If you are wondering which air purifiers are the easiest to clean, by the end of this post you will know everything you need to know. If you have minimal time to spend cleaning appliances in your home, this is such an important question when considering an air purifier but I have not seen it answered clearly, anywhere online.
So in short, which air purifiers are easy to clean? The easiest air purifiers to clean include Ionic air purifiers, Photocatalytic air purifiers (PCO), Thermodynamic air purifiers (TSS), and Immobilized Cell air purifiers. Some of these purifiers are designed for minimal maintenance while others need occasional rinsing.
An air purifier that is easy to clean should only take a maximum of 30 minutes to dismantle, clean and reassemble if you are fully focused and not doing anything else on the side. Remember that the ease of cleaning a purifier also includes wiping its exterior and not just the internal parts. The ease with which you can clean a device comes down to the type of device and technology and the design of the device.
I think the simplest way to determine which purifier is easy to clean is by the type of purifier rather than the actual brand or product. Besides, deciding by type of purifier also gives you a wider choice of devices as you are not restricted to a specific brand. Holding on to this thought, from my observation by far the easiest type of purifiers to clean are filterless purifiers and more specifically PCO and TSS purifiers. Then next in line you have ionic and washable HEPA air purifiers and ozone generators.
Now, to give you a clear picture of what is easy to clean and not, I am going to go over the different purifiers in the following order and sections
- Easiest to clean
- Easy to Clean
- Hardest to clean
I expect once you finish going through each of these sections you will have a clear understanding of the kind of effort you need to put into cleaning different air purifiers and which one is easy enough to clean for you.
Easiest to clean
PCO Air Purifiers
Cleaning PCO purifiers will obviously vary depending on the design you get. But for all them, you will find that all you need to do is unplug the device and wipe them down. For the most complex type of PCO purifier, you have to use compressed air to clean their cell or bulb so that you do not wipe off the catalyst coating on the bulb.
All PCO purifiers have some kind of bulb or reaction chamber that needs to be replaced but you will only need to do this every 1-3 years depending on the type of device you get. This means you spend minimal time maintaining the device and when it comes to maintaining the device, it's as easy as screwing and unscrewing bulbs. If you spill something on a PCO purifier, all you need to do is wipe it down.
For most PCO purifiers you do not need to clean any internal parts and all you do is wipe the outside like any other appliance in your home. If you want your device to be extra clean, you can use appropriate cleaning sprays for aluminium or plastic depending on the material your device is made of but a damp cloth should be just fine. By far the best type of PCO purifier I have seen that's easy to clean is the Airocide air purifier and below is a video on how you maintain it.
TSS Air Purifiers
When cleaning most thermodynamic sterilization (TSS) air purifiers, all you need to do is unplug your device from the electric outlet and use a dry cloth to wipe off its surface. My only qualm with such purifiers is that you cannot open them up at home, and if they need to be cleaned inside for whatever reason, you have to send them back to their manufacturer. That said, you should not ever need to clean the inside of the machine under normal circumstances. The easiest TSS purifiers to clean that I have come across are the Airfree range of TSS purifiers.
Ionic Air Purifiers
Though they need to be cleaned often to maintain their optimal performance, most ionic air purifiers only need to be wiped. Ionic purifiers work by attracting contaminant particles in the air which then stick to ionic plates and wires within or on the purifier and when these accumulate enough pollutants they need to be wiped. You can wipe the plates clean with a damp soapy cloth and allow them to dry before turning the device on again.
As much as they are easy to clean, I personally avoid ionic air purifiers, because they produce ozone ( a harmful by-product) and also some of the contaminants they neutralize stick to surfaces around your room or fall to the ground. This means with ionic purifiers, you actually spend more time cleaning the mess they make.
Easy to Clean
Washable HEPA Air Purifier
To clean a washable HEPA air purifier, all you have to do is turn off the device and take out the filter and then wash it with water and mild soap. The first step is to rinse the filter with clean tap water. Once you have done this, you may find the filter is already clean.
If the filter is clean after rinsing, let it dry and put it back in the air purifier. If it is still dirty after cleaning, then you can wash it with mild dish-washing soap and lukewarm water. For very dirty filters, you leave it to soak for up to 5 minutes in soapy water. Once, you are done washing, rinse the soap off with tap water and dry the filter.
The filter will be stained after usage and you don’t have to wash it until it is white as snow but rather just to remove the collected contaminants. Also, you need to dry your filter overnight before putting back on your air purifier just as you would dry your clothes. Washable HEPA filters need to be cleaned every three months.
Some washable HEPA purifiers only require you to use a dry cloth to wipe the external surfaces of the air purifier while for others you can clean them as you would a normal appliance. In the end, washable HEPA purifier filters eventually need replacement.
If your device has a pre-filter, to clean it, you have to take it off the machine occasionally and shake the trapped particles off. If it gets really dirty, you can then rinse it with warm water. The pre-filter also needs to dry completely before putting it back onto the purifier.
Do not put back any of your purifier filters on the device if they are still wet. Doing this can damage the device. Also, don’t wash the filters in extremely hot water, or try to wash them in a washing machine or dishwasher as they are too fragile for such conditions. Lastly, avoid flammable cleaning liquids, or any strong cleaning agents.
I think you now see why I have not placed washable HEPA air purifiers under the easiest to clean category. They need a lot more effort in cleaning but nonetheless, the cleaning process is doable and should not take you over 15 minutes.
What’s frustrating though is that you have to wait for things to dry overnight before reassembling and using your purifier again. Beside this, you will eventually need to replace your filter every 1-3 years depending on the type of air purifier device you have and how often you use it. If you can deal with the wait, and the cleaning process, then a good range of washable air purifiers is the Honeywell HFD-120 Series.
Immobilized cell air purifiers seem much easier to deal with than washable HEPA purifiers. They usually come with a removable bioreactor unit that has to be cleaned every 3 months. These are such rare devices and the one device I have seen only requires you to remove its bioreactor from the purifiers body, drain out the contaminants and rinse the unit.
During normal operation, you have to add water to the device every 5-6 days and a special biochemical to keep the reactor active every 30 days. Then every 4 months it is advisable to completely drain and rinse the bioreactors of any (harmless) waste deposited on the bottom. See the pictures here to better understand.
Like I said earlier, I have only seen this type of device provided by a company called U-Earth and they provide an air purifier range called Aircel. Personally, I feel the fact that I have to continuously order biochemical to keep my device running smoothly is annoying, as much as the device is easy to clean. So unless you are well resourced to maintain this kind of device, I would stay away.
Hardest to clean
When cleaning an ozone generator type of air purifier, you have to clean the input filter and ozone plates. When the filter in front of the purifier appears grey/black then you know its time to clean the device. To clean a typical ozone generator, firstly unplug the device and then take out the filter. The filter can then be washed with soap and let to dry and eventually reassembled to the device.
Then when it comes to the ozone plates, they need to be kept clean to maintain maximum ozone production. The plates are usually made of ceramic or silicone and need washing when you notice the smell of ozone is no longer as strong. To wash them, you also have to pull them out of the device. Wash the plates with soap and scrub with a plastic brush.
Then use a Q-tip dampened with alcohol to clean the inside area where the plates are placed. Once you’ve done this, you have to let everything dry and reassemble the device. Check out the video below for more detail.
Ozone plates generally have to be clean every 6 months if you use your device. If the smell of ozone coming out of the machine does not return to the original level that it was when you purchased the machine then you need to replace the plates.
I think you can see that ozone generator air purifiers are quite involving, especially if you get a type that needs screwing and unscrewing. I personally do not recommend ozone air purifiers because of their health hazards (learn more about dangerous air purifiers here) and I would rather leave such devices to be handled by a professional air cleaning service.
Normal HEPA purifiers are those with unwashable filters. They can collect a lot of dust and I say they are among the hardest purifiers to clean. Some manufacturers say you can clean your filter by vacuuming but research shows you would rather just replace your normal HEPA filter if you want your purifier to work at its optimal performance level.
So if you are prepared to frequently order new filters then go the normal HEPA route. Also, note that at times you have to deal with a product discontinuation, meaning that you will have a run around trying to find a new filter. To avoid this, get a HEPA purifier that can use filters from any filter manufacturer.
With this in mind, I think normal HEPA purifiers generally do a great job cleaning your air but from a cleaning and maintenance perspective be prepared to have your day disrupted and to get your hands dirty.
Combo Air Purifiers
I saved combo air purifiers for last. You can only imagine how difficult cleaning and maintaining an air purifier with multiple technologies can be. For a simple example, if you have a purifier that has both a washable HEPA filter and ionic purifier, it is more moving parts and cleaning time on the device.
Now try combine all the purifiers that are hard to clean into one unit. I will let you ponder on the outcome. With this thought in your mind, I think if you are looking for a device that is easy to clean, you would be wise to steer clear of combo air purifiers.
In short, the easiest purifiers to clean you will find are the filterless PCO, TSS and ionic purifiers. Cleaning starts to get more complicated when you introduce filters in air purifiers and it's generally most complicated to clean combo air purifiers. My preferences when it comes to ease of cleaning is the PCO air purifier. You can learn more about all the different types of air purifiers here.