What Is an Air Ionizer?

by Team eLocal
The finger of a male human hand presses the button to turn on the ionizer function of an indoor floor fan

Many of us worry about the dangers of air pollution, but far fewer stop to think about the air quality inside our homes.

Air ionizers are often touted as the solution to indoor air pollution, but do they live up to the hype?

What Is an Air Ionizer?

Air ionizers pump negative ions into the air inside your home. Negative ions are electrically charged air molecules with an extra electron, allowing them to bind to tiny particles in the air to increase their weight. These particles then fall and form clumps on surfaces like floors and furniture, making them easy to remove when you dust or vacuum.

Does an Air Ionizer Actually Clean the Air?

A 2018 literature review concluded that ionizers can kill viruses, bacteria and mold because they produce ozone — a gas that damages viral membranes and DNA. Negative ions can also remove particles with an unpleasant odor from the air, which could make your home smell cleaner.

However, using an ionizer won't remove all the potential pollutants in your home. Negative ions are ineffective against the volatile organic compounds released by paint, some glues and certain cleaning fluids. They can only bind with small particles, so they won't remove larger allergens like dust and pollen from the air.

How Is an Ionizer Different Than an Air Purifier?

Air ionizers and air purifiers both remove particles from the air, but they use different technologies to do so. An air purifier has a fan and filter that can catch a broader range of particle sizes. They’re better suited for reducing allergens like pet dander. Meanwhile, ionizers are ideal for removing pollutants like those found in cigarette smoke.

Research shows that ionizers offer several other benefits, including improved mental health and increased productivity.