Difference Between Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers

Air Cleaners vs Air Purifiers

Many studies have shown that air cleaners and purifiers are vital for removing contaminants and destroying viruses like the COVID-19 virus. But what’s the difference between an air cleaner and an air purifier

Which one do you need to keep your building – and the people inside of it – healthy? 

Why Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers Are So Important

Everyone is conscientious about keeping their workplace safe from apparent hazards – broken railings, faulty wiring, and the like. But what about contaminants in the air we breathe? 

Invisible pollutants like cigarette smoke, viruses, mold, and bacteria can cause illness and weaken immune systems. 

Though “air purifier” and “air cleaner” are often used interchangeably, both are very different technologies. Let’s look at what they are designed to do, the technologies they use, and which one is most suitable for your space. 

Air Cleaner vs Air Purifier – What’s the Difference?

The most significant difference between an air cleaner vs air purifier is that air cleaners remove dust and other pollutants from the air. In contrast, air purifiers focus on sanitizing the air by trapping and destroying microscopic organisms that make people sick. 

What is an Air Cleaner? 

What is an air cleaner designed to do? Air cleaners are typically integrated into an existing HVAC system and filter pollutants out of the air before entering the air conditioning and heating systems. 

Essentially, air cleaners act as simple filters. Air cleaners typically remove the following types of pollutants: 

  • Pet dander 
  • Dust mite 
  • Pollen
  • Mold

Most building heating and cooling systems include an air cleaner with mechanical filters that catch large particles before passing into the ductwork. Some cleaners also use ozone generators, but ozone in small unventilated spaces can harm occupants’ health.

What is an Air Purifier? 

Air purifiers work similarly to air cleaners. However, they bring the added benefit of purification technologies that sanitize the air and filter out large particles. That means purifiers can remove tobacco smoke, fine dust, and more. 

An air purifier may use one or more purification technologies such as:

Negative Ionization – In this method, the air purifier adds additional electrons to the air. Ionization creates negative ions, which are released back into the building. These attract positively charged pollutants in the air. The bundle of air molecules becomes heavy and falls to the floor, easily swept away in your daily cleaning. 

UV LightThis method uses ultraviolet light to kill microscopic organisms like viruses and bacteria as they pass through the air purifier. 

HEPA FiltersThese filters are far more efficient than a normal air filter. Densely-packed fibers are very successful at removing dust particles and even pathogens. 

Because HEPA filters are designed to catch very small particles, they are often used in combination with a MERV filter, also known as a pre-filter. This screens out larger particles so the HEPA filter can more effectively trap smaller ones. 

All three technologies can be combined to clean the air more effectively. For example, CleanAir Tower can use all three simultaneously for maximum purification, making it suitable for filtering out pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from the air as well.

Air Purifier Vs Air Cleaner: Pros and Cons

Air Cleaners and Air Purifiers

Air purifier pros: 

  • Quiet operation 
  • Removes bacteria and viruses 
  • Usually includes a dust filtration system 


Air purifier cons:

  • Multiple units may be required to purify the entire building 
  • Can require additional floor space 


Air cleaner pros:

  • Quiet operation 
  • Good dust and dander filtration 
  • Built into the HVAC 


Air cleaner cons: 

  • Does not filter out bacteria or viruses 
  • Expensive filter replacements 
  • Noisy operation 

Air Cleaner vs Air Purifier – Which is Right for You? 

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, customers and employees are demanding more rigorous health and safety measures. Ensuring better indoor air quality is a higher priority than ever, and an air purifier is a valuable addition for every workplace.

Click here to find out how CleanAir Tower is helping homeowners and businesses fight indoor air pollution and protect occupants from COVID-19.