Air Purifier Vs. Air Scrubber: Which Method Works Best?

  • Author: Irene Batres
  • Date: March 30, 2023
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Air quality is essential, but choosing between an air purifier and an air scrubber can leave you feeling stuck in a dirty air cloud.

Do you want a device that removes allergens and pollutants or takes on harmful chemicals and gases? 

Both are designed to improve air quality, but their approaches are different.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between air purifiers Vs. Air scrubbers and help you choose the device that best fits your specific needs and budget. 

So please sit back, relax, and take a deep breath of fresh air as we dive into the world of air-cleaning devices!

Air Purifier vs. Air Scrubber

Key Takeaways:

  • Air purifiers and air scrubbers are designed to improve indoor air quality but work differently.
  • Air purifiers are filter-based and effective at removing airborne particles, such as dust, pollen, and smoke. They can also remove odors, gases, and chemicals from the air.
  • Air scrubbers work by drawing in air from a larger area and simultaneously decontaminating the air. They are primarily used to remove chemicals, gases, and toxic particles from the air.
  • Air scrubbers use different types of filters like HEPA, activated carbon, and UV-C light to kill bacteria and viruses in the air.
  • When choosing an air-cleaning device, one should consider their specific needs and the device’s features.

Understanding Air Purifiers And Air Scrubbers

Air purifiers and air scrubbers are both devices designed to improve indoor air quality by filtering or cleaning the air, but they work slightly differently.

What Is An Air Purifier?

An air purifier is a device that helps to improve the air quality in a room or space. It removes pollutants, allergens, and other harmful particles from the air, leaving behind cleaner and healthier air to breathe. (1.)

How Does An Air Purifier Work?

An air purifier typically refers to a type of air cleaning that is filter-based.

The most common type is the HEPA filter air purifier, which uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap and remove airborne particles, such as dust, pollen, pet dander, and smoke.

HEPA filters comprise a dense network of fibers that trap particles as air passes through. They can remove particles as small as 0.3 microns in size, which is smaller than the width of human hair.

Some air purifiers also use additional filters, such as activated carbon filters, to remove odors, gases, and chemicals from the air. (2.)(3.)(4.)

Types Of Air Purifiers:

Several types of air purifiers are available, each with unique features and benefits.

Some of the most popular types include:

Type of Air PurifierFeatures and Benefits
HEPA filter air purifiers– Most common type of air purifier, effective at removing airborne particles
Activated carbon air purifiers– Effectively removes odors, gases, and chemicals from the air
UV-C air purifiers– Use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms in the air
Ozone air purifiers– Emit ozone into the air to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Not recommended for use in occupied spaces due to harmful byproducts

When choosing an air purifier, you must consider your specific needs and the device’s features.

Some air purifiers are designed for larger spaces, while others are more portable and can be moved from room to room.

Additionally, some air purifiers may be more effective at removing specific types of pollutants than others.

What Is An Air Scrubber?

An air scrubber is a machine that cleans the air inside a home or building.

It is primarily used in commercial settings like factories or building sites but could act as a whole-house air purifier.

Air scrubbers are primarily used to remove chemicals, gases, and toxic particles from the air that come from household projects or indoor issues. (1.)

How Does An Air Scrubber Work?

An air scrubber works by drawing in air from a larger area and then simultaneously decontaminating the air.

The air is then passed through a filter that removes harmful particles such as chemicals, gases, and toxins. 

The air is then expelled back into the room or building, providing cleaner and healthier air for individuals to breathe.

There are different types of air scrubbers that work in different ways to clean the air.

Types of Air ScrubbersFeatures
Combination filter air scrubbers– Use a combination of filters like HEPA and activated carbon filters to remove harmful particles.
UV-C air scrubbers– Use UV-C light to kill bacteria and viruses in the air.
Portable air scrubbers– Can be easily moved from room to room. Typically used for smaller spaces.
Stationary air scrubbers– Installed in a specific location. Used for larger spaces like warehouses or factories.
Negative air machines– Create negative air pressure in a room or building. Prevent harmful particles from escaping into other areas. Commonly used in healthcare settings like hospitals or clinics.

What’s The Difference Between An Air Purifier And An Air Scrubber?

Air scrubbers and air purifiers may seem similar, but their technology and mechanisms differ.

>To find out which one is best for your needs, keep reading!

Key Differences In Technology And Mechanisms

Understanding the differences in technology and mechanisms between air purifiers and air scrubbers is essential in deciding which one is best for you. 

Here is a comprehensive comparison of the two systems:

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Air PurifierAir Scrubber
Uses HEPA, activated carbon, or other filters to capture particles and pollutants from the airUtilizes UV-C light, ozone, or other chemical processes to neutralize or eliminate contaminants
Primarily designed for removing dust, pollen, mold spores, and other airborne particlesPrimarily targets gases, odors, VOCs, and bacteria, as well as particles
Filters need to be replaced periodically, adding to maintenance costsSome models require minimal to no filter replacements, reducing maintenance costs
Often quieter, as they rely on filters and fans to clean the airMay produce some noise from the fan, but models utilizing UV-C light or ozone can operate silently
More suitable for residential and small commercial settingsCan be used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings, depending on the model’s capacity
Generally less expensive upfront, but filter replacements add to long-term costsTypically more expensive upfront, but may offer lower long-term costs due to reduced maintenance

By examining these fundamental differences, you can better understand how air purifiers and air scrubbers work and ultimately choose the most suitable option for your specific needs.

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Which Is Better For What Kind Of Pollutants?

When choosing between an air purifier and an air scrubber, your choice largely depends on the pollutants you want to be removed from your indoor environment. 

>For example, if you’re dealing with many airborne allergens like dust mites and mold spores, an air purifier equipped with HEPA filters would be ideal for capturing these tiny particles.

On the other hand, if you have lingering odors or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that need to be eliminated, then an air scrubber with activated carbon filters might be more effective.

Both solutions can help alleviate symptoms by removing irritants from the air for those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues. 

>However, live in a highly polluted area where outdoor pollutants like car exhaust and industrial waste enter your home. Using an air scrubber may be necessary to combat these harmful toxins.

Ultimately, understanding which solution is better for what kind of pollutant requires analyzing your needs and considering factors such as frequency of use and cost-effectiveness. 

Doing so gives you a clearer idea of whether investing in an air purifier or opting for a heavy-duty air scrubber is the right decision for improving indoor air quality.

2 class="wp-block-heading">Pros And Cons Of Air Purifiers And Air Scrubbers

Below is a table explaining the advantages and disadvantages of both air purifiers and air scrubbers.

Air Purifiers Pros:

  • Removes small particles such as dust, pollen, and smoke from the air
  • Reduces the risk of airborne diseases and viruses by filtering them out
  • Provides relief from symptoms of asthma and allergies by improving overall indoor air quality.


  • They can be noisy
  • They may not be effective for certain types of pollutants and allergens
  • They may be expensive to purchase and maintain and require frequent filter changes

Air Scrubber Pros:

  • Reduces allergy and asthma attacks by removing triggers such as mites, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and dust
  • It has a high cleaning rate of 99.98% and can kill harmful particles with negative and positive ions filtering
  • Helpful in protecting people with allergies or sensitivities to airborne particles


  • It may be expensive to purchase and install
  • It may produce ozone, which can be harmful to human health
  • Requires research and careful selection for safety and effectiveness

Air Purifier Vs. Air Scrubber: Which One Should You Choose?

When choosing between an air purifier and an air scrubber, consider factors such as the pollutants you want to remove, the size of your space, and your budget.

Factors To Consider When Choosing

When choosing between an air purifier and an air scrubber, there are several factors to consider. Here are some of the most important ones:

>1. Pollutant types:

If you are dealing with mostly airborne particles like dust, pollen, and dander, an air purifier may be enough. But if you have chemical pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or mold spores, an air scrubber with a carbon filter might be more effective.

2. Room size:

>Make sure to choose a purifier or scrubber that is appropriate for the size of the room where it will be used.

3. Noise level:

Consider the noise level of the device, especially if it will be used in a bedroom or other quiet space.

>4. Maintenance:

Look into how often filters need to be replaced and factor this into your decision-making process.

5. Energy efficiency:

> Find out how much energy the device uses and what its operating costs will be over time.

6. Price:

Air purifiers are less expensive than air scrubbers, so that budget-conscious consumers may opt for an air purifier.

>Remember to carefully assess your indoor air quality needs and research different models before deciding.

Analyzing Your Air Quality Needs

When deciding between an air purifier and an air scrubber, it’s important to analyze your specific air quality needs. 

Consider factors such as the type of pollutants in your indoor environment, the size of your space, and any respiratory issues you or others may have.

>For example, suppose you live in a home with pets that shed frequently. In that case, you may consider investing in an air purifier with a filter like a HEPA filter specifically designed to capture pet dander and hair. 

Alternatively, suppose mold is present in your home or workplace. 

In that case, an air scrubber equipped with a carbon filter can help eliminate unpleasant odors caused by mold spores while also removing harmful toxins from the air.

>It’s also important to consider the size of your space when choosing between these two options. 

An industrial-grade air scrubber may be necessary for effective filtration if you have a large area that requires regular cleaning and maintenance. 

On the other hand, smaller spaces like bedrooms or offices can benefit from portable air purifiers that are easy to move around as needed. 

>By analyzing these key factors and considering your options carefully before making a purchase, you can ensure that you choose the correct device to meet your unique needs for clean indoor air every day.

FAQs And Conclusion

Still, have questions about which option is best for indoor air quality?

Keep reading for answers to common FAQs about air purifiers and air scrubbers.

2 class="wp-block-heading">Do Air Scrubbers Produce Ozone?

This is a common question among buyers considering air scrubbers. The answer depends on the type of air scrubber you choose.

Some air scrubbers produce ozone, while others don’t. Ozone generators emit high levels of ozone as part of their purification process.

However, most modern air scrubbers use different technologies that do not generate any ozone.

>It’s important to note that while ozone can help remove some pollutants from the air, it can also cause health problems for humans and pets when inhaled in large quantities.

Therefore, if you’re concerned about indoor air quality and need an air purifier or scrubber, looking for one that does not produce harmful gases such as ozone is essential.

When shopping around for an indoor air cleaner, always check its specifications before making a purchase decision to ensure it doesn’t emit hazardous gases like ozone.

>Better still, consult with experts who can recommend the best-suited indoor space and environmental conditions without compromising your safety or health requirements.

Do Air Scrubbers Use More Energy Than Air Purifiers?

Air purifiers use less electricity than air scrubbers.

The maximum wattage for air purifiers is between 40 and 200 watts, with large units running at 100 watts on full power settings.

2 class="wp-block-heading">Can Air Scrubbers Be Used In Residential Settings? 

Yes, air scrubbers can be used in residential settings. They can be installed in the ductwork of most home HVAC systems to clean the air in the entire house, or the same technology can be used in portable air cleaners that clean the air in single rooms or specific areas.

irene mills author of freshairdevices


Irene Batres is eager to help others create an indoor allergen-free home. She has years of experience testing out air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and other products designed to help with indoor air quality. Learn more about me.