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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 affect the noise level in the room.
1. LEVOIT Air Purifier
This fully-certified LEVOIT 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
This tiny 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. Blueair Blue Pure 411
The Blueair Blue Pure 411 has a three-stage filtration system to keep the air you’re breathing feeling healthy. The washable fabric filter catches large particles whereas the activated carbon filter removes odors like smoke and gas from your space. Finally, the HEPASilent technology filters out 99.97% of airborne particles, according to the brand.
The air purifier itself weighs a little over three pounds, which means it’s just portable enough to move around your home. It’s also built to cover rooms as big as 161 square feet, so whether that’s your office, baby room or study, keep the dimensions in mind before you place this portable air purifier in your home.
It’s also whisper-quiet, at just 17dB on its lowest setting so you can sleep soundly through the night with this air purifier in your bedroom.
4. KOIOS Air Purifier
The filter for this portable air purifier 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.
5. Pure Enrichment PureZone Air Purifier
This portable air purifier weighs under a pound and features a removable handle for easy transport. The brand says it features a two-stage air filtration system, with an activated carbon pre-filter, followed by a HEPA filter to reduce allergens, germs and pollen.
There are three fan settings (low medium and high), and this purifier is built for small areas, about 54 square feet. It’s even got a rechargeable battery, lasting about 12 hours on a single charge — just enough to get you through the day. Just make sure to replace your Pure Enrichment filter every six months.