Everything You Need to Know About Air Scrubbers

Air scrubbers and air purifiers are terms that are often used interchangeably. Both are air cleaning devices that focus on removing harmful particulates in the air such as dust, debris, pollen, and more. However, there are some that are more technologically advanced or commercially focused, some that are integrated into HVAC systems, and others that are designed to be portable. Let’s explore more about how they function and which is best for your situation.

What is an Air Scrubber?

An air scrubber is a an air filtration device that works to remove particulate matter and airborne pollutants while improving indoor air quality

Types of Air Scrubbers

There are three main types of air scrubbers:

  • Dry scrubber
  • Wet scrubber
  • Integrated scrubber

Dry scrubbers pull air through a series of filters and push out “clean” air. The best dry air scrubbers use multiple filters that focus on different types of particulate matter and include a HEPA filter which are powerful enough to remove bacteria and some viruses from the air. The dry air scrubber is often also referred to as an air purifier since they share common features.

Wet air scrubbers are air treatment systems typically used in manufacturing buildings and plants. Most use a mist that adheres to dust and other airborne particles and some can also collect toxic gases. Advanced systems usually contain multiple components including fans, mist eliminators, pumps, a vessel and ductwork. Wet air scrubbers are beneficial in reducing pollution and use water to remove water-soluble gases and vapors, aerosols, and particulates that otherwise would be released into the air and negatively affect our environmental.

Integrated air scrubbers are not portable devices but are instead designed to be a part of an existing HVAC system. These can be used for large commercial buildings or small family homes. Their goal is to provide an extra level of robust air filtration as air passes through ductwork and enters a building.

What Does an Air Scrubber Do?

Air scrubbers (depending on their capabilities) work to remove chemicals, gases, fungal spores, dust particles, pet dander, pollen, smoke, bacteria, viruses*, and airborne pollutants. Depending on their strength and capacity, they can have different purposes. Industrial strength air scrubbers are often used to remove airborne emissions such as smoke, chemicals, and gases in commercial or industrial spaces. Portable air scrubbers can be used in residential homes, and some have been designed to even travel with you on public transport or sit on your office desk!

How Does an Air Scrubber Work?

Air scrubbers have multiple filters that serve various purposes and target different sizes and types of pollutants. At minimum, most units will consist of a pre-filter as well as a HEPA filter. The Purashield 500 air scrubber actually uses a more advanced fourstage filter.

Pre-filter – this filter’s purpose is to trap pollen, dust, and larger particulate matter.

Molecular filtration – this patented molecular filtration media captures and removes air particles that carry viruses. After safely oxidizing molecules and removing harmful gases, air moves on to the next stage.

PuraWard filter – this filter uses copper and silver ions to protect us from bacteria, mold, and viruses.

HEPA final filter – Last, a HEPA filter captures PM .3, PM 2.5, and more particulates, allergens and bacteria.

In order to remove odors, an air scrubber needs to contain activated granular carbon, alumina, and potassium permanganate. A standard HEPA filter can remove smoke particles, but not related gases or smells.

Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier

Let’s examine some of the differences between an air scrubber vs purifier.

Air quantity capabilities- An air scrubber is often larger, designed for commercial spaces, and has the capability of cleaning thousands of square feet whereas air purifiers generally only cover hundreds, meaning that you’d need to purchase multiple purifiers to cover your entire home.

Ozone-Air scrubbers shouldn’t release ozone emissions but ionizing air purifiers do create ozone as a purposeful method to purify air. The EPA has stated that ozone is ineffective at air purification, and although it can break down certain chemicals, such as tobacco smoke, it does not remove dust, dander, or allergens. Studies have even found that there are negative effects from short-term ozone exposure and that ozone is harmful.

Methods- Some experts say that one of the main differences between an air scrubber vs purifier is that an air purifier is single filter-based while an air scrubber uses multiple filter levels and/or UV light to attack germs and particulate matter.

(We might be biased but it sounds like air scrubbers are better 😉)

Air Scrubber FAQs

To be the most effective, air scrubbers should run constantly. They take some time to fully filter the air in a room, so if you’re entering an area with a small air scrubber, it may take a couple hours before the room’s air has been “cleaned”. An air scrubber filter will also need to be replaced according to manufacturer guidelines, but most last 6 months and replacements are relatively inexpensive.

Is an air scrubber worth it?

If indoor air quality improvements are your goal, an air scrubber is certainly worth the investment. The EPA states that indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than our outdoor environment. Since Americans typically spend 90% of their time indoors where pollutants are higher, the air we’re breathing in can definitely have negative effects on our health. Air scrubbers are also a good investment for anyone working on home renovations since the amount of dust, mold, and VOCs being released can have detrimental effects.

Do I need an air scrubber?

Whether or not you need an air scrubber depends on your goals and current air quality. Investing in indoor air quality testing can help you decide whether you need to consider upgrading your home air filtration methods to higher MERV filters or more robust devices like an air scrubber.

Does an air scrubber attach to your HVAC?

There are integrated air scrubbers that attach to your HVAC system as well as portable air scrubber units. An integrated unit will be beneficial in helping clean an entire home and is one of the main benefits of choosing an air scrubber over a smaller, portable air purifier.

Will an air scrubber help allergies and asthma?

An air scrubber can definitely help remove particulate matter like pollen and dust that can worsen symptoms of allergy or asthma sufferers. Improving indoor air quality by removing the majority of toxins like these can help ease discomfort indoors, and portable air purifiers can help keep symptoms at bay when you’re traveling.

Learn more helpful tips about air filtration in our guides to improve your indoor air today.