Are you worried about wildfire smoke seeping into your home?
Do you want to protect yourself from the harmful effects that forest fires can have on your health?
If so, you’ve landed on the right page.
In this article, you’ll learn important information about wildfires as well as how an air purifier can help keep you safe.
You’ll also find out what the top features are to look for in the best air purifier for wildfire smoke so you can get a device that actually works.
By the end, you’ll have everything you need to keep the indoor air you breathe clean and free of forest fire smoke.
Table of Contents
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Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke Reviewed in This Guide
Here’s a quick comparison chart showing the top air purifiers for wildfire smoke. We’ll cover each aspect of these units in the reviews section below, but this gives you an idea of what’s available and an easy way to compare them.
The next best air purifier is this model right here.
Recommended for spaces up to 600 square feet, the VEVA ProHEPA 9000 Air Purifier is an incredibly affordable option for larger rooms, especially considering the level of quality air purification you get for the price.
It’s equipped with three filters to capture unseen air invaders and larger ones alike. The washable pre-filter uses micro mesh technology to grab larger particles, like hair, pet dander, and lint. Next, the air meets a microparticle and activated carbon filter which helps to extend the HEPA filter’s life and remove odors, smoke, and other vaporized pollutants. Lastly, the medical-grade H13 premium HEPA filter effectively traps pollen, dust, mold, and other nasties to bring you the best air possible in your home.
Unlike other air purifiers on the market, this VEVA air purifier doesn’t use UV lights or ions, which are known to create trace amounts of ozone that can pollute the very air you’re trying to clean. For families with babies, cats, or dogs, you can breathe easy knowing this little machine is a lot safer than some of the other products out there.
Plus, the installation is simple. You just slide the filters into their designated slots and it’s ready to go.
Customize how you purify your home with the three airspeeds ranging from extra quiet to ultra turbo. For instance, the extra quiet speed ensures your air is clean while you sleep without the noisy whir of the motor.
Its sleek and modern design is also a huge perk — the VEVA air purifier seamlessly integrates into any home décor for a sensible solution to air quality that doesn’t disrupt your personal style. You can also consider the smaller VEVA 8000 Elite Pro Series Air Purifier.
Our final recommendation is an air purifier with one of the most advanced air filters for wildfire smoke and gaseous pollutants.
Although it’s marketed to people who suffer from allergies or asthma, the fact is that it’s one of the best-kept secrets for protecting yourself against the harms of wildfire smoke.
What makes this unit so good for your health are:
The advanced HyperHEPA filter captures 99.95% of particles down to 0.003 microns—the smallest that exists. This removes the widest range of solid smoke particles. And it lasts up to 4 years before a replacement is needed.
A special V5-Cell Gas and Odor filter is designed strictly for removing gases and chemical pollutants. It removes everything that causes smells, whether it’s from forest fires, tobacco, cooking, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and more. Plus, it lasts up to 2 full years.
We could go on and on about the numerous awards that this air purifier has received for improving health and eliminating odor-causing substances, but we won’t in order to keep things brief.
However, if you check this air purifier out, then you’ll see just how good it can be for your home and health.
It handles very large rooms up to 1,125 square feet.
Also, it will last you a lifetime of use (and comes with a 10-year warranty) so you’ll never even have to think about buying another unit if you do buy it.
If you want some additional information on how to choose the best air purifier for wildfire smoke, then this section can help.
Each air purifier reviewed on this page contains the essential elements you need to stay healthy and safe from the pollutants that fires produce.
But, if you want to learn more about why that’s true, the rest of this buying guide will educate you on that topic.
Do Air Purifiers Work for Wildfire Smoke?
Air purifiers do work for wildfire smoke if they contain the right types of filters. “They can absolutely impact indoor air quality,” claimed Raymond Casciari, M.D., a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California in an interview with Prevention Magazine. “Staying indoors when your region has poor air quality due to wildfire smoke is important, but fine particles in the air can still make their way into your home.”
In that same article, Jonathan Parsons, M.D., a pulmonologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, explained why running an air purifier can be helpful: “Air purifiers draw in polluted air, trap the particles, then blow out clean air.” But they won’t be “universally protective in areas where high levels of smoke are an issue,” he added.
How good a person’s house is sealed, the ventilation system and design, and proximity to the forest fire will determine how effective the air purifier is for removing wildfire smoke particles.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier for Wildfire Smoke
When you’re shopping for an air purifier for wildfire smoke, you may be tempted to go out and just buy the most expensive or best-looking machine.
However, we highly caution you against this because you could be making a costly mistake.
Because not all air purifiers are designed the same way and each one varies in its effectiveness against smoke.
There are many air purifiers out there that may contain one of these filters but not both.
Additionally, there are some devices that use inferior substitutes which actually can’t handle smoke particles at all.
So, you need to be careful.
We’ll cover these two filter types in detail in the next so you can guarantee that you’re getting a top quality air purifier that can eliminate particulates from wildfire smoke.
True HEPA Filter (for Particulate Matter)
The majority of wildfire smoke particles fall within the range of 0.4 to 0.7 microns, and the best type of air filter to trap these tiny particles is a “True HEPA” filter.
HEPA is an acronym for “High Efficiency Particulate Air” and the word “True” attached to “HEPA filter” is important because it indicates that the filter has been certified to capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns in size.
This includes smoke particulate matter from forest fires.
The truth is that there are many lower grade HEPA filters out there that can’t capture the ultrafine particles that make up smoke.
Some HEPA filters are only capable of capturing particles as small as 2 to 5 microns which are 500-1,500% larger in size (as explained in our article on do HEPA filters remove smoke).
When you’re shopping for an air purifier, you’ll likely see the words “HEPA”, “HEPA-type” or “HEPA-like” featured in the product description.
If it doesn’t include the word “True” then stay away from that air purifier because it likely won’t help you against wildfire smoke.
Note: Each of the air purifiers we recommend here has a top quality True HEPA filter included with them. So, you can rest assured that they can handle the task of eliminating smoke. Additionally, the best air cleaner for allergies will always include this must-have feature.
Additionally, some air purifiers include a Clean Air Delivery Rate (or CADR Rating). This CADR number measures the effectiveness of the unit for removing three types of pollutants: dust, pollen, and smoke.
The smoke CADR rating will be your top measurement to consider when comparing two or more air purifiers that have the same power output in regards to room size coverage.
The higher the CADR number for smoke, the better the air purifier is for removing this pollutant. For example, if two air purifiers cover 1,000 square feet equally, and one unit has a CADR rating of 700 versus 600 for the other device, then the 700 CADR rating unit is a more efficient choice.
One other thing to note here is that some air purifiers include an air ionizer function (also known as an ionic air purifier). Our #1 review has this feature. You can learn more about how do ionic air purifiers work here, but essentially, this added function electrically charges the air so that the pollutants are easier to trap.
An ionic generator can enhance the performance of your air purifier so it’s more effective against wildfire smoke. And if you want the full details of the difference between HEPA air purifiers and ionic air cleaners, check out our ionic air purifier vs HEPA page.
Activated Carbon Filter (for VOCs and Smoke Odor)
In a report in the USA Today on wildfire smoke and air purifiers, Dr. Kelli Williams, an allergist and immunologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said, “High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are great at filtering the particulate matter, but with high smoke exposure an active carbon filter is also helpful.”
Wildfire smoke is composed of a variety of gaseous chemicals, many of which are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Another common issue with wildfires is the odor they produce which can infiltrate your home.
Unfortunately, True HEPA filters cannot trap VOCs or odors.
Those particles float right through the HEPA material and require a chemical process called “adsorption” to be removed from the air.
Adsorption (with a “d) is similar to absorption (with a “b) except that the particles cling to a material’s surface as opposed to being absorbed inside it like a sponge.
Activated carbon is a specially treated medium that has millions of tiny pores and an extremely large surface area.
This filter material traps VOCs and odor particles as air passes through it which leaves the air around you smelling fresh and clean, and free of toxic gases.
So if you’re serious about protecting yourself against wildfire smoke and its odor be sure to get an air purifier odor remover that includes this special type of filter.
To make things easy for you, we’ve highlighted the top air purifiers for wildfire smoke above that have an Activated Carbon filter.
Tips on Using Your New Air Purifier for Fire Smoke
After reading through these air purifier reviews and purchasing your new air cleaner, you may wonder how to best use it to get the most protection from wildfire pollutants.
The following questions and tips should help.
Where Should You Place the Air Purifier?
In order to get the maximum efficiency out of your air purifier, you’ll want to position the unit in a place where it gets the most amount of airflow into the system without any obstructions.
Each manufacturer will recommend a minimum clearance distance around the unit inside the product manual. So read it. An example would be 24 inches from any wall or obstruction like a piece of furniture.
A piece of advice that may not be in your manual is the best placement for the air purifier to eliminate wildfire smoke particles. To achieve this you’ll want to position it as close as possible to the center of the room. That way the unit can easily pull particulate matter in from every part of the space at a more efficient rate.
If you can’t place the air purifier near the center of the room, just try to get it as close as you can. That’s better than sticking it in a corner.
Another option is to set the air purifier in a location that’s nearest to where you dwell. For example, if you often sit in the same place on a couch in the living room, then place the air purifier nearby. That way you can ensure you’re breathing in the cleanest, freshest air possible because you’re within the closest range of the air purifier.
How Long Should You Run the Air Purifier?
Air purifiers are designed to be operated 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. The reason being is that the longer an air purifier runs, the cleaner the air inside a room becomes.
With every cycle of air that goes through an air purifier, the more smoke particulates get captured and you’ll receive the most benefits of an air purifier.
If you leave the air purifier running all day and night then eventually the air inside the room will be filtered so many times that no wildfire smoke particulate matter is left.
The minute you turn the air purifier off, airborne pollutants can start to build up again, so always keep it running.
How Often Should You Replace the Filters?
Three of the air purifiers for wildfire smoke we recommend above (Rabbit Air MinusA2, Austin Air HealthMate HM 400, and IQAir HealthPro Plus) have amazing filters that last between 2 to 5 years. However, that’s not the case for most air purifiers, including our third recommendation (Levoit LV-PUR131).
The normal time frame for air purifier filter replacements is 3-6 six months for Activated Carbon filters and 6-8 months for True HEPA filters.
If you live in a wildfire-prone area (or close to it), you may find that you need to replace your filters more often. That’s because smoke particulate matter can be very dense and clog up your air filters at a faster rate.
Fortunately, many air purifiers come with a filter change indicator light to alert you for when it’s time to replace the filters. If your unit doesn’t have this feature then just make it a habit to perform periodic filter checks every few weeks to see how dirty it looks. If you see a thick coating of debris on the Activated Carbon filter, it’s time to change it. If the True HEPA filter looks black, replace it as well.
Why is Wildfire Smoke Bad for You?
Wildfire smoke is a complex mix of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, organic chemicals, and particulate matter—a term used for particles that are suspended in the air.
Since different types of wood and vegetation impact which compounds are released when smoke is burned, the size of the particulate matter can vary a great deal.
Particles from wildfire smoke are microscopic and mostly fall within the 0.4 to 0.7 micron range.
For the purpose of comparison, a human hair is about 60 microns in size (or 10,000% larger).
When wildfire smoke is inhaled, the ultrafine particulate matter can make its way into the deepest recesses of the lungs and cause all sorts of respiratory and heart problems including:
Lung cell damage
Compromised immune system
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The impact of being exposed to larger smoke particulate matter (PM) between PM2.5 to PM10 include:
Shortness of breath
As you can see, wildfire particulate matter can make healthy people sick and sick people even sicker.
But that doesn’t have to be the case for you, especially if you follow the advice on how to reduce your exposure to forest fire pollutants in the next section.
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Wildfire Smoke
The truth is none of us are safe from the effects of wildfire smoke no matter where we live.
The particulate matter is carried by the wind and can reach the furthest depths of the country that are thousands of miles away from the fire source.
Reduce physical activity to lower the amount of inhaled smoke particulate matter
Upgrade your central air conditioner filter to MERV 8 or higher
Use an air purifier inside your home
In regard to air purifiers, the EPA goes on to say that you should invest in an air purifier for wildfire smoke before an incident occurs. That way you can ensure that your indoor air is fully protected from the oncoming smoke particles.
The air purifiers reviewed on this page are the top units for this purpose. Many of them are also recommended on our best air purifier for VOCs page because they contain the essential filters for VOC removal.
Another option is to get an indoor air quality monitor. These units can measure the level of pollutants in the air and report the toxicity levels. That way, you know exactly how good or bad the air quality is inside your home and take the appropriate actions.
Air quality monitors are a good supplement to a running air purifier for anyone who wants to know the exact level of wildfire contaminants that are detected inside the home. They can also be a good first step for anyone who doesn’t want to take the plunge into buying an air purifer yet. Check out our indoor air quality monitor reviews guide for expert recommendations on these types of devices.
Finally, if you need to leave your house, the best thing to do is wear goggles to protect your eyes and a NIOSH-approved face mask that’s designed to block particles from entering your mouth and nose.
More Ways to Keep Wildfire Smoke Out of Your Home
In addition to using the top air purifier models, here are some additional ways to keep smoke from forest fires out of your house.
Keep Windows Closed
This may seem obvious but keeping your windows closed actually does more than just keep the wildfire smoke particulates out. It also helps your air purifier run more efficiently.
As we mentioned in the last section, the more an air purifier runs, the cleaner the air around it becomes.
So, if the windows are kept shut then it gives your air purifier a chance to extract as many smoke particles as possible from the space.
Use a Wet Mop and Damp Rag When Cleaning
Eventually, all smoke particles drop out of the air. They can’t stay suspended forever. However, instead of dusting or vacuuming your home as a way to clean them up, it’s better to use a wet mop and damp rag.
The act of vacuuming and dusting can easily stir smoke particles back up into the air which is bad news for anyone who’s trying their best to protect themselves against wildfire particulate matter.
Using wet mops on floors and damp rags on solid surfaces do a much better job at removing fallen smoke particles from a room. After you’re done cleaning with these tools, a quick rinse in the sink or bathtub will flush collected smoke pollutants down the drain.
Change Your Clothes and Shower Daily
If you spend any time outdoors, chances are you’ve collected wildfire particles on your clothing. To keep these contaminants out of your home, make it habit to change your clothes at the end of the workday or after you’ve spent an extended period of time outside.
Forest fire pollutants can also cling to your skin. Therefore, take a quick shower before you go to bed in order to rinse off any smoke particulates that may have latched onto your body without you knowing it.
Taking small steps like these can help prevent the depositing of smoke particles around your house.
Keep Your Bedding Extra Clean
On average, we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping or attempting to do so. That’s a lot of time spent in the bedroom.
Since smoke particles eventually fall out of the air and land on surrounding surfaces, your bedroom is also at risk. And if you don’t shower or change your clothes before going to sleep, you could be rolling around in particulate matter on your bedding each and every night.
To lower your risk of exposure, wash your bedding every week. That way you can keep the level of pollutants to a minimum.
Fact: Wildfires Now Burn All Year Round
In states like California, wildfire season used to be somewhat predictable with it only occurring between mid-summer to early autumn.
That’s not the case anymore.
Several states on the west coast are now experiencing a new normal, where forest fires rage all throughout the year.
For example, in 2018 California experienced two major wildfires during the first week of July and at least three infernos lasted into November.
“The Camp Fire,” as it was named, erupted on November 8th and was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.
Global warming, cyclical droughts and the determination to populate fire-prone areas are the main reasons for why wildfire season has gotten out of hand. And sadly, there’s not much you can do to stop it.
However, you can at least protect yourself from inhaling forest fire smoke by using an air purifier in your home.
As you learned earlier in this guide, only certain types of air purifiers are effective and specially designed to eliminate smoke particles from the air you breathe.
And the best air purifier for wildfire smoke must have a True HEPA filter and Activated Carbon filter to remove the widest range of smoke particulates.
You Can’t Escape Wildfire Smoke, No Matter Where You Live
If you thought that the negative impact of wildfires was just a west coast problem, you’re sadly mistaken.
Dangerous particulate matter from forest fires is enveloping the entire United States because it goes wherever the wind takes it.
Unfortunately, you don’t need to be right next to the source of a wildfire in order to be affected by the smoke.
People all across the nation are experiencing problems from breathing in microscopic wildfire pollutants that range from an occasional cough to severe heart disease.
On another note, many homes are also being filled with a strong, smoky odor that permeates the walls, furniture, carpeting, and clothing.
Luckily, an air purifier can help reduce the indoor odors from wildfires in addition to keeping you safe from the harmful health effects.
Who’s Most at Risk from Wildfire Smoke?
The fact is that we’re all at risk from the effects of wildfire smoke since the particulate matter can travel thousands of miles through the air.
Although people who have prolonged exposure to forest fires encounter the most health issues, there are certain types of individuals who find themselves being more at risk from these natural disasters according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
People with Heart or Lung Diseases: Studies have shown that individuals with these conditions experience irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, decreased lung function, worsening asthma, and even premature death.
The Elderly: These people often have a pre-existing heart or lung condition which makes them more susceptible to the harmful effects of wildfire smoke.
Children: This part of our population is high at risk due to their developing respiratory systems. Children also breathe in more air than adults because their bodies are smaller. They often spend more time outdoors too which increases their exposure to smoke particulate matter.
People with Diabetes:– Some of these individuals have an underlying heart or respiratory condition which can be further complicated by breathing in smoke.
Pregnant Women: Exposure to wildfire smoke for this group can cause complications for both the mother and the baby. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated air purifier for wildfires in the nursery and main living area of the home. The products on this page are a good choice as well as the units reviewed on our best air purifier for baby page.
Enjoy Your New Best Air Purifier for Wildfire Smoke
We hope this information about the health impacts of wildfires as well as how to protect yourself and choose the best air purifier for wildfire smoke has been valuable to you.
With the number of wildfires increasing each year and the season extending far past its usual cycle, it pays to invest in your health in any way that you can.
And using one of the best air purifiers for fire smoke is a simple way to do just that.
About Patrick Holmes
Patrick is a Senior Air Quality & Comfort Specialist. He conducts in-depth research and analysis for our product reviews and buying guides in order to offer expert recommendations for people who are seeking to improve their indoor air quality and comfort. (See Full Bio)