How Can I Make a Homemade Air Purifier?

During emergencies that produce air pollution, the demand for air purifiers exceeds the supply. Homemade air purifiers come to the rescue, as they’re not only affordable, but anyone can make them. If the answer is yes, how do you suppose you can make a homemade air purifier?

You can make a homemade air purifier with several methods, including taping one or more air filters to a fan. You can also insert a fan into a wooden or plastic container covered by filters on all sides. Whatever the design or method, homemade air purifiers are workable and help clean the air in a space.

This article explores the possibility of making a homemade air purifier and how to create one. I also discuss the ease of making a homemade air purifier and if one is as effective as any other air purifier.

Can I Make a Homemade Air Purifier?

Particulate matter (PM) and foul odors can pollute the air within your home, making it unbreathable and unhealthy. Air purifiers are devices that remove such pollutants with the help of a mechanical filter or other purifying technology.

Particulate matter comprises chemicals like carbon, nitrates, mineral dust, or sulfates, and you can find them in fire smoke (burning organic matter). Ultrafine particulate matter—PM2.5—is 30x thinner than the average human hair strand. If inhaled, it can plant itself deep into lung tissue, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. 

Air purifiers offer vital protection against air pollution to you and your family, more so in emergencies like wildfires. Sometimes, you may be unable to get a regular air purifier. This is especially common when there’s a sudden outbreak of air pollution and people are scrambling for air purifiers. 

If you’re ever in a bind and you wonder if you can make your air purifier, yes, you can. Since the essential components of an air purifier are a fan and a filter, you can combine these two components. It doesn’t have to be a sophisticated design. 

As long as you follow some simple guidelines, you can make a homemade air purifier. These DIY air purifiers can trap particulate matter that cause various short- and long-term health problems. In addition, since you can make a homemade air purifier, you won’t have to worry about the effects of air pollution when an emergency comes knocking.

If you want to improve your indoor air quality without breaking the bank, you can also use a homemade air purifier. Unfortunately, most reputable air purifiers cost hundreds of dollars, and not everyone can afford them. Regardless, everyone should have access to cleaner, fresher air.

How Can I Make a Homemade Air Purifier?

As I mentioned above, air purifiers can be costly. However, you can make a cheaper one with a few simple household products and a filter. Additional, there are different ways to make a DIY air purifier, so you can select one that’s right for you.

Before I describe the different methods of making a homemade air purifier, here are some factors to consider:

The type of filter: HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) and MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) filters are ideal for making DIY air purifiers. The MERV rating describes a filter’s effectiveness in stopping particles of different sizes from passing through, and higher ratings show more effectiveness. 

Since houses often use between MERV 5-13, these filters are suitable for a homemade air purifier. HEPA filters have 99.97% as the minimum efficiency rating for filtering particles sized 0.3 microns or greater. This means only three out of 10,000 particles sized 0.3 microns will pass through a HEPA filter while it traps the others.

HEPA filters have a higher efficiency than MERV filters, so they are the best if you’re going for maximum protection.

The room size: The size of the room you plan to use the air purifier in matters. These DIY ‘fan filters’ are perfect for small spaces of about 10 x 10 feet. If you use them in bigger rooms, they might not be as effective. If necessary, you can use multiple air purifiers in a space.

Where to place the air purifier: Like regular air purifiers, you should set your DIY unit in the room where you spend the most time. It’s best to put it in a room that you can keep clean and comfortable. You can easily maintain the air quality of a smaller space than an entire house.

The primary pieces of equipment for making a homemade air purifier are a fan, filter, and duct or sealing tape. Additional tools vary based on the type of DIY air purifier you’ll be making. Here are some methods of making a homemade air purifier:

The Smart Air design

This is probably the most straightforward air purifier design you can use, and the steps are:

  • First, buy a fan, preferably one with a flat front or back.
  • Next, buy an air filter that meets your needs—HEPA or MERV.
  • Remove the front grate of the fan, turn the power setting to the highest, and take off the control knob. The knob can sometimes obstruct the filter’s placement.
  • Tie the filter to the front of the fan using a string or zip ties. 

Since you’ve removed the control knob, you can control the new air purifier by plugging and unplugging it.

The Ford-Lasko design

This design includes a cardboard stand and places the fan above the floor. Here’s how to put it together:

  • Construct the base/cardboard stand following the easy-to-assemble die-cut base.
  • Insert a 20 x 20 x 4 filter (HEPA or MERV 13) into the platform.
  • Place a 20-inch box fan on the filter, face down. Ensure the airflow is moving toward the base’s feet. This will pull unfiltered air from above and release filtered air downward.
  • Situate the air purifier in the room’s center, a few feet away from the walls. If there’s an HVAC return in the space, it’s best to place the unit near it.

Your air purifier is ready to use. Always set the fan at the highest power setting to enjoy maximum filtration. 

The HEPA homemade air purifier

Additional equipment includes four zip ties and a screwdriver. It’ll be best to use a square or flat fan or any fan with an even back. To make a visually appealing and compact air purifier, the HEPA filter should match the dimensions of the fan. 

Assembling this air purifier takes a few minutes with these steps:

  • Make four holes towards the corner of the filter’s fabric (not frame) using the screwdriver.
  • Place the filter on the back of the fan with the arrow for airflow direction pointing towards the fan. The arrow is usually on the side of the filter frame.
  • Put the zip ties through the holes you’ve made in the filter.
  • Attach the filter to the fan with the zip ties and cinch them tightly. You can also use some duct tape instead of zip ties.

The HEPA filter might be pricier than other filters, but it’s a worthy investment. It’s also an ideal substitute air purifier for people dealing with allergies or asthma.

The Wooden air purifier

Making this air purifier requires a little finesse, so attempt this if you’re at least a DIY mid-level veteran. Equipment required here includes an old wooden furniture item—like a bedside table—a drill, three filters, an air vent, and a motorized fan. Here are the steps to assemble this purifier:

  • Remove three side panels from the wooden furniture item, leaving one panel plus the poles and bottom.
  • Put the three filters in place of the wooden panels and screw them to the wood.
  • Cut a small opening on the fourth wooden panel and install a small air vent as the air exit point.
  • Drill a hole to run the fan’s wire through the wooden panel or the filter’s fabric.
  • Place the motorized fan within the box you’ve created or screw it to an opening cut in the furniture’s cover.

The air purifier is ready for use. You can make it fancier, for example, by creating enclaves to slide the filters (aids replacement).

The Corsi airbox

This is my favorite DIY air purifier design, and it’s easy to assemble. You’ll need a lot of duct tape, and things might go faster if you have someone helping. Here are the steps:

  • Cut out two cardboard sheets according to the size of the box fan.
  • Set one cardboard sheet on a table and stack four air filters on the edges of the sheet. Ensure the airflow arrow is pointing inside the enclosure.
  • Secure each filter to the cardboard sheet and each other using duct tape.
  • Place the fan on top of the ‘box’ you’ve created and secure it with duct tape.
  • Create a circular shroud with the second cardboard sheet according to the fan diameter. Tape it to the fan to prevent backflow from the corners of the box fan.

Whatever design you go with, remember that you’ll have to change the filters often. Continuous use of a dirty filter does not differ from breathing polluted air directly. 

If you use the method that ties a filter to a fan, ensure you seal the entire perimeter. You can use clear packing tape for the perimeter seal, as any gap would allow unfiltered air to pass through.

Is It Easy to Make a Homemade Air Purifier?

Homemade air purifiers are pretty easy to make. Whether or not you are a DIY veteran, you can create one. The ease runs from the materials, through the assembly, and down to the maintenance.

The estimated cost of a homemade air purifier is between $120 to $170, and you can make one within 10 to 20 minutes. If you make any mistakes when assembling the device, at most, it’ll take you an extra 10 minutes to get everything sorted.

Tips for Using a Homemade Air Purifier

Setting up a homemade air purifier is easy, but you should pay attention to these tips to ensure safety and efficiency:

  1. Use the unit in the space you spend the most time in, and a smaller room is better.
  2. Close all doors and windows while using the air purifier to prevent polluted air from re-entering the space.
  3. Keep the air purifier in the room’s center, away from large objects, walls, and dirty areas. This ensures maximum airflow towards the air purifier.
  4. Don’t use the unit near water or the bathroom to avoid electrical accidents.
  5. When using the air purifier, keep it on for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Although overheating might be a concern, most fans made after 2012 have thermal fuses that prevent them from overheating. Regardless, it would be best to turn the air cleaner off when you’re not at home or don’t need it.
  7. Stick with high-grade filters (like MERV 13) and remember to change them at least every three months.

Is Homemade Air Purifier Effective?

Homemade air purifiers have been on the scene for years, and there’s a reason people still turn to them when necessary. Although these DIY purifiers have undergone few tests and trials, they have shown promising results so far.

The results from the few trials show they can limit the number of harmful particles in a room, and they can do so in under 30 minutes. Of course, your homemade air purifier’s effectiveness also depends on the type of pollutant you’re targeting. For example, a MERV 13 filter tied to a box fan has shown 80% effectiveness against smoke particles.

Since smoke particles are relatively small (0.4 to 0.7 microns), it’s reasonable to conclude that the air purifier can trap larger particles. However, you cannot compare this efficiency to regular air purifiers. Standard air purifiers often undergo rigorous and standardized tests before they hit the market.

They are also designed to withstand external factors that a homemade air purifier may not handle. For example, a factory-made unit can run 24/7, but your DIY box fan cannot. 

In summary, homemade air purifiers are suitable for temporary use. The filters you attach to a box fan can handle the various particulate matter, but the simple setup has limitations. However, it’s reassuring that you can always whip something up in emergencies.

There’s no overemphasizing the importance of breathing clean air. Finally, having the most basic air cleaning device is better than going without when push comes to shove.