In this Guide
Tobacco smoke can be one of the trickiest air quality problems to solve in your living space! Whether you’re dealing with a roommate who vapes, a cigarette smoker next door, or a living space with pervasive odors from past smokers, an air purifier can be one of the best solutions for eliminating those irritating and toxic odors.
However, many air purifiers aren’t actually equipped to deal with fumes and residual odors from cigarettes and other smoking products. You’ll need something that can filter and reduce odors, and eliminate harmful VOC chemicals and other content from your air.
Your machine will be responsible for protecting your possessions from long-term odors, and protecting your health from toxic air. It’s one of the tallest orders any air purifier can be given, so you need to be sure you’re getting the right one!
We put this guide together specifically to help folks dealing with smoke or the residual effects of smoke in their homes. We looked all around the market to compare different options, all with specific features to tackle smoke. We compared professional lab test results from Consumer Reports with long-term feedback from buyers who had tested out these air purifiers in the real world.
After exhaustive research, we narrowed down our field to three top performers. We’ve recommended them here, and written our own comprehensive reviews for each of our favorites. We’ll discuss all the features which set them apart from the crowd, and help you figure out which one is the best choice for your living space and smoke situation.
Let’s get right to it with a glance at the Top Three:
Best on a Budget
- Rating: 4.5
- Reviews: 96
- Rating: 4.4
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- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 228
Best Smoke Air Purifier Reviews 2018
1. Winix 5500-2
This Winix model is our top recommendation for dealing with smoke in smaller spaces, up to 360 square feet. It has lots of advanced features for dealing with cigarette odors, and it also does an excellent job of removing harmful VOC’s.
The best part is the price–it’s one of the most affordable True HEPA models on the market, and one of the cheapest we’ve seen with VOC detection built in! Previous buyers said it was extremely quiet, and very effective on smoke. We recommend it for small apartments and single rooms where smoke is an issue.
It has several different filtration features to deal with smoke. There’s the initial carbon filter, which is very effective at absorbing and neutralizing odors. Carbon filters are the most popular odor-reduction type on the market, and buyers had only good things to say about the Winix’s filters!
Then, dust, hair, and pollen particles enter the True HEPA filter, which traps 99.7% of particles above 0.3 microns in its fibers, eliminating odors which they’ve absorbed in your home. Finally, air makes its way out of the unit through the plasma wave chamber, which further neutralizes any remaining odors, and ionizes your air, so that smaller particles will collect on surfaces instead of floating around your home.
Previous buyers said it did very well with neutralizing cigarette smells from neighbors, as well as general pet odors and residual smoke in their living spaces. They were especially impressed that the automatic sensor turned red due to faint odors, even from smoking neighbors or smokers outside their windows.
We also found that that the Winix helped reviewers breathe easier in smog-heavy areas, especially near major roadways. Overall, it’s a very effective choice for small spaces.
The plasma wave system is ozone-free. While other ionizers produce ozone, a lung irritant, the Winix’s plasma wave is certified by regulators to produce absolutely no ozone. That’s convenient because you get the benefits of ionized air (dust collects on surfaces, rather than floating around) without the health risks. And, if it makes you feel safer, you can simply turn the feature off.
The pre-filter grille and internal carbon filters are washable, so they last a lot longer than competitors’ models. As long as you stay on top of vacuuming the grille regularly, and vacuum the carbon filters every 3 months or so, you’ll only need to replace your filters once per year.
It has two smart operating modes: automatic and sleep. The automatic setting uses an internal sensor to analyze your air quality, and adjusts the fans accordingly to improve air quality as efficiently as possible. We’re very impressed by the sensor feature on a model this inexpensive.
Previous buyers said the automatic mode was surprisingly effective, especially compared to more expensive models they’d used previously. Several buyers who used separate air quality monitors said their particulate matter inside was the lowest it had ever been after using the Winix on the automatic setting!
It’s very quiet, especially compared to the previous version of this model. On low or sleep modes, previous buyers said they could hardly tell the machine was running!
Even though this is one of the most budget-friendly air purifiers we’ve ever recommended, it has a very well-designed, well-equipped control panel. You can choose between 4 fan speeds, sleep mode, and the automatic setting.
There’s even an air quality indicator light, which is a feature we’ve usually seen only in the most expensive models. The indicator light changes from red to orange to blue as your air quality improves.
Even though it’s priced in the budget range, it meets all the key qualifications of the heavy hitters. It’s one of the least expensive models to feature True HEPA filtration. It’s both Energy Star and CARB rated for energy efficiency and air quality effectiveness. The Energy Star rating means the EPA have tested this model to use significantly less electricity than other units, so you can be sure you’ll save on your electricity bill.
The CARB rating certifies that the state of CA has tested the unit to make sure it meets the strictest air quality standards in the country. It’s CADR-rated by AHAM for spaces up to 360 square feet.
It’s very compact, and incredibly light. This unit weighs just 18 pounds, and it takes up just over 2 cubic feet. Previous buyers said it’s extremely easy to move around. There’s even a carrying handle built into the top of the machine to help you out!
Previous buyers loved how easy the filters were to insert and remove. They’re a far cry from the messy kind you have to cut and then stuff into awkward grooves. They also raved about the washable pre-filter, saying it caught a huge amount of material, especially from pets. They were grateful that they could clear the screen rather than having to spend lots of money on replacement HEPA filters. It also comes with extra filters in the box.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty. We’ve also found that this one has a better reputation for reliability than its predecessor, the original 5500.
It’s very affordable. The Winix is available for well under $200, which is exceptionally good for a purifier that’s this effective.
It can’t handle large spaces. If you’re dealing with a whole home, sizable apartment, or larger room, this one probably won’t cut it.
The power cord is relatively short. Previous buyers said they had to keep the machine within 5 feet of an outlet. That’s not quite as convenient as the longer cords on larger models.
While this one does feature a convenient remote control, the buttons on the remote are fairly limited. You can adjust the fans, but you can’t set the machine on sleep or automatic mode.
The sleep mode is designed to reduce noise, so it operates only at the lowest fan speed. Some buyers were disappointed that they couldn’t choose a more powerful sleep speed. If you need a bit more performance at night, you’ll have to run the machine in its normal mode, and cover up the bright air quality indicator light.
Some previous buyers said that while their units were certainly moving air around, they weren’t collecting much dust in their filters. A few also wrote that while they saw plenty of filtration action on turbo mode, there was no middle ground between turbo and low speeds. However, most reviewers said they filters were collecting very steadily, and doing a good job.
The sensor isn’t as adept as the ones on more expensive models. It can’t detect air changes quite as precisely or quickly as $500+ models. However, it’s the best budget system we’ve seen to date.
The Turbo mode is very loud. Previous buyers said they preferred to avoid using it whenever possible.
2. Honeywell HPA 300
This model is Consumer Reports’ top-rated air purifier at the moment, and it’s also one of the best-selling models on the market. We think it’s an excellent all-around choice, but it excels at removing cigarette odors.
It provides more range than the Winix, in an even more compact package. It might not have as many features, but the features that it does have work better, and with more consistent performance. This one’s our top choice for medium to large rooms, as well as the average apartment. It’s also a simpler, stronger performer for folks with serious smoke concerns in their bedrooms!
The Honeywell can cover 50% more ground than the Winix, in the same size footprint. It can cover up to 465 square feet. Like the Winix, it’s certified for that area by the AHAM institute, so you can be sure that the rating is realistic.
This unit also has a listed CADR rating of 300, which we consider very good. The Winix, on the other hand, lists CADR certifications, but no specific rating. That’s always a red flag. If performance is worth bragging about, you can bet the manufacturer will do so!
Like the Winix, the Honeywell combines an activated carbon pre filter with a True HEPA filter core. That gives it excellent all-around performance on airborne dust, pollen, hair and dander particles, as well as molecular pollutants such as VOC’s and odors from cigarettes.
While both machines have well-rounded filtration, the Honeywell has more consistent performance, and collects more visible dust. It also cycles through the air in its coverage zone more frequently than the Winix-5 times per hour.
It comes highly rated by Consumer Reports. In many cases, recommendations from periodicals are simply product placement. However, Consumer Reports have such stringent lab testing procedures that they very rarely recommend air purifiers.
The Honeywell is one of very few models to make their cut! They found that it did better than the competition at removing both particulate matter and molecular content like cigarette odors and VOC’s.
Previous buyers agreed that this model did a good job with both dust and odors. They said they noticed a significant reduction in smoke smells within the first few hours of running the machine.
In general, this one is a stronger performer than the Winix–both in terms of particulate removal and odor reduction. It scored highest in Consumer Reports’ lab testing, and previous buyers were much closer to unanimous in praising the Honeywell’s performance in their rooms.
It’s a good choice for serious smoke concerns in small rooms, as well as larger spaces with mild odors. While this one is a bit overpowered for a single bedroom, its extra cleaning power makes it ideal for folks who live with smokers, and need to keep their own bedroom as healthy as possible.
It has a tap-control panel for adjusting the fans, setting timers, and checking up on filter conditions. There are three fan speeds, plus a turbo setting. There are also electronic warning lights to warn you when the filter or pre filter needs to be changed. You can also set a 2, 4 or 8-hour timer.
As with the Winix, this one doesn’t release any ozone. Since the Honeywell is a purely mechanical filter, with no ionizing feature, we think it’s safer in general than the Winix. The scientific jury is still out on the health benefits or consequences of ionized air, so this is better for people who are more conservative about health technology, and prefer to wait until testing is conclusive.
Even though it’s more expensive than the Winix, it’s still relatively affordable. This one won’t cost you much more than $200.
It’s quite a bit louder than the Winix. Reviewers said that while the lower fan speeds were quiet, the upper levels still made a decent racket.
It doesn’t come with a remote control.
This one doesn’t have a plasma wave system, or any other ionizing feature. We don’t really think plasma or ionization features are all they’re cracked up to be, so that doesn’t bother us much. However, if you’re attached to ionization in your air, you might want to look at a different model.
The filters need to be replaced much more frequently than the Winix’s. The Honeywell should get all-new filters three times per year, which can get pretty expensive. Depending on the prices when you buy, buyers said it could cost upwards of $75-100 to maintain this one over the course of a year. To save money, some other buyers recommended vacuuming dirty filters to extend their working life.
It doesn’t have an automatic setting. You can set this one to work on a timer, but you’ll need to set a single fan speed for those hours. It’s a bit less convenient to use than the Winix, since you’ll have to judge for yourself which fan speed is necessary.
It has a mixed record for reliability. Previous buyers reported a few issues with quality control, in particular with the door latch on the machine, which broke or wouldn’t close properly when users replaced the filters.
According to more recent reviews this issue should be fixed with the most recent update. However, a number of reviewers from each year of production reported lemons which either didn’t work out of the box, or stopped working sooner than expected. They also said that the control panel had a short lifespan. We’d recommend buying add-on coverage for this unit.
Plans generally cost less than $20, and can double the warranty on your air purifier. Plus, you won’t have to deal with Honeywell’s customer service line, which has a notoriously frustrating reputation.
3. Alen BreatheSmart Customizable
Our top quality recommendation for dealing with smoke comes from Alen. It’s packed with high tech features which allow it to clean air in a large area (up to 1100 square feet) without you having to make nearly as many adjustments or maintenance pit stops as you would with other models.
The BreatheSmart can run completely automatically, and it has a smart computer system which adjusts fan speeds to keep up with variable air quality factors, like cooking smells or shedding pets. We like it because between the automatic modes and lifetime warranty, you can pretty much set it and forget it. Plus, it’s available with filter kits that are engineered specifically to deal with your smoke issue.
So, whether you have a large amount of air to clean, or simply want the best, most convenient performance for a small to medium sized space, the Alen is our ultimate choice for solving smoke problems.
It’s fully customizable. You can use any of Alen’s specific filter designs for this model, including filter sets which are specifically designed to remove smoke odors and toxins! There are options for mold, smoke, pollen, and more, as well as general-purpose filter models.
We especially like the HEPA Pure and Fresh Plus options for smoke. The BreatheSmart also has a customizable front panel, which you can match easily to your decor and other appliances. We’re impressed by how many choices there are–anything from bold color blocks to faux wood finishes.
It works completely automatically! The Alen analyzes your air quality in real time, and then works to optimize and clean based on current conditions. Previous buyers agreed that it was pretty much effortless. They wrote that the machine mostly lived up to its promise to improve conditions in the first 2 hours of operation.
This unit also has a much smarter, more delicate sensor than the Winix’s. It works constantly to preserve your filters and conserve energy, while keeping your air quality at optimal levels. And, if you prefer to be in the driver’s seat, you can always control the unit manually. The digital display panel shows you current air quality readings, as well as filter health levels and fan speeds.
Previous buyers said it did an excellent job removing smoke from forest fires and air pollution as well as tobacco products. They found that soot accumulation in their homes was greatly reduced, and that they could breathe easier as a result.
People dealing with tobacco smoke said that the Alen took care of odors very quickly, even in spaces with heavy-smoking neighbors or roommates. Previous buyers also noticed a sizable reduction in dust on their furniture and fixtures after using the machine!
As with the Winix, this one has a cleanable pre-filter screen. The manufacturer recommends taking the front face off the machine an vacuuming the pre-filter every week or so, as you clean your house. That preserves the filter life greatly, since a lot of the pet hair, pollen and general dust that might otherwise clog your filters gets trapped before it gets inside the filter assembly.
Replacement filters aren’t any more expensive than the lower-priced options. In fact, they’re cheaper to maintain than the Honeywell’s! Plus, you don’t need to change them as often. The BreatheSmart’s filters last for about 1 year, as long as you keep up with cleaning the pre-filter grille.
It’s very unobtrusive. The exhaust vent is located at the top of the machine, so it doesn’t create strong drafts in your home. This one also has WhisperSmart technology built in. It’s designed to eliminate high-frequency sounds which are common with air purifiers and other white-noise appliances. This system uses something called “pink noise”, which tries to eliminate high frequencies and preserve lower frequencies, which most people find less obnoxious.
It’s quiet. Even on turbo mode, this one won’t produce more than 56 decibels of noise! That’s equivalent to a low conversation between people. Buyers said it was exceptionally quiet, especially when it was running on the automatic setting. People who had used both the Alen and the Honeywell said that the Alen was quieter on Turbo than the Honeywell was on a low fan speed.
You can easily turn off the air quality control lights and button backlighting by tapping the power button once. That allows for a sleep mode without modifying any of the machine’s settings. To turn the machine off, you simply tap the button twice.
As with our other recommendations, it’s Energy Star-rated. This one won’t use more than 105 watts, even at its highest speed!
It has an optional ionization feature, which you can turn on or off depending on your preferences. Even with the ionization feature turned on, the machine is tested and certified to produce absolutely no ozone content in your air.
It’s covered by a lifetime warranty. Alen also have an excellent reputation for customer service, and this machine has an exceptionally good track record for reliability.
You can test it out in your home for 60 days before committing to your purchase.
It’s a large appliance. While it’s the same height as our other recommendations, it’s over 1.5 feet wide. Think of it as a flat screen TV which stands on end. You’ll need to find a decent amount of space to set this up. The BreatheSmart also needs a fair amount of clearance, so it’s hard to tuck in corners or against walls.
It’s expensive. You won’t find this model for under $600, and the price can vary based on the filter set you buy it with. Since it’s so expensive, we recommend it mostly to people who have serious smoke-related health issues to take care of, or a large amount of space to cover.
While the filters can be cleaned to extend their working life, they will need to be changed more frequently if you’re near a constant/current source of smoke or smoking smells.
Which is the Best Cigarette Smoke Air Purifier for You?
For small spaces, especially if you’re on a tighter budget, the Winix is the clear choice. It has more than enough coverage for the average bedroom, and it can handle compact apartments without too much trouble.
The Winix has respectable all-around performance, and we’ve found that the carbon pre filter does particularly well with smoke odors and fumes. As an added bonus, it comes with lots of convenient automatic extras.
On the downside, this one doesn’t cycle through air as much as the Honeywell, so some buyers weren’t as impressed by how much dust this collected in a day. It also isn’t suitable for spaces above 300 square feet. We’d recommend it to people who want to spend as little as possible minimizing smoke in their bedroom.
If you’re dealing with small to midsize rooms, the Honeywell is a stronger all-around performer than the Winix. It adds 50% more coverage, and it cycles through air much more thorough in a day: up to 5 times. Previous buyers and professional testers alike found that the Honeywell more consistently collected dust, pollen, and other large particles than the Winix, and kept odors from smoke or pets under control equally well.
While this one doesn’t have the automatic features that the Winix does, we think it’s a better choice in terms of power and performance. It can easily handle bedrooms, dens, or smaller apartments. However, it can’t be run automatically, and it has higher upkeep costs than our other recommendations.
The Alen BreatheSmart is the better option for people trying to get rid of smoke in their entire living space or large room. It can cover more than twice as much ground as the Honeywell, and it gives you all the convenient automatic features of the Winix–only improved and with more power to back them up.
It’s by far the most effective performer here, and its smart sensor and computer system make it the easiest to use as well. While its price and size mean it’s probably overkill for a bedroom or small space, we think it’s an excellent choice for anyone dealing with serious smoke fumes or residual odors in their living space.
It costs more upfront than our other recommendations combined, but if you can put the cash together, the warranty coverage means you’ll have this one for life! The only complaint we have with this one is the high price tag.
How to Choose the Best Air Purifier for Smoke & Smokers
Decide on your budget:
Air purifiers generally cost between $100-$1,000. We recommend spending at least $150-$200 on any unit, even if you’re only dealing with a small space. Under that price range, you’ll be looking at cheap, gimmicky models which won’t make a real, substantive difference in your air quality. $150-$200 is the least you can pay for a machine with certified HEPA-grade filtration and legitimate odor-reduction features.
For bedrooms and smaller spaces, expect to pay between $150 and $300, depending on the quality and power scale of the machine. If you’re planning to purify more than 500 square feet, expect to spend over $500-especially when you need something to eliminate smoke over that whole area.
As a general rule, you’ll spend more money for a machine with a wider coverage capacity. More expensive machines are also quieter, and they tend to have much longer warranty coverage. You’ll also spend extra for convenient features like automatic modes, air quality sensors, and remote controls.
As you’re considering your budget, make sure you consider the long term. Know what the upkeep costs will be with your new machine, and double check the warranty coverage. If you’re buying a machine under $500, you should know that many of these models have spotty reliability.
That’s why we generally recommend that you buy an extended/third-party warranty for these units. Added coverage can double or even triple your factory warranty, and allow you to get your returns or replacements dealt with without having to deal with obtuse company representatives or procedures.
Since these plans are usually available for less than $20, we think they’re a very smart investment to insure the longevity of your air purifier. Above $500, you’ll find units with much better reliability, and often lifetime warranties.
Know the size of your space:
This one might seem obvious, but it’s a crucial step which many buyers skip over: measure your space before you buy. Know how many square feet you need to purify, and check the space ratings on the models you’re looking at to make sure a given unit can cover your space. Be conservative, and make sure you round up your space by 10% or more.
We advise rounding up because space ratings are calculated at a purifiers’s highest fan speed, which is rarely pleasant to listen to. Get a machine that’s rated for a larger area than you actually need, to make sure it’s not going to be wearing itself out or making a racket trying to keep up.
Plus, a unit that’s dealing with pervasive smoke will have to work harder still. Be as generous as possible for your space to keep noise down and improve performance. Always make sure that the manufacturer’s coverage rating is backed up with an actual CADR rating from AHAP, which is an impartial testing institute for home appliances like air purifiers. CADR ratings above 300 are ideal for dealing with smoke.
Consider the scale of the problem:
In addition to your physical space, think about the severity of the smoke you’re coping with. If you’re dealing with a roommate who smokes, or a neighbor smoking copiously, you probably have a fair amount of smoke coming into your home on a daily basis.
You should get a more powerful purifier to tackle that ongoing flow. If you’re dealing with a living space that’s had a history of occupants who smoked, you’re probably trying to tackle residual odors instead of an ongoing problem. You’ll want to do what you can to clean your space, and buy something rated for the size of your space, but not much above it.
Look for carbon filters as well as HEPA filtration:
Not all air purifiers are equipped to handle smoke. Many rely purely on a HEPA filter. These are excellent for dust, dander, and pollen, but they can’t have much of an effect on molecular pollutants like cigarette smoke.
To control both the odor and the harmful VOC chemicals that smoking produces, make sure you get a machine with an activated carbon filter or pre-filter as well as a HEPA filter. Carbon-loaded features help to absorb and eliminate those persistent odors and harmful chemicals which would pass through ordinary air purifiers.
Make sure you minimize smoke as much as possible:
If you’re dealing with an ongoing smoke situation, like neighbors or roommates who currently smoke, try to minimize any ingress points for the smoke. For dealing with neighbors, try to keep any nearby windows closed, and look for a ventilation source that’s not close to the smoker’s own windows.
With roommates, it’s a bit more difficult to control smoke odors and fumes. You’ll want to vacuum as frequently as possible, with a machine that controls odor in the filters. Try to minimize airflow between your room and your roommate’s, and keep your air purifier in your room, where it can do the most good.
If you’re dealing with a living space that has a lot of residual cigarette odors, you should supplement your air purifier by cleaning as thoroughly as possible. Cigarette smoke tends to coat anything it touches, so it’s a good idea to scrub your walls–especially if they have yellowing stains from nicotine.
If you have carpets, make sure you clean them with a carpet cleaner as well as a good vacuum. If possible, get rid of the old smoky carpets altogether. Make sure to wash all the furnishings you can, whether they’re curtains, towels, or floor rugs.