If the air in your home or at work is starting to feel a bit stale, a desktop air purifier is a great way to freshen it up without taking up too much space. The best desktop air purifiers use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, have multiple speed settings, and are small enough to fit on your workspace.
Air purifiers that use HEPA filters, are best as HEPA filters can trap small particles and have been tested by the nonprofit Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST). But before you buy an air purifier, it's important to know what HEPA filters can and can't do. They work well for filtering out dust, pollen, mold, and some other allergens, as well as particles from cigarettes and wildfire smoke. However, they can't remove all smoke particles, as there are some volatile organic compounds that are too small. Viruses and bacteria can be filtered out to a degree, as well. HEPA filters are not good at filtering odors, so if you're concerned about that, look for an air purifier that also includes an activated carbon filter.
While HEPA filters have been tested by the IEST, you may also want to choose an air purifier that has been tested by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), as NBC recommends. The AHAM and some other third-parties test air purifiers for Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), which assesses how well dust, tobacco smoke, and pollen are removed from the air. The higher the rating, the better the resulting air quality, with 450 being the highest possible score for pollen and smoke, and 400 for dust.
To make sure your air purifier will run efficiently, you'll also want to check its room size capabilities. Most air purifiers specify what size space they can effectively handle, and if your room is too big, they may not be as effective. Other features to look for are filter replacement reminders and multiple speed settings. A higher speed setting will clean air more quickly, but also make more noise, so it's helpful to have lower speed settings for when you need quiet.
If you're ready for a refresh, check out this list of the best desktop air purifiers — and they start at just $48.
1. The Best Overall
- Room size: up to 78 square feet
This small air purifier uses a HEPA filter and has a dust CADR of 56, tobacco smoke CADR of 50, and a pollen CADR of 76. It measures just 7.5 by 6.5 by 11 inches and weighs 5.2 pounds, so it can fit on your desk and is easy to move from room to room. It includes a UV-C light, which can help with overall disinfection, as well as a charcoal filter to help reduce odors. This air purifier has three speeds, including a quiet sleep mode, and a filter replacement dial on the back. (Replacement filter packs can be purchased online). This air purifier is a popular choice on Amazon, boasting over 2,900 perfect five-star ratings.
One fan raved: “This air purifier was so easy to figure out, I didn't even need the instructions. However, despite its simplicity, it has noticeably improved the air quality in my room [...] For the price, this little machine sure packs a punch. It is almost silent on its lowest setting and even on it's fastest speed, it isn't disruptive. As for remembering when to replace the filter, there is a little dial on the back that you can set 6 months ahead and then, hopefully, remember to look at the back of your air purifier 6 months from now. I am very satisfied with this purchase and highly suggest it if you are looking for a low price on a high-quality, small room air purifier.”
2. The Runner-Up
- Room size: up to 80 square feet
Made by Honeywell, this desktop air purifier has also been tested by AHAM and has a dust CADR of 63, a tobacco smoke CADR of 50, and a pollen CADR of 53. It measures 12.05 by 8.46 by 11.18 inches and weighs 4.8 pounds, but even though it's small, it can still filter the air of an 80 square foot room up to five times per hour. It features three cleaning settings and a light that notifies you when the filter needs to be changed. This purifier also has an activated carbon pre-filter specifically for tackling odors. Like with the Germ Guardian air purifier, filter replacements are available on Amazon.
One fan raved: “When I put this in my office, the HEPA filter was turning dark gray in just 60 days..really dark gray. The air in my office was that bad. I have Honeywell air clearers at home and my HEPA is not dirty after a year. Finally I managed to convince someone in building maintenance to put better filters in the air handling system leading to my office. They begrudgingly installed a filter they use during construction when there is a lot of dust. Now the HEPA is lasting a lot longer...like 6 months. If your work in a commercial office building, you really need one of these. You have no idea how bad the air is until you use an air cleaner like this. A bonus is that it is like a white noise machine. It sits beside my desk, near my phone, and it doesn't disrupt calls on the speaker phone. When people come into the office they don't notice it other than mentioning that the air smells fresh in my office.”
3. The Best For Large Spaces
- Room size: up to 219 square feet
Also recommended by Wirecutter, this LEVOIT air purifier is great for larger spaces. Although it has not been tested by AHAM, it does use a HEPA filter. There's a convenient touch screen on the top that controls the timer, display light, and speed settings, as well as a light that reminds you when it's time to swap in a new filter. At 8.73 pounds and measuring 8.7 by 8.7 by 16.25 inches, it's larger than the other options on this list, but it also covers up to 219 square feet. This air purifier has over 16,000 five-star ratings on Amazon (where HEPA replacement HEPA filters can be purchased). It also features a Core 300-RF-PA filter specifically for pet allergens, and a Core 300-RF-TX filter for handling smoke, smog, and other toxins in addition to the standard Core-300-RF filter.
One fan raved: “One of best the TRUE HEPA filter air purifier on the market. Starting from the look/design of the unit... it's simple, with clean lines, and it's shorter than most within it's category. And the reviews from reputable "review sites" it's in the top 3, if not #1. Now to function... the fan noise, on the “sleep setting" it is literally inaudible! Crazy... and I love how the fan doesn't jump from setting to setting but, when changed, it effortlessly moves smoothly between the settings (unlike any thing on the market I have experienced). If you’re looking for an air purifier for a small/medium size room, one of the highest rated on review sites... this IS YOUR ONLY choice because in every aspect, it's bets or equals any other on the market today.”
4. The Best With Essential Oils
- Room size: up to 107 square feet
This small air purifier is not rated by AHAM, but it does use HEPA filters as well as a filter with an activated carbon filter for odors. To really tackle odors, this air purifier also has an essential oil sponge, to which you can add drops of your own favorite essential oils. It measures 7.5 by 7.5 by 13.8 inches and weighs just 3.19 pounds, making this the lightest pick on this list. It features adjustable speed and light settings, as well as a control panel lock function. When you run through your filters, replacement filters are available on Amazon.
One fan raved: “I bought this for one room about 90 sq ft, to clear smoke/vapor from the air when I can't keep the windows open. This little filter easily keeps up with my needs and that's set on the lowest setting. It's compact and fits conveniently on a shelf on my desk, and on the lowest setting it makes about as much noise as a computer fan, so it's pretty quiet and inconspicuous too.”