Residents across the western United States are being urged to stay indoors due to thick wildfire smoke blanketing the region. Air quality in several regions of California, Oregon, and Washington are listed as “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy,” according to AirNow, a partnership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service, NASA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and tribal, state, and local air quality agencies.

Why is wildfire smoke so bad for you?

Wildfire smoke can cause your eyes to burn, irritate your respiratory system, worsen chronic heart and lung diseases, and make you more prone to lung infections, including COVID-19, according to the CDC. Smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and fine particles that are created when wood and other organic materials burn, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains. But the microscopic particles in smoke are the most concerning—they can travel deep into your lungs. That can cause a range of health problems, ranging from airway issues to premature death.

Can an air purifier reduce exposure to wildfire smoke?

Staying indoors when your region has poor air quality due to wildfire smoke is important, but fine particles in the air can still make their way into your home, says Raymond Casciari, M.D., a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. “They can absolutely impact indoor air quality,” he says.

That’s why running an air purifier or air filter can be helpful, says Jonathan Parsons, M.D., a pulmonologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Air purifiers draw in polluted air, trap the particles, then blow out clean air.” Portable air cleaners with high efficiency filters can reduce indoor particle concentrations by as much as 85%, according to the EPA.

That said, they won’t be “universally protective” in areas where high levels of smoke are an issue, Dr. Parsons says.

How to choose an air purifier for wildfire smoke

When looking for an air purifier, the EPA recommends checking the square footage rating of the device to be sure it can clean the space you need it for. It’s also important to look for a high-efficiency or HEPA filter. While they may be more expensive, they are more effective than other filters.

Also keep this in mind, per the EPA: “Air cleaners that cost less than about $200 often do not clean the air as well and may not be helpful for wildfire smoke.”

Finally, if you decide to invest in an air filter, Dr. Casciari says it’s important to use it properly. “In order for them to be really effective, you need to close off the room and run them 24/7,” he explains.

Ready to invest in an air purifier? Check out the top-rated option below:


Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier with Allergen and Odor Remover



Blueair’s Blue Pure 211+ has a three-part filtration system that gets rid of up to 99% of airborne particles. It’s designed for medium to larger rooms between  400 and 600 square feet, making it ideal for large bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms. Three different fan speeds make it easy to customize the purifier to your needs.


HPA250B Bluetooth Smart True HEPA Allergen Remover

Honeywell Home


Recommended for rooms up to 310 square feet, this air filter claims to capture up to 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns. It also helps trap odors, and circulates air in the room up to five times an hour. A nice perk: This purifier comes with a free app that allows you control your cleaner from just about anywhere.


AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier



$200.00 (13% off)

Coway’s AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier—which is currently discounted on Amazon—has built-in sensors that can monitor your indoor air quality. If it doesn’t detect pollution for 30 minutes, it shuts itself off to conserve power. The air filter is designed to clean rooms up to 361 square feet (although it notes that it does a better job of filtering out smoke in a smaller space).


air400 Air Purifier with High Efficiency Filter and CirQulate System



This Bissell machine has a massive reach—it can filter a room that’s up to 1,200 square feet in size (although works best in rooms about 400 square feet)—and reduces up to 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns in the air. It features a honeycomb-style filter to weed out impurities in the air and a special sensor to monitor, report, and respond to changes in your indoor air quality by adjusting fan speed as needed.


D480 3-Stage True HEPA Air Purifier



This air purifier by Winix is designed for rooms that are 480 square feet or smaller, making it a great fit for your living room, kitchen, or bedroom. The machine has a three-stage cleaning system that starts by filtering out larger particles, before moving on to remove 99.97% of unseen particles down to 0.3 microns. Four fan speeds and a sleep mode help ensure you’ll find the right setting for you, no matter the time of day.

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