Many cannabis consumers, especially those who enjoy smoking indoors, swear by air filters to help improve air quality and eliminate the odor of cannabis smoke. But do air filters actually work to get rid of cannabis’ signature pungent smell? And if so, which filters are up to the task?
Why Use an Air Filter
Simply put, air filters help to remove pollutants and odors from the air. It is well-known that tobacco smoke is notoriously bad smelling, but can also make indoor spaces some 2.5 times more polluted than outdoor air. But tobacco smoke is not the lone culprit in dirtying up indoor air; a study by San Diego State University found that many things contribute to indoor pollution, including electronics, furniture, cleaning products, candles, frying food, and yes – cannabis smoke.
Smoking cannabis inside can allow the smell to bind to walls and textiles if they are are not trapped by an air filter right away. Photo credit: Shutterstock
With air pollution comes respiratory risks, especially for those with asthma, allergies, the young, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. Smoke has a tendency to stick to walls, furniture, carpet, and bedding, and once smoke has attached to the surface, it begins the process of off-gassing,
or releasing airborne particles called volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the air. The effects of VOCs
range from the mildly irritating – like headaches and fatigue – to the downright deadly. And even though VOCs are easily sniffed out (if you’ve ever heard of “new car smell,” that is VOCs at work) they may also be odorless, though unhealthy all the same. So, why use an air filter for cannabis smoke? In addition to simply helping with smell, air filters can improve the actual quality of the air.
Types of Air Filters
To pick the best filter for your home you’ll need to keep a few things in mind, like the amount of square footage you’d like to freshen up, what kind of filtration (ionization, HEPA, or carbon), price point, and design. And of course, you’ll want to find a purifier that actually works - because some just don’t.
Remember to include the size of the room your filter will be cleaning when choosing which one you want. Photo credit: Shutterstock
There are three main types of air purifiers that approach the problem in different ways, with varying levels of effectiveness.
Air ionizers work by using electricity to emit negative ions that electrically charge air molecules. These negative ions attract air particles that fall on a charged collector plate or mechanical air filter. Unlike other filters, ionization does not use fans and does not require filter replacement. However, charged ions may produce ozone, which can irritate asthma symptoms.
Carbon Air Filters
Carbon air filters work by filtering gasses through a bed of activated carbon (aka activated charcoal). Carbon filters, used frequently by cannabis businesses to mitigate odor, are also used in homes to remove VOC’s and odors, though they do not work for dust, dander, and pollen.
High efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filters are frequently utilized in air purifiers and are considered to be very effective at removing odor and pollutants. HEPA filters work by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful and smelly particles. Interestingly, in order for a filter to receive a HEPA designation, it must trap 99.7 percent of particulates.
Regardless of whether you consume cannabis indoors or not, having an air purifier in the home is a great tool to keep the air clean and reduce pollen, dust, smells, and VOCs. But with so many out there, which is the best to help reduce the smell of cannabis?
HEPA filters like Alen Breathe-Smart Customizable Air Cleaner rank at the top for neutralizing cannabis odors. Photo Credit: Alen According to Fresh Air Guide,
the top air filter pick to eliminate the smell of cannabis and tobacco smoke is the Alen Breathe-Smart Customizable Air Cleaner with HEPA-Pure Filter. Chosen because of its sleek design and ability to purify a large space – up to 1,100 square feet, it also features sensors that consistently check the purification level and automatically adjust filtration. Other brands
that have received high marks in quality and efficacy are Levoit, Blue Air, Phillips, Honeywell, Rabbit, Hathaspace, and Winix. Before deciding, be sure to at least estimate the square footage of the space you’d like to clean up scent-wise, and check out some reviews to help you narrow the search.
So, do air filters actually get rid of the smell of cannabis smoke? Buying a quality HEPA filter certainly seems like the best option, but only if you use it whenever you consume indoors. To get the most benefit from your filter, run it regularly and replace filters at the manufacturer’s suggested recommendation.
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, Wordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.