How to Choose the Best Air Filter

Written by:

John Goss

austin air bedroom machine with wheels in black gimme the good stuff

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1. Austin / 2. Allerair / 3. Airpura / 4. IQAir

There are few things as elementally important as clean air. Each of us takes up to 30,000 breaths a day. What our bodies want is oxygen, but what we actually inhale often contains all sorts of less-than-good stuff. This is especially true of our indoor air, where a wide variety of contaminants can accumulate.

Indoor Air is More Polluted Than Outdoor

Indoor air contaminants come in many forms, from floating particulates like pet dander and smoke to chemical vapors that off-gas from the materials our homes are built from and products we bring into them.

Because indoor air is essentially trapped, it cannot easily mix with fresh air and thus disperse these contaminants. Instead, the contaminants accumulate. T(he same is true for viruses like the one that causes COVID-19; when the air is trapped inside, they accumulate.)

We recently added an additional air filter next to the printer in our warehouse, after reading this alarming study that shows that laser printers seriously degrade indoor air quality. Some scientists say that working near a constantly-running laser printer could be “as bad for you as smoking.”

In cities, even the outdoor air can be laden with things like diesel particulates and other toxins. It eventually works its way indoors and mixes.

There are two broad categories of toxins that are important to get out of your indoor air:
1) Particulates, including dust, smoke, mold spores, pollen, diesel exhaust, flame-retardants, bacteria, and viruses.
2) VOCs, including: formaldehyde, acetone, benzene, butanol, carbon disulfide, ethanol, terpenes, toluene, and more.

Best Filter: Austin Air

Austin Air offers a line of robust filters that employ HEPA and activated carbon technologies teamed with fans that get the job done quickly and super effectively.

For extra filtering power, Austin mixes their activated carbon with zeolite, a mineral with superior ability to trap toxic gases and odors such as formaldehyde, ammonias, and carbon monoxide. The top-of-the-line Austin Machine is the bedroom (I have three). If you’re mostly worried about particulates from wildfires, then the Healthmate Plus is also excellent.

The Best Air Filters for Wildfires

Experts recommend electronic air filters to mitigate the impact of wildfires on indoor air quality. These filters are designed to remove fine particulate matter, smoke, and other airborne pollutants from the air.

Electronic air filters have a higher efficiency in removing fine particulate matter, and we recommend the Austin Healthmate Plus. This model includes a layer of 60 square feet of certified HEPA to remove 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns, including particulates from wildfires. The Healthmate Plus also filters viruses, bacteria, VOCS, and odors, as well as particles easily seen by the naked eye (e.g.dust, hair, and pet dander) and smaller particles (e.g. molds, spores, and pollen).

The Best Air Filters the Coronavirus & Other Viruses

In addition to their other benefits, HEPA filters can remove bacteria and viruses from the air. Whenever someone in our home is sick, I run our filters with hopes of keeping the rest of us well. Experts agreed that this was a key strategy in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Austin air filters contain true medical grade HEPA that removes 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns and 95% of all particles larger than 0.1 microns. Scientists say that the size of the coronavirus is .125 microns, so yes, these filters will capture the virus. Moreover, experts say that the droplets the virus travels in measure at least 1 micron, which is easily captured by a HEPA filter.

In addition, there is apparently a link between living in areas with poor air quality and experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

How to Clean Indoor Air

The good news is that there are ways to clean the air of a range of contaminants.

Here are four ways to clean up the indoor air:

  1. Throw open your windows when the weather permits; even in cities, outdoor air is usually better than indoor. (Obviously, this is not true during wildfire seasons.)
  2. Purchase some charcoal air purifiers, which clear everything from odors to VOCs.
  3. Stock up on houseplants, which both absorb airborne toxins and generate clean oxygen, making them a great passive air filter.
  4. Invest in 100% wool rugs for your floors, as wool naturally absorbs VOCs.

Unfortunately, all of the methods are passive, only affecting air that happens to pass over the plant/rug/Moso bag. This doesn’t make them useless–they are certainly better than nothing, and in our home we have found Moso bags to be truly effective against odor from our garbage can. Still, passive filters like Moso bags are are essentially useless against particulates, which can be particularly bad for our lungs.

So if we want a more active filter, there are five basic types of technology. Some of them are safe and effective, some of them are safe but less effective, and some of them are not even safe!

Best Stuff

HEPA Air Filters

We’ve all heard this term (which stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance), but probably don’t know exactly what it means.

To be certified as HEPA, a filter must trap at least 99.97% of all particles larger than 0.3 microns. Many of the particles caught in a HEPA filter (including many chemicals) are so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye.

HEPA filters also trap mold, viruses (including the coronavirus), and bacteria, so they create a more sanitary environment. HEPA filters also trap larger particles that can cause lung irritation. (Side note: Make sure your vacuum cleaner is a HEPA-sealed model, too.)

Activated Carbon Air Filters

Activated carbon filters are comprised of trillions of molecular-sized pores that have high absorbent and chemical bonding ability.

Activated carbon filters are highly effective at capturing pollutants like chemical emissions, gases, tobacco smoke, and odors. Once captured, these pollutants are not released back into the air.

Activated carbon filters are recommended for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) because they absorb formaldehyde, which is found in the adhesives used in carpeting, wood paneling, and upholstered furniture. They also trap fragrances as well as many chemicals found in household cleaning products.

Okay Stuff

Ultra Violet Air Filters

Air purifiers using this technology have a UV lamp installed inside of them. As microorganisms pass by the UV rays radiated from the lamp, cellular damage destroys the microorganism.

Although UV technology is effective at killing viruses and bacteria, it is best used with a filter system ahead of the lamps. Without a filter system, too many microorganisms get shaded from the light by particulates.

Sneaky Stuff

Negative Ion Air Filters

Negative ion air filtering technology has proven to be less effective than others because it simply masks the polluted air as opposed to actually cleaning it.

This type of air purifier does not have the ability to absorb or dispose of the harmful contaminants in the air. The negative ion simply takes the airborne particles out of the air and transfers them to walls and other solid things in the room. When stuck to walls and other surfaces, they have the ability to become re-circulated back into the air. For this reason, I do not recommend negative ion filters.

Ozone Air Filters

Ozone air purifiers produce the gas ozone (O₃). Health professionals have refuted the claims made that these devices are safe, and no agency of the federal government has approved of these devices.

Exposure to ozone may ignite asthma symptoms, and at high enough level can even scar the lungs. Many of the chemicals found in indoor environments take months or years for ozone to react, making them virtually ineffective. Ozone does not remove particles such as dust and pollen. Obviously, I do not recommend ozone filters.

The Best Air Filter Brands

While some individuals may have a specific reason for investing in an ultraviolet or negative ion filtering unit, the vast majority of us need the air-scrubbing power of HEPA and activated charcoal. Those two combined do an excellent job of eliminating almost all of the common irritants/pollutants found in most homes, as well as bacteria and viruses like the coronavirus.

Made in the U.S.A, Austin Air filters have garnered wide acceptance as one of the very best air filtration systems available. They are the only manufacturers to have their products designated as Medical Grade Air Purifiers, and the only manufacturer to successfully reduce asthma attacks and respiratory problems in a clinical trial. Johns Hopkins Hospital has chosen Austin Air medical grade air purifiers to conduct four clinical trials. Austin filters were selected by the Federal Government to provide the emergency air purifiers to the citizens of Anniston, Alabama, during the destruction of chemical weapons.

During the global pandemic of 2020, hundreds of hospitals, schools, and dental offices relied on Austin Air to protect their spaces from the novel coronavirus.

Are Air Filters Loud?

An electric air filter works by moving air past the filters, and of course only the air that passes through a filter is affected.  It’s a simple equation: the more air that passes through the filter, the cleaner the air stays.

While some companies make filter units that are super quiet, the fact is that moving air makes noise. To the extent that noise is lessened, filtering power is likewise lessened. This does not mean that filters need to be loud, but, especially when set on the high setting, filters sound exactly like what they are: a fan. You can hear Maia’s Austin Air unit here.

Budget Pick: Allerair

Looking for something smaller or more mobile? Allerair air filters are made in the USA and are perfect for actively reducing particulates and VOC’s inside of small spaces like a nursery, an office or inside your car. Allerair offers both a mobile desktop unit and a car unit.

Austin Air Vs. AirDoctor

AirDoctor filters are also great. We lean towards Austin mostly because of the cost, as you can see here.

Runners Up: Other Air Filters We Like

There are two other air filtration systems that we consider Good Stuff:

Airpura T600 HEPA Air Purifier

The Airpura T600 HEPA Air Purifier employs similar technology to Austin and is mostly targeted towards smoke, so if you’re a smoker or live with a smoker, this is one to consider. They are a bit pricier than Austin’s filters.


IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier

IQAir HealthPro Plus Air Purifier is another filter that meets our criteria, but it is also more expensive than Austin, and made for smaller spaces. Without a doubt, the IQ Air has an aesthetically-pleasing design, but on the whole, we think Austin offers more for less money.


About Other Air Filters

There are other decent air purification systems out there. Some are very slick looking, and some have interesting bells and whistles. But other than the ones that produce ozone, any filter is better than having no filter at all. We like the Austin because of the combination of proven robust filtering technology, quality construction, versatility, and price point.

Lots of you have asked about the Molekule air filter. While Molekule is marketed as a new technology, it’s roots go back quite a way. After taking a closer look at this brand, I remain concerned that the technology might not be as effective as the brands we’ve recommended above. In fact, Molekule recently was forced to retract most of their advertising claims.

Toxins in Cars

Some of the most toxic air is inside of our cars. Automobile interiors are notoriously toxic and some of us are stuck in our cars for hours per day. Extra special care should be taken to detox the air inside a car; especially a new car.

Please ask your questions about air filters below.

Stay sane!

John, Certified Holistic Health Coach

Air Filters

Note: This article contains affiliate links or sponsored content, which means that if you make a purchase, we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that meet our strict standards for non-toxicity and that we use (or want to use!) ourselves. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make Good Stuff! 

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Leave a Reply

  1. Alixia Avatar

    What is your opinion of the Enviroklenz air filter? My main concern is dust (from renovation to 2 old houses nearby my home: lead and asbestos), and mold and voca within my home.

  2. liam92wilson Avatar

    Thank you for letting me know. In fact, now we live in a world where we have excellent opportunities to secure life for ourselves as much as possible. And the air filter is one of those great features. My daughter suddenly developed an allergy and the air filter became our salvation. This device is worth it, because it really helps us breathe clean air, which has a great effect on our health.