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.
- Fact: Wildfires Now Burn All Year Round
- Why is Wildfire Smoke So Dangerous?
- How to Reduce Your Exposure to Wildfire Smoke
- What to Look for in an Air Purifier for Wildfire Smoke
- List of the Three Best Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke (Products and Reviews)
- Tips on Using Your New Air Purifier
In a hurry? Here’s a glimpse of the two best products you can get.
You’ll find out more about these air purifiers in the detailed reviews and buying guide below.
Rabbit Air MinusA2
Austin Air Healthmate HM400
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.
*We’ll get to the full details on how to choose the best air purifier for wildfire smoke later, but for now, just know that certain devices are specially designed to eliminate smoke particles from the air you breathe.
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.
The truth is that even wildfire smoke from California can travel all the way to New York City which is roughly 3,000 miles away. 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.
Why is Wildfire Smoke So Dangerous?
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
- Heart disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The impact of being exposed to larger smoke particulate matter (PM) between PM2.5 to PM10 include:
- Burning eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
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.
Fortunately, there’s some good news.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a few simple yet effective ways of reducing your exposure to wildfire smoke:
- Stay indoors during a smoke episode
- 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 regards 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.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier for Wildfire Smoke
Now that you know even the federal government recommends using an air purifier 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.
When you’re looking to buy an air purifier for reducing wildfire smoke there are two key features you need to look for:
- True HEPA filter
- Activated Carbon filter
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 every trace of wildfire smoke.
True HEPA Filter (for Particulate Matter)
As we mentioned earlier, the majority of wildfire smoke falls within the range of 0.4 to 0.7 microns, and the only type of air filter that can trap these particles is a “True HEPA” filter.
The word “True” attached to “HEPA” 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 is 500-1,500% larger in size.
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.
*Each of the air purifiers we recommend below has a top quality True HEPA filter include with them. So you can rest assured that they can handle the task of eliminating smoke.
Activated Carbon Filter (for VOCs and Smoke Odor)
Previously, you learned how 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.
This is where an Activated Carbon filter comes in.
Air purifiers that include activated carbon can help protect you against the toxicity of forest fire VOCs and reduce the odors that wildfires produce.
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 that includes this special type of filter. To make things easy for you, we’ve highlighted some of the top air purifiers for wildfire smoke that have an Activated Carbon filter below.
The Best Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke
Now that you know what to look for in the best air purifier for wildfire smoke, you may be wondering what options are available.
Below, you’ll find the top three products you can buy today. Each air purifier contains the essential elements you need to stay healthy and safe from the pollutants that fires produce.
Disclosure: At Home Air Quality Guides, we believe in an education-first philosophy. We never make product recommendations until after we educate our readers on what to look for in the top-performing devices and then only suggest items that meet those specific criteria. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made through the links below. If you buy a qualifying product, you’re not charged a penny more, but we’ll get a small commission that supports our work. We hope you enjoy this free guide and find the best product for your needs through these recommendations.
This product tops the list for wildfire smoke because it offers an unmatched six-stage air purification system.
With this air purifier you’re getting:
- Pre-filter to capture large particles and debris. Also extends the life of the other internal filters.
- Medium Filter to trap smoke particles larger than 1 micron in size.
- BioGS HEPA Filter to capture 99.97% of smoke particulate matter down to 0.3 microns in size. This is a more efficient version of a True HEPA filter that lasts much longer, up to 2 years.
- Customized Filter for targeting smoke toxins (or other indoor concerns).
- Activated Carbon Filter for removing VOCs and wildfire smoke odor.
- Ionizer for boosting the air cleaning power and freshness.
Two additional benefits that make this a standout air purifier for wildfires include:
- Wall mountable in addition to standing on the floor.
- Numerous front panel designs and colors to match your personal style and decor.
Finally, it covers the optimal amount of space for an average homeowner, up to 700 sq. ft. All-in-all it’s one of the best air purifiers you can buy for wildfire smoke.
The next best air purifier is this model right here.
What makes it so powerful against forest fire smoke is a four-stage air purification system that includes:
- Pre-filter for capturing large particles and debris.
- Medium Filter for trapping small to medium size smoke particles.
- True HEPA Filter for capturing 99.97% of smoke particulate matter down to 0.3 microns in size.
- Activated Carbon Filter that contains nearly 15 pounds of activated carbon to remove the highest amount of VOCs and odors. You won’t find this amount in any other machine.
Another impressive feature of this unit is that it draws air in through all four sides, making it a 360-degree air filtering machine. This design maximizes smoke removal efficiency.
What’s even better is that the internal filters have a 5-year life expectancy which makes it more affordable to maintain.
Finally, this air purifier covers a huge amount of space, up 1,500 sq. ft. That’s more than enough power to protect even the largest room in a single-family home from wildfire smoke.
Our last recommendation is for people who just want a personal air purifier that can target smoke.
If you live in an apartment, want to protect a small room of your home, or purify the air in an office space, this is a great product for those purposes.
With this air purifier, you get a three-stage air purification system that includes:
- Pre-filter for capturing large particles.
- True HEPA Filter for capturing 99.97% of smoke particulate matter down to 0.3 microns in size.
- Activated Carbon Filter for removing wildfire VOCs and smoke odor.
Just keep in mind that this air purifier can only handle a space up to 86 sq. ft. That’s about a 9′ x 10′ size room.
If you want something a bit more powerful, you can upgrade to the Levoit LV-PUR131 which covers up to 322 sq. ft. That size is perfect for small studio apartments and medium-sized rooms in a home that are around 15′ x 20′.
Tips on Using Your New Air Purifier
After purchasing your air purifier, 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. 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?
The top two air purifiers for wildfire smoke we recommend above (Rabbit Air MinusA2 and Austin Air HealthMate HM 400) 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.
More Ways to Keep Wildfire Smoke Out of Your Home
In addition to using an air purifier, 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.
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. Those include:
- 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.
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.