Are Air Purifiers and Ionizers the Same? A Comprehensive Guide

Learn about the differences between an ionizer & an air filter & how Smart Air offers simple & practical solutions for improving indoor air quality.

Are Air Purifiers and Ionizers the Same? A Comprehensive Guide

High-efficiency HEPA particulate air filters in air purifiers are more limited than ionizers because they cannot remove smaller particles, but they still remove 99.97% of dust, allergens and microorganisms from the air that contribute to respiratory problems. There are actually two types of ionic air purifiers: ion generators and air purifiers without a filter. Ion generators act by charging particles in a room so that they are attracted to walls, floors, tables, curtains, occupants, etc. Abrasion can cause these particles to resuspend in the air.

In some cases, these devices contain a collector to attract charged particles back to the unit. While ion generators can remove small particles, they are not as effective as air purifiers because they produce harmful ozone and PM2.5 particles. An ionizer is an air purifier that disinfects air by emitting negative ions, while an air purifier filters the air. Simply put, ionizers help with particles that make us sick, such as viruses and bacteria, and air filters help with particles that make us sneeze, such as dust and pollen.

A summary of scientific tests on air purifiers found that most air ionizers have no appreciable effect on particle levels. Many of these particles are known to be irritants that can aggravate allergies and asthma, but can be removed from the air with an air purifier. Most major air purifier companies use ionizers in their air purifiers, including Xiaomi, Blueair, Levoit, and many more. Smart Air is a certified B corporation founded by Thomas Talhelm, a professor at the University of Chicago and an expert in clean air. Ionizing air purifiers are often marketed under a variety of names, such as “ion air purifiers”, “negative ion air purifiers”, “air ionizers” and “bipolar needle-tip ionization”.

What's the Difference Between Air Purifiers and Ionizers?

In general terms, both air purifiers and ionizers perform the same function: they clean the air, eliminating allergens and contaminants.

However, while an ionizer may be able to remove some small particles from the air, it is not as effective as an air filter at removing larger particles such as dust and pollen. Ozone air purification is sold only as a commercial air purifier, as the state of California does not allow them to be sold to consumers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can hypothetically remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns, including dust, pollen, mold and bacteria.

Smart Air: A Certified B Corporation

Smart Air is a social enterprise certified as B-Corp that offers simple and practical air purifiers and offers free education to protect people from damage caused by air pollution.

What's the Best Way to Improve Indoor Air Quality?

So what's the best way to improve indoor air quality? The easiest and most cost-effective way to improve air quality should be with an HVAC air filter instead of a stand-alone unit. Because they eliminate a much smaller range of particles, ionizers may not be as good at eliminating the triggers of allergies and asthma.


In conclusion, while both ionizers and air purifiers can help improve indoor air quality by removing allergens and contaminants from the environment, it is important to understand their differences in order to choose the right device for your needs. Air filters are more effective at removing larger particles such as dust and pollen while ionizers are better at removing smaller particles such as viruses and bacteria.

Smart Air is a certified B corporation offering simple and practical solutions for improving indoor air quality.

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