UW News

September 15, 2020

Video: How to make your own home air purifier

UW News


With wildfire smoke driving down air quality across much of the western U.S. this week, it’s important to protect yourself from smoky air. Health officials recommend staying indoors, keeping windows and doors shut, and wearing a mask if you have to go outside to reduce exposure to the significant health risks of wildfire smoke.

If you don’t have air conditioning or an air purifier in your home, it’s possible to make your own inexpensive purifier using a standard 20-inch box fan and filter available at hardware stores or online. These filters can help remove harmful smoke particles, which are very small and can enter our lungs and cause short- and long-term health problems.

Dan Jaffe is a professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at UW Bothell who studies wildfire smoke, wildfire plumes and global transport of pollutants. He recently demonstrated to UW News how to make your own home air purifier.

“I’ve been testing these and I’ve found in a small room, like an office or a small bedroom, I can go from pretty dirty air, turn this on, and within an hour that room is cleaned up to healthy levels of air quality,” Jaffe said.

He added it’s a good idea to turn off the fan when you leave the room.

Older homes often “leak” air more than newer homes, meaning that smoke can easily enter the building even if doors and windows are shut.

Importantly, inequalities in our communities mean that not every home provides good protection from smoke, and many workers in disadvantaged populations can’t afford to stay home, said Anjum Hajat, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UW School of Public Health.

“We know that disadvantaged communities tend to live in older housing and more crowded housing,” Hajat said. “The messaging we get from public health says we need to stay indoors, but, if you’re living in a home that’s pretty leaky, then you’re getting minimal protection from staying indoors. So poorer and minority communities who tend to live in older homes will be less protected from wildfire smoke.”

Learn more about how to make your own home air purifier on Jaffe’s blog. Read about how wildfires disproportionately harm poorer communities here.

More information on smoke and wildfires: