In this Guide
Everyone wants cleaner air in their home, and an air purifier is an easy way to get it. For many of us, having an air purifier is a necessity for any living space. Whether you’re dealing with chronic health issues, dealing with toxic tobacco smoke odors, or trying to improve your air quality as a preventive measure, filters are the clear solution. Unfortunately, not all of us have the space for a big industrial unit.
If you’re trying to purify air in a small living space, or simply looking for the most unobtrusive solution for a larger area, you’re in luck! This guide is your one-stop source for the best small air purifiers on the market today. While many compact models can be cheap, weak, and gimmicky, we’ve put the research and effort into researching the small-size warriors out there!
We’ve compared dozens of compact models, from all the key brands, as well as lesser-known makers. We looked for the best size to coverage ratios, as well as the most innovative and space-saving designs to purify your home while taking up as little space as possible. We compared test results from professional labs as well as feedback from buyers.
For this special guide, we’ve chosen three great models to recommend to you. We’ll talk through all their important features, and show you why they’re our favorite space-savers available now.
Best on a Budget
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Best for Small Spaces
- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 162
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Best for Large Spaces
- Rating: 4.5
- Reviews: 134
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Portable Air Purifier Reviews
Our most budget-friendly recommendation in the compact department comes from Coway. It’s been on top of The Sweethome’s purifier ratings for several years running, and offers a rare value over both the short and long term.
We’re impressed by how effective this unit is for its size, and think it makes a great low-cost solution for people who want solid all-around environment purification without spending a premium!
It’s very compact. This one measures just 17x18x10”. That’s about the size of the average tote or grocery bag, and it’s easy to fit pretty much anywhere. Previous buyers used in on shelves, in corners, and on side tables, as well as on the floor. It’s also light, weighing in at around 12 pounds. That makes it very easy to move between rooms in your home, as necessary.
It’s surprisingly powerful. This one’s rated for spaces up to 361 square feet, and that’s backed up by a CADR rating of 240, according to the manufacturer, or 210, as tested by The Sweethome.
We think it’s a good choice for most bedrooms or nurseries, as well as small kitchens. Previous buyers reported good performance in spaces up to 300 square feet. They said it greatly reduced their allergic symptoms, improved their ease of breathing, and made the room feel and smell cleaner overall.
We also found that many previous buyers were astonished by how much dust and other particulate matter was collecting on the prefilter. We also found that it had good results tackling musty spaces and seasonal pollen content.
It has a 4-level filtration system. First, there’s a washable mesh pre-filter. It catches all the larger dust particles before they get inside the machine. That prevents them from clogging up the expensive HEPA filters, which gives each set a longer working life. You can vacuum it clean during your normal cleaning routine, which makes upkeep easy.
The second filter stage is an activated carbon filter, which absorbs odors and harmful VOC content from the environment. The third stage is a True HEPA allergen filter, tested to remove 99.7% of particles above 0.3 microns. Then, the final stage is an optional ionizer, for those who want to ionize their cleaned air.
The ionization feature is optional. While the Coway’s ionizer is tested ozone-free by the California regulatory board, research is still mixed on the health effects of ionized air. If you like the sensation, and the cleaning benefits, you can turn it on. If you don’t want to take any chances, simply turn the feature off, and you won’t sacrifice any filtration performance.
There are plenty of options for operating modes. You can run it manually, with a choice of 3 fan speeds, and timers for 1, 4, or 8 hours. It’s also one of the least expensive models on the market to offer an effective automatic setting.
The Coway has an air quality sensor built in, which corresponds to a colored light which changes from red to blue. This one also has a smart eco mode, which causes the machine to shut off after 30 minutes without detecting any pollution.
It’s extremely well-reviewed by The Sweethome. Their lab testers found that the Coway could compete with lots of models that were both larger and more expensive. They found that on medium fan settings, it cleaned at the top of the pack, bested only by a model with iffy long-term performance. They also found it reduced particles to 12% of environment volume within the first 20 minutes of being turned on. That’s some impressively fast performance!
It’s very quiet. At the middle fan setting, this one makes just over 50 decibels of noise, comparable to a very low conversation. That’s a lot better than some of the competition, especially at this price.
It’s affordable. The Coway is available for less than $250. It also has relatively low upkeep costs, which help it achieve the rare status in purification of a short term steal and a long-term bargain at the same time.
Between filters and energy costs, most users will be looking at an annual cost of about $100, depending on your own conditions and usage. The control panel has built-in alerts for notifying you when filters need to be replaced, so you don’t have to worry about guessing when you should make the next change.
The HEPA filters last about 1 year, and the carbon odor filters last about 6 months. Testers found that the filters actually lasted longer than the manufacturer ratings, provided you stay on top of vacuuming/washing the prefilter.
It’s very reliable over the long term. Professional testers said that with regular pre-filter cleaning, their HEPA and carbon filter sets worked just as well 2 years on as when they first turned the machine on! They said that was due to an excellent pre-filter design and sealed edges around the internal filters,
It’s covered by a 3-year warranty. While that’s not quite the best in the industry, it’s far and away better than other models at this price.
Quality control and reliability isn’t perfect on this model, as with so many options. Some previous buyers reported wobbly, off-balance fans, or units which started making an alarming rattling noise and fell apart. A few others had problems with the quality sensor. All these issues should be covered by the warranty, but it’s always annoying to have to return an appliance.
Some reviewers weren’t as impressed with its performance. The main complaint we found was from people who said they didn’t see the dust reduction they’d expected from the machine.
However, we’d remind any buyer that an air purifier isn’t a vacuum, so it’s not made to handle dust on surfaces. It will handle dust in the air, but if dust lands, you’ll still have to clean it manually.
It’s not for larger spaces. If you’re looking to purify more than a single room, or a larger space like a living room or basement, you’ll probably want something a bit more powerful.
You can’t customize the filters. According to lab testers, the factory filters provide good all-around performance on pollen, dust, and smoke. However, the Coway doesn’t provide as many options for personalization as other models like the Blueair.
It’s not particularly heavy-duty. While lab testers said this one performed well over the long term, it is made mainly from plastic, so it’s not quite as rugged as some other models.
The Blueair 203 is our top quality recommendation for small spaces. It’s not quite as powerful in terms of coverage as the Coway, but it filters even more precisely, and has much better build quality.
We love the HEPA Silent filtration system, which is super quiet, and removes even the finest allergen particles from your environment. We think it’s an excellent choice for purifying bedrooms, especially for people with severe allergies who don’t have space for a large unit in their home.
It’s nearly as compact as the Coway. It’s got a carrying handle built in, and it’s only 25 pounds. That’s especially impressive given the fact that it’s built a lot more heavily than the Coway. This one measures 21”x17”x10”. Previous buyers said that while it’s a bit deep, it still fits easily on dressers, side tables, or next to the bed.
It can cover any small to medium sized bedroom. The 203 is rated to handle up to about 240 square feet. It might not be a heavyweight in terms of sheer airspace covered, but it really excels in terms of the rate at which it cycles through your air.
The 203 can purify your bedroom’s atmosphere up to 5 times per hour! We especially love that it does so just as quietly as the Coway, staying well under the noise level of a low conversation.
It filters more precisely than the Coway. That’s thanks to a hybrid system which combines both mechanical and electrostatic filtration methods. The Coway, on the other hand, is purely mechanical.
The Blueair uses a mechanical fan system to pull air through its HEPA filters, and then it uses an electrostatic grid inside the filter chamber to cause particles to stick more reliably to filter fibers. The result is a HEPA Silent system which performs noticeably better than True HEPA. It removes 99.7% of particles above 0.1 microns. We recommend it to people with extreme allergen sensitivity, who need that refined performance but don’t have space for a larger unit.
You can also customize the filter assembly. Blueair makes several different filter sets, each with a specific purpose. You can get a SmokeStop set to control cigarette odors, or a specific Allergy set which does extra well on pollen or mold spores.
We’re also very impressed with the all-purpose filters, since they do a good job on just about anything. However, if you have a specific filtration issue to address, it’s nice to be able to customize your unit.
Between the fast cycles, precise filtration features, and quiet operation, we think this is a better choice than the Coway for bedrooms-especially if you have severe allergies or other respiratory symptoms. It’s easier to sleep beside, it’s more effective at removing the tiniest irritants, and it’ll change through your air several times per hour, so dust or pollen never catches you off guard.
The airflow pattern doesn’t cause any drafts. It pulls dirty air from the back of the machine, and then expels clean air out the top. That’s an improvement over the Coway, which does create a noticeable draft on the higher fan levels. Previous buyers said they only noticed the machine was working because of how clean their environment felt.
It’s Energy Star-rated. This one costs less to operate than a single lightbulb! While the Coway has some smart energy saving features like its automatic and eco modes, the Blueair is the clear winner when it comes to cutting your electric bill.
The filter health monitoring system is more sophisticated than the Coway’s. It tracks the actual time you use the machine, and how fast the fans are moving, which gives you a much better health estimate on your filters than just counting down from each time you change the filters.
You can expect each set to last about 6 months, but the monitor will track actual usage to make sure you aren’t wasting partially-used filters. We love that the monitor is detachable, so you can attach it to somewhere you’ll be able to see it easily, like on a fridge, or chalkboard calendar.
It has a 5-year warranty, which bests the Coway’s 3-year coverage. Overall, the Blueair has much better reliability and quality control than the Coway as well.
It has a relatively low CADR rating. We don’t normally recommend units with a CADR under 200, but we’re making an exception for the 203 because it’s designed specifically for small spaces where that slightly lower CADR doesn’t make much of a difference. Even though it doesn’t have quite as high an output rate, it still cycles through your air 5 times per hour, which is close to the best on the market.
It’s expensive for the amount of coverage it provides. This unit costs over $300, which we know is a lot to pay for a single room, especially a smaller space like a bedroom. However, the refined allergen control will make it worthwhile for people with severe symptoms, or specific health concerns like cigarette smoke or fumes coming into their bedroom.
The filters don’t last quite as long as some other models, since there’s no pre-filter. We’ve found that you can easily vacuum the intake vents, but we’d still prefer to see a removable mesh pre-filter to help preserve the internal filters. They’ll last about half as long as the Coway’s. They’re also fairly expensive, but we’ve found that you can save significantly by signing up for Blueair’s subscription service.
While it’s built better than the Coway, it’s not perfect. Most larger Blueairs have galvanized steel construction, but this one has a lot of plastic parts. Thankfully, they’re a lot thicker than the Coway’s. The main problem we found in buyer reviews was some poor quality control or shipping damage on the fan assembly, which caused some units to have loud, wobbly fans.
Our favorite compact purifier for larger spaces comes from Rabbit. It’s a slimline unit which can be stood on its own like a radiator, or mounted on the wall like a flat screen TV. In either arrangement, it has a modern look and an efficient, space-saving function which make it the ideal purifier for the modern home.
It’s very space-efficient. This one is a bit wider than our other recommendations, at 24”x22.5”, but it’s a lot slimmer, at just 7” thick. That’s the best of our choices, and it’s even more impressive because this one doesn’t need nearly as much wall clearance as the Coway or Blueair.
You can mount it on the wall, or stand it on its own. Equipment and fixtures to set it up in either arrangements are included in the box. On the wall, it works a lot like a flat screen TV. That’s ideal for people who are tight on shelf space or floor space.
This one also looks great. While a lot of small purifiers are utilitarian, the Rabbit isn’t an appliance you’ll need to hide out of site. The front panels are also customizable, so you can match it to your other furnishings.
There are glossy black and white options, as well as optional panels which feature famous artwork prints. Previous buyers said that the great look was one of the biggest reasons this one fit in so well in tight spaces. It could be completely exposed without looking large or obnoxious.
There’s an optional mood light. It’s a strip across the front of the unit, which projects relaxing colors as the machine works. You can turn it on or off as you prefer.
Rabbit has helpfully rated it in such a way that it’s easy to figure out how much coverage you can expect for your specific conditions. This one is rated for either 815 square feet or 408 feet, depending on your health and your existing quality. With a CADR of about 200, this one will cycle through a smaller space 2x per hour, and a large space 4x per hour.
If you don’t have any significant allergy symptoms, and are simply looking to purify your environment as a proactive health measure, you can use it for spaces on the upper end of that range. If you have strong allergies or a severe concern like cigarette smoke to deal with, you should plan on this unit covering more like 400-500 square feet.We like that Rabbit has made the extra effort to give realistic ratings based on your actual conditions, rather than one spec.
Previous buyers said that the coverage ratings were pretty accurate in their real-world use. People who had severe concerns had good experiences up to 500 square feet or so, and those with no significant symptoms or quality issues reported good results out to 750 square feet or so.
You’ll want to consider your own health conditions as you decide how much ground the Rabbit would cover for you. We think it’s a good choice for larger rooms, or entire living spaces if you live in an apartment or small house.
It’s loaded with a six-stage filter assembly:
The first stage is a mesh pre-filter, which is designed to trap larger hair, dust, and dander particles before they actually get inside the machine. You can easily remove and clean the pre-filter, or simply vacuum it during your normal cleaning routine. We love these cleanable pre-filter features because they do wonders to preserve the life of the internal HEPA and carbon filters, especially if you live in a home with pets.
The second stage is a medium sized filter which catches particles larger than 1 micron in size. It has a similar function to the prefilter, catching larger particles before they get to the refined HEPA filter, in order to keep them from clogging up its small pores.
Next, air hits the BioGS filter, which is HEPA-grade. It removes all sorts of allergens like dust, pollen, mold spores, and more. It’s rated and tested to remove 99.7% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. Think of it as a supercharged version of the True HEPA filters on the Coway. It removes all the same particles, and also reduces mold spores and bacteria growth in the filter itself, thanks to antibacterial properties.
The central filter, after the BioGS HEPA stage, is completely customizable. You can choose between 4 different filters to address specific concerns in your living space. There’s a Germ Defense filter, which helps to eliminate bacteria, a Toxin Absorber filter, which is ideal for dealing with fumes from off-gassing or cigarette smoke, a Pet Allergy filter, which is specifically designed to trap dander and fine follicles as well as odors, or a general odor-removal filter, if you’re dealing with pervasive smells in your living space. It’s nice to have all these options, and especially because unlike other models, you can customize one of the filters without sacrificing your filter’s all-around performance.
After the customizable filter, there’s an activated carbon filter, which removes general odors as well as absorbing harmful VOC chemical fumes, such as from paints or flame retardants in new furniture or flooring.
Finally, air passes through an optional ionization phase, which adds negative ions to your air. In addition to adding the purported health benefits of negative ions, the process causes dust to clump together and collect on surfaces. That means it’ll end up in your vacuum, instead of in your lungs.
Overall, previous buyers reported that their allergy symptoms from dust, pollen and pets were all reduced. Several previous buyers said that the Rabbit with the Odor Control filter was the only purifier that had ever gotten the smell of cigarettes out of their homes.
You can run it completely automatically. Like the Coway, the Rabbit has air quality sensors onboard, so it can assess the odor and particulate pollution in your environment, and adjust the speed of its fans accordingly.
We also like the automatic light sensor feature, which adjusts the brightness of the mood light to match your room’s ambient light. When you turn out the lights to go to bed, it’ll switch the mood light off automatically. We love how easy it is to set the Rabbit Air and forget it. It’s ideal for people who are on the go, or those who simply like the most convenient option possible.
Previous buyers said the automatic sensor was incredibly nimble and responsive. They said it instantly reacted to cooking odors, pet smells, smoke, and other smells, as well as particulate matter like a burst of dust or pollen.
It’s the quietest unit here. The Rabbit Air’s top volume level is just 51 decibels. That’s just under the Blueair’s top volume level, and if you leave the Rabbit Air on its automatic setting, it’ll very rarely use Turbo Mode, which is its loudest setting. Previous buyers said it was extremely quiet, especially with the Sleep mode. That setting keeps the unit on the very lowest fan speed, to keep volume to a minimum.
Like the Blueair, it won’t create drafts. It pulls air in from the sides and bottom of the machine, and expels cleaned air from the top of the unit.
It comes with a remote control. You can switch fan speeds, and adjust the mood lighting all remotely.
Thanks to the layered filtration system, the Rabbit Air’s internal filter sets can last up to 2 years. You’ll have to vacuum the pre-filter often, but previous buyers said they often got their internal filters to last a year or more.
It’s Energy Star-rated.
Like the Blueair, the Rabbit Air comes with a 5-year warranty. The company also has a 24/7 service and support line for buyers, which reviewers raved about. They said representatives were always very helpful in answering questions, and helping buyers troubleshoot their situations to get the best cleaning results.
As with the Blueair, it doesn’t have the highest CADR rating on the market. That’s a downside of any compact unit, and it’s the main reason this one isn’t great for severe allergy sufferers in larger living spaces.
Some buyers didn’t find this one as effective for their needs as they anticipated. Judging by the circumstances they described in their reviews, we’re assuming they hadn’t read the ratings breakdown properly. Again, if you have a severe symptoms, or a pronounced air quality issue like cigarettes or lots of pets, you’ll want to be more conservative with the space you this unit for. We also found that several reviewers thought the Sleep mode was a bit too weak for their symptoms.
It’s pretty expensive. This one costs more than $500, so it’s not exactly a casual purchase. We don’t recommend it for a bedroom, unless you experience severe allergies, or are simply looking for a convenient, automatic model. It’s better for people who want one unit to handle a larger room or entire living space.
A few buyers expected it to be a bit thinner, based on the product images. That’s why you should always check those dimensions! With that said, the vast majority of reviewers thought it was extremely unobtrusive, especially since other compact units need a lot more wall clearance than the Rabbit Air.
Which Portable Air Cleaner Should You Buy?
The Coway is the best choice for people who are very tight for space, since it’s the smallest of the three. It’s also the most budget-friendly, so it’s our recommendation to people who are strapped for cash. It does a decent job on all aspects of filtration, and it’s very impressively-rated by lab testers. Plus, it has a basic but effective automatic setting, which is a rarity at this price.
We think it’s a great choice for a single room, for people who want to purify their air without breaking the bank. However, it’s better for people who don’t have serious sensitivities which might require something more refined, like the Blueair.
The Blueair is our top quality compact recommendation for single rooms. It’s a bit bulkier than the Coway, and it’ll cost you more up front, but it has better long-term reliability, and it filters much more precisely. It’s the better choice for folks with serious health problems related to air quality. However, it’s expensive for what you get, so this one’s not a great choice for people on a tight budget who don’t have any severe health concerns.
The Rabbit Air is our top choice for people who want to purify lots of space without taking up much of any at all. It has the biggest coverage rating of any machine here, and it’s the only one of these models we’d recommend for large rooms or entire living spaces. We also think it’s the best choice for people who want an automatic system that really works, and can be left to its own devices. Like the Blueair, it’s a good choice for people with specific air concerns, since you can customize the filters. While some of us probably wouldn’t have room for this one in a bedroom, it’s ideal for apartments, living rooms, or small houses. It’s especially ideal for people who don’t have floor or shelf space, but could mount the Rabbit Air to their wall.
How to Choose the Best Mini Air Purifier
Before you start shopping seriously for a small air purifier, you should go ahead and rule out all the gimmicky little countertop models. They’re simply too small and too underpowered to have an impact on your air quality, even in a small room.
Plus, they’re so unreliable that they’re practically disposable products. Trust us: they’re not worth your money! Make sure that even the smallest air purifier you buy is rated with the same benchmarks and standards as the big boys.
Look for HEPA-grade filtration, powerful fans, and real air cleaning specs, like CADR (clean air delivery rate), and coverage ratings rated by independent lab testing.
As a general rule, you should set yourself a minimum benchmark of 200 square feet of coverage, and a CADR rating above 200 for any air purifier, even a compact model.
Make sure any model you buy has real, verifiable specs listed, not just claims by the manufacturer. Look for testing by the AHAM institute, an independent lab tester who usually provides CADR ratings for air purifier companies.
Know your needs:
The first thing you need to think about is the size of the space you need to purify. Figure out the total square footage of your bedroom, living room, or other living space which you want to tackle.
Make sure you give yourself some leeway between the square footage you need and the rating on your machine. While an air purifier rated for 500 square feet can probably handle that area, as long as it’s lab-tested, you should assume that it was tested at the highest fan speeds, in optimum conditions.
Your conditions probably aren’t optimal for air movement, and you certainly don’t want to be running your machine at its top speed all the time. That can be obnoxiously loud, and create wear and tear in a hurry.
You should always round up your actual needs by 10-25% to make sure your air purifier can handle the space with ease. If you have ceilings taller than the standard 8 feet, severe allergy symptoms, or some other more serious consideration like lots of pets, you’ll want to round up by 25% as a minimum.
That leads us nicely to the next point to consider, which is the specific air purification concerns you have in your space. Make sure your new unit is equipped to handle all your problems. If you have lots of pets, or severe pet allergies, look for a unit with a washable pre-filter that you can vacuum, so you can keep the HEPA filters from getting clogged with fur and larger allergen particles.
If you have a cat box or cigarette smoke to deal with, make sure your unit has odor control, and especially activated carbon filters. Think about all your specific concerns, from pollen to off-gassing from paints or chemicals. Look for machines with either specific features onboard, or customizable filter options to address your own specific home air issues.
Look for the best power to size ratios:
When you’re shopping for the best small air purifier, the key thing to look for is the best ratio of coverage range vs. footprint. You’ll want to find the machine that provides the most coverage for the least amount of space.
Look for super slim models that can hang on the wall, or small boxy consoles which can fit inconspicuously in a corner. Be sure to check the specific dimensions on any model before you buy, to make sure it’ll work for you. Think about whether you’re going to place it on the floor, on the wall, or on a piece of furniture.
Be careful of compact units with coverage ratings that seem too good to be true. They very well could be! Make sure any size rating is backed up by an independent lab testing certification, and a specific CADR rating. Ideally, you’ll see a CADR of 300 or higher. That comes out to clean air at 300 cubic feet per minute, which is our general benchmark for air purifiers. If you’re purifying a small space, you can get away with a slightly lower CADR rating, and if you’re purifying a very large space, you’ll want to look for something above 300.
Another good spec to look at is changeover times. This number will tell you the rate at which your air purifier cycles through the air in your space. You’ll want to look for a rating of at least 2 to 5 times per hour. If you have serious symptoms related to airborne allergens, aim
Decide on your budget:
Air purifiers can cost between $150 and $1,000, depending on the power class, filter grade, and convenience of the design. When you’re deciding how much to spend, think about how large a space you need to purify, and how serious your air concerns are.
When you’re shopping for a compact design, you should set yourself a minimum spending level of $200. Under $200, you’ll find a lot of models which work decently, but are super bulky and clunky, with iffy long-term reliability.
Likewise, there are a lot of cheaper options which we’d put in the gimmick category. Plan to spend $200 as a minimum to get an air purifier with real specs, from a real air purifier brand.
For single rooms, such as bedrooms, nurseries, or small dens, you’ll be looking at between $200 and $350. At the lower end of that range, you’ll find units with basic HEPA certification and decent all-around performance. At the top end of that spectrum, you’ll find machines with precise, medical-grade filtration which can provide relief to people with serious health issues or severe air quality issues.
For larger rooms or entire living spaces, you should plan to spend between $500-$750 for something that has a suitably efficient size to power ratio. The more you pay, the more efficiently your unit will use its footprint.
You can also expect models in this price range to have automatic settings standard. All these models should have True HEPA or better filtration, and multi-layer filter systems which can deal with odor as well as allergens.
The more you pay for any air purifier, the more effective a filtration system you get. So, you should spend at the higher end of each price range if you have severe sensitivity to fine allergen particles which might slip through less refined units. You should also plan to spend more if you have a serious air concern to address, like a smoking roommate or a home that’s right by a busy roadway.
More expensive air purifiers cover more ground, and that’s especially true with compact models. It takes a lot of engineering and design effort to pack lots of power into a small build, and you’ll have to pay for that with the final product. They also include convenient features like washable pre-filters, long-lasting HEPA filters, and automatic functions like air quality sensors, sleep modes, and power-saver modes.
Most importantly, more expensive air purifiers tend to be more reliable. They have better quality control coming out of the factory, and longer warranty coverage after you buy. These are products where the adage “you get what you pay for” really does apply.