Can Air Purifiers Remove Smoke Smell?

Can Air Purifiers Remove Smoke Smell

If you happen to have someone living in your house and they are a smoker, or you are a smoker yourself, then this will raise an important question about your indoor air quality. Can air purifiers remove smoke smell?

There are numerous clinical and scientific studies that show that smoke not good news for you or your home. It is the main cause of diseases such as cancer and respiratory system conditions. There are also other forms of smoke that can cause problems with your health and that of others. There is some good news, though. Air purifiers can actually work to remove the smoke from your home and reduce exposure.

Dangers Of Smoke

We need to establish one fact, before we begin looking at the dangers. Secondhand smoke is never a good idea. It can lead to a wide range of health problems, especially for children, the elderly, and people who experience respiratory illnesses.

For instance, a study done by the CDC in 2010 revealed that there were higher levels of by-products from tobacco smoke in people who lived with people who smoke, especially in children. Tobacco smoke consists of various chemicals that interfere with the nervous and respiratory systems, which are collectively termed as VOCs, such as hydrogen cyanide.

Many purifiers cannot handle VOCs effectively because they cannot handle the gases. So in order to address the problem, you need to deal with both the gases and the particulate matter that the smoke contains.

Another source of smoke in the home is fireplaces, which spread soot. This might not affect you if you are healthy, but it can have major negative effects if you struggle with lung or heart disease. And it will mean more trouble for young children and the elderly.

Do Air Purifiers Remove These Smells?

Unfortunately, the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Certain purifiers can remove smoke smells, while others cannot.

In fact, the only way you can actually deal with the issues of smells in your home is through using activated carbon filters – not so much the other methods.

How Activated Carbon Filters Can Help

This method became popular in the early years of the twentieth century, as it took the building block of carbon and enhanced it to have the ability of absorbing large amounts of pollutants. The reason behind its effectiveness is due to the large surface area per unit volume it contains. This surface area increases due to the pores that are sub-microscopic. These will absorb all the particles that make up the odors and gases.

The activated carbon filters of today are reliant on very small amounts. These happen to be very high in their absorption abilities and bond with particulate matter in a chemical reaction. They can help you deal with a wide range of pollutants.

Physical absorption occurs because the molecules within the smoke will apply attraction forces. The molecules present on the surface of the carbon will want to adhere to the gases. Any stubborn smells that you are trying to deal with, even from other sources of smoke, will not escape this type of filter.

If it is possible, aim to get filters that use activated carbon pellets instead of those with coatings. They have an even larger surface area, which helps to absorb eve more gases and harmful molecules. They will also have a longer lifespan because of their higher carbon capacity.


  • Entirely natural, and do not result in harmful by-product release as they use entirely natural methods to combat the absorption of pollutants.
  • Easy to maintain and low-cost
  • Good at filtering out the organic substances in smoke


  • Ineffective against certain bacteria and other organic matter. This forces you to use them with other methods if you want to filter out additional substances

Other Filters And Their Effectiveness

HEPA filters

These are great for removing large particles, but ineffective at dealing with odors and gases. In fact, they can be a source of musty odors in the home, especially when they break down due to the accumulation of mold and bacteria.

HEPA filters with UV light

These are better than HEPA filters because the UV will kill all microorganisms, although the overall effectiveness in dealing with smoke is not quite clear. In addition, ozone might be a by-product of the UV radiation and its reaction with pollutants, and this is eventually harmful to your health. Ultimately, this makes these filters unsuitable for cleaning smoke.

PECO (molecule) technology

This is a long-term alternative to help in clearing odor-based VOCs, since it destroys airborne chemical molecules. This method is known as PECO or Photo Electrochemical Oxidation, and will help particularly with harmful airborne molecules. The method has constantly been under development for more than 20 years, resulting in a safe method to remove harmful gases in the air.

Unlike activated carbon filters, though, it will destroy harmful gases, not just trap them. They accomplish this through generating and releasing free radicals, which break down all the VOCs and odors. That also allows it to break down every bad smell, even those that are physically harmful.

Final Thoughts

When you are dealing with smoke and odors in general, it can be quite difficult because of the small size of the particles, and the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs – which are responsible for the smell. That also means that not all filters will be effective at removing these smells, with the exception of activated carbon and PECO filters.

Still, using these filters requires that you know their drawbacks. Activated carbon only traps the molecules and does not destroy them. The permanent solution is using PECO filters. Other types are either ineffective or too slow in dealing with these harmful molecules.


About Rita McMahon 32 Articles
Rita McMahon is a Master of Science degree holder in Electrical Engineering and has done many reviews on various electrical gadgets. She currently works as a lecturer and is passionate about everything electrical. Apart from her teaching job she loves reading and traveling. In a recent conference, she encouraged ladies to join the field of Electrical Engineering because there is a huge gap that needs to be filled by specialists in this field in around the globe, especially in the third world countries that heavily rely on foreign technology and expertise. The field according to her is not saturated and if people continue to shy away, then the development of sustainable and relevant technical solutions will stall, given the pace of technological advancements.