How Do Air Filters Control Odors?

eliminate and neutralizeAlmost everything has a smell, right? Some are pleasant while others can be quite offensive. Those are the smells you want to get rid of the most. Offensive odors that hang around your house, like those from cigarette smoke, pets and stinky gym clothes are actually the result of tiny particles of bacteria in the air. So theory should dictate: remove the particles, remove the odors.

Whole house filters, air filters and furnace filters are designed to capture airborne particles commonly found within a home. In this way, they play a part in removing some of the odor-causing bacteria in the air. The type of filter you choose depends on the level of odor control offered.

What Filters Work Best?

While there are plenty of products on the market that claim to eliminate and neutralize household odors, there are two that stand out when it comes to choosing an air filter: activated carbon filters and electrostatic filters.


  • Activated carbon filters - Carbon is a natural odor neutralizer and is often used to absorb unwanted odors. Absorption is key to the entire process. Activated carbon has been treated to make it very porous, thus increasing its absorption capabilities. As air passes through an activated carbon filter, the particles attach to the porous surfaces of the fibers and are neutralized by the carbon.



  • Electrostatic air filters - Electrostatically-charged filters use negative and positive charges to attract dust, mildew, mold, and other airborne contaminants. These particulates are the carriers for unwanted odors; the electrostatic charge attracts them and traps them in the filter's dense fibers, helping to remove the odors. Electrostatic filters offer higher MERV ratings and are effective at trapping more than 90% of airborne particles.


However, there is a limit to how many particles an activated carbon or electrostatic air filter can trap. Once the surface is full, the air filter or furnace filter will need to be replaced like any other filter.

Air Purifiers Vs. Air Filters

While both air purifiers and air filters are both devices used to remove contaminants from the air, they differ in their design.


  • An air purifier is an electrical piece of equipment that is usually a stand-alone unit that can be small and portable or large and more difficult to move; they can also be mounted to some portion of a home's HVAC unit. The devices are marketed toward asthma sufferers because they claim to remove second-hand smoke and other allergens.



  • Air filters, on the other hand, are inserted into your furnace or HVAC where the air enters the system. Depending on the level of efficiency you choose, they are effective at trapping solid particles like pollen, bacteria, dust, and mold from the air.


At the end of the day, the best way to eliminate odors is to remove the particles in the air that carry the odors. If you would like more information on how to get rid of unwanted odors, and which filtration products will work best for your family's needs, contact AirFilterBuy today!