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Do Car Air Purifiers or Ionizers Really Work?

Updated: Jun 20

Most people never even think about the quality of the air inside their cars, but it is a subject that bears some attention. On average, we spend about 5.5 percent of our time in our cars, according to one study on the air quality inside vehicle cabins, which is a significant amount of time to seal yourself in with some pretty bad air.

Dealing With Bad Air In Cars: The Problem With Car Air Purifiers

Car air purifiers do exist, and some of them actually work. The problem is that car air purifiers typically don't work in the same way, or as well, as the air purifiers you probably use at home or work. If you're expecting similar results, you'll probably end up disappointed.

This is why it's important to temper your expectations any time you’re dealing with car air fresheners, purifiers, ionizers, and similar gadgets. Most of these devices are actually ionizers, which work via a completely different mechanism than the (high-efficiency particulate air) HEPA filters that are so common in home and office environments.

The Quality of the Air Inside Your Car

When most people think about air pollution, they think about smog, pollen, and other outdoor air quality problems. The next thing that typically comes to mind is indoor air quality, which usually becomes a bigger problem during especially hot or cold weather, when dust and other allergens are allowed to collect inside homes and businesses that are sealed up against the elements.

The fact is that indoor air pollution is also a problem inside cars, so the idea of car air purifiers actually has a lot of merit. All of the same pollutants and allergens you find outside are present inside your car as well, in addition to chemicals and particulates that come from the car itself.

For instance, an analysis performed by the National Institute of Health found that particulate matter from brakes, and aromatic hydrocarbons that come from various interior components, can cause health problems. One solution is to simply roll down a window, but that just allows all of the pollution from outside the car to get inside.

Do Car Ionizers Work?

Air ionizers that are designed for automotive use are typically compact units that you can plug directly into your cigarette lighter socket. Instead of filtering the air, these devices emit ions, which are essentially just molecules that have a positive or negative charge instead of the normal neutral charge.

The basic idea behind a car air ionizer is that ionized particles of various allergens and odorous materials will either stick to surfaces or each other, at which point they stick to surfaces where you won't be able to inhale them, making Air Fresh and clean to breathe in Car.

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