Photo of SmokeIf you’re thinking about buying an air purifier and looking to get rid of smoke in your home, it’s only natural for you to ask the question, “Do air purifiers help with smoke and odor?”

Most of the advertising hype behind air purifiers is that they create fresh air by removing toxic germs and particles from the air around you, but what about smoke from cigarettes, a wood fire, or cooking?

Can air purifiers get rid of that too?

In this post, we’ll answer that question for you so you can figure out if investing in an air purifier is a good choice or not.

We’ll start with the short answer so you know what’s ahead, then we’ll move onto a more detailed explanation to help you fully understand how it all works.

The Short Answer:

Yes, an air purifier can help with smoke and odor as long as it has two types of filters: a HEPA filter and Activated Carbon filter. The HEPA filter removes visible smoke while the Activated Carbon filter gets rid of smoke smell. This includes smoke from cigarettes, wood, and cooking.

If this is what you’re looking for, you can find our review of the best air purifiers for smoke here.

A More Detailed Answer:

First, What is Smoke Made up of?

Many people don’t know this but smoke is actually made up of two elements:

  • visible particles
  • and invisible particles

The visible elements of smoke that you see are primarily made up of carbon, ash, oils, and tar. The invisible elements contain a variety of liquid, solid, and gas particles that travel through the air and sink into the surrounding environment.

It’s these invisible volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) that make it so difficult to remove smoke odor from your clothing, furniture, and fabrics.

If we take cigarette smoke as an example, you’ll find that there are over 600 ingredients and 7,000 chemicals that get released every time your light one up. When you burn tobacco, you release more than 150 billion tar particles per cubic inch. This makes cigarette smoke 10,000 times more concentrated than the pollution automobiles give off during rush hour traffic.

Surprisingly, the visible smoke you see from a cigarette only accounts for 5 to 8% of its output. The remaining 92 to 95% of a cigarette’s bulk goes to the invisible vapor of smoke. These particles contain nitrogen and oxygen along with several toxic gasses including carbon monoxide, acrolein, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, and more.

Second, Will an Air Purifier Help with Smoke?

Now, with all that being said about smoke, the question still remains, “Can an air purifier help with smoke or not?”

The answer is yes, as long as it’s equipped with the right types of air filters. These include:

  • a True HEPA filter
  • and an Activated Carbon filter

The True HEPA filter is designed to remove 99.97% of the visible smoke particles. Most of these pollutants range in size from 0.1 to 1.0 microns, which is the size your HEPA filter excels at trapping.

Unfortunately, True HEPA filters cannot trap the invisible gas vapors that are emitted by smoke and this is what causes the odor. These gaseous VOCs can only be removed by adsorption (a slightly different form of absorption). That’s where the Activated Carbon filter comes in.

With an Activated Carbon filter, the smoke pollutants are adsorbed and stick to the outside of the carbon. This prevents the invisible particles from collecting on objects in the environment and causing a smell.

Lastly, How Do You Find the Best Air Purifier for Smoke?

As you just learned, it’s important to buy an air purifier that has the right combination of filtering technologies to eliminate smoke and its odor. Getting a product that only has one filter or the other won’t work effectively for your needs.

So, how do you find an air purifier that meets this requirement and will leave your home smelling smoke-free and clean?

To see what’s available, take a look at our review of the best air purifiers for smoke here.

If you live a wildfire zone, you may want to check out our post on how to find an air purifier for wildfire smoke.

Summary – Do Air Purifiers Work for Smoke?

The answer is yes as long as it meets certain criteria.

Here’s a recap of what you learned in this post:

  • Smoke is made up of both visible and invisible particles.
  • Only 5-8% of cigarette smoke is visible. The other 92-98% cannot be seen.
  • It’s the invisible VOC particles of smoke that cause odors and sink into clothing, furniture, and fabrics.
  • To remove smoke, your air purifier needs to have a True HEPA filter to remove visible smoke particles and an Activated Carbon filter to eliminate invisible (odorous) particles.

Now you know the answer to the question, “Do air purifiers work for smoke?”