No Nonsense Guide to Air Purifiers

By Joshua Brown 10/12/2021

If you are worried about the quality of the air in your car, you are right to do so. Many studies have shown that being on the road regularly exposes us to pollutants that harm our health. 

We are too. That’s why we took a serious look at what your options are. Many reviews take claims of these devices at face value, but we bought and tested each one ourself and found that what a lot of review sites are pushing as the best are simply nonsense. 

According the American Lung Association, we have reason to be concerned about our car cabin air quality. 

“Much of the air pollution in your car enters from the outside as you travel, through open windows and air vents. Gasoline and diesel exhaust fumes contain a number of dangerous pollutants, including particulate mattervolatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Exposure to traffic emissions on busy roadways with heavy truck traffic is a known health hazard, especially for people with respiratory problems and heart disease.”

“Cars and trucks are assembled from hundreds of different materials, including plastics, fibers, adhesives, paints and lubricants. Many of these products release VOCs into the cabin air as the car ages, including irritant chemicals and known carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde. Although the off-gassing of these compounds is highest when the vehicle is new – that “new car smell” – it persists for several years, and is most noticeable on hot days.

Gasoline fumes, which are another source of hazardous VOCs, can get into the cabin during refueling.

Moisture problems from leaks or floods can result in the growth of mold in a car’s HVAC system and interior, which can trigger allergic reactions and asthma in sensitive individuals.”

How Can We Keep Our Car Cabin Air Clean?

Air purification is 2 parts:

Cabin Air Filter + Secondary Filter

Minimum: High Quality Car Cabin Filter

Your car air filter is designed to catch large particles, like dust and pollen, but the main concern of automakers isn’t human health, so the filters that come with cars tend to be ineffective at trapping smaller particles like VOCs. In fact, the EPA is only tasked with reducing outdoor pollution, but indoor pollution (in homes and cars) is completely unregulated. For this reason alone, everyone should upgrade their car air filters to HEPA filters and if possible to those with carbon activated materials. Also be sure to replace them every year! My wife has fallen into a cycle of forgetting to replace it, letting me know her allergies are bad, after which I eventually replace it, which helps her allergies. 

This is your best option along those lines. But if you search your car’s model and type in “activated carbon HEPA filter” that should get you what you need.

Keep in mind, that there are varying levels of HEPA filters, and it doesn’t state which level of filter this is, so this is like having a restaurant say “graded by health and safety” but not telling you which grade they got. That’s a red flag. Look for H13 or more for a good quality filter that can handle pollen season and dusty roads.

Also Important: Secondary Filters

However, even after you upgrade air filters, like I mentioned above, most modern cabin filters don’t have the technology to trap smaller particles like Benzene and Nitrogen Oxides. That’s where secondary filters come in handy. 

Over the past decade a few companies have created products that promise to take care of in-car air quality. We took a look at every product that is out there today (2021), tested and reviewed them and this is what we found. These products range from bogus to exemplary, so let’s break these down. 

Craftronic 2.0 Ionic Purifier Anti-Microbial

I keep seeing people recommending this piece of junk.

First off, the Amazon listing has all kinds of typos, making me think that this cheap Chinese plastic is getting sent over straight from the factory. “Releases 5.6 million of negative ionizers” might mean ions (?), but releasing a bunch of ions in your car doesn’t really change anything with the air quality. “Eliminate airborne element that increase allergy and asthma while restoring skin hydration and boost immune system.” What?

“The natural light scent of ozone smell similar to a summer rain shower in your automobile.” So basically, this releases Ozone into your car which is a pollutant in itself that irritates your respiratory system. 

Below the Clean Air Delivery Rate Section it says: “Proven NanoActive Technology produces 5.6 million negative ion and effectively eliminate smoke in 10 seconds.” Not only does this sentence drive my word processor crazy as I type, but it doesn’t provide an actual CADR, probably because it has no mechanism to move air through it. 

“Kills Dust”….

I can’t find any info about this product or company. No testing methods available for me to look at. 

Grade: F

If you like buying cheap plastic things that don’t do anything then this is the device for you.

Also, how on earth review sites like the “thedrive.com” can recommend this I don’t know.

FriEQ Purifier Freshener Remove Pollen

Grade: F.

Same issues as above. Any device that looks like this uses the same technology as above and doesn’t work. If you like to waste money, then go ahead and buy it. 

In fact anything that looks like that and plugs into your car outlet is not worth it. There are dozens of these out there, and they are all essentially the same. In fact, California consumer protection laws prevent this particular device (and most of the others) from being sold there. 

AirTamer Rechargeable Generator Eliminating Allergens

 These “personal air purifiers” promise the same thing and are equally useless. We tested it and it didn’t change the air quality over baseline and I can’t find any evidence that these help clean the air over not having this thing. Anything that hangs around your neck and promises to clean air by the time it gets to your mouth and nose is not going to work. This is a similar marketing tactic as the above item. 

Grade: F

THE THREE MUSKETEERS III M Mini Portable Air Purifier

This one does something so we are making improvements here. It offers “True HEPA filtration and has an added carbon filter and pre-filter. These are good filtration options, but if you got the cabin air filter we mentioned at the start of the article, this one would just be doing the same thing. 

However, there are varying levels of HEPA filters, and it doesnt state which level of filter this is, so this is like having a restaurant say “graded by health and safety” but not telling you which grade they got. That’s a red flag. The carbon filter is also very flimsy. To be effective you need about 2-3 lbs of carbon in the filter for the size of a car. This has maybe 4 oz.

It’s also cheaply made, the power supply is particular is very poorly made, loose right out of the box. In fact, as we looked at the reviews many people have issues with the power supply and electrical system. Some people have been having issues with the air quality sensor too. 

Grade: D

Queenty Car Air Purifier

This one says “True HEPA” again, but it doesn’t seem to have a HEPA rating, again that makes me question the quality of the filtration. When I checked out the filter, I saw no signs of a “carbon filter” as advertised on the marketing materials, so this would actually clean your air worse than a cabin air filter with activated carbon. 

This one is also cheaply made ($40, so duh…) The company overseas that makes it (Queenty?) doesn’t seem to honor it’s warranties. Technically illegal in the US as you cant have random devices on your dashboard. 

Grade: D

NWK Portable Cordless Air Freshener

This device uses USB which is the only thing going for it. It uses Ozone to clean the air, so like most other ozone devices it leaves ozone remnants in the air which are respiratory system irritants. After using ozone purifiers, you may feel worse than not using them at all. This unit doesn’t have much of any information about how it works so I’m not sure if it does. It seems to use an ozone plate which means that the ozone will eventually be depleted and it doesn’t seem that it can be replaced. 

Also cheaply made and breaks often with poor warranty support (I am seeing a theme here). Mind didn’t break, but I only used it a couple of times to minimize ozone exposure.

Grade: D

Leadyeah Desktop Air Purifier with USB type-C Supply Source

This one uses HEPA filters which are proven to work and are a step in the right direction. However it must always be plugged in and is also fairly cheaply made. Even HEPA filters dont capture the particles like VOCs that the Lung Association points out in the introduction, and the carbon filter in this device is too small to really make a difference over the long run. This device performed will across the board however, we just aren’t convinced it will last over the long run. 

Grade: C

FIGNOLEE Car Air Purifier

Another ionizer.

Basically this is like the USB ionizers but bigger. So it does nothing helpful just more of that nothing. 

Grade: F

LG Puricare

30 CFM and a HEPA Filter. This technology did perform well in our tests. It also has a battery and is portable, so it is convenient to use. However it doesn’t perform well against VOCs which is our main concern. It is also at a high price point for what it is offering. 

Grade: B

Pure Enrichment Pure Zone

10 CFM and battery powered. 

These 2 smaller portable air purifiers performed best in our testing, and did a great job at moving air through the cabin. The HEPA technology used in this air purifier and others like it has been tried and true over decades, so you can trust this air purifier to keep your air sanitary against large particles. However, it performs poorly against the VOCs that are so common in indoor car cabins, so while this would capture large pollutants and pollen, it wouldn’t be able to provide full protection. We didn’t include smaller models by IQAir, Avari, RIYONG etc, because the were priced more than the Pure Enrichment and offered worse CFM than the LG.

Grade: B

Westinghouse 1804

This was actually released in 2021, so we hadn’t heard about it before. It performed the best in our tests. It did surprisingly well against VOCs more than any other purifier we tested. As we looked into it, it seems that the purification system uses the traditional HEPA filters, but also adds a new catalytic filter (called NCCO) that breaks apart smaller particles and VOCs into compounds like water that our body can handle. As far as we can tell, no other air purifier uses that technology. With 15 CFM and a battery, this device is the best we have seen for your car. 

Grade: A

Conclusion

Don’t waste your money. Get an Air Purifier that uses real technology (not “ions”) to clear your air of VOCs. We were impressed with the Westinghouse machine (with an AC adaptor), so we recommend that for most people, if you are saving a buck or two, then get the Pure Zone device (with an USB-C cord). But above all don’t by poorly made junk that doesn’t make a difference.  

Have a device we missed? Work for a company we smack talked? Contact Us.