Air cleaners, also called air purifiers, pull in dirty air, trap tiny harmful particles, and blow out cleaner air. An air cleaner can help everyone breathe cleaner air inside and is especially helpful for babies, the elderly, pregnant people and people with asthma, allergies, or other breathing difficulties.

You can purchase one, make your own, or talk to your health insurance provider to get one. 

Choosing an air cleaner

There are many portable air cleaner options, which can be overwhelming! They can range from $100-$500. To help guide which one you should use, prioritize and consider: 

  • A true HEPA filter. There are “HEPA-like” filters on the market, which are not the same thing as true HEPA and won’t be as effective at removing the fine particulate matter in smoke. 

  • Room size. Your unit needs to be able to clean the whole room. Measure the room you spend the most time in and compare. If you end up with an undersized air cleaner, it won't be able to recirculate the room’s air enough times per hour, leaving plenty of indoor air pollutants. 

  • No ozone production. Some air cleaners produce ozone, which is a pollutant harmful to human health. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has a list of approved certified air cleaning devices. Check the list to make sure the unit you are interested in has been approved by CARB. 

  • Cost. Consider the cost of the unit and replacement filters. You'll want at least one extra filter on hand at all times. 

  • Energy star rating. These will be the most energy efficient and cost less to run. 

  • Noise levels. The air cleaner will be most effective on its highest setting, which is usually the noisiest. Some models are quieter than others. 

DO IT YOURSELF air cleaner 

You can assemble a DIY air cleaner for $30-$50. You will need:

  • A box fan
  • A furnace filter (20” x 20”, ideally rated MERV 13 or FPR 10 or MPR 1500-1900, or higher)
  • Tape (painter or duct) 

Tape the filter against the back of the fan. The arrows on the filter should point towards the front of the fan. Plug the fan in and turn the fan on. Do not leave the unit unattended. Watch this video on how to assemble a DIY air cleaner.  

TIPS on using your air cleaners:

  • Use an air cleaner in the room you spend the most time in.
  • Close all windows and doors in the room while the air cleaner is in use.
  • Run the air cleaner for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Position the air cleaner away from walls and big objects where no one will trip over it.
  • Replace the air cleaner filter every 3-6 months or when it looks dirty/brown.
  • Lower airflow settings may make less noise, but the highest airflow setting will be the most effective and should be used during high pollution events

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