What Does An Air Ionizer Do?


Air ionizers are electronic components that release electrically charged air molecules into the air. These charged (or ionized) air molecules then attach themselves to non-ionized particles in the air and they sink to the ground, effectively cleaning the air in the room they are in.

So, How Does an Ionizer Work, Exactly?

Well, it’s pretty cool, actually! So, the air ionizer, which is usually part of an air purifier, sends out all the ionized air. That ionized air goes throughout the room that the ionizer is in, and the ionized particles float around looking for particles that they can bond with. When they find one, they bind to it and those bound particles become too heavy to continue floating around in the air. So they sink and they eventually land on the ground (or some other surface).

Air ionizers work by releasing negatively charged ions which react with the positively charged particles in the air. Most of the particles in your home’s air, like dust, dander, and other allergens and pollutants have positive charges, so a good ionizer can effectively remove them from the air.

However, an air ionizer isn’t always enough. Why? Well, they don’t circulate the particles that they ionize, they have to have a fan (or an air purifier) that has the ability to blow the ionized air around, otherwise, their area of effect is greatly diminished.

Long story short, the negatively charged ions (called anions) need airflow for them to react with all the positively charged particles in the air in your home. The best way to make sure that the air is circulated is to get an air purifier that has an air ionizer built into it.

If you’d like to buy an air purifier with a built-in ionizer that I have used and highly recommend, this Silver Onyx one on Amazon is awesome. If you’d like to shop around for an air purifier with an ionizer, then you can browse Amazon here instead.

What is the Difference Between a Negatively Charged Ion and a Positively Charged One?

To make this a bit more understandable for those of you who care about the science, here’s a little picture.

The Oxyhydride (OH) molecule on the left is negatively charged–hence the minus sign beside it.

On the right is a positively charged Hydrogen molecule.

Now, in nature, you seldom see these two molecules apart because nature likes particles that have a neutral (AKA no) charge. As such, the OH and the H will come together because the positive and negative charges will cause them to attract one another.

And you know what you get? H2O, that’s water, folks!

Now, if you’re wondering why the negative attracts the positive charge, it’s like a magnet. The south pole always attracts the north. Meanwhile, two north poles or two south poles will repel one another. Opposites attract. And, when they attract, they become one.

Why do Ionized Molecules Clean the Air?

Now, if I didn’t bore you or scare you off with the slightly overly-simplistic science above, then I’m sure you’re wondering the same thing I was when I first learned about ionizers and ionized air and anions and all those other weird words with “ion” in it. Alas, I now have the answer, since I dove so deep into my research!

Ionized molecules that are made by air ionizers have a negative charge, when they bump into positively charged particles they merge and become one particle. That merged particle is bigger than the two particles that merged to become one, and it’s heavier too. It’s also heavier than the air around it. Because of that, it has to sink because of gravity.

Long story short, bigger, heavier particles sink. In all likelihood, they’ll sink all the way to the ground or the nearest surface, and that means that you won’t be breathing them in.

And if you’re a nerd like me, then you might have realized that the necessity of gravity in this situation means that ionizers won’t clean the air if you’re in space and don’t have gravity helping you out as much as you do here.

And that’s about it for today! If you want to buy the best air purifier with a built-in ionizer that I’ve used and recommend, you can get it on Amazon here. If you’d like to read up some more about air purifiers and ionizers, then you can check out these articles below:

What is an Air Purifier with Ionizers? How Ionizers Remove Particles from the Air

How to Clean Indoor Air – 14 Simple Ways to Clean Up the Air in your Home

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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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