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The Ultimate Guide to Carbon Filter Air Purifier: What You Need to Know (March 2024 update)

  • 01 Feb 2024

Smoke and smells are not only a nuisance, but they ruin indoor air quality and can cause serious health problems if left to linger for long. While there are so many ways to rid your home of smoke, dust, and smells, none of them is as effective as a carbon filter air purifier due to its unique air filtration process.


Many of the smells in our homes come from sources we are familiar with. It can be the distinct scent of burning food or the pungent odour from your pet's litter box. While our noses can grow accustomed to some smells in our home, other odours do more than just irritate the nose. They include the musty smell from mould and mildew and the overpowering stench from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Morris HEPA H13 air purifiers for smoke


Mould and mildew can be a menace when not taken care of early. Not only do these fungi ruin indoor air quality, but the mould spores released in the air are a health hazard when inhaled. The same can be said for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are the noxious gases released by cleaning products, building materials, or the process of combustion.


Prolonged exposure to VOCs can cause headaches and dizziness, or they can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. In severe cases, long-term exposure to VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde has been linked to cancer. However, it's not all doom and gloom if you have the right air purifiers for smoke and nasty odours in your home.

What is an air purifier?

An air purifier is a portable device that cleans and improves the air quality in a room or entire building. It does so by removing airborne pollutants such as pollen, mould, dust pet dander, noxious gases, and other allergens. This process of air purification ensures that your room or home always has clean, fresh air to breathe and reduces respiratory allergies.


There are various types of air purifiers, each with a unique approach to cleaning air. For instance, ozone air purifiers release ozone gas to trap airborne particles, while an ioniser air purifier cleans air by releasing negative ions that stick to positively-charged airborne pollutants.


Such air purifiers are great for removing even the tiniest particles in the air, however, they may struggle when it comes to removing smoke and horrible smells. The particles in smoke and other odours are smaller and will easily get through the filter of an ordinary air purifier.


And this is where a carbon filter air purifier comes in.

Is carbon filter good for air purifier?

The research "Modelling of an Air Cleaning Device With Activated Carbon Filter" revealed that an air purifier smoke remover fitted with a carbon filter significantly improves indoor air quality by reducing pollution from cigarette smoke. The research also concluded that the quality of the carbon filter used will determine how effective it is at removing noxious gases like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.


A carbon filter cleans polluted air through a unique process called adsorption (not to be confused with absorption). Adsorption is when molecules of gas or liquid stick to a solid surface, which effectively filters those airborne molecules from indoor air.


How effective a carbon filter is in removing gaseous pollutants from the air will depend on;

● The filter’s density.

● Quality of the activated carbon used in the filter.

● Airflow rate into the filter.


If you only want to improve indoor air quality by eliminating gaseous pollutants, a carbon filter air purifier is all you need. It will combat cigarette smoke, weed smoke, and the pungent smells from pet dander, urine, and faeces. An air purifier with activated carbon will also be effective in filtering out poisonous gases like VOCs.


Morris H13 carbon filter air purifier


However, if you are dealing with more than just smoke and bad smells, then you need more than just a carbon filter. You may want to look into air purifiers with medical-grade HEPA filters.

What are the cons of carbon filter?

Carbon filters are effective in dealing with gaseous pollutants in your home, although they have their shortcomings. One is their limited effectiveness in dealing with particulate matter such as pet dander, pet hair, dust, pollen, and mould spores. HEPA air purifiers are superior in this department.


Another limitation of air purifiers for smoke is their limited coverage. They will not perform as well in large rooms because of the minimal airflow rate into the carbon filter itself. You may need more than one carbon filter to effectively remove gaseous pollutants in a large room.


Thirdly, a carbon filter air purifier has a shorter lifespan depending on the size and quality of the activated carbon used. Also, using the carbon air purifier in a highly polluted room can speed up the wear and tear of the filter. Frequent carbon filter replacements are necessary to maintain air purifier efficiency.  


A fourth demerit of carbon filter air purifiers is the likelihood of off-gassing. A carbon filter can release toxic gases when used in stressful environments, like a room with high humidity or a high temperature. The carbon filter’s effectiveness will dwindle, and some of the trapped airborne pollutants may blow back into the room.

Are carbon filters as good as HEPA filters?

In comparison, a medical-grade HEPA air purifier is more efficient in dealing with all kinds of pollutants in your home, from particulate matter to gaseous pollutants. This is because of the unique air filtration system fitted in air purifiers with HEPA filters.

The term HEPA means High-Efficiency Particulate Air. The term was coined to describe the medical grade H13 filter that can capture small airborne particles that are up to 0.3 microns in size. Let's explain this further.

Air pollutants fall into three categories:

PM10 refers to particular matter whose diameter is 10 microns or less

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or less

MP1 particulate matter is 1 micron in size or below.


A HEPA filter will successfully remove both large and small particulate matter falling into these three categories. It includes large particles such as human hair (70 microns), pet hair (60 microns), sand (50 microns), and pet dander (25 microns). A HEPA filter will also remove smaller particles such as dust (5 microns), cigarette smoke (2.5 microns), and mould spores (2 microns). The medical-grade H13 filter will rid the air of these pollutants with 99.95% efficiency.


However, there is a catch.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are not classified as particulate matter, so a HEPA filter will not effectively filter them out. As you guessed, you still need a carbon filter in the picture to take care of the unpleasant smells.


Are carbon filters worth it?

Yes, a carbon filter is worth it when it is part of the advanced air filtration system used in HEPA air purifiers. Most medical-grade HEPA air purifiers have a four-filtration system that comprises a pre-filter, a HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter, and an ioniser booster filter.


Morris HEPA H13 air purifiers for smoke with 4 filters


The pre-filter takes care of all large air pollutants, typically those particles that are between 2.5 microns and 1 micron. This is the filter that will take care of dust, pet dander, and any hair lingering in the air you breathe.


The second filter is the most important of all, the medical-grade HEPA filter. It is here that 99.95% of micropollutants are filtered. This includes airborne pollutants such as carbon dust, tobacco smoke, paint pigments, asbestos, and pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Mould spores and other allergens are removed by the HEPA filter as well.

The activated carbon filter is necessary to take care of the smoke, unpleasant odour, and volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde. In this type of setup, a carbon filter will work efficiently because it only focuses on odour and VOCs, while particulate matter gets handled by other filters.


The ioniser booster is necessary for the tiny air particles that manage to pass through the HEPA filter. This filter is a negative ion generator that releases negatively charged particles that attach to positively charged air pollutants. In the process, the air pollutants become heavy and fall.


This complex air filtration system, with a carbon filter included, is what you need to enjoy the cleanest and freshest air in your home.

Do carbon filters eliminate all smell?

Unfortunately, a carbon filter alone, over time, may struggle to remove all gaseous pollutants in a room. The filter will degrade faster depending on its size, the quality of materials used to construct the carbon filter, and how much air is blown into the filter.


Fortunately, most HEPA air purifiers have two to three fan speed cycles to effectively increase the airflow rate. More air entering the carbon filter increases the efficiency of the filter in removing smoke and bad odour.


However, with time, carbon filter replacement is necessary to ensure your air purifier maintains its efficiency. This then begs another question;


When to change carbon filter air purifier?

Remember, built quality, filter size, and pollution level all contribute to how long your carbon filter lasts. High-quality carbon filters used in HEPA air purifiers should last you 6 months to a year before replacement.


Morris HEPA H13 carbon filter air purifier ideal for the kitchen


Signs of a faulty carbon filter

● Unpleasant odours are still present even while running the filter

● Allergy or asthma symptoms. Damaged filters can heighten allergic reactions

● Reduced airflow, which is a sign of a clogged filter

● The filter replacement light keeps blinking


Here are some more tips to remember when replacing carbon filters:

● Always follow the manufacturer’s guide for when to change the filter

● Pay attention to the carbon filter replacement light in your air purifier. It will save you time.

● For other air purifier models, open the unit to physically inspect the filter. Sometimes a little cleaning is all that is required to restore efficiency.

● Faulty filters can pollute the air you breathe, so it's necessary to get a new filter when the old one is due for replacement.


Since your home is a place to relax and enjoy after a long day, you must enjoy the best indoor air quality at all times. However, maintaining quality indoor air is not easy due to the many pollutants we face daily, the top among them being smoke, unpleasant odours, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).


A carbon filter air purifier is effective in managing smoke and bad smells in your home. However, when used alone, a carbon filter may not be as effective in dealing with particulate matter. A HEPA air purifier fitted with a carbon filter is the best solution for dealing with 99.95% of air pollutants in your home, which include smoke, bad odours, and noxious gases.


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