When shopping for air purifiers, you will find two options; ionic and HEPA air purifiers.
And while HEPA air purifiers receive a lot of praise and are primarily seen as the best options for cleaning the air, ionic air purifiers have a controversial reputation.
This is because ionic air purifiers uniquely approach air purification.
These air purifiers don’t utilize filters like other models.
Instead, they release negative ions in the air, causing harmful particles to drop to the ground, keeping particles from entering your respiratory system.
There is some debate as to whether or not this method is effective.
But the main reason ionic air purifiers are so controversial is that some studies and people claim that they are dangerous.
So, is there any truth to this?
I had the same question. And when I researched to find out if ionic air purifiers were safe, I learned they aren’t the best option on the market.
And in this article, I’ll explain why.
What Is an Ionic Air Purifier?
As the name suggests, ionic air purifiers are appliances that clean the air.
They are similar to HEPA and other portable air purifiers but work very differently.
They are called ionic air purifiers because they use ionization to clean the air.
This process involves releasing negatively-charged ions into the air, which bond with tiny particles and cause them to fall to the floor or stick to other surfaces.
Some purifiers only use ionization to clean the air.
However, others still have a regular filtration system to filter out different particles and use ionization to clean the air further.
On the surface, this might sound like a very effective and efficient way to clean the air.
However, this isn’t the case.
The main downside of ionic air purifiers is that the ionization process produces ozone, which isn’t ideal.
I’ll explain why in the next section.
Are They Safe?
There is one reason that most people claim that ionic air purifiers aren’t safe, and that’s ozone.
The ionization process produces ozone when the negative ions bond with certain particles in the air.
When there’s ozone in the air, you might notice a chlorine-like smell that some people mistake as a “fresh” scent.
This isn’t the case.
Ozone can be dangerous when you inhale too much and is known to cause respiratory problems, tightness in the chest, headaches, and more.
This could be pretty dangerous, especially in a closed environment like your home.
On top of that, ozone is extra dangerous for people with pre-existing respiratory conditions, so I would advise against getting one of these air purifiers for your home.
What Particles Does It Target?
The thing about ionic air purifiers is that they don’t target large particles.
These particles include dust, pollen, and other pollutants and VOCs that can cause problems and complications.
So, if you bought an ionic air purifier to help with allergies and other respiratory issues, I have bad news.
It probably won’t target the pollutants causing you problems.
Instead, ionic air purifiers specifically target smaller particles, including bacteria and mold spores that float around the air.
You don’t want to inhale these particles, so there are still some benefits to owning an ionic air purifier.
And while it’s great that ionic air purifiers target smaller particles, keep in mind that they don’t eliminate the particles.
The particles are still in the room but aren’t floating in the air anymore.
Instead, they stick to different surfaces, meaning you’d have to wipe down surfaces to get rid of them.
Are Ionic Air Purifiers Effective?
This is a tricky question; the answer might change depending on who you ask.
If you’re wondering if ionic air purifiers are effective, looking at why you need an air purifier in the first place is an excellent place to start.
If your only concern is contaminants floating around, ionic air purifiers are excellent at removing them from the air.
However, remember that these air purifiers produce ozone when the ions bond with different particles, which could do more harm than good.
On the other hand, ionic air purifiers aren’t the best option if you want an air purifier for allergies and other respiratory conditions.
To start, let’s look back at the ozone.
Ionic air purifiers produce ozone; you don’t want to inhale too much ozone.
Inhaling large amounts of ozone may cause existing respiratory conditions to get even worse.
Additionally, ionic air purifiers don’t target the particles that cause allergies.
I originally bought my ionic air purifier to help with my allergies.
Sadly, I didn’t know that the appliance couldn’t target the particles causing me trouble.
So, even if my air purifier was on 24/7, I barely noticed a difference in my allergies.
If you want to remove small particles from the air, ionic air purifiers are technically effective.
But for larger particles that trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks, an ionic air purifier won’t be able to do the job.
And most importantly, ionic air purifiers produce ozone, which can be dangerous.
So, aside from not eliminating the right particles, ionic air purifiers are not the safest option for people looking to clean the air.
The Downside to Ionic Air Purifiers
As you might be able to tell by now, I don’t suggest getting ionic air purifiers for your home.
They don’t work as well as other options and can do more harm than good.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of why you may want to avoid using ionic air purifiers:
They Produce Ozone
For one, ionic air purifiers produce ozone.
This is a dangerous gas, especially when you inhale large amounts.
The ozone comes from ionization, where particles bond with negatively charged ions.
If it’s your first time using an ionic air purifier, there might be a chance that you smell the ozone, which is known to produce a chlorine-like smell.
Many people think this is a sign that the air purifier is working as it’s easy to mistake the scent for a “fresh” scent.
However, ozone can cause a lot of issues.
Breathing in too much ozone can give you a headache, make breathing harder, and worsen existing respiratory issues.
This is not ideal, especially if you want to get an air purifier to positively affect the air quality at home.
They Aren’t As Effective at Cleaning the Air
Aside from producing ozone as a by-product, ionic air purifiers aren’t as good at cleaning the air as other air purifiers.
In fact, the most useful ionic air purifiers on the market usually use ionization as an afterthought.
These air purifiers allow you to turn off the ionizer and only use the filtration system to clean the air.
This is ironic as ionic air purifiers seem most effective when the ionization feature is off.
Remember, ionic air purifiers that solely rely on ionization only target small particles.
While this can improve the air quality, it won’t eliminate the larger particles that can cause health problems like dust, pollen, and pet dander.
They Don’t Eliminate Particles
The last reason you might want to avoid ionic air purifiers is that they don’t eliminate particles.
The particles get caught in the filter if you have a HEPA air purifier.
With ionizers, the tiny particles don’t disappear.
The only thing that happens to these particles when they come into contact with negative ions is that they stick to different surfaces in the room.
This could mean the floor, bed, desk, and other flat surfaces.
While you won’t be inhaling any of the particles, it’s unsettling to learn that all the mold particles and bacteria simply stay on a surface in your room.
For the best protection, it’s ideal for removing harmful particles and ultimately eliminating them.
A typical filtration-based air purifier can do this, but ionic air purifiers can’t.
So, if you have the choice, I highly suggest buying a filter-based air purifier over an ionic air purifier.
What’s the Best Way to Clean the Air At Home?
You may not feel or know it, but we breathe in polluted air wherever we are.
Even in the comforts of your home, pollutants can seep in and eventually enter your lungs.
But while you can’t eliminate pollution wherever you go, the least you can do is ensure you’re safe at home.
But since ionic air purifiers aren’t ideal for cleaning the air at home, what is?
Well, there are quite a few ways you can clean the air at home.
And in this section, we’ll go through some of the best ways to clean and purify your indoor air at home:
HEPA Air Purifiers
The best way to clean your indoor air is with a HEPA air purifier.
These air purifiers have a HEPA filter inside the machine and use a fan to blow unpurified and polluted air into the HEPA filter to capture harmful particles and release clean air.
Typically, these air purifiers have a multi-stage filtration system containing a carbon filter and pre-filter.
This offers much more robust protection against the pollutants in the air and is currently considered the best way to clean the air at home.
In fact, HEPA air purifiers are widely used in hospitals, offices, and other establishments because of how effective they are.
You still need to ensure you buy a high-quality HEPA air purifier.
I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to buying an air purifier that you can read here to help you.
In-Duct Air Purifiers
These are air purifiers that professionals install in your HVAC system.
Some in-duct air purifiers use ionization, but I recommend getting in-duct systems that either rely on UV-C light or filtration.
Even when installed inside your HVAC unit, the ozone from ionic air purifiers can be dangerous.
So, if you want to install an in-duct air purifier at home, I recommend options using filtration or UV-C light instead of ionizers.
Another great way to clean the air at home is to clean the house regularly.
This method won’t be as effective as buying an air purifier.
But if you can’t buy one just yet, the best way to keep the air in your home clean is by keeping the entire house clean.
Besides dust and contaminants from the outside, many particles in your home could end up in the air.
In fact, some particles come from the outside and end up settling on different surfaces of your home.
If you clean your house regularly, fewer particles are floating around that can cause damage.
Again, this won’t do as good a job as a dedicated air purifier, but it’s a great way to stay safe without buying a new appliance.
If you’re thinking of buying an air purifier, I don’t recommend getting an ionic air purifier.
These air purifiers aren’t as effective as ones that rely on filtration.
Besides, the ionization process produces ozone, and inhaling too much ozone can harm your body and cause headaches, breathing problems, and more.
So, ionic air purifiers aren’t the safest option for your home.
So, to keep your indoor air as clean as possible, you better get a true HEPA air purifier instead.