Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
A small-sized portable air purifier may not be as powerful as a larger model, but can still do an excellent job of cleansing the atmosphere of dust, allergens, or toxins from smoke if you live in an area prone to wildfires.
When shopping for any kind of air purifier, portable or otherwise, you’re likely to come across a variety of acronyms and certifications, which may or may not read like gibberish to you. If you’re looking for the best portable air purifier, you’ll want one that comes with the same high-quality certifications as a full-size model, while keeping in mind things like size and noise level to make the device practical for bedside or desktop use.
What to Know Before Buying an Air Purifier
When it comes to air purifiers, there are one or two certifications we always like to see, depending on whether the purifier uses a filtration system or UV light.
HEPA Filter: HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, and describes filters that trap 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns — the most penetrating particle size according to scientists. You’ll commonly find HEPA filters in things like vacuums and cars as well as air purifiers.
CARB: This stands for California Air Resources Board, and all air purifiers sold in California must include this certification since 2010. The certification indicates that the purifier has been tested for electrical safety and ozone emissions, and has met the ozone emission concentration limit of 0.050 parts per million.
Energy Star: Air purifiers and all other appliances that meet the Energy Star certification requirements are 40 percent more energy-efficient than other models.
UV Purifier: Some air cleaners use ultraviolet (UV) light to purify the atmosphere rather than a HEPA filter. The advantage of a UV purifier is that it kills harmful mold or bacteria that a filter might not, and is therefore a good option for humid or other mold-prone environments. However not all UV purifiers are as effective as they may claim. The most effective air cleaning system will include both a HEPA filter and UV light.
What Makes a Good Air Purifier?
Once you’ve established your purifier includes all the necessary qualifications you need to make it effective, it’s time to think about more cosmetic and practical features.
Size: An effective portable air purifier should be, well, portable, meaning relatively small in size. Rather than a large tower model, our picks are about the size of a small bedside lamp, and fit tidily on a desk or nightstand.
Noise Level: Especially if you’re using the purifier at bedtime, we like to prioritize purifiers designed for especially quiet operation.
Settings: A wide range of settings is not necessary in most cases, but some models include different filters for different needs, or different strength levels which can effect the noise level in the room.
1. LEVOIT Air Purifier for Home
This fully-certified air purifier cleanses the atmosphere of allergens, smoke, and other toxins, changing the air five times in rooms of up to 219 square feet. Features about this model that we particularly like include the silent sleep mode, which operates more quietly and turns off the display light so as not to disturb you during the night, and the three customized filters: original, the pet allergy filter, and the toxin absorption filter.
2. Germ Guardian Pluggable Air Purifier and Sanitizer
This tiny Germ Guardian purifier plugs into the wall and is about the size of your average travel coffee mug. While it doesn’t have the power to completely sterilize your entire house, its combination HEPA filter and optional UV light is more than capable of cleansing the air around the kitchen, garbage, litter box, or other smelly spots of odors, mold, and toxins. We also appreciate that there are no expensive filters to remember to replace — only the UV bulb, which should be changed once a year or so.
3. TaoTronics HEPA Air Purifier for Home
The TaoTronics purifier uses a three-pronged filtration system to cleanse the air, sending particles through a pre-filter and then a carbon filter, before the true HEPA filter. It rapidly circulates the air in a room of up to 161 square feet.
We like that this purifier comes with a variety of adjustable settings, including four fan speeds, a quiet sleep mode, and a light that can be turned on or off according to preference. In addition to being easy to use, it will remind you when it’s time to replace the filter.
4. KOIOS Air Purifier
The Koios filter is surprisingly large for such a small device, and the cylindrical fan circulates air at 360 degrees while remaining particularly energy-efficient. More importantly, the purifier includes both a HEPA filter and activated carbon filter and is CARB-certified — making it safe to use in California and all other 49 states. It also features a nightlight option and two fan speeds as well as a quite mode for nighttime use.