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Should You Use an Air Scrubber or Air Purification to Get Cleaner Air?


Did you know that indoor air quality can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air? That is why maintaining clean air is essential for any facility! Two of the most common ways to achieve this is by utilizing an air scrubber or air purifier. It may be tempting to use those terms interchangeably, but these two systems have major differences. In theory, both machines work to clean the air within a room. However, the way they accomplish that is vastly different. If you are not sure which is best for your facility, then you have come to the right place! We will answer your questions while providing key insight that should help you choose between the two. 

First, A Quick Chemistry Lesson 

We know that chemistry is not everyone’s cup of tea, and you may be tempted to skip over this section. However, if you truly want to understand how air scrubbers and purifiers work, we must go over basic chemistry. Molecule atoms have positive, neutral, and negative elements. These are also known as protons, neutrons, and electrons. Neutral atoms have an equal number of protons and electrons. Negative ions have too many electrons while positive ions have more protons than electrons. An atom will always seek to be neutral, meaning that if they are missing protons or electrons, it will go looking for more.

Why is this important? Most pollutants are positive ions. If you want clean air, you need to add negative ions to balance it out. Both an air scrubber and air purifier take on this task but accomplish it in different ways. 

What is an Air Scrubber?

Air scrubbers work to remove chemicals, gasses, and other contaminants from the air through a search and retrieve method. Once they pair together, they become too heavy to remain in the air and fall to the ground or into the vents if the fan is on. Scrubbers will send negative ions out to find tiny pollutants in the air. A single air scrubber can cover thousands of feet, making it an ideal investment for larger facilities. There are two different methods air scrubbers can use to purify the space: wet and dry scrubbing. Wet scrubbing machines have a damp filter that is utilized to trap particles. Meanwhile, dry scrubbers suck particles through a dry filter to trap the contaminants. There are portable air scrubbers, but many choose to install the machine directly into the facility’s HVAC system. Air scrubbers can eliminate up to 99.99% of 0.3-micron-sized particles.

What is an Air Purifier? 

Air purifiers attack the pollutants within the machine itself. These systems are installed inside the ductwork and have continuous airflow through the purifier as the air within the facility circulates. The system essentially allows the pollutants to pass through the device and an electrically charged filter. The filter uses polarization to separate the positive and negative ions as it passes through. Since the positive and negative ends are attracted to the filters, they stay in the device, allowing clean air to leave.  

What are the Main Differences Between Them?

Both the air purifier and air scrubber have benefits that the other lacks. Other than how the systems remove harmful particulate matter from the air, there are key differences between the two that need to be considered to determine which is the best option for your facility. The amount of space the system will cover, and its efficiency will likely be primary concerns in the decision-making process. 

Space Size

For facilities like hospitals and schools, an air scrubber would be ideal. These air purification machines are designed to work in both large and small spaces. They have a large airflow capacity and can cover more than one room at once. Typically, an air purifier for dust can only clean up to 200 square feet at once. Its limited space capacity means that you would need to purchase and maintain numerous air purifiers for a large facility. An air scrubber would likely be ideal for many healthcare facilities and educational institutions. 


Air purifiers have the ability to clean the air within an area one to two times per hour. These devices also require the filter to be regularly replaced throughout the year. The additional and continuous maintenance makes it a more costly option. Meanwhile, air scrubbers can purify the air in a facility up to four times per hour. When paired with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, they are more effective at catching mold and bacteria particles than air purifiers. Additionally, they are not bound to only purify the air, but they can also remove unwanted particles from surrounding surfaces. 

Understanding Where Pollutants Come From

Air pollutants are created when harmful elements are present indoors. Contaminants can be asbestos, building materials and smoke. Common household equipment such as stoves, ranges, cleaning products, and heating devices can also send pollutants into the air of an indoor facility. These elements release carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxides, radon, and particulate matter into the air making it harmful for people within the space. Health problems like respiratory and other health conditions.  

Both an air scrubber and an air purifier for dust are compatible with a HEPA filter, however, an air scrubber will be more beneficial for larger facilities due to its wide reach. Maintenance is also easier for air scrubbers as the filter does not require replacement. However, air purifiers can also eliminate any unpleasant odors from the room. Scrubbers do not have that capability. No matter which system you choose, you will be able to provide clean air for your facility by adding a purification system. If you want to learn more about how air quality can impact your facility, check out our Ultimate Guide to Indoor Air Quality. 


The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Air Quality in High-Risk Environments