Best air purifier 2020: remove particles, pollution and poor quality air

Improve the quality of the air you breathe with these atmos-filtering wonder devices

best air purifier 2019
(Image credit: Philips)

The best air purifier could buy you peace of mind as well as cleaner air. You can’t see or even consciously sense it, but the air in your home is very likely inundated with dust and a whole range of ugly little microorganisms that can have an impact on respiration and general well-being. Particularly if you have allergies, you may well decide that what your room needs is a concerted shot of air cleaning. 

Time, then, to have a mosey at our pick of the best air purifiers. After much research and personal testing, we’ve alighted on three main frontrunners: the Philips 3000i and BlueAir Classic 405 – both of which are quite chunky and serious devices that will please air purifier, er, purists. Those wanting something a teensy bit more elegant should look to Dyson's Pure Cool Tower.

This time of year we spend a lot longer stuck indoors, watching box sets shielded from the cold and long, dark evenings, so if you're inclined to purify the air that you breathe at home, now is a good time to invest in a purifier.

Do you need an air purifier? 

First up, there is zero evidence that anyone will live longer because they buy an air purifier. However, if you suffer from asthma, hay fever or allergic reactions to particles, or are simply hung up on hygiene to an unhealthy degree, you could benefit from buying one. There are probably 'well-being' as opposed to true 'health' benefits to having an air purifier, comparable to using a water purifier. 

No, drinking tap water in most western countries is probably not going to harm you, but by using a filter, you can make it taste nicer and be more pleasing to drink. The same holds true for air purifiers.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality can be two to five times – and occasionally up to 100 times – more polluted than the air outside. Indeed, you only need shine an ultra bright torch indoors with the lights off to see a whole swathe of allergy-inducing crap floating about in the beam: dust, skin particles, animal-related cack, smoke, pollen… aircraft, UFOs, ghosts… all sorts of weird gubbins.

An air purifier basically works like a vacuum cleaner, gently sucking in the air around it and trapping the pollutants it captures in a HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air). Cleaned air is then expelled back into the room. 

A few purifiers will also electrically charge (ionise) the air molecules during the process, which is also said to help further improve the air we breathe. We're not convinced but if it makes you happy, great.

The best air purifiers in order of preference

best air purifier 2019: Philips Series 3000i (AC3829/60)

(Image credit: Philips)

1. Philips Series 3000i (AC3829/60)

A highly effective air purifier and humidifier in one

Height: 69.8cm
Effective area : Up to 80m2
HEPA Filter : Yes
Ioniser : No
Cord length : 1.8m
Reasons to buy
+Cleans and humidifies+Exceptional operational feedback+Relatively easy to use+App enabled
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap

• Buy the Philips 3000i at Amazon for £400

In the pantheon of air quality control, air purifiers and humidifiers are true soul mates. While one absorbs the contaminated air around it, ramming it through a series of filters before expelling it back into the room in pristine condition, the other emits an invisible stream of fine water vapour that moisturises the air, bringing to ground any wayward particulates. Well, here’s a new model that does both at the same time. 

The 2-in-1 Philips 3000i isn’t as compact or inconspicuous as other models in the Philips’ purifier roster but it’s a commendable performer in every respect, garnering very positive reviews by both professional reviewers and users, and me.

The HEPA-equipped 3000i’s air quality sensors constantly measure the level of particulates around the appliance, displaying the result on the front panel as a PM2.5 reading (PM2.5 refers to microscopic atmospheric particulate matter that have a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, about 3% the diameter of a human hair). An attractive circular glow lamp on the front fascia meanwhile provides a clearly visible interpretation of the room’s air quality at any given time: blue is good, blue-violet is fair, red-purple is unhealthy and red means you’re going to die. This extra feedback is very welcome since it tells you it’s actually doing something. 

To test it, I pummeled a dusty feather cushion near the side air intakes and blew some smoke at it and the PM2.5 number increased immediately while the light turned a concerning shade of violet.

The humidifier function meanwhile maintains a constant humidity level by emitting an invisible vapour that is spread around the room by the unit’s built-in fan. Simply choose a preferred humidity target – from 40% to 60% – and the 3000i will do the rest, switching off once the target is reached.

The 3000i removes 99.97% of airborne allergens and is perfect for medium to large rooms. It’s app enabled, too, for those who like to monitor and adjust stuff on their phones, and it comes with a range of touch control functions, including Auto, extra-sensitive Allergen and Sleep modes.

Given its overall efficiency and excellent operational feedback, the Philips 3000i is fully deserving of an unequivocal high five.

best air purifier 2019: blueair classic 405

(Image credit: Blueair)

2. Blueair Classic 405

Big, beautiful Swedish beast

Height: 59cm
Effective area : 40m2
HEPA Filter : Yes
Ioniser : No
Cord length : 1.5m
Reasons to buy
+Extremely efficient+Reliable app control
Reasons to avoid
-Hefty and less than beautiful-No pollution sensor

• Buy BlueAir 405 at John Lewis for £499

Another very serious option, this Swedish purifier stands over half a metre tall and half a metre wide – so consider those dimensions if space is an issue. The award-winning Blueair 405 uses the Swedish company’s HEPASilent Technology – a combination of both mechanical and electrostatic filtration, as you probably know – to remove a wide range of airborne pollutants. It has also been given the Quiet Mark stamp of approval – in fact, it’s so quiet on its two lower settings that you may wonder if it’s actually on. Even on its highest power setting, it's still quieter than the Dyson, below.

The Classic 405's Blueair Friend app means you can control it from a distance, or even when out of the house, as well as setting up sleep timers. While its purifying is undoubtedly highly effective, it's worth noting that, unlike the Philips or Dyson, there's no air-monitoring feature on the 405, so you need to either leave it on, or turn it on yourself when the air is noticeably bad. The former option seems best, because it's so quiet, and the filters do seem to last for a long time.

The unit comes with a standard HEPA particle filter or, for £50 extra, you can opt for the SmokeStop filter – essential if you’re a smoker or plan to use this in the kitchen. It's testament to how good this is that the Blueair 405 functions very effectively as a kitchen extractor with a SmokeStop fitted. If you can ignore or hide away its less than luscious appearance, this is about as effective as air purifiers get.

Dyson fan: bladeless Pure Cool tower

(Image credit: Dyson)

3. Dyson Pure Cool tower fan (TP04)

We're Dyson's biggest fan. And this is their biggest fan (and air purifier)

Type: air purifying fan
Format: tower
Filter: Glass HEPA Media
Amp diameter: 117mm
Cord length : 1.8m
Weight: 4.98kg
Reasons to buy
+Unusually attractive for a purifier+Very effective
Reasons to avoid
-Really howls when at full power-Faintly terrifying app warnings about BAD AIR

Dyson's Pure Cool tower purifying fan aka TP04 is not only the best Dyson fan you can buy, it's also a highly effective air purifier. It senses and captures VOCs and 99.95 per cent of fine particles, allergens and pollutants, then spins down and awaits the next onslaught of air-borne foulness.  

The dual filters – one for smoke, one for particles – last for about a year, and Dyson's app is pretty effective these days, with reliable control in and out of the home and via Google Home or Alexa, with a compatible speaker. Our only reservation is that we do not find the app's warnings of bad air terribly soothing. It goes red and plasters the word 'EXTREME' across your phone screen if you so much as burn some  toast.

best air purifier 2019: Falmec Bellaria

4. Falmec Bellaria

Best looking air purifier

Height: 40cm
Effective area : N/A
HEPA Filter : No
Ioniser : Yes
Cord length : 1.5m
Reasons to buy
+Can be placed anywhere without embarrassment+Doubles as light fitting

•Buy the Falmec Ballaria direct from Falmec

From Venice in Italy, this looks like a light fitting in a high-class hotel. And it fact Falmec's Bellaria does double as that – clad in glass from the nearby island of Murano, it's a co-production with Venetian designer Marco Zito, and offers very pleasing, soft lighting. But mainly it's a very high-end, high-class air purifier.

As well as filtering the air in the usual way, via a carbon filter, the Bellaria acts an ioniser, using the E.Ion system employed in the kitchen extractors that Falmec's name is built on. The E.Ion tech delivers the 'correct' balance of negative ions to your space making it more like you're 'by the sea, in the mountains and around waterfalls.'

We don't know about that, but it is easily the best-looking air purifier you can buy.

best air purifier 2019: vax pure air 300

5. Vax Pure Air 300

Best value air purifier

Height: 76cm
Effective area : 120m2
HEPA Filter : Yes
Ioniser : Yes
Cord length : 1.6m
Reasons to buy
+Great price+Effective and easy to use+Comes with remote
Reasons to avoid
-Quite loud at full pelt-Resembles bin

This sensor-festooned Vax is about the size, shape and look of a large Brabantia bin so while it's not would you call gorgeous, it is fairly easy to locate in the corner of a kitchen, hallway or utility room without upsetting aesthetics too much. 

In auto mode it’s so quiet that the only way you know it’s working is by the large circular light that glows green when the air is good, orange when it’s not so good and red when the sh*t hits the fan.

The large HEPA filter comes with a protective plastic covering – don't forget to remove it first or you will spend the next few weeks wondering why the machine doesn’t appear to be working correctly. Not that I did that, or anything.

Bear in mind, too, that the outlet faces upwards so don’t expect to be cooled – this is not a fan.

Control wise, a cluster of touch-sensitive buttons on the front give access to fan speed, a timer that goes up in one-hour increments, an auto button that when tapped selects the optimum fan speed depending on the quality of the air it senses (full bore is pretty loud) and an ionising button – you know, for ionisation. 

The remote control also features a sleep button for whisper-quiet night-time operation.

Air does genuinely cleaner and fresher after just a few days of use, making this another great air purifier option.

best air purifier 2019: airfree P80

6. Airfree P80

Best budget table-top air cleaner

Height: 26.5cm
Effective area : 32m2
HEPA Filter : No
Ioniser : No
Cord length : Not listed
Reasons to buy
+Portable and unobtrusive+Effective in small rooms+Totally silent
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for large rooms, of course

If you’re in the market for a very decent tabletop or portable air purifier that takes up very little space and doesn’t look too ugly, consider this titchy 26.5cm model from Airfree. It’s ideal for rooms up to 32m2 and is as silent as a church mouse – not that we’ve ever heard one of those. It also features an adjustable nightlight.

In short, it's like a budget version of the Falmec Bellaria, above.

The cleverest thing about this model is that it doesn’t require the need for any filters that will require either regular cleaning or periodic replacement. Instead, grubby air is drawn into the intake at the bottom of the unit and the pollutant-filled moisture in it is ‘boiled’ at 200ºC before being cooled and pumped back out into the room all wonderfully sterilised and squeaky clean. 

Apparently this system will "eliminate up to 99.99% of any microorganisms and allergens in the air." Given the surfeit of positive reviews by asthma and allergy suffers, who are we to disagree?

best air purifier 2019: Fellowes Aeramax Baby DB5

7. Fellowes Aeramax Baby DB5

Best air purifier for baby rooms

Height: 69cm
Effective area: 60m2
HEPA Filter: Yes
Ioniser: No
Cord length: 1.6m
Reasons to buy
+Very small footprint+Effective in small rooms+Cheap
Reasons to avoid
-Looks pretty naff

This dinky purifier resembles one of those robots from Star Wars films that only appears for a few seconds, and obviously hasn't been thought through properly. However, being just 18.5cm wide, it's just the right size for a baby’s room or small living areas like studio flats up to around 602m, or, er, narrowboats. 

Its four-stage hospital-style HEPA antimicrobial filter is capable of removing most airborne particles, including pollen, dust mites and cigarette smoke and it couldn’t be easier to use. Simply switch on, tap the ‘Auto’ button and, when the sensors detect pollutants in the vicinity, the fan speed increases to draw in more air over the filter.

The sensors on this system aren’t as sensitive as the winning Philips – in most cases it’s quite a bit slower to react than either the Philips of Vac when smoke is blown in its direction – but for size and price it performs very well. And, uh, you probably shouldn't be smoking around your baby anyway.

•Buy the Fellowes Aeramax Baby DB5 from Amazon