Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier: Which One Is Right for You?

Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier featured photo

As a homeowner, you want to live in a comfortable environment, and one way to achieve this is to maintain good indoor air quality. With the rise of viruses these days, it is important to invest in a reliable air-cleaning system to help keep everyone at home safe and healthy. Air scrubbers and air purifiers can do the job.

Both devices remove pollutants from the air, but they do so in various ways.

When it comes to deciding on whether to get an air scrubber or purifier, you must first consider the specific needs of your space. Think about the size of the room and the type of pollutants present in the room.

Below, we will take a closer look at the differences between air scrubbers and air purifiers. We’ll also talk about how they operate and their pros and cons to help you determine which one is ideal for your specific needs.

The Difference Between an Air Scrubber and Air Purifier

When deciding between an air scrubber and an air purifier, keep in mind that they are comparable in some respects. But, at the same time, they are different from one another.

What Is an Air Scrubber?

What Is an Air Scrubber

The germ-killing capacity of an air scrubber is astounding. It can remove pollutants from the atmosphere including dust, pollen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odors, pet danders, and other particulate matter and gasses.

These units can be connected to your HVAC system’s ductwork to provide additional air filtration when your air conditioning unit is not in use. The device releases negative ions as the air passes through the ductwork system. It can quickly dry up surfaces and keeps spores from migrating during mold cleanup.

But the term “scrubber” does not actually refer to scouring dirt from the air. The term came from the use of a liquid that removes harmful contaminants from the air known as wet scrubbers. But that’s not how air scrubbers work.

These air-purification device uses activated carbon filters and functions like a water filter in a faucet. It draws air into the device using a fan and then forces it through a set of filters or other technologies that remove contaminants from the air.

Just like air purifiers, air scrubbers can come with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filters. These filters trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. And they have an efficiency of 99.7% every time. Plus, you can use them in conjunction with different three-stage HEPA-negative air machines with replaceable filters.

They are suitable for a wide range of settings, such as homes, offices, and factories. They are also great hospitals because they effectively remove both airborne and coagulated dust, bacteria, and viruses.

Pros of Air Scrubbers

  • Gets rid of air pollutants, dust, bacteria, mold spores, and odors
  • Helps extend your the lifespan of your HVAC system
  • Helps reduce allergies or asthma symptoms
  • Great for a range of settings including hospitals, industrial spaces, and outdoor air

Cons of Air Scrubbers

  • High upfront purchase and installation costs
  • Risk of pollutants spreading if not properly sealed
  • Runs loudly
  • Not visually appealing
  • Some models may emit ozone

What Is an Air Purifier?

What Is an Air Purifier

An air purifier shares almost the same function as an air scrubber. It eliminates pollutants and allergens. As well as other unwanted particles from the air in a room and building. These air filtration devices often include features like UV lights and ionizers to capture and remove pollutants from the air.

Depending on the model, an air purifier may use one or more filtration and air treatment mechanisms. The HEPA filters are a minimum standard for all air purifiers. HEPA air purifiers have a 99.7% efficiency rating. And they can also remove air particles as small as 0.3 microns.

These devices circulate air throughout the room and pass them through their physical filters, capturing the particles inside. This makes air purifiers suitable for maintaining safe and fresh air in homes and other indoor spaces.

What differentiates it from an air scrubber is where it collects indoor air pollutants. A house air purifier is designed to clean just airborne particles. But an air scrubber can clean both air and surface particles.

Air purifiers are ideal for people with respiratory problems since they help relieve symptoms of asthma. It also helps eliminate harmful chemicals in a room and reduces the risk of airborne diseases.

Pros of Air Purifiers

  • Purifies air to provide a safe breathing environment
  • Comes with a range of features
  • Physically traps particles from the air
  • Less expensive to purchase cost but more expensive to maintenance than air scrubbers

Cons of Air Purifiers

  • Limited coverage; great for small-scale applications
  • Can also emit ozone

Comparing Air Scrubber vs Air Purifier

While both an air scrubber and an air purifier improve air quality in your space, they are not exactly interchangeable. They share some of the essential features, but they also differ in some ways.

HEPA Filter

High-efficiency particulate arrestance filter or high-efficiency particulate absorbing filter is a type of filter standardized by the US Department of Energy. It filters out even the tiniest of particles from the air by trapping them in a web of interwoven fibers.

While a minimum standard for air purifiers, not all air scrubbers use HEPA filters to trap pollutants. And depending on the type of air purifier you have, it may feature one or two filter types. Plus, others may use different types of filters.

If you’re opting for an air scrubber, make sure that it has HEPA filters. This is to help remove airborne particles like mold spores, pollen, dust, or even smoke particles from cigarettes.

However, keep in mind HEPA filters don’t really eliminate odors. So, even after the particles are removed, you can still smell cigarette smoke and gas.

The caveat is that maintaining enough airflow through the HEPA filters on air scrubbers is difficult. This is because high-efficiency filters have higher airflow resistance (pressure drop).

So, this will necessitate a booster fan in HVAC or a specialized fan similar to those found in a portable air purifier in order for the air to circulate properly. Other features in air purifiers and air scrubbers also include UV lights to keep mold from growing.

Maximum Coverage Area

Air scrubbers are typically designed to cover larger areas instead of only one room. And due to their high airflow capacity, you can use them in both commercial and residential settings.

Air purifiers, on the other hand, could only be used in small-scale applications like your home, office, or kitchen.

In this department, air scrubbers are great for both small and large-scale applications. When you pick an air scrubber, you increase the quality of your indoor air and promote air purification in the room. It helps eliminate impurities not only within your home but also outdoors.

But if you’re looking for something to maintain good indoor air quality in your home, an air purifier would be a great option. Check out some of our favorite air purifiers for large rooms.


Air scrubbers tend to do a better job of removing larger particles from the air. This includes metallic and wooden debris. On the other hand, purifiers are good at catching smaller particles like allergens and pollutants. 

The good news is that both devices can come equipped with HEPA filters. These filters are considered highly effective in capturing particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Child and Pet Safety

When used properly, both air scrubbers and air purifiers can be safe for children and pets. But, the overall safety of these two devices depends on their design and features.

Since most air scrubbers lack a child lock safety mechanism, they may endanger both your children and paw friends. This means your little one can easily gain access to the device and press buttons if left unattended. Air purifiers include child/lock features.

Most pets are also sensitive to odors and scents. As a result, strong odors emitted by an operational air purifier may irritate them.


What Is a Negative Air Machine?

A negative air machine is another name for an air scrubber. It can also be referred to as a negative air cleaner.

How Long Should You Run an Air Scrubber?

It depends on the specific needs of your indoor environment. In general, the industry guidelines recommend operating an air scrubber for 24 to 48 hours. Most air scrubbers do between four and six full air exchanges every hour, so this period of time allows the unit to perform its job properly and efficiently.

Do Air Scrubbers Work for Coronavirus?

Scrubbers and HVAC filters, when used appropriately, can help minimize airborne contaminants like viruses in large and small spaces. However, air cleaner or filtration alone will not protect you against COVID-19.

Bottom Line

Both air scrubbers and air purifiers work wonders at improving indoor air quality. But, when it comes to choosing between the two, you must first consider the specific needs of your space.

Before you make a purchase, make sure to compare the unique features and capabilities of a specific product.

In the meantime, we hope you found this post helpful in understanding how air scrubbers and purifiers work. If you have more questions, feel free to get in touch and we’ll gladly help you out. Good luck!

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