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What is an Air Ionizer?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 16, 2024
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An air ionizer is a device that is intended to purify the air in a room by electrically charging the air molecules. Instead of using fans and filters to purify the air, an air ionizer uses ions to remove microscopic particles from the air. An air ionizer makes the air in a room healthier for people who are suffering from asthma, allergies, impaired immunity or respiratory ailments because fewer allergens circulate into the lungs.

Ions Bond to Particles

Air ionizers rely on the chemical properties of particles. An ion is just a particle that is charged, either negatively or positively. Air ionizers, which can be tabletop or standalone units, create negative ions using electricity. Opposites attract, so the negative ions flood the room and seek out positively charged particles, such as dust, bacteria, pollen, smoke and many other allergens.

The negative ions and positively charged particles bond together. This creates dirt particles that are too heavy to keep floating around in the air, so they fall to the ground and can be cleaned by normal means. Some particles might fall onto other surfaces in the room, such as furniture, television screens or shelves, and can be cleaned off by dusting or wiping those surfaces.

Ozone

Most particles near the ground are positively charged. Natural phenomena, such as lightning or waterfalls, generate negative ions and ozone. This creates a "fresh" smell that a person might encounter during an electrical storm or near white rapids on a river. Ozone is a naturally occurring gas related to oxygen. Building insulation interferes with atmospheric air circulation, so an air ionizer seeks to compensate for this disequilibrium.

Outdoor pollutants often get a lot of attention because they can cause health hazards. Indoor air pollution gets less attention but also is a serious problem. Dust and mold collects inside heating and air conditioning ducts, and the higher humidity indoors allows bacteria to thrive. An air ionizer addresses these indoor sources of pollution and odor. The ozone that is created when negative ions are generated battles pollution by breaking it down into smaller, harmless components; makes it more difficult for germs to grow; and deodorizes as well.

Advantages

Air ionizers conserve power and run silently, unlike fan-driven air purifiers. Another advantage over other purifiers is that no parts need regular replacement, because there are no physical filters that get dirty. Even though most air ionizers don't have motorized fans, the ionization creates a faint breeze that helps distribute the ions throughout a room. Some ionizers are outfitted with screens that catch the particles of dust as they fall to the ground.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1000312 — On Aug 19, 2018

Does this clean mildew?

By anon998027 — On Apr 03, 2017

After reading the book "Cosmic Energy and the Nature's Way in Health and Medicine", I bought an ionizer plus purifier for a friend. Her son has regular allergy problems and after using it for a month, they had fewer occurrences of allergy problems.

By anon996288 — On Aug 06, 2016

Do some research. People don't conclude that these things are dangerous (via ozone) but they do conclude that they're not useful for removing dust etc. There's a lot of hokum around this and skepticism is well warranted.

By anon344504 — On Aug 10, 2013

@post 23: That's a massive apartment. Is that number correct?

By anon289112 — On Sep 02, 2012

I bought a air cooler with an ionizer and humidifier. At first, I did not use the ionizer because I did not know what it was for but a week and a half later I started using the ionizer whenever I used the cooler (I changed the water and cleaned the unit every 2-3 days), and that's when I started smelling a fresh-outdoorsy odor, and had headaches, puffy eyes, asthma like systems, and what felt like vapors in my lungs. I turned off the ionizer but kept the unit on and my symptoms cleared up within 30 minutes.

By anon241236 — On Jan 18, 2012

Read all about ionizers and Ozonizers at the Environmental Protection Agency.

By anon205775 — On Aug 13, 2011

Particles speed up as they are heated, does this mean the Heaven Fresh Air Ioniser HF-100 I just brought will work better in warmer or colder conditions.

By anon84212 — On May 14, 2010

Actually, tap water has nothing to do with white dust from using an ionizer or CPAP. The minerals in tap water would cause deposits in the CPAP, not around the house.

The white dust is actually from impurities that the negative ions, generated by the ionizer, have attached to. Which in turn fall to the ground or land on any other surface, most likely noticed on black colored items.

On a side note, using tap water with an ultrasonic humidifier will cause mineral deposits (a.k.a., white dust) to be found around the machine.

By anon78168 — On Apr 17, 2010

anon62208: "White dust" on various equipment is caused by using tap water instead of distilled water in humidifiers.

If the C-PAP machine has a humidification chamber (as most do) or if the ionizers use water as part of the process (I don't know if they do), it is the use of tap water that is probably the culprit.

Use distilled water instead. The white dust is the minerals and other particles from the water that have settled on everything after the water evaporates.

By anon69755 — On Mar 10, 2010

To all skeptics: Ionizers work and have tremendous health benefits whether you believe it or not.

This is a very old technology used in USSR for all sorts of treatment and prevention of respiratory diseases, allergies and common colds. There were prophylactic rooms then and it was a prescribed treatment, and I can assure you there is a lot of research showing positive results.

I am going to write something and some of you may dislike it, but that system (there and then) was based on prevention and protection. National health was active public policy and doctors were not making a living from people being sick, doctors were paid salaries.

Now, ask yourself, who is benefiting from you being sick in a capitalistic environment? In the current system, is it better for the medical industry to cure you completely or is it better for them just to have you on medication all your life? The answer is easy: follow the money! I vote for the ionizer by owning three! And to the Chihuahua owner—that was a funny question.

By anon62208 — On Jan 25, 2010

I have a tenant in our apartment who has severe allergies and swears by these ionizers. However, she is complaining about all the white dust on her TV, c-pap machine, her son's games and all over the counters.

I wanted to do some research and found this website. I saw the person at no. 12 has the same issue. Is this something that happens often when you have ionizers? She has three ionizers in her apartment of 991 square feet. Is that too much or what? Please can anyone help me with some research?

By anon56478 — On Dec 15, 2009

any medical report that's proven the advantages of air ionisers?

By anon48336 — On Oct 12, 2009

i wasn't paying much attention to air conditioners and air coolers ionisers until i read a warning about ozone being generated by some air conditioners are now being banned. Ozone is good for the upper atmosphere and best kept at that level. It is not meant for breathing; it creates breathing problems for some. chemical engr

By anon34884 — On Jun 30, 2009

a lot of strange questions here...

bilsenigma: probably.

jowants2know: have you considered that your friend may be suffering with pneumonia now because you asked her to turn it off?

anon19018: the article says ionised molecules are heavy, so yes, it should help keep the ceiling and walls clean. also, try opening the window, or smoking outdoors.

anon15288: no. imagine spraying a room with a fine water mist. it will help the air to clean itself, but the result is that the "dirty" molecules are on the ground around the room - they are not gathered by the sprayer.

anon6501: chihuahuas are small, but not as small as dust or pollen molecules. the only result should be that they can breath better.

anon5456: if you're worried, keep them on opposite sides of the room.

anon2823, anon1197, anon740: get better ionisers. there are regulations which set how much ozone these things are allowed to generate. if you're having problems, your ioniser is possibly breaking those regulations.

By bilsenigma — On Feb 19, 2009

I bought two Hepa filters with an ionizer. Now I seem to have a white film on everything that is not easy to get off. It gets on my computer, my printer, my TV screen, and in my VCR player. Is this a result of ionization?

By jowants2know — On Feb 04, 2009

My friend has asthma and she has 2 ionizers which she had running in her home for several years, also she has had a lot of problems, which she did not associate the ionizer having any role in it. I recently learned of some problems that some people were having with the ionizer and asked her to turn hers off. She is currently suffering with pneumonia for several weeks now. My question is, what is the science outlook on people with asthma & ionizer use, and/or are there any recommendations on another type of air purification system that would clean the air without having such an effect on an asthmatic person.

By anon19018 — On Oct 03, 2008

i live in a travel trailer and smoke will a ionizer help in keeping the wall and ceiling from turning yellow or sticky over time.

By anon15288 — On Jul 07, 2008

hello, is there an ionizer out there that will emit ions, collect the resulting attracted dust and then re-emit "clean" negative ions?

By anon9950 — On Mar 17, 2008

does an ionizer have any effect on chronic sinusitis? does it help?

By anon6501 — On Dec 31, 2007

How will an ionizer affect my Chihuahuas??

By anon5456 — On Nov 26, 2007

I have copd and emphysema and am on o2 24/7 I have the o2 machine that use the air in the home and regenerates it to o2.. Will the ionizer interfere with that?

By anon2823 — On Jul 27, 2007

These units produce ozone. One unit I tested with a photometric ozone analyzer raised the level of ozone in a confined space to as high as fifty parts per billion in twenty-four hours. That is considered the lower threshold for an unhealthy amount of ozone in indoor air. (That is just ten ppb below the minimum action level for outdoor air.) A person with severe respiratory dysfunction would be harmed.

By anon1197 — On May 20, 2007

Actually, it might make ozone worse! There's some research online...

By anon740 — On May 03, 2007

I was reading about Ground Level Ozone...not a good thing.

Will an ionizer of some sort help reduce this ozone indoors?

thanks...

Linda K.

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