Do all air purifiers have carbon filters? - Interior updates (2023)

Activated carbon filters can enhance your air purification experience. In addition, they address certain air pollutants that may not move under the action of a regular air purifier. So you might want to know if all air purifiers on the market today come with carbon filters.

It's almost unlikely to find newer air purifiers without a carbon filter, as carbon filters are built into them for best results. Although you could just use carbon filters, most air purifiers come with carbon filters.

It helps if you understand that carbon filters target specific types of pollutants in the air. This article highlights the functions of activated carbon filters and what makes them different from regular air purifiers. You will also learn which type of air filter system is best suited for different environmental conditions.

Are HEPA and activated carbon filters the same?

There are various air purifiers available on the market, most of which have various functions of their own. It is unlikely that you will find a single air purifier that handles all types of filtration. While some focus on physical particles, others filter out bad odors and chemicals.

Both HEPA and carbon filters belong to the category of highly competent air purification systems. They are suitable and are the safest for homeowners. However, both are not the same.

They serve different purposes and employ different mechanisms to fulfill their duty. They also have their advantages and disadvantages. However, most air purifier manufacturers incorporate both techniques into their products due to their unique filtering abilities.

Having both types of filtration can be reassuring, knowing that the air purifier is performing a full cleaning process. This way you can also be sure that your system is removing unwanted particles from the air in the room.

Let's take a look at both filter systems to better understand what makes them different.

What is a HEPA filter?

HEPA is the abbreviation for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters work mechanically. This is because air must flow through for filtration to take place.

It does not work like an ozone generator that creates an ionizer or ozone to remove particles in the air.

(Video) What is an Activated Carbon Filter? (What Does a Carbon Filter Do?)

Here, HEPA filters clean indoor air by sucking it in and trapping any contaminants it finds. Airborne microbes are retained by the woven fiberglass and eventually destroyed.

Microorganisms remain in the system until it is flushed or cleaned. Therefore, clean the outside of your device to prevent microorganisms from becoming airborne.

I would like to emphasize that HEPA filters are primarily intended to remove particles in the air. This type of air purifier is very effective in fighting microbes that are floating in the air in the room. Also, some HEPA filters are efficient at removing airborne viruses and bacteria.

These cleaning systems are best suited for filtering particles larger than 0.03 microns. This means that they can easily filter out substances such as mold spores, pollen and dust.

HEPA filters are recommended for allergy sufferers. They will also work very well if you have bronchitis problems or have asthma.

The efficiency and lifespan of your device is determined by the effectiveness of its maintenance. HEPA filters have permanent and washable types. Regardless of what you choose, you will need to clean and maintain them at least once a quarter.

If the required regular maintenance is not carried out, the device can be damaged or fail. There is also a risk of impure particles accumulating in the device, which would worsen the air quality.

What is an activated carbon filter?

These types of filters use activated carbon to remove microorganisms and pollutants from the atmosphere. Unlike HEPA filters, these filters use carbon to adsorb microbes onto their permeable membrane.

This technique is often used in water treatment. However, it can also be used for gas treatment and air filtration. Although effective at removing microbes from the air, carbon filters are unlikely to be used in specialized facilities such as hospitals.

It is useful to note that carbon filters are mainly used and are better for removing bad odors. They do a very different job than a HEPA filter. Reasons why it is recommended to install an activated carbon filter along with your HEPA system.

(Video) Best Air Purifiers 2022 - 72 Purifiers Objectively Reviewed

Activated carbon filters use a completely different technology than HEPA filters. They are designed to contain or remove foul smells and odors from the air in a room.

HEPA filters use a woven fiberglass array to intercept and trap contaminants entering the system. This is not the case with activated carbon filters; they don't catch dirt. Instead, the charcoal is activated to react with and absorb bad odors in the room.

This will clear the atmosphere of smoke and gas smells and all other unpleasant odors in general. This is how activated carbon filters work to keep the air fresh and free of annoying odors. However, there is a major challenge with this air purification system.

You need a great activated carbon filter to effectively remove all kinds of harmful chemicals and bad odors. Unfortunately, small carbon filters cannot absorb and remove large amounts of foul odors from the air. For this reason, miniature charcoal filter air purifiers seem inefficient, as they are unable to completely remove odors from a room.

For example, if you use a 3-pound activated carbon filter, you will not get satisfactory filtration performance. Even for a small room or office, such an amount of activated carbon will not be enough. You need carbon filters up to 10 lbs or higher to ensure optimal and satisfactory filter operation.

Overall, carbon filters alone are slightly less efficient compared to the HEPA filter option. The amount of microbes and contaminants removed from the air or water depends solely on the size of the activated carbon filter. So the more activated carbon, the better and more effective the filtration process.

Remember, this filtration system works best when you're dealing with odors and gases rather than physical contaminants. Carbon filters are durable and can even last a few years before they need to be replaced.

Do all air purifiers have carbon filters?

I doubt that there are air purifiers without a carbon filter. So while it is possible to use charcoal filters alone, it is unlikely that an air purifier would be designed without a charcoal filter.

Assuming your air purifier uses HEPA filters, it probably has a carbon filter. On the other hand, an activated carbon filter does not mean that you have a HEPA filter.

Air purifiers designed solely to remove odors and provide fresh, breathable air do not require HEPA filters. Instead, the exclusive use of activated carbon air filters can help you with this, whether in the office or at home.

(Video) All-Filters CP-6005 Cut to Fit Carbon Pad for Air Purifiers Review

This is how home air purifiers with built-in activated carbon filters work:

1. Activated carbon filters can work independently

Activated carbon for room air cleaners to combat odors is usually mixed with other mineral substances. An excellent example of such minerals is zeolite. With zeolite, molecules and ions can be specifically absorbed from the room air.

This allows you to detect toxic gases and ultimately help control odors.

2. Carbon is used to combat certain chemicals

Although activated charcoal is effective at removing many odors and chemicals, it doesn't absorb everything. In addition, some substances appear to be resistant to the effects of activated charcoal. Examples of such chemicals are hydrogen sulfide and formaldehyde.

In such a situation, you need to add various minerals to your charcoal for effective performance. For example, you can use minerals like activated aluminate or potassium iodide to improve the absorbency of activated carbon. These enriched minerals then react with and ultimately neutralize atmospheric hydrogen or formaldehyde.

3. Remedy for multiple chemical sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a condition that occurs in some allergy-prone people. These people have a vulnerable body system that makes them vulnerable to various chemicals in the air. Your allergic reactions can be triggered by building materials, cleaning solutions or perfumes.

Activated charcoal can be a boon in treating the home atmosphere of irritants for people with MCS. This helps keep the air breathable and healthy for all occupants, especially those with allergies and asthma. It is also recommended for populations with sensitive immune systems such as the elderly, children and infants.

Are activated carbon filters better than HEPA?

It's not easy to crown one filter technology better than the other. They're not the same, so neither is necessarily better.

Carbon filters remove chemicals, odors, smoke and other gaseous contaminants more efficiently. In contrast, HEPA filters are designed to remove larger airborne materials such as mold spores, dust mites, pollen, and other airborne allergens.

Neither activated carbon filters nor HEPA filters can remove 100% of microbes and pollutants from the air. Therefore, it is recommended to combine both filter systems to get the best results. Luckily, most brands of home air purifiers incorporate carbon filters into their units.

(Video) AllerAir Air Purifiers: How to Change Filters

This makes work easier and helps keep the atmosphere in your home fresh and clean. In addition, your entire lungs and airways will be covered and protected from all possible pollutants in the air.

Which Air Purifiers Have the Most Activated Charcoal?

It makes a lot of sense to include activated carbon filters in home air purifiers. The obvious reason is that where carbon filters fall short, HEPA filters make up for it and vice versa.

So let's explore some of the best activated carbon air purifiers available to you.

1. Levoit Home air purifier

This sleek and smart home air purifier is one of the best-selling activated carbon filters on the market. It comes in black and white options and its spherical shape ensures it doesn't take up more space than necessary. With an average price range and great smart features, this device can help you meet your air quality goals.

Levoit air purifiers can efficiently filter the atmosphere in a room up to 224 square feet. This device is verified with Energy Star certification and equipped with three-stage particle filtration. It also combines a pre-filter, a true HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter.

This brand offers customers custom filters to use with the device. Therefore, it is well suited for high VOC environments and pet owners.


  • Three-phase filtration including pre-filter, HEPA filter and activated carbon
  • Elegant and stylish design
  • Energy Star certification
  • The portable size fits in any room.

In contrast

  • Not suitable for larger rooms.

2. Blueair Blue Pure 411+ room air purifier

This is another great option if you are looking for a good carbon air purifier. This device not only saves space; It's also mobile compared to other big alternatives on the market. In addition, its cylindrical design allows air to be sucked in and filtered from all angles, making its positioning more flexible.

The Blueair Blue Pure 411+ is set up to work optimally in smaller rooms of around 190 square metres. It uses HEPA and activated carbon filter mechanisms to absorb and remove bacteria, VOCs and odors from the air.

Pre-filters are available in different colors and can be washed and reused.


  • Suitable for smaller spaces.
  • Elegant and stylish design
  • Smart design with a single on/off button that also controls airflow speed

In contrast

  • Bright LED indicators can be distracting

3. Winix Plus True HEPA Air Purifier

This air purifier is designed to fit larger spaces. It can effectively filter the air in rooms of about 365 square feet, providing homeowners with quality airflow.

(Video) Honeywell Air touch V2 Indoor Air Purifier Pre Filter, H13 HEPA Filter - Honeywell Air Purifiers

This product is equipped with a triple filtration system to ensure better air quality. The filter layers consist of a woven fiber pre-filter, an activated carbon box and a HEPA filter.


  • Efficient Energy
  • Triple layer filtration including activated carbon and HEPA filtration
  • An excellent option for larger rooms.

In contrast

  • Poor consideration of aesthetic appeal.
  • Its size limits placement options

Simply put, installing a carbon filter or regular air purifier is a great idea. However, if you want to double the standard of your indoor air, I would recommend using both methods.

It is almost impossible to determine with the naked eye which impurities in the air are in the air. Therefore, it would be better if you take all necessary measures to ensure your air is safe and healthy.


Do all air purifiers have carbon filters? ›

In order to remove airborne chemicals and gases, an air purifier needs more than just a HEPA filter. A complete air purifier must include a deep-bed activated carbon filter that is packed with many pounds of carbon. Carbon is also used in water filters, gas masks and medical treatments to counteract poison.

How often do you change the carbon filter in an air purifier? ›

Although it depends on the specific filter you have, as a rule of thumb, replaceable HEPA filters should be replaced every 6-12 months, depending on air quality and environmental factors. Carbon pre-filters should be replaced every 3 months, depending on air quality and environmental factors.

Do all air purifiers have filters? ›

To clean air, all high-quality portable home air purifiers use filters — in fact, you should only be purchasing an air purifier that uses filters to clean the air.

Do you need carbon in air filter? ›

Pros and Cons of a Carbon air filter

It can eliminate toxic gases and VOCs. It quickly removes chemicals and smoke from the air. There are no harmful pollutants released. This product is highly recommended for those with several chemical sensitivities.

What is better carbon filter or HEPA filter? ›

A carbon activated filter will be more effective in removing the odors. If you are more interested in removing allergens such as dust, bacteria, pet dander, and mold it would be recommended to purchase a purifier with a HEPA filter because these are more effective in removing larger particulates.

Do all HEPA filters have carbon? ›

So if you have HEPA filter in an air purifier, you probably have a carbon filter too. But if you have the carbon filter that does not mean there is a HEPA filter also. Some air purifiers come without HEPA and are just built for removing a bad odor from the room.

Are carbon filters worth the money? ›

The carbon air filter may cost more than the particulate filter which does not have carbon. If you drive in slow-moving traffic often or encounter strong odors on your drive, the investment in a carbon cabin air filter might be worth it.

Are carbon filters worth it? ›

Pros of Carbon Air Filters:

Eliminates odors. Ability to neutralize harmful gases and VOCs. Clears smoke and chemicals out of the air. No harsh contaminants are released.

Is a carbon filter good enough? ›

Activated Carbon filters are excellent at removing chlorine and related poor taste and odor. High quality activated carbon filters can remove 95% or more of the free chlorine.

Is a air purifier the same as carbon filter? ›

The Bottom Line

In short, HEPA filters are capable of removing dust and other allergens, such as mold, while carbon filters are capable of filtering out smoke, fumes and other chemicals. Both, however, are necessary for improved air quality across many different industries.

What should I look for in an air purifier? ›

Look for an air purifier that's good at filtering out pollutants specific to your home or health needs (removing pet dander or cigarette smoke, for example). Compare CADR ratings, which show how quickly the air purifier can filter air. Choose a device that uses a HEPA filter, the gold standard for indoor air purifiers.

Do you have to buy new filters for air purifiers? ›

Clean or replace filters regularly.

An air purifier can't run efficiently if it has a dirty filter. Typically, you should replace filters (or clean those that can be vacuumed) every six to 12 months for pleated filters and every three months for activated carbon filters.

What happens if you don't use a carbon filter? ›

Without the charcoal filters, there is nothing to trap these oils and smells. So the air containing them will simply get blown back into your kitchen and won't be effective at removing unwanted smells.

What is the difference between carbon filters and activated carbon filters? ›

Granular activated carbon filters are made using carbon that has been ground up and is held together loosely inside a cartridge or other container. On the other hand, carbon block filters are made by grinding activated carbon into a fine powder.

How long is a carbon air filter good for? ›

Typically, a good activated carbon air filter lasts for about six months and would need to be replaced once every year.

How important is carbon filter for air purifier? ›

Carbon air filters can be effective at filtering VOCs from the air. These are gaseous substances that most other mechanical filters like HEPA filters, cannot touch. Some of the gases in cigarette smoke or those given off by drying paint or cleaning products can be removed from the air by a carbon filter.

What are the most efficient air filters? ›

High-MERV and HEPA Filters

HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air, filters have even higher MERV ratings, ranging from 17 to 20. These filters are extremely efficient and are used in cases where air quality is critical. They can remove almost all of the particulates in your facility's indoor air.

Which is better RO or carbon filter? ›

A carbon filter alone removes approximately 10-15% of all contaminants or total dissolved solids (TDS). Reverse osmosis, on the other hand, removes 95-97% of TDS. This is why in areas with high TDS such as Phoenix, a store-bought carbon filter can't make your tap water taste like a bottle of water.

Does HEPA filter have carbon filter? ›

Because HEPA Air Filtration Systems combine HEPA filters with carbon-based materials, they stop mold spores, bacteria, viruses, pet dander and dust, and also help to eliminate harmful gasses and odors from your home.

Is there any filter better than HEPA? ›

ULPA filters trap more and smaller particulate matter than HEPA filters. ULPA filters are 99.999% effective at removing submicron particulate matter of 0.12-micron diameter or larger, while HEPA filters are 99.97% effective for eliminating particulate matter of 0.3-micron diameter or larger.

Why are HEPA filters rarely used in homes? ›

Won't remove every particle: Unfortunately, HEPA filters will not remove pollutants from the air that are smaller than 0.3 microns, including viruses, some bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are household items like hairspray and ammonia that are too small for a HEPA filter to eliminate.

Do expensive air filters make a difference? ›

More expensive air filters such as Pleated Residential filters will filter out dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold, and even bacteria, which can be worth the extra money, especially for those with severe allergies.

Can carbon filters be washed and reused? ›

Because carbon filters are able to absorb water, if you decide to wash it, you must ensure that it is only reused after it is completely dried. Being in a damp environment will cause it to grow mold.

Does a carbon filter remove humidity? ›

Carbon filters slightly decrease humidity. Caveat: if an air purifier or fan blows air directly onto your body, it may lead to increased evaporation from your body and then a feeling of dryness. There's an obvious fix: pointing the air purifier another direction.

Why are carbon filters the best? ›

Carbon block filters are capable of removing many more pollutants, including metals such as lead. Carbon block filters also remove microbiological contaminants from drinking water, including waterborne pathogens. The best carbon block filters reduce pollutants like arsenic, asbestos, mercury, and radon.

Which goes first carbon or HEPA? ›

On the fan opening, first place the HEPA then place the carbon filter on top (as shown in the Filter Order diagram to the right).

How do you put a carbon filter in an air purifier? ›

Pull the tabs on either side of the used filter together to close it like a book and remove it. Insert a new filter, opening it like a book inside in the air purifier - the sides should snap into place. Replace the air intake grate and plug back in. Easy.

How do I know if my air purifier is cleaning the air? ›

Test Your Air Purifier's Airflow

A simple way to test that your purifier is working is by checking the airflow out of your purifier. Air purifiers have a fan that draws in air from inside the room. As the purifier filters out harmful pollutants from your air, the purifier will blow out clean air.

How many air purifiers should you have in your home? ›

How many air purifiers do you need to protect your indoor air quality? It is generally recommended to place an air purifier in each room. But you can put at least one air purifier in the most used rooms in your home, mainly the bedroom, living room, and kitchen/dining area.

What are the problems of air purifiers? ›

The biggest problem with air purifiers is that they collect pollutants, but they don't destroy them. With most air purifiers on the market, those pollutants stay trapped in the filter, many of them can still release tinier particles back into the air.

Is it OK to buy cheap air filters? ›

The problem with cheap air filters is that they're not as effective at removing dust and other contaminants from the air. This is especially true for homes where there are more people, pets, and maybe someone with a respiratory problem. You'll have to replace them more often, which will cost you money in the long run.

Should I leave my air purifier on all the time? ›

Because they force air through their filters to clean it, leaving an air purifier on consistently is the only way to maintain the highest possible level of air quality in a room or home. When your air purifier is turned off, it will stop filtering the air in that space.

Can I wash my air purifier filter? ›

Wash your HEPA filter with warm water and allow it to dry if your model specifically states that water cleaning is safe. You can also soak your filter in hot water if it is extremely dirty. Clean non-washable, permanent HEPA filters using a vacuum to remove dust and debris.

How do I know if my carbon filter is working? ›

To run your smell test:
  1. Open your purifier and remove the carbon filter.
  2. Hold the middle of the carbon filter up to your nose (within 1-3cm) and smell the carbon filter.
  3. If you smell a sour, acidic or chemical smell, then this means your carbon filter is saturated and should be replaced.

What are the disadvantages of granular activated carbon? ›

Disadvantages (Adsorption) • Under certain conditions, granular carbon beds may generate hydrogen sulfide from bacterial growth, creating odors and corrosion problems. Spent carbon, if not regenerated, may present a land disposal problem. Wet GAC is highly corrosive and abrasive.

Are all carbon filters activated carbon? ›

The activation process opens the pores of a carbon filter, increasing the surface area and giving the carbon more capacity to hold contaminants. For this reason, all the carbon filters we supply are made from activated carbon in the form of granular activated carbon (GAC), carbon block, or radial carbon filters.

Can you vacuum carbon filter? ›

While it is possible to vacuum this filter to remove the obvious surface dust and dirt, the benefits of having a carbon pre-filter disappear unless the filter is replaced.

Are carbon and charcoal filters the same? ›

Usually when someone refers to "charcoal filters", they actually mean carbon filters, and carbon filters are extremely effective in removing contaminants from water.

Are there air purifiers without filters? ›

There are four different types of filterless air purification systems: electrostatic precipitators, ozone-based air purifiers, more advanced filterless air purifiers with multiple methods of cleaning the air, and ultraviolet air purifiers.

What type of filters are used in air purifier? ›

HEPA. By far the most common type of filter in air purifiers, HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. These filters are ideal for particulate matter, such as pollen, mold or dust.

Are HEPA filters carbon filters? ›

No, HEPA filters aren't the same as activated carbon filters. HEPA filters mostly capture particulates or solid air contaminants while activated carbon filters focus on odor and chemical compounds elimination. These filters are typically used in industrial air cleaning systems and standalone units for home use.

What filter is better than HEPA? ›

ULPA filters trap more and smaller particulate matter than HEPA filters. ULPA filters are 99.999% effective at removing submicron particulate matter of 0.12-micron diameter or larger, while HEPA filters are 99.97% effective for eliminating particulate matter of 0.3-micron diameter or larger.

Is a carbon filter the same as a charcoal filter? ›

The activated charcoal is the same thing as activated carbon, with both of these words being synonymous with one another. Thus, if someone says activated charcoal or activated carbon, they are speaking of the same filtration process.

What is better an air filter or an air purifier? ›

Both devices remove impurities, but while an air cleaner filters the air, an air purifier sanitizes it, removing particles including: Pet dander. Dust and dust mites. Pollen.

Is no air filter better than a dirty one? ›

Running your air conditioner without a filter is worse than running it with a dirty one. Instead, get to the store as soon as possible for a replacement or call an HVAC professional for replacement. Without a filter, your air conditioner is at risk for severe and expensive problems.

Do all air purifiers need filters replaced? ›

Do air purifiers need their filters replaced? Yes, filters need to be replaced in air purifiers; how long it takes to replace them depends on usage, size, and environment. Carbon filters will tend to last the longest, followed by HEPA filters.

What is the most widely used air purifier technology? ›

Most common type is UVC. Used for germicidal effects to neutralize and reduce airborne odors, gases, VOCs, mold, viruses, and bacteria. UVC is shortwave UV which includes germicidal ultaviolet at 253.7 nm wavelength and is used for air, surface, and water disinfection.

Who makes the best air filters? ›

The 6 Best Air Purifiers for 2023, Tested and Reviewed
  • Honeywell Home Allergen Plus 300 XL. Best air purifier for most people. ...
  • Blueair Blue Pure 211 Plus Auto. Best air purifier for large rooms. ...
  • Coway Airmega AP-1512HH. Best air purifier for small rooms. ...
  • Blueair Blue Pure 411 Auto. Best budget air purifier. ...
  • Coway Airmega 400S.
Feb 10, 2023

How long do carbon air filters last? ›

For carbon filters, the average lifespan is generally 3-5 years. Be aware, however, that not all units have the same specifications. There are air purifiers that will need more frequent filters changes, so be sure to carefully read the manual for your air purifier to determine its filter life.


1. AIRx HEPA & Carbon Room Air Purifier w/ Ionizer Unboxing
(Discount Filters)
2. Carbon Filters 101 - How They Work & Why They’re HARD To Beat For Odor Control
(Lex Blazer)
3. Carbon Filters—5 Questions To Ask
(Everest Fernandez)
4. How AllerAir AirMedic Pro 5 & Pro 6 Air Purifiers Work
(AllerAir Air Purifiers)
5. TruSens How to: Carbon Filter Replacement - Medium Z-2000 & Large Z-3000 Air Purifiers
6. MEDPRO™ Air Purifier with HEPA & Activated Carbon Filter
(Medpro Medical Supplies Singapore (MEDPROSG.COM))


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Last Updated: 05/17/2023

Views: 5896

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Birthday: 1999-05-27

Address: Apt. 171 8116 Bailey Via, Roberthaven, GA 58289

Phone: +2585395768220

Job: Lead Liaison

Hobby: Lockpicking, LARPing, Lego building, Lapidary, Macrame, Book restoration, Bodybuilding

Introduction: My name is Sen. Ignacio Ratke, I am a adventurous, zealous, outstanding, agreeable, precious, excited, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.