Do Air Purifiers Really Remove Bacteria?

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Quick Answer: Do Air Purifiers Really Remove Bacteria?

The ability and efficiency of air purifiers in removing bacteria from air depend on the technology used and the design of the air purifier. Air purifiers that use a combination of UV-C radiation, HEPA filter, and activated carbon filter are the most effective in removing bacteria from the air. Each of these technologies while used by themselves have certain limitations.

A large variety of air purifiers are available in the market which use different technologies and has varying capabilities and efficiency.

Different types of air purifiers have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages and might be effective against certain types of pollutants and ineffective against other types.

This article will look at the ability of various types of air purifiers in removing bacteria from the air.

What is Bacteria?

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that thrive in diverse environments. They are naturally occurring and can live in soil, the ocean, and inside and on the human body etc.

Bacteria are divided into five main groups based on their shapes: spherical (cocci), rod (bacilli), spiral (spirilla), comma (vibrios) or corkscrew (spirochaetes). Bacteria can exist as single cells, in pairs, chains or clusters.

The relationship between humans and bacteria is complex.

Some types of bacteria are beneficial, like the ones which curdle milk into yogurt or those helping with our digestion. Some other kinds of bacteria are destructive and can cause diseases, like pneumonia.

Figure 1: Illustration of E. coli bacteria

Source: Genome

How Air Purifiers Can Benefit in Removing Bacteria

Bacteria is present in all kinds of environments and there are lots of bacteria in the air around us. Anti-bacterial cleaning solutions are ineffective against the bacteria drifting through the air we breathe.

Some of these are disease-causing bacteria and can be harmful to humans.

Air purifiers can remove pollutants from the air and these airborne bacteria are also pollutants.

Thus air purifiers can be helpful in removing bacteria and protecting people from many diseases.

Well-designed UV-C air purifiers and HEPA filter containing air purifiers are very effective in removing bacteria from the air.

The air inside closed spaces has a lot of bacteria coming from a range of sources and removing these from the air is essential for good health and thus air purifiers play a crucial role in removing bacteria, especially those which escape disinfectants and cleaning solutions.

What kind of Air Purifiers Work Best for Bacteria

While air purifiers are useful in removing bacteria from the air, it should be kept in mind that all air purifiers are not the same.

Some are much more effective at removing bacteria than others, while other air purifiers might even exacerbate the problem.

This section will take a look at various types of air purifiers and their suitability for removing airborne bacteria.

UV-C air purifiers:

They use ultraviolet light to sterilize airborne pathogens. When used with a HEPA filter, its ability to inactivate bacteria vary.

When employed alone often this technology fails due to poor design, as airborne pathogens sometimes pass through the filter too quickly to be eliminated.

Sometimes they also produce ozone which is harmful for humans and the environment.

HEPA Filters:

They are designed to remove 99.97% of particles in the air that are 0.3 microns in diameter by trapping them in a network of fibers, and can capture most larger air pollutants and some smaller pollutants.

They can remove most bacteria that is equal to or greater than 0.3 microns in diameter.

Some HEPA filters come equipped with antimicrobial treatments, such as a silver coating, which can help prevent the growth of germs in the filter media.

Without consistent filter replacement, the filter may become a breeding ground for bacteria that could get back into your home.

Air purifiers that combine HEPA filter with UV-C light purification are very effective against airborne bacteria.

Carbon air filters:

They are used to remove volatile organic chemicals, gaseous pollutants, and odour particles from the air. These are not effective against particulate pollutants and bacteria.

Ozone generators:

They purify and freshen the air through the use of ozone. While it can kill bacteria, it is harmful to us too.

It can have adverse effects on our health by aggravating respiratory problems and is strong enough to kill small household pets, especially birds, which are highly sensitive to oxygen.


We hope that this article has helped you in creating a clear picture of the role of air purifiers in removing airborne bacteria and the various benefits and limitations associated with different types of air purifiers while dealing with bacteria.

If you have further queries or doubts, please mention them in the comments section. If you found the article helpful and informative, please spread it around by sharing it.