What is an Air Ionizer?


If you’ve been researching air purifiers, or if you’ve been shopping for one, then odds are that you’ve seen the word “ionizer” once or twice.

But what is an ionizer? Are they good? Bad?

Quite simply, an ionizer is an electronic component that uses electricity to create negatively charged anions that can clean the air. The anions clean the air by bonding with positively charged particles and, when they bond, they become too heavy to remain in the air.

Using electricity, air ionizers are able to strip different molecules of one of their electrons, by doing that, they make it so that molecule has an overall negative charge.

And, because of nifty science stuff, those negatively charged molecules look for positively charged molecules that they can bond with. They do this because they don’t like having a negative charge, they can’t go along like they are.

And that’s where the magic of ionizers comes into play: because those negatively charged molecules want to find a positively charged friend, they will. When they do, they become too heavy to stay in the air, and they sink.

In addition to sinking, those negatively charged ions will also have a neutral charge, since they were able to find a positively charged molecule to equal out their charge. So, at the end of the day, they’re happy because they found a friend, and you’re happy because you have cleaner air.

Now, we all know that this happening once is cool, but it doesn’t really clean the air that much. If this only happens once, then you’ve only got one particle out of the air of your room. There are still a WHOLE LOT MORE things floating around in your home’s air.

And that’s another cool thing about ionizers, they put out more than just one anion. They put out tons and tons of them. (Okay, maybe not literal tons, but you get my point.)

So, because the ionizer shoots out so many anions it is able to deal with a lot more of those positively charged particles in the air. As the old saying goes, “the more the merrier” and that is very much the case with ionized particles. More anions means more molecules getting “shot down” and that means you’ve got cleaner air. (Here’s a cute little doodle I made to show what’s going on.)

Is an Air Ionizer Enough to Clean the Air in My Home?

Sadly, no, air ionizers aren’t enough to clean the air in your home. Without some sort of fan to move the anions around, the ionizer’s effects will be largely limited to a localized area around the ionizer. That is why it is beneficial to get an air purifier with a built-in ionizer.

With an air purifier’s help, air ionizers are able to be circulated through the air of the room that the air purifier is in. In addition to that, the air purifier itself is capturing particles out of the air in its various filters.

Better still, some air purifiers can even capture gasses out of the air, and there are a lot of gasses out there that are hazardous to your health.

But wait, there’s more!

Air purifiers with HEPA filters and activated carbon filters can even capture smoke, allergens, and odors (among so many other things).

Long story short, air purifiers are really cool and they are really good at cleaning the air in your home. I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy an air ionizer on its own to take care of the air in their home since the ionizer wouldn’t be able to keep up on its own. The ionizer can clean the air in a small area like a car, hence why they make for good personal air purifiers (which you can check out in this article I wrote here). Ionizers can’t, however, take care of larger areas, that’s where air purifiers come into play.

If you’re hoping to clean the air in your home, then you need to buy an air purifier, not just an air ionizer. And, again, you can buy air purifiers with built-in ionizers, but just an ionizer on its own won’t be able to help you on the same level.

If you’d like to get an air purifier with a built-in ionizer, then I recommend this Silver Onyx air purifier on Amazon, which I’ve been using for about two years now. And if that one doesn’t work for you, then you can shop around on Amazon here.

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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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