can see my AC4100 caught more and more dust as I used it!
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. Carbon filter replacements are sold separately so if you’re dealing with smoke and smoke odors that’s a great help.
It’s really easy to use. Turn it on or off using the 3 speed fan control. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high it’s a bit louder but still not too loud. If you enjoy white noise you may find it relaxing.
Unlike its bigger brothers the AC4825 and AC4900CA, the UV germ killing switch is an on/off type rather than a push button.
One drawback I don’t like is that there’s no indicator light for the UV feature like the larger models. That’s a pretty small complaint for for it, however.
- Simple 3-speed fan control and on/off UV-C switch
- UV & titanium dioxide germ killing feature
- 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
- No indicator light for UV feature unlike larger models
- Fan speed on high could be slightly better
- No filter replacement light
- No additional colors offered
Time and time again people testify to how good the GermGuardian line of purifiers is. And I agree – as I’m an owner!
Don’t wait! Be sure to check the great reviews that helped it become one of the highest selling products at Amazon.
4. Levoit LV-PUR131 – Great smoke & odor removal for med/large rooms. Fantastic auto-sensing feature.
Dealing with cigarette 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 along with odors, allergens, and dust.
Levoit air purifiers are well known and feature very good quality. I think they’re attractive and look nice at home, too.
The LV-PUR131 is no different. Electronic push button controls are simple to use (similar to its smaller sibling the LV-H132). A great-looking LCD display makes checking out operating conditions a pleasure.
A sleep mode option ensures the LV-PUR131 doesn’t keep you up at night. An auto-off timer lets you set and forget it. Select 1 to 12 hours of operation and it will turn itself off!
The electronic control panel looks a bit complicated at first glance but it’s easy to use. Touch controls easily rotate through their various on/off settings such as the fan speed or mode. A digital display shows the remaining operation time when the auto-off timer in use as well as the current air quality detected.
What makes this Levoit model such a wonderful choice is not just the same 3-speed push button fan control. But the automatic auto-sensing mode which adjusts fan speed as needed as air conditions change. Really cool!
Filter replacement is about every 6 months. The handy replacement reminder will let you know when it’s time to check the filter. (It’s around $35 for a replacement)
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 fit in a few areas comparable products can’t.
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 cigarette 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
It’s a great compromise between cost, room size coverage, features, and performance.
5. Honeywell HPA300 – Powerful large room smoke removal. Reliable, well-established performance you will be happy to own.
The Honeywell provides the greatest room size coverage and smoke filtering ability of the units listed here. If you’re in need of smoke removal in a larger room there’s no reason to look elsewhere. This is it.
The HPA300 is a real workhorse -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 still simple to replace. Replacement filters are about $68 but you can replace carbon filters separately to keep costs down.
Replacement time is about 3-5 months depending on how much smoke you’re dealing with. The HEPA filter may get even more use if you’re swapping out carbon filters and the HEPA filter isn’t saturated from smoke removal.
The purifier features excellent touch panel electronic controls. Just touch one of the controls to rotate easily through the settings like fan speed, the light dimmer, and to set the auto-off timer feature.
The electronic controls are straightfoward: fan speed, light dimmer, and an auto-operation option. LED 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 Turbo mode provides excellent & fast cleaning ability. But it’s much quieter on low 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 modes. (General mode is fine for cigarette smoke removal)
Filter replacement is very simple! The main cover uses 2 push-releases at the top to secure the cover. After removal the prefilter can be replaced or the 3 standard Honeywell HEPA filters as well. It’s easy to do, in my experience.
What I especially like is that the filter replacement reminders are separate – one for the HEPA filter and one for the pre-filter. That’s a feature unique to the Honeywell design.
- 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)
- Separate 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 others
- 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.
Summary – My top pick under $100
The GermGuardian AC4825 is my top recommended air purifier for dust as it’s one of the best values around and works well. You’ll get more coverage for your dollar than competing models in its price class.
Based on maintenance costs, price, features, and performance the GermGuardian AC4825 is a great value and one of the best purifiers for your money.
A good quality air purifier doesn’t mask the problem – it treats it at the sources – by removing microscopic particles and gases in your air from smoke. That’s exactly what the recommended models I’ve listed do.
As a proud owner of the GermGuardian AC4825 I enjoyed it enough to write a hands-on review you can see here.