Air Ionizer Working Principle – Benefits and Risks Explained

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

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Holly Curell

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Key Takeaways

  • Air Ionizers are devices that clean the air by releasing negative ions. These ions attach to the harmful particles charging them up negatively and causing them to attract to positive or neutral surfaces.
  • There are different types of Ionizers and they are all effective against dust particles, smoke, bacteria and viruses. 
  • Unlike air purifiers with HEPA filters, air ionizers do not trap airborne contaminants.

If you want to breathe clean and healthy air at home, an ionizer might just be what you need. By releasing negative ions into the air, an ionizer can effectively remove harmful particles such as dust, smoke, and bacteria, leaving you with clean and healthy air.

My ionizer has helped reduce the dust and allergens in my home and eliminate unpleasant odors that tend to linger.

If you’re considering purchasing an ionizer, it’s essential to understand the benefits and potential risks before purchasing.

So let’s dive deeper into the world of ionizers to better understand their benefits and potential risks.

What Exactly Is An Ionizer?

An air ionizer filters unwanted particles from the air in your home and provides you with cleaner air. They work using ions, which are tiny molecules with an electrical charge. 

I know, I thought it sounded like something from a science fiction movie, but the way it works is pretty simple.

Ionizers release negative air ions into the air to attach themselves to positive particles (impurities in your air), causing them to clump together and land on surfaces, thus removing them from the air supply. 

They come in various shapes and sizes, and most use a fan to circulate air and disperse ions. Ionizers are often part of an air purifying system used in conjunction with a purifier with a filter to remove more impurities from the air. 

While ionizers have been shown to be effective in removing some airborne particles like smoke and viruses, their effectiveness is debated, and they may may not be as effective in removing larger particles like dust.

They also do not work as air purifiers on their own. That’s why I use my ionizer in combination with air purifiers and other air-cleaning technologies.

How Does An Ionizer Work? (Different Types Explained)

Air ionizers use electricity to produce negatively charged ions. Those ions are released into the air, thereby charging the air molecules in your environment.

When the ions are released, they are circulated throughout the home with a fan. 

Then, a negative ion will attach to a positively charged particle in the air, like smoke or other pollutants. Finally, they clump together, removing the impurities from the air and settling them on surfaces like walls, floors, and ceilings.

When negative ions attach to positive particles, they produce ozone as a byproduct.

Large quantities of ozone can be harmful, and I don’t want anything in my home that’s harmful. However, in small amounts, it can help neutralize certain bacteria and viruses, making them less harmful. 

While ionizers can effectively remove certain airborne particles, they may be less effective in removing larger particles like dust. It’s essential to use ionizers in conjunction with filtered air purifiers and other cleaning methods for optimal results.

There are 3 main types of ionizers:

Bipolar Ionization

Bipolar ionization is a relatively new technology still being tested in real-world conditions. The technology generates positive and negative ions that can reduce pollutants in the air.

However, it also carries the risk of producing more ozone, which can harm your health. While bipolar ionization has the potential to deactivate viruses, caution should be taken when using this type of device.

Ionizer On Fans

This is the most common type of air ionizer that uses a fan system to circulate and ventilate the air in a room. These ionizers emit negative ions that attach to positive particles, eliminating impurities.

As a negative ion travels throughout the room, it attracts and neutralizes pollutants, resulting in a marked improvement in indoor air quality.

Ionizer On Air Purifier

Air purifiers are devices designed to improve indoor air quality. Electronic air cleaners will use filters and fans to remove specific impurities from the air. Some models also have an ionizer, which can enhance their effectiveness by up to 40%.

While an air ionizer on its own may be less effective, ionic air purifiers can have a noticeable impact on air quality.

Benefits Of Using Ionizers

Some people remain skeptical of ionizers and question their safety (which is fair), but there are some clear benefits to using them:

Effective Against Smoke

Ionizers are generally effective in removing smoke and its odors. Negative ions released by ionizers attach to smoke particles changing their structure, making them clump together and fall out of the air.

This process can significantly reduce the amount of smoke and odor in the air, making ionizers a valuable tool for those who smoke or are exposed to smoke. However, they still shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole means of smoke reduction or removal.

Effective Against Bacteria & Viruses

Ionizers help deactivate bacteria which can stop viruses from forming. This helps keep your home more hygienic and protects you and your family from infections. If anyone in your home has a weakened immune system, this can be a game changer.

While ionizers have been shown to be effective against some viruses, including SARS, there needs to be more research to prove their effectiveness against COVID-19. It is always recommended to use a combination of preventative measures, like using air purifiers with filters and ionizers to keep your indoor air safe.

Quiet And Economical Cleaning

Air purifiers can be noisy and disruptive, but ionizers provide a quieter alternative to effectively neutralize bacteria and other impurities without disturbing you.

Ionizers are also relatively inexpensive to operate compared to some air purifying systems and consume less electricity, leading to significant savings on your energy bill.

Health Benefits

Ionizers have several health benefits, like reducing airborne allergens and certain types of pollutants.

They can also reduce static electricity, and limited scientific evidence also shows that air ionization could help regulate sleeping patterns, decrease stress levels, and increase immune function.

Just keep in mind that they do release ozone, which can be harmful.

What Are The Things That An Ionizer Is Ineffective For?

Ionizers can be a valuable tool for improving indoor air quality, but they have some limitations. They cannot remove foul odors from paints, cleaning supplies, or other sources. They also cannot remove gasses from the air.

Additionally, ionizers are not effective at reducing asthma or allergy triggers, like dust or pollen. So, it’s important not to rely solely on an air ionizer to prevent asthma attacks or other respiratory issues.

And since ionizers are ozone-generating air cleaners, they can cause throat irritation, chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath. This can be particularly problematic for people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Prolonged exposure to ozone can lead to long-term lung issues and worsening asthma. If you have any respiratory problems, avoiding ozone generators altogether is best.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What does the ion button do on a Lasko fan?

The ion button on a Lasko fan releases negatively charged ions to attach to positive ions so they can remove some impurities from the air.

Can you be in the room with an air ionizer?

You can be in the room with an air ionizer. However, it’s recommended that you open a window or run it when nobody is present.

What is better, HEPA or ionic?

Determining whether a HEPA purifier or an ionizer is better depends on your needs. HEPA filters are more effective at removing small pollutant particles, odors, pet dander, and dust than air ionization. Choosing a HEPA air purifier with ionic functionality gives the best results.

Do ionizers remove odors?

Ionizers do not remove most odors.

How do ionizers kill viruses?

Ionizers don’t necessarily “kill” viruses. However, they can help deactivate them by producing negative ions that attach to and neutralize positive ions, including viruses.


I love using all of the latest technologies, so ionizers are right up my alley. For the cleanest possible air, I pair my ionizer with an air cleaner to maximize its effectiveness.

With a better understanding of how ionizers work and their potential benefits and limitations, you can make an informed decision that fits your needs and ensures the health and safety of you and your loved ones.

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Josh Mitchell


Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

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Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner

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