How Well do Water-Based Air Purifiers Work?

Water-based air purifiers work great as oil diffusers and dust and allergen collectors, but they aren’t the most effective machine on the market for purifying the air in your home. Water-based air purifiers aren’t your best call if you want the cleanest possible air in your home, but they can be a great option for people who want to cut down on allergens in the air, reduce dust, and have a pretty cool looking air purifier!

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I’m a huge fan of water-based air purifiers, but I will admit that that term is a little… well, misleading.

When I think about air purifiers, I think about those super fancy machines that you find in hospitals that kill all sorts of germs and capture even the smallest particles out of the air. I think of machines that can filter out toxic gasses and annoying allergens.

Water-based air purifiers aren’t that kind of air purifier though.

A term I’ve seen a lot more lately is “water-based air revitalizer” and other names that steer away from the “air purifier” real of things. I think that’s a smart rebranding strategy, but I do feel like it’s a little shortsighted too.

Why is renaming water-based air purifiers to revitalizers shortsighted? Well, the fact remains that water-based air purifiers do still purify the air. Contrary to what some people may say, water is a great filter because it’s sticky and can grab particles out of the air.

No, water air purifiers aren’t as effective as the expensive air purifiers that use UV light, five different filters, and a ton of sensors that tell it when to turn on and off, but they still serve a purpose.

They clean the air of larger particles, of allergens, and a bunch more.

And, last I checked, that qualifies as “purifying” still!

Why do Some People Say that Water-Based Air Purifiers Don’t Work?

Just about everyone that I’ve seen ripping into water-based air purifiers and saying that don’t work don’t own one of these machines. The few that did own one and then said they didn’t work weren’t really fair to the machines–they were those “give everything I ever buy on Amazon one-star” kinds of people who seem to be intent on taking issue with everything.

But, once you sort through the screaming and complaining, there is one common thread that these people use as the backbone of their arguments against water-based air purifiers:

They say that they don’t work as well as air purifiers with HEPA filters. Some go as far as to say that a water-based air purifier doesn’t work as well as another air purifier that has all the bells and whistles, but they neglect to mention that the other air purifier is four hundred dollars instead of a water-based air cleaner that costs all of 20 to 40 bucks usually.

To put it simply, they’re comparing apples to oranges.

An air purifier that’s ten times more money than another will work better than the cheaper one. Everyone knows that. Sure there are outliers, but by and large, the costlier air purifiers will work better.

Water-based air purifiers offer an affordable air purifier alternative to people who don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend, that’s where they fit in the market and people need to stop thinking that an air purifier is better or worse than another kind of air purifier that’ll cost the entirety of some people’s paychecks.

Interestingly enough, water-based air purifiers are actually pretty good at filtering smoke out of the air (trust me, I live around wildfires, so I know). HEPA filters can be good at filtering out smoke as well, but I actually think the water-based unit did better!

Do Water-Based Air Purifiers Work as well as Air Purifiers with HEPA Filters?

Water-based air purifiers are not as effective at removing particles from the air as air purifiers with HEPA filters. HEPA filters are designed to capture 99.7% of particles from the air that are .3 microns and larger. .3 microns is several times smaller of a particle than what the naked eye can see, so that goes to show you how good a HEPA filter is at cleaning the air.

Water-based air purifiers are good at capturing larger particles like hair (both pet and human), dust, pollen, and other allergens. They’re a lot cheaper to replace the filters on too! Rather than having to buy a new HEPA filter that could cost anywhere from 5 dollars to 80, a water-based air cleaner just needs rinsed out, refilled, and it’s good to go. Your total investment in a water-based air purifier’s filter is all of a few cents–it’ll take maybe a gallon of water to wash and refill it!

Now, I must point out that the HEPA filter price range that I threw out is for air purifiers that will take care of rooms of comparable size to the water-based air purifiers. I’m not comparing two entirely different things here. HEPA filters can cost a ton to replace, and I think that some companies do their best to pull you in with a cheap air purifier only to rip you off on replacement filters over the long run.

Why do I say that? Well, I’ve found dozens of air purifiers that cost, say, 80 dollars. Their replacement filters, which need replaced every six months, sell for 40 each. Go ahead and check out some of the top selling air purifiers and you’ll see there are a few sprinkled in there that sell filters that are WAY overpriced! I think it’s a cruel way to suck every cent out of people.

As such, I’m a bigger fan of water-based air purifiers because their “replacement filter” costs pennies and you don’t have to wait two weeks for it to ship!

Now, before you swear off air purifiers with HEPA filters, let me say that I love those too, and I’ll defend those till the day I die. I’m not saying you should avoid them. I recommend them, even!

But, what I am saying is that you need to keep your eyes peeled for the long-term costs of your air purifier before you buy it. Don’t get scammed, be smart.

What Should I Look for in a Water-Based Air Purifier?

When you’re shopping for a water-based air purifier, you need to be mindful of some really strange things that you might not think of right away. These things include whether the machine has lights, if it moves as it operates, what other systems it has, and how easy it is to clean. Then there are the more obvious things to consider like cost and looks.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m talking about with a few of the things I mentioned, so sit tight and I’ll explain myself.

Does the Water Air Cleaner Have Lights?

First off, lights. A lot of water-based air revitalizers have lights for one reason or another. Some of them have one color light shining all the time, some change colors, and some don’t have lights at all. I personally prefer the units that allow you to turn the lights off on, but that’s just a preference now.

I used to overlook several water air purifiers because they had lights that wouldn’t turn off, but then I got one in order to test it for this site. After all, I can’t be an expert on something if I’ve never touched it.

Anyways, I bought it and immediately discovered that the lights were a tad bright, the color changing seemed like it would get annoying, and I honestly didn’t want an air purifier that stuck out.

But, then I let the air purifier run for a bit.

And I’ll admit it, it grew on me.

No, I’m still not a huge fan of the lights, but I learned that day that I shouldn’t judge an air purifier by its cover. Or, in this case, by its lights that you can’t turn off. This particular air purifier went from one I didn’t want to ever buy to the one I actually recommend now! Yeah, I know, big turnaround!

If you’d like to check this water-based air purifier that I love now, then you can see it here on Amazon. It’s made by U.S. JACLEAN and I think it’s the best water air purifier on the market at its price point!

The lights on a water-based air purifier actually work as a great night light too, so, if you have kids, then you might want to pick one of these up!

Does the Water Air Purifier Move and Shake?

Believe it or not, a lot of water-based air cleaners move around when they’re running! No, they don’t wander around your home like a Roomba, but they can fall off a shelf if you’re not careful.

These air cleaners swirl the water inside of them around and that creates enough force for them to shake and jiggle a bit as they run. There’s a lot of stuff you can do to prevent that, but you should be aware that this can be an issue. Most air purifiers that have this issue will have at least one review mentioning it, so you can scroll through the reviews to find out if it is a problem. Down the road, I’ll be buying a ton of water-based air purifiers to run side by side and definitively tell you which one is the least likely to run away.

Until then, you’ll have to either look at reviews or take care of the moving problem.

Which leads me to this little plug for an article that I wrote on how to keep your water-based air purifier from wandering as it runs. Don’t let the first part of the title fool you, this article will answer your question for how to keep your machine from falling.

Do I Need to Put a Towel Under a Water-Based Air Revitalizer? | What Can I Do to Keep My Water-Based From Moving?

Does the Water-Based Air Purifier have Extras?

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Water-based air purifiers naturally work as a light humidifier and that’s a major selling feature for them. The hint of humidity is refreshing–hence why water air purifiers are also called air revitalizers. But, a lot of water-based air cleaners come with some nifty extras on top of their cleaning capabilities.

Up until recently, I thought the only “extras” you could get on a water-based air purifier was the ability to use it as an essential oil or aroma diffuser. I’ve since discovered several other systems that these units come with including HEPA filters, activated carbon filters, sanitizers, and more. Now, I’m not putting any stock in these other units, nor do I recommend them just yet, but it’s shown me that there is some new stuff coming in this industry! Keep an eye out when you shop for a water-based air purifier for these cool new units, I’m sure they’re going to become more prevalent as time wears on.

What’s the Ease of Cleaning the Water Air Purifier?

Just about every water-based air purifier on the market is pretty easy to clean. They’re simplified the designs to the point that you can clean the units in just a couple of minutes. But, not every unit is as easy as the next. There are a couple things to look for when you’re considering how easy the water air revitalizer is to clean.

First off, the easiest thing might be to just throw the water basin into the dishwasher. Some air revitalizers have dishwasher safe parts, which means that you won’t have to wash your unit’s basin by hand. That being said, you will still have to wipe down and clean the top part, but that’s easy.

Something else to consider when you’re looking at the ease of cleaning your unit is the water basin itself. There are some machines out there that can’t be easily cleaned and that could be a deal-breaker. If you can’t clean your water-based air purifier properly, it could become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Don’t give it the chance, get a water air cleaner that you won’t mind cleaning!

Do You Like the Water-Based Air Purifiers Looks and Cost?

Finally, you have the most obvious thing to consider. Odds are that you already did this in your shopping, but I just wanted to remind you of it. Why? Well, some water air cleaners have color options, so you might find one that doesn’t look like it would suit you at first, then you’ll find that they have a color that is perfect for what you want.

Additionally, cost is something that’s worth considering a little more than you might think. Why? Well, air purifiers can best help your home when you have them in a few rooms. One air purifier can’t take care of you whole house, after all. As such, it might be worth finding a water air purifier that allows you to buy in bulk and save a few bucks!

And, if you end up with one or two extra units, they can make great gifts too. I’ve gifted several people with air purifiers to help them with allergies, homes with lingering smells, and other things. Think of it as a gift to clear the air. (Pun intended.)

Once again, I highly recommend the U.S. JACLEAN water air revitalizer. I’ve bought three of them, that’s how much I like them! You can buy individual units from Amazon here, or you can buy bulk orders on Amazon here.

But, if you’d like a more in-depth look at the best water-based air purifiers before you make a purchase, you can check out my article What Is the Best Air Purifier That I Can Buy? | Water Based Air Purifier Buying Guide and get some deeper information on the best units out there.

Are There Cheap HEPA Air Purifiers that I Can Buy Instead of a Water-Based Air Purifier?

If you’re looking for the best air quality, then you’ll need an air purifier with a HEPA filter. You can actually buy really cheap HEPA air purifiers out there and their price is comparable to water-based air purifiers. Of course, the cheapest air purifiers with HEPA filters will not have all the capabilities that costlier units have, but many of them do have activated carbon filters, which can be nice.

I personally prefer a mix of normal air purifiers with HEPA filters and air purifiers that use water as a filter because of how the two of them make my home’s air feel when they work in conjunction. That being said, air purifiers with HEPA filters are a ton better for my family’s allergies.

Because I needed some air purifiers with HEPA filters, I began a search for the cheapest possible units that were still worth the buy.

And I found them.

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I’ve yet to write a whole article on my findings, but, spoiler alert, my favorite dirt-cheap HEPA air purifier is the Three Musketeers air purifier. It’s even got an activated carbon filter! It works super well and I’ve been using it for almost two years now.

Here’s a picture of the unit, it’s about the size of a thermos and it’s really simple to use. (The buttons on top are confusing, but it’s basically just low, medium, and high.)

This air purifier is meant to go in smaller rooms (up to something like 160 square feet), so I have it in my basement and I run it just about every day.

If you’d like to pick up this air purifier, you can get it on Amazon via this link here.

Now, there are lots of other air purifiers on the market that are cheap, but this is just the best unit that I have found in the 20 buck-ish price range. There are other units that cost more that I’ve recommended, but this one will always be a favorite of mine.

I hope I’ve answered your water-based air purifier questions today, and I’d love to write more. Problem is, I’ve already written a TON on water-based air purifiers, so I’d just be rehashing stuff I’ve already said. If you’d like to see some of my other posts, check out the list below!

What is a Water Based Air Purifier? | The Pros & Cons of Water Air Revitalizers

What Is the Best Air Purifier That I Can Buy? | Water Based Air Purifier Buying Guide

What Does a Water Air Purifier Do? | The Surprising Benefits of Using Water as an Air Filter

Do I Need to Put a Towel Under a Water-Based Air Revitalizer? | What Can I Do to Keep My Water-Based From Moving?

Jonathon Silva

Jonathan Silva is our longtime Air Purifier Essentials author. He has been writing on air purification technologies for his entire professional career.

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