Will Air Purifiers Remove Odors?

In brief, yes! Certain air purifiers are able to trap gaseous chemicals such as odors, along with other gasses that our sense of smell might not pick up on. Air purifiers with carbon do the trick by adsorption. Not all smells are created equal! As you most likely already know by experience, onions and apples have totally different effects when you cut into them.

In this article we will discuss why some odors are so potent and hard on the nose. We will also touch on the science of how air purifiers filter these strong scents from the air. Along with sharing the best mechanisms for using air purifiers to filter out unwanted or harmful odors.


The key to capturing stinky gasses is the use of activated carbon in an air purifier unit. Activated carbon is also known as activated charcoal, an organic compound made from burnt plant matter. This includes burnt coconut shells, wood, coal and other high carbon based compounds. The term ‘activated’ indicates that the charcoal has been modified to be extremely porous. This activation process usually includes high heat exposure and chemical washes.

The pores increase the surface area thus improving the adsorption ability of the carbon. Adsorption is the process of chemical molecules adhering to the surface of another substance. For example, in an air purifier the irritating smell of a strong cleaning product will stick to the surface of the carbon as the air moves through the unit. The contaminant has adsorbed to the carbon compound in this example. Adsorption is in contrast to absorption, which is when a free-roaming  molecular compound is taken into another substance. This does not occur in air or water purifying systems using carbon.

Another type of activated carbon, outside the standard is impregnated carbon. This has been modified for the specific removal of some of the harder to adsorb gases like exhaust fumes or formaldehyde. Impregnated carbon is great for the removal of exhaust gasses from fireplaces, ovens, cars, furnaces or boilers. It also traps ammonia and amines, radio-active iodine, inorganic gasses, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, just to name a few!

So as the gaseous odors in the air breeze through an air purifier they cling to the surface of the carbon. You might be thinking that you would need an enormous amount of carbon to remove odors effectively. Think again. A single pound of activated carbon has the surface area of 125 acres! This allows a relatively small amount of carbon to successfully trap contaminants for a very long time. However, the larger the carbon bed frequently the longer the carbon will last. The weight and width of the carbon in the unit will certainly play a role in how efficacious it is too. Increasing the amount of carbon by only a gram will increase the surface area by approximately 1000 square meters. The larger the space of the more plentiful the odor the greater amount of carbon is recommended.

Hard to Eliminate Odors

There are some smells that are gone just as soon as we’ve smelt them and others that linger endlessly. Unfortunately, it is the unpleasant or irritating odors that seem to stick around longer. This is determined by the volatility of the contaminants source. Volatility is how fast a liquid is turned to a gas. The gas is what interacts with the scent receptors in our noses and sends signals to the brain, interpreted as different aromas.

Gasses usually stick in hair, clothing or furniture because they are porous and the odors will be trapped in them. Make sure that if you wish to remove a source-specific odor an air purifier is placed near the source. This way as the gasses are released they can be quickly captured by the carbon in the unit rather than third party objects near it.

Air Speed

Having the perfect amount of carbon in an air purifier and keeping it close to the source of contamination will help greatly with removing odors. However, there are a few more tips that can help optimize the purifying process. Dwell time is an important factor when dealing with odor removal. This is the amount of time air is inside an air purifier. An increased dwell time will allow for more interaction with the surface of carbon and thus improve adsorption.

For this reason, running an air purifier at its slowest speed will show great results in extracting odors from the space. This can become complicated if the source of contamination is releasing gasses at a high rate. The air circulating through the unit should always remain greater than the contaminant coming in. So our recommended strategy for optimizing the dwell time for odor removal is to start at a high air speed for a few hours, or while the contaminant is active (while you are cooking for example). Then reduce the speed to medium or less (once you have eaten and cleaned the cooking supplies).

Some Great Air Purifiers for Removing Odors

We have compiled a list of some of our favorite air purifiers to rid the air of odors. Many of them serve multiple purposes like purifying the air of volatile organic compounds and catching dust or other airborne pollutants. Conquering a range of these irritants promotes respiratory health but also softens the blow on your noise by diminishing odors. Read on for our list of air purifiers ideal for the job or removing strong odors.

Airpura C600DLX

This air purifier was designed specifically to tackle airborne chemicals and gas, making it ideal for odor removal. The highlights of its features are listed below.

  • Special Carbon blend DLX, adsorb high concentrations of chemicals and VOCs
  • 26 lbs of enhanced impregnated activated carbon, will last up to 2 years
  • Has a quiet and strong motor option
  • Covers up to 2000 square feet
  • Largest CFM in a portable unit (560 fan CFM), allowing for amazing air flow and dwell time

Allerair AirMedic Pro 5 Vacarb and others in its series

The AirMedic series by Allerair is a line of air purifiers that give a variety of carbon weights and thicknesses along with air speeds. This allows the goldilocks-customers to get the unit that works “just right” for their space. Each of the air purifiers in the series are all designed to purify the air of VOCs, airborne chemicals and odors along with other gasses. In addition they have a UV light which provides extra protection against mold and germs. Other features of this series are listed below.

  • Variable speed dial
  • Rage of 18-28 lbs of carbon
  • Covers 1500 sq ft or less and is portable
  • Four-stage powerful filtration system
  • Cylindrical shape maximizes air-flow with a compact design

Austin Air Healthmate Plus

This easy-to-use and economical air purifier is a great residential or office unit. It has a superior gas filtration system that removes a wide range of chemical vapors and will protect those sensitive to household cleaners. Just a few of its many features are listed below.

  • Consistently receives top ratings for air cleaning from independent testing
  • Cleans up to 1500 sq ft
  • Filter technology traps a wide range of chemicals, gasses (including VOCs) and odors
  • Comes with a 5-year warranty on unit and filter
  • 4-stage air filtering system with 360° air intake and 3 fan speeds
  • Made in the USA

Amaircare 3000 VOCARB

This heavy duty air purifier is packed with 30 lbs of carbon. It is a quality unit that can tackle the toughest VOCs, odors and gases. Take a look at some off its other features, below.

  • Covers 1800 sq ft
  • Made with metal, avoiding toxins from plastic models
  • Electronic Display for Low-Medium-High settings
  • 360 degree air intake
  • Made in Canada

Ideal Pro AP80

The options for odor removal just get better with the Ideal Pro AP80, a great user friendly choice. Some of the feature that make this model low maintenance and effective are: two-in-one HEPA and Activated Carbon filter, lightweight build and automatic settings. Check out more on the Ideal Pro AP80 below.

  • Quiet technology (18.7-63.4 dB)
  • WiFi enabled & App (2.4 GHz needed)
  • 1,600 square foot coverage
  • 5 fan speeds and 470 CFM
  • Made of metal and only 41 pounds
  • German made

As you have read their are ample options for Air purification units to do away with unpleasant smells! Those with both activated carbon filters and different fan speeds will bring about great odor removal results. Along with added benefits of detoxifying the air and producing odor-free clean air that is healthy and easy to breath. If these air purifiers aren’t quite what you are looking for US Air Purifiers is happy to help you find a great match that will work for any space and severity of stench.

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