Graphic of air purifier vs air scrubber
Image features Dri-EAZ F284 Air Scrubber

With the global increase in concern over indoor air quality, the terms “air purifier” and “air scrubber” are being tossed around a lot more these days.

Some people even use the words interchangeably, but these two types of machines are far from identical.

If you’re not sure which product is the right choice for your own home (air purifier vs air scrubber) or if you think you may need to have both, this post is for you.

We’ll go over the key details about how each machine works, why you should choose one over the other, and put to rest any questions you may have about these air purifying products.

Defining an Air Purifier

An air purifier is a portable device that’s used to clean the air inside a home.

These units come in all shapes and sizes, including ones that can fit in the palm of your hand up to larger machines that are over two feet high.

Most air purifiers are designed to purify the air inside a single room and all have a limited reach. For example, a small air purifier may only cover 100 sq. ft. of space while a larger unit could handle 700 sq. ft. or more.

The most popular air purifiers come equipped with a HEPA filtration system because it traps up to 99.97% of airborne contaminants as small as o.3 microns inside a physical filter. The second favorite type of air purifier uses ionization to remove harmful particles from the air as opposed to a physical filter.

Some home air purifiers can be upgraded to include an activated carbon filter (to remove odors) and ultra violet (UV) lighting (to kill germs).

Air purifiers are used inside the home to remove dust, allergens, smoke, bacteria, pet dander, and odors. These products are a long-term solution for keeping the air fresh inside a home that’s not flooded with huge levels of harmful particles on a daily basis.

The price range for an air purifier can be anywhere between $50 to $1,000 or more depending on how powerful it is and the levels of air filtration it uses. However, a good home air purifier can often be found for around $200.

Defining an Air Scrubber

An air scrubber is a machine that also works to clean the air inside a home. However, it’s mostly used for commercial applications but could act as a whole house air purifier if needed.

Air scrubbers are primarily used to remove chemicals, gases, and toxic particles from the air that come from household projects or indoor issues. These units are very popular with mold remediation companies, contractors, and home remodelers because they quickly improve the surrounding air quality and make it safer for people to work in.

These machines can also cover thousands of square feet with a single air scrubber, which makes them more cost effective than an air purifier.

Air scrubbers use two methods to scrub the air: dry and wet scrubbing.

If the machine uses wet scrubbing, it sucks the air through a damp pad or filter to trap free-floating particles and contaminants. If it uses dry scrubbing, it sucks the pollutants and particles through dry filters to clean the air.

Some air scrubbers also come with activated carbon filters to remove odors. And others even include a UV light to kill germs.

While the most common air scrubbers are used in commercial settings and are portable in design, there are products you can install directly into your HVAC system. Once installed, all air that flows through your ductwork will pass through the air scrubber and be purified. This essentially creates a whole house air purifier system.

Portable air scrubbers range in price from $500 to $1,500 or more. Often, people (or companies) just rent these units for the duration of a household project that requires it. Air scrubbers that are installed in the HVAC system can range anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000 or more.

Air Purifier vs Air Scrubber Comparison Chart

Here’s a quick recap of what you’ve learned so far about air purifiers and air scrubbers. This chart should make it easier for you to compare the two types of products.

CharacteristicAir PurifierAir Scrubber
ApplicationUses a HEPA filter or ionization to clean the airUses wet or dry scrubbing to clean the air
BenefitsBeneficial for domestic use to help with allergies and asthmaBeneficial for commercial use to improve air quality for workers
Removes or ReducesAllergens, Dust, Mold Spores, SmokeChemicals, Gases, Toxic Particles
Intended UseDomestic (Every day)Commercial (Temporary)

Which is Better: An Air Purifier or Air Scrubber?

While both devices can technically be used in a domestic setting, the better choice really depends on what you want to achieve by having an air purifier or air scrubber inside your home.

Choosing an Air Purifier

An air purifier is best used on a daily basis and is designed for single rooms of the home. It’s also the most cost-effective solution for improving indoor air quality.

Running an air purifier 24/7 will continue to keep your air cleaner and healthier for you to breathe. They’re especially useful for removing allergens, dust, pet dander, odors, and bacteria.

Choosing an Air Scrubber

A portable air scrubber is best used as a temporary solution to clean a home’s air from a high influx of harmful contaminants. Common applications include mold remediation, major renovations, or large interior painting jobs.

Portable air scrubbers can purify large spaces quickly and keep them fresh while indoor work is being performed.

If you can afford the installation of an air scrubber in your HVAC system ($1,000-3,000), then the air inside your whole home will stay as fresh as possible. When it comes to the debate between an air purifier vs air scrubber, this would be considered the optimal choice.