If you’ve ever returned from a day in a city and noticed that your breathing felt more laboured, you’re likely to understand how important the quality of the air around you is.
The facts are as stark and sobering as the experience of pollution on the lungs: according to the government, poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK.
It’s not just a problem for city-dwellers, though. Everything from cooking to cleaning to lighting candles to having plywood/MDF furniture to painting the walls will generate indoor pollution – some of which, unlike dust, can’t be wiped away but rather will continue to off-gas in perpetuity, continually releasing airborne chemicals.
Ready to shop now? Our current best buy is the Dyson purifier hot + cool formaldehyde (£599.99, Argos.co.uk)
Add in other airborne allergens and irritants like pollen, dust and pet fur, and the case for installing an air purifier becomes more compelling.
This year has also shone a light on the invisible threat of viruses, with many wondering if air purifiers reduce or circulate Covid-19 in the air. The answer? We don’t quite yet know because of the lack of insight into how Covid is transmitted. But better quality air through ventilation and purification seems to be a positive all round for respiration.
How we tested
To help you to find the right one for you, we put a range to the test, noting how easy they were to operate, how they were controlled, whether and how they offered information on the quality of air while on, how much noise they made, and the improvement of air quality via their clean air delivery rate (CADR). We also noted how our pollution and pollen-sensitive lungs responded, if at all.
The best air purifiers for 2022 are:
Best overall – Dyson purifier hot and cool formaldehyde: £599.99, Argos.co.uk
Best for allergies – Philips AC3033/30 expert series 3000i connected air purifier: £449.99, Argos.co.uk
Best for low noise level – AEG AX91-404GY AX9 air purifier: £429, Johnlewis.com
Best for large rooms – Blueair healthprotect 7470i air purifier: £699, Ao.com
Best budget option – Levoit H133: £199.99, Amazon.co.uk
Best for dust removal – Blueair blue 3210: £159, Argos.co.uk
Best small air purifier – AEG AX51-304WT air purifier: £199, Ao.com
Dyson purifier hot and cool formaldehyde
CADR: Not provided
Particle size removal: As small as 0.01 microns, including 99.95 per cent of bacteria, pollen, and mould spores, as well as capturing and destroying formaldehyde
Remote control: Through app and remote control, and compatible with Google Home, Alexa and Siri
Room size: Up to 27 sq m
Set apart by its ability to filter out the tiniest pollutants (smaller than 0.1 microns, which includes the ultra-fine formaldehyde, hence the name of the purifier, along with various other volatile organic compounds) and by the fact that once contained within the machine they are either destroyed or have no possible point of exit, this is an outstanding purifier.
Add to that the fact that it is easily controlled via voice and an app; it isn’t noisy (Dyson managed to make this 20 per cent quieter than its predecessor, but it is still quite audible when on level five of fan mode); it has a cool fan and heater mode; and that it looks great once installed, and you’ll understand why this generated the most excitement when we tested it. It’s remained the one that we kept in the bedroom to ensure we breathed in clean air throughout the night, and we loved that we could customise the temperature.
Buy now £599.99, Argos.co.uk
Philips AC3033/30 expert series 3000i connected air purifier
Best: For allergies
CADR: 520m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: As small as 0.003 microns, including 99.97 per cent of PM2.5
Remote control: App
Room size: Up to 104sq m
Offering a speedy clean of the air (20sq m in less than eight minutes), the filters in this remove 99.97 per cent of airborne allergens, pollen, fine dust, particles and bacteria. It is easy to navigate, with the display both on the machine and in the app showing numbers to denote the amount of hazardous gases, a particulate matter score and the perceived “allergen risk”. What’s more, the machine and app assign colours to the air standard, so a cursory glance at your phone or at the machine from the other side of the room can tell you approximately what the quality of the air is.
It operates on a few modes, so you can ask the machine to automatically navigate, switch it on turbo if you want to ramp the effects up a notch, or pop it onto night mode. Turbo mode is a bit noisy, sounding rather like a fan, but the other modes are quieter and were more like a background hum.
The app to control this purifier works well, allowing for remote control as well as an up-to-date reading of the air quality. This works especially well if you suffer from allergies and would like to return from being out to a house where the air quality is noticeably better; all you do is switch it on from your phone on your way back. The machine itself stands on the floor and is 64cm high, making it a not-insignificant size, but it looked good and we didn’t mind having it on display.
Buy now £449.99, Argos.co.uk
AEG AX91-404GY AX9 air purifier
Best: For low noise level
CADR: 400m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: As small as 0.03 microns, including 99.99 per cent bacteria
Remote control: App
Room size: Up to 37sq m
If you’re after an all-rounder that looks great, is a doddle to operate, and will cover lots of bases, this is the one to go for. A classic grey with two fabric handles made of recycled PET bottles (which makes it easy to move from room to room if you need to purify different areas), this is part of the range by AEG that won a RedDot design award.
Once plugged in, the purifier goes to work without much ado, continuously measuring indoor air-quality levels and automatically adjusting the purification rate as needed, with the ability to clean a 10sq m room in seven minutes. It’s also really quiet. We tried it right next to a TV and neither the sound nor the dim light on the monitor competed with the rather sedate Austen miniseries we were watching.
Buy now £429.00, Johnlewis.com
Blueair healthprotect 7470i air purifier
Best: For large rooms
CADR: Pollen, 475m cubed per hour; dust, 465m cubed per hour; smoke, 455m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: As small as 0.03 microns and 99.99 per cent of viruses and bacteria
Remote control: App
Room size: Up to 38sq m
This Swedish air purification brand is on the cutting edge – the healthprotect uses Blueair’s “HEPASilent Ultra” technology which combines electrostatic and mechanical filtration to remove particles, making this a good option if you live in a household full of people or you constantly catch sniffles from little ones. The “GermShield” functionality monitors the room using temperature and humidity sensors and automatically activates when conditions are optimal for germ growth.
For a purifier that does so much and filters so impressively, this was very quiet and was only audible when we were alone in the house without any music or TV on.
Buy now £699.00, Ao.com
Best: Budget option
CADR: 400m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: As small as 0.3 microns
Remote control: N/A – one-button control with four speed modes
Room size: Up to 17sq m for five air exchanges per hour, or 43sq m for two air exchanges per hour
This purifier can clean an 83sq m room in only 30 minutes, so while it doesn’t look quite as design-led as other models featured, it is very good value for money, and operates similarly to its more pricey competitors with a helpful auto mode that detects air quality in real time, feeding back results with four colours.
In terms of what it will filter, it also does well, removing up to 99.97 per cent of 0.3 micron particles. At night time, you can switch off the LED screen and set a timer so that it doesn’t disturb sleep quality. We were impressed by the sound – or lack thereof – it produced while working and liked how easy it was to use.
We think this would be the ideal pick if you are keen to up the quality of air in your house on a smaller budget and want a fuss-free experience.
Buy now £199.99, Amazon.co.uk
Blueair blue 3210
Best: For dust removal
CADR: Smoke, 163m cubed per hour; dust, 181m cubed per hour; pollen, 210m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: Removes at least 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.1 microns in size
Room size: Up to 17sq m for five air exchanges per hour
At 42cm tall, this is the one for you if you want a bedside table or work station purifier, or if you have a smaller space you don’t want dominated by your new gadget. The “HEPAsilent” technology removes least 99.97 per cent of airborne particles from rooms up to 17sq m.
It’s simple to operate – all you do is press it once to turn on auto mode, twice for night mode, three times for every day (the difference between auto and every day is that auto detects the air quality and adjusts the purifier accordingly), and four times to turn it on “boost”, which is a bit noisier but cleans things more quickly and thoroughly. We found this handy after cleaning up lots of dust, and it’s useful if you open windows and find that doing so ushers lots of pollen into the house.
The light sensor on the front offers an air-quality indicator with three levels, which makes reading it easy and speedy, and the fabric part of the purifier itself comes in a range of five colours, so you can choose the one that works best for your space.
Buy now £159.00, Argos.co.uk
AEG AX51-304WT air purifier
Best: Small air purifier
CADR: 290m cubed per hour
Particle size removal: Up to 99.93 per cent of PM 2.5, and up to 92 per cent of VOCs
Remote control: App
Room size: Up to 25sq m
The joy of this one lies in the design and versatility; you can pop it on the floor (to do so, you just have to screw in the two legs), or mount it on your wall. The size and design also makes it a win if you want something that doesn’t stand out too much – it’s white and very stylish. You can also easily move it from room to room thanks to the little incorporated handle.
In terms of functionality, it’s easy. Just press the button on top, pick your mode (auto is the one we opted for), and leave it to go to work. We found this to be one of the simplest models for a smaller room as it blended in so well with the walls and was one of the quieter purifiers we tested.
Buy now £199.00, Ao.com
Air purifiers FAQs
What does an air purifier do?
They take air that’s carrying various particles and pollutants, and filter them out. These could be anything from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generated from doing work around the house (if, for example, you painted your house during lockdown, it’s likely that there are some VOCs being released into the air from those freshly-painted walls), to car fumes coming in through your windows when you air your home, to the fumes that result from frying food.
How do air purifiers work?
Most work on the premise of drawing the air into the machine and then running that air through a filter – or sometimes a few filters – to grab small particles of pollen, pollution, dust, and – depending on the filter – viruses and smaller particles. It then sends the clean air out into the room again. Some also use something called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to “kill” any viruses caught.
Indoor air quality is very much a field of innovation, with Dr David Fairen-Jiminez, head of the absorption and advanced materials lab at Cambridge University, telling me that “we spend so much time indoors – especially this last year – that the quality of the air will impact quality of health and life. At Cambridge we’re developing new synthetic materials that are capable of removing the more challenging toxic compounds.”
It’s worth noting that it isn’t only catching small particles that’s tricky, but also PM 2.5, or fine particulate air pollution, which is another area that researchers are continually looking into.
Do air purifiers remove dust?
In a word: yes. The thing to know about air purifiers is that their efficacy depends largely on the filtration system, and on the size of the particles they can capture. The gold standard of filter is the High Efficiency Particulate Air filter (aka the HEPA filter), which captures at least 99.97 per cent of 0.3 micron particles as well as bigger ones. Your naked eye can’t see any particles smaller than 10 microns in size, so, yes, most air purifiers will remove dust from the air.
Do air purifiers help with allergies?
If your allergies are triggered by pollution or other fine particles in the air, then a good purifier is likely to help.
Studies carried out by Lung India show that patients suffering from asthma who were sensitised to dog and cat fur, dust mites, and birch and tree pollen found symptoms improved after 10 weeks of sleeping with a purifier containing a HEPA filter in their room.
That said, even the best one has limitations – you will still be breathing in allergens when you leave your home and open windows. But, on the whole, if you notice that your house being clean and ventilating it well reduces allergies, then it’s safe to assume that an air purifier will also have a positive effect.
The verdict: Air purifiers
If you’ve got the cash to spend, are serious about the quality of air in your house and you want a fan for summer/heater for winter, the Dyson purifier hot and cool formaldehyde really is pretty special. The brand has thought of every little element, from how it’ll look to how easy it is to operate.
The Philips air purifier was also a firm favourite, as it’s simple to use and really made a heavily polluted room much easier to breathe in over the course of a day. If, however, you have a small space and want an easy win, try the Blueair blue 3210.
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