Despite my extensive industry experience, nothing scares me more than carbon monoxide. Dealing with this toxic gas has been the most challenging aspect of my work. It’s a silent killer, and you must do everything possible to keep it out of your home.
Air purifiers are designed to keep unwanted particles from the air in your home. While some air purifiers may be helpful against carbon monoxide, they should not be relied upon as the sole method of reducing carbon monoxide levels since high levels can be fatal.
Below I’ll explain if removing carbon monoxide with air purifiers is possible so you know whether a purifier can keep you and your family safe.
How Do Air Purifiers Help With Carbon Monoxide?
Air purifiers are effective at removing unwanted contaminants and air pollution from your home. However, while air purifiers can effectively remove certain pollutants from the air, including some gasses, not all air purifiers can effectively remove carbon monoxide on their own.
Air purifiers draw in air and pass it through a series of filters, typically HEPA and activated carbon filters, which trap and remove impurities from the air, resulting in improved indoor air quality.
The air purification process can remove unhealthy pollutants and leave you with cleaner air. However, that doesn’t mean they’re 100% effective.
While air purifiers can handle volatile organic compounds, they don’t work on all gaseous pollutants. If you want an air purifier to help remove carbon monoxide, you need one with HEPA and activated carbon filters.
Activated carbon has the unique ability to absorb gases because they attach themselves to the carbon. Activated carbon air purification can effectively capture some gases, including carbon monoxide. Still, they are not 100% efficient and should not be solely relied upon to reduce carbon monoxide levels to safe levels.
Likewise, even medical-grade HEPA filters are highly effective at removing particulate matter from the air, but they are not designed to remove gases like carbon monoxide.
The most effective way of removing carbon monoxide is to run a high-quality air purifier, eliminate the source of the gas, and ensure proper ventilation. I also highly recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home as an additional safety measure.
When Is An Air Purifier Not Effective For Carbon Monoxide?
I wish this wasn’t the case, but your run-of-the-mill activated carbon or HEPA filter might not be effective at removing gas pollutants or protecting against CO poisoning.
The ability of an air purifier to remove carbon monoxide depends on the type and quality of the air filter, the size of the space being purified, and the concentration of carbon monoxide.
Air purifiers are unlikely to be effective in the following situations:
Major Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Air purifiers can effectively remove small amounts of carbon monoxide. However, if you have a lot of gas seeping into your home, they aren’t going to be able to do the job.
The purifier won’t be able to clean the extremely dangerous gas from your air supply quickly enough, and you could end up inhaling it before it’s filtered. This can lead to headaches and dizziness, and if there is enough exposure, it can even cause death. 
If you think you have a carbon monoxide leak or you start to experience any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave your home immediately and consult a doctor and then a professional. They’ll be able to get rid of it quickly and hopefully remove any other gaseous pollutants.
Poor Maintenance Of The Air Purifier Filter
Some air purifiers can help remove pollutants like carbon monoxide from the air through filters and other mechanisms. However, if their filters are not properly maintained, they’ll become saturated and less effective at removing pollutants.
Filters in an air purifier can become clogged with particles and other debris, reducing their effectiveness. An activated carbon filter, in particular, can become saturated and ineffective if it is not changed regularly. If the carbon filter can’t absorb all of the carbon monoxide in the air, the gas will build up and become extremely dangerous.
It is vital to clean or replace the filters regularly, such as every three to six months, depending on the type of filter and usage. Monitoring the air purifier for signs of reduced effectiveness is also important.
How to Safely Remove Carbon Monoxide From The Air?
The best way to remove carbon monoxide from the air is to identify the source (typically gas appliances) and address it. Here are two more solutions:
Carbon Monoxide Ventilation System
Using a complete ventilation system that includes a carbon monoxide detector to measure the levels in the air is an excellent way to get rid of CO. The carbon monoxide monitor will trigger a series of fans to operate automatically and blow clean air into your home. This will help vent the air and leave you breathing easily.
A high-quality CO ventilation system can identify and eliminate carbon monoxide in trace amounts using advanced filters and a high-powered fan system. This ensures that the air inside your home or workspace is safe to breathe.
Both Austin Air and Dyson (most well-known for their vacuum cleaners) manufacture effective carbon monoxide ventilation systems. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions and specifications because some ventilation systems can be expensive to run (and very expensive to buy).
Carbon Monoxide Scrubber
CO scrubbers work similarly to an air purifier by removing unwanted gas from your home. Carbon monoxide scrubbers use a chemical process called adsorption to capture carbon monoxide and other gases. However, like air purifiers, they have limitations and may not be effective in all situations.
Scrubbers can help keep your space free from unhealthy pollutants, but if you suspect a carbon monoxide leak, you should always contact a professional to identify and address the source of the problem.
Considerations When Choosing An Air Purifier For CO At Home
Not every air purifier can deal with CO, and there are a few key aspects you should look out for:
Adequate Size of An Air Purifier
Your air purifier should always be suitable for the space it’s working in. If an air purifier is too small for the space it is trying to clean, it may not be able to effectively filter all of the air and remove the carbon monoxide.
As a general rule, your purifier should be able to clean the air in a room in about 15 minutes. This rating is described as Air Change per Hour (ACH). Your air purifier will have an ACH rating and it’s best if it’s rated to handle a room bigger than the one it’ll be in.
To work out the level of ACH you need, you have to calculate the volume of air in your room. There is a complicated equation for this, but you’re probably best using an online calculator to help you. As a general rule, you should look for an ACH rating of 4 or higher. 
Airflow Matches Your Room Size
Alongside the volume of the space, you also need to choose an air purifier that can deal with the airflow. Ideally, the air you breathe will have gone through the purifier to minimize potential health risks.
That means selecting a purifier that matches the airflow.
You’ll have to buy a bigger purifier for large living spaces with heavy use. You’ll be able to get away with something smaller in small spaces.
You’ll need to consider the purifier’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). The CADR measures the purifier’s ability to remove particles from the air. A larger room will require a higher CADR, while a smaller space may be adequately served by a lower CADR.
You should also consider the placement of the air purifier within the room to maximize airflow and ensure that all the air in the room is being effectively purified.
Filters That Can Remove Carbon Monoxide
True HEPA Filter
True HEPA filters are a powerful tool. They can eliminate 99.97% of particles and take out impurities that are under 0.3 micrometers in size. This is as good as filtration technology gets and is important for taking out all of the pollutants from your air supply.
However, HEPA filters are not designed to remove gases, as they are only effective at capturing solid particles like dust, allergens, and bacteria. Carbon monoxide and smoke are gases that may contain some particles that can be captured by HEPA filters, the filters themselves are not designed to capture gases.
To remove gases like carbon monoxide, your HEPA filter should be aired with an activated carbon filter or another specialized filter designed to remove specific gases.
An Activated Carbon Filter
Carbon air filters attract gaseous particles like carbon monoxide as air passes through them. The particles stick to the carbon, essentially taking them out of the air.
Not every activated carbon filter is the same, though, and you should look for a good quality filter with real granules if you want results. The effectiveness of an activated carbon filter depends on the type and quality of the carbon, the amount of carbon in the filter, and the airflow rate.
Some specialist air purifiers come with a built-in carbon monoxide monitor. This allows the device to track the levels of impurities in the air, help to manage it, and alert you if it reaches dangerous levels.
Some brands like Dyson incorporate this technology as standard, and if you think CO may be a risk in your home, it’s worthwhile investing in a purifier that has this capability.
However, these monitors are not designed to replace standalone carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide monitors in air purifiers are meant to provide an additional layer of protection against adverse health effects and help the air purifier operate more efficiently.
Air Purifiers & Carbon Monoxide FAQs
Can air purifiers emit carbon monoxide?
Air purifiers cannot emit carbon monoxide. CO is only emitted when there is combustion, and it tends to come from vehicle exhaust, fireplaces, water heater, motor vehicles, gas ovens, and other gas appliances.
Will opening windows reduce carbon monoxide?
Opening a window can help improve ventilation and reduce the amount of carbon monoxide in your home. However, if there is an ongoing leak, you need to find out where the gas is coming from, or it will continue to be a hazard.
How can you tell if there’s carbon monoxide in your home?
To tell if there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home, you need a carbon monoxide detector. CO is nearly impossible to detect without specific equipment, so it’s a legal requirement for all enclosed spaces with a bedroom to have a CO2 monitor installed. 
How do you check for carbon monoxide without a detector?
You cannot check for carbon monoxide without a detector. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it is an odorless and tasteless gas. The only reliable way to detect carbon monoxide is by using a carbon monoxide detector, which can detect even low levels of the gas and alert you to its presence.
Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous Outside?
Yes, carbon monoxide can be dangerous in outdoor air, especially in areas with high levels of traffic or other sources of emissions. Exposure outdoors can result in the same health effects as being exposed indoors.
What does carbon monoxide poisoning make you feel like?
Carbon monoxide can make you feel dizzy and weak. When inhaled, carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream and reduces the amount of oxygen carried by the blood, leading to headaches, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you experience these symptoms, leave your home immediately and seek professional medical assistance.
Is Carbon Dioxide As Dangerous as Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon dioxide is not as immediately dangerous as carbon monoxide, but it can be harmful in high concentrations. Breathing in high levels can cause headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure to elevated carbon dioxide levels can lead to more serious health problems.
My heart will always skip a beat when someone mentions carbon monoxide. The gas is potentially lethal and really difficult to detect.
However, some air purifiers can help detect carbon monoxide, and top-of-the-line purifiers may remove small amounts from the air in your home.
This will help control the air quality but even the best air purifier won’t provide complete protection. Always ensure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and test it frequently to ensure it’s working.