Do Air Purifiers Remove Smells? The Stinky Truth

Nobody likes a dirty, smelly home. An air purifier can fix that by removing all kinds of odor, the good and the bad. From the scented candles, perfume, stinky diapers, cooking, food, pet, and chemical to cigarettes, everything will be wiped out from the air. Still, there is some exception known to be almost irremovable. On top of that, can an air purifier mask away the smell quickly as an air freshener? Find out all the answers in the later section, plus our top pick odor eliminator air cleaning machine.


Common odors are actually airborne chemical compound mixtures that trigger our olfactory senses. It can derive from roses or fruits that give out aroma compounds or pungent odors that arise from volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Even when blindfolded, our noses can distinguish thousands of scents, good and bad.

Human beings are capable of Habituation and adaptation to odors. In other words, we will get used to it. The brain ignores the habituated smell we experience, and the nose’s sensitivity will subside. That is why we will become accustomed to our own body odor and beloved pet smell but not the smell of garbage or rotten food.

Do Air Purifiers Get Rid of Odors

Yes, an air purifier cleans and freshens the air by filtering airborne particles that cause bad odors. However, only a specific type of air cleaner will eliminate foul odor, as stated by EPA. We recommend investing in a high-quality HEPA air purifier with a carbon filter that removes all kinds of airborne pollutants, including cooking smoke, pet odor, diaper, wood burning, and chemical fumes like VOCs, CO, or Radon.

Expensive it may be, air purifiers make your house smell better naturally than candles, essential oils, diffusers, or scented oils to cover up the bad smells. You can operate the device day and night without worrying about fire risk. According to a study by Springer Nature Switzerland, over 1,000 American adults or 34.7%, reported health discomforts when exposed to fragranced products in their workplace. 50% of them prefer business locations such as hotels, health care facilities, and airplanes without any fragrance. An air purifier removes odor-causing contaminants without the fragrance compounds many people dislike. Without the harmful pollutants lingering in the air, there is less risk of an asthma attack and allergies from triggering.

An activated carbon filter is the best filter type for odor elimination. How an activated carbon filter works is simple. First, airborne pollutants will be pulled inside the air purifier’s filtration. The inner carbon filter absorbent pellet will adhere to inflow odor compounds via chemical adsorption. Finally, the air purifier will release odor-free fresh air, and the purification cycle will continue.

Below are a few different types of air purifiers in the market that varies in purification technology:

  • Mechanical HEPA Air Purifier
  • Activated Carbon Purifier
  • UV Air Purifier/ UVGI
  • PCO Air Purifier
  • Ionic Air Purifier/ Ionizer
  • Electrostatic Precipitators

With the exception of an ozone generator, all of them share the same purpose; to improve indoor air quality by removing harmful particles, smoke, and odor. Never go with an ozone generator or Ozonator if you have odor issues in your home. The generated ozone has a strong chlorine smell that masks away other home odors instead of removing them. It is dangerous as ozone itself is toxic and will react with other chemicals to form deadlier toxic fumes. It will also damage one’s senses, so you will not be susceptible to bad smells. In short, avoid ozone generators at all costs.

What Types of Smell Do Air Purifier Remove?

An air purifier can eliminate all kinds of smells. In general, these are the 5 odors that most households would encounter.

  1. Smoke – From frying, grilling, boiling, cigarette, to chemical off-gassing, an air purifier will remove most gaseous pollutants but with a caveat. If the smell of smoke has permeated into porous objects like drapes, clothes, furniture, or walls, there is nothing an air purifier can do. The perfect example is third-hand smoke. It is notoriously hazardous and difficult to remove. So never smoke indoors, even if you have a fantastic air cleaner.
  2. Pet Odor – Yes, an air purifier with an activated carbon filter will help remove cat and dog odor. Your furry companions stink from their fart, breath, saliva, feces, urine, and body odor. No matter how often you bathe them, groom them, vacuum all furniture, change the litter box, or keep them indoors, the awful smell remains. An air purifier not only curbs down on the pet odors from spreading, it will also remove pet dander, germs, and bacteria associated with your dog or cat. With less shed hair floating around, all your pet allergy reactions, like red eyes and sneezing, will gradually disappear. No longer will you feel ashamed of inviting your family members, neighbors, and friends to your home. [BONUS TIPS] If you’re looking for a companion that will sit by your side, a hypoallergenic dog might be better than a cat. Most cats are affectionate and attentive, but they become bored much more easily than dogs. Hence needing more space to move around.
  3. Dirty diapers – Let’s start with the good news. The smelly, dirty diaper is a phase that can be outgrown pretty quickly. The bad news is the odor will permeate the air and swiftly stink up the place. Sealing a dirty diaper with a bag or tossing it in a special diaper disposer is the most sensible choice. An air purifier will complement both actions by containing the undesirable smell from spreading across the home. Your baby will breathe better while also being protected from allergens and viruses in the air.
  4. Food – A good range hood will do wonders in removing cooking smoke, but it can only cover so much. Your signature deep-fried fish curry scent will find its way across the room even if you clear up the kitchen promptly. Don’t get me started on the burned dish that stinks up the whole place, serving you as a reminder of your mistake. Here is where an air purifier will come in handy every time you cook. The bundled carbon filter will act as a secondary unit to draw smoke and odors from the kitchen. Just place the air cleaning device close to the kitchen to eliminate lingering food smells that bypass the range hood.
  5. Household products – Air purifiers remove all home odors, including daily cleaning detergent, perfume, candle soot, air freshener, and fresh new paint (VOCs). It will also filter out hazardous chemical gas that will have adverse health effects on our bodies. Keeping an air purifier running 24×7 in the background is necessary, as some of the gaseous pollutants are colorless and odorless; therefore hard to detect.
  6. Indoor garbage – Another common source of the smell that an air purifier can help with. Most people will only take out the garbage once a day. During the day, garbage-filled with raw chicken, shrimp, eggs, and other spoiled food can quickly stink up your home before you have a chance to take it out. Rather than using a chemical-bound air freshener spray like Febreze, use an air purifier to absorb the disgusting smell and germs. Your home will be free from rotten smells.
do air purifiers remove odors

What Is The Best Air Purifier For Odor?

Skip Ozonator, ionizer, and UV-light types. Instead, go with a classic mechanical air purifier with a standalone activated carbon filter (NOT carbon pre-filter). Look for keywords such as alumina, coal, potassium permanganate, coconut shells. Next, choose an air purifier with enough purifying coverage for the entire room. You can learn more about room size calculation here.

With that, here are our recommended odor eliminator models that vary in price point.

  1. Blueair 605
  2. IQAir HealthPro Plus
  3. Winix 5500-2
  4. Airmega 300S
  5. Rabbit Air MinusA2

For complete specification and analysis, check out the full reviews in our best purifier for smoke and odor page.

Will A HEPA Filter Remove Odors?

HEPA air filters do not remove odors and gaseous pollutants. It is designed to capture larger particles like dust, mold, and pollen, not tiny gaseous elements like VOCs. Instead, opt for an activated carbon filter designed specifically to neutralize smoke, odor, and chemical off-gassing.

Final Thoughts

Air purifiers work, and you need on. It is worth the extra cost and effort you put into. If you don't have one right now, never attempt to mask any unpleasant smell with air fresheners. It is a temporary, counterintuitive solution. The artificial fragrance only masks odors that are still lingering. Without fixing the root cause of the problem, your home will still reek from its original smell.

Air purifiers can certainly tackle foul odors and make your home smell better, but it has drawbacks that you should not overlook. Instead of relying solely on the air cleaning device, sniff out where the source of the smell is coming from and address the problem. Toss away anything that reeks, avoid smoking or using gas appliances indoors. Open windows and doors to quickly air out the smell. Reduce room humidity with a dehumidifier when there is a heavy mustiness smell or mold spotted.

Remember, preventive measures are always the best way to protect your home from future smoke and odors.

How To Remove The Burnt Smell From House

How To Remove The Burnt Smell From House

  1. Open Windows And Doors - Without proper air circulation, the residual odor will become stale as it has nowhere to go. Opening windows and doors is always the first thing to do to remove the burnt smell from the house quickly. The fresh outdoor breeze will push the unpleasant smoke and odor out. The more windows or doors you open, the better the air circulation will be.
  2. Remove The Burnt Food Smell - The main goal is to remove the sources of gaseous pollutants as far away from home. Cooldown the charred frying pan/ pot and move the burnt food that is still creating unpleasant odors outside. Once the burnt food cools off, wrap it tightly in a disposable bag and toss it in an outside trash bin. You can start cleaning the mess to reduce any odor residues lingering in the kitchen.
  3. Turn On Any Fan (Exhaust, Ceiling Fan, Ventilation Hood) - Whether it is a ceiling fan, wall fan, range fan, or exhaust fan, any additional breeze that can pull smoke out of the house help and reduce lingering odor. Works best with windows open as the fast-moving air can swiftly replace the burnt smell with fresh air. You will also feel much cooler through convective heat transfer.
  4. Get An Air Purifier with an activated carbon filter - A deodorizing air purifier is very effective at cleaning the air and containing the odor from spreading across the room. The running air purifier will absorb any burnt smell from the cigarette (including second-hand smoke), woodfire, and kitchen cooking by drawing the unwanted gaseous pollutants into its filtration. The purification cycle will continue to filter the air so you will enjoy clean air at all times. Just place an air purifier in a kitchen and leave it on 24x7 even when no frying, grilling, or heating food is ongoing. However, not all air purifiers will fit the bill. You will need a mechanical air purifier with a genuine HEPA filter to capture microscopic particles and chemical adsorption activated carbon filter to neutralize smoke particles. Air purifiers can also be pricey and require regular filter maintenance. If you have the budget and space, here are the best odor removal air purifier for kitchen use.
  5. Leave It To Fresh Lemon, Baking Soda, Or White Vinegar - For those that don't have an air purifier at home, you can mask away from the burnt smell with white vinegar, baking soda, or fresh lemon scent.
    • Fresh lemon - Chopped 1-3 lemons and put them with 1-2 cups of water in a pot. Boil and heat it for 30 minutes and let the lemony scent spread across the kitchen for hours.
    • White vinegar - Mix white vinegar with a 2 to 1 ratio of water into a pot. Boil, simmer for 15 minutes, pour it into a bowl, and let it soak up the odors for a couple of hours.
    • Baking soda - Prepare a few empty bowls and pour a generous amount of baking soda into them. Place it near the sources of the offensive odors example, top of the oven, stove, garbage bin. The deodorizing characteristic of baking soda will soak up the smell for hours.

    Whichever methods you use, make sure the bowls are inaccessible to children and pets. Otherwise, things could get messy.

  6. Clean Up With Natural Cleaning Agents - Again, White vinegar and baking soda are natural cleaning agents that can neutralize the pungent, burnt smell.
    Apply a generous amount of baking soda on the affected area e.g. oven tray, cooking grease spilled on tiles, or cooking top. If the smell is from the cooking pan, you can simmer some white vinegar and heat it for 10 minutes. Leave it for a couple of minutes to cool down, and the burnt odor will be gone after cleaning the excess part with a clean cloth. Essential oil, tree tea oil, hydrogen peroxide would work even though it is uncommonly used.
  7. The Aftermath Clean Up - To prevent the more burnt smell from sticking around, you must perform a deep cleaning to wash away any smoke residues. Start by wiping surrounding appliances, walls, cabinets, counters, and porous items like wood with soap and water. If the residues remain, you may need to apply stronger cleaning agents and scrub the burnt area thoroughly. While we preferred using natural agents that do not release toxic agents, home cleaning products' effectiveness is unrivaled and necessary in some cases.
  8. Wash Fabric And Upholstery Items (Washing Machine) - From curtains, table covers, blankets, bedsheets, clothing, sofa covers, carpet, or anything that can be removed and toss it in a washing machine. Add detergent mix with baking soda or fabric softener to wash away the burnt residues. Avoid using detergent with fragrance as it might mask away from the odor. If the unpleasant smell remains after drying, rewash until the odor is completely gone.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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