The Straight Dope on Ionizers?

My well-meaning but gullible hippie sister bought our mother an ionizer for her bedroom. “It’ll clean and freshen the air and get rid of the litterbox smell and dust,” she says.

I don’t want to call “banana oil” on this till I do some research, but I can’t find anything but ionizer sales on the Internet. I’m sure the things are perfectly harmless, but do they actually accomplish anything?

Consumer Reports did a feature on these a while back and came to the conclusion that they don’t work. While they do remove stuff from the air, they simply don’t have the capacity to keep a room’s volume of air well-filtered.

The report is available online (I know, I read it), google just isn’t being cooperative right now.

My father uses a big ass ionizer when he is machining plastic. It keeps an electrostatic charge from building up on the parts and the milled off flakes. The scraps don’t fly around or stick to stuff that way. Much easier to clean up. His ionizer has a big squirrel cage blower and the snout of the thing is a couple of inches across. It blows right onto the work piece.

I also worked in a two-way radio factory where one of the work benches had a big honking ionizer hanging above it. That also kept the static charges down so that the radios didn’t get zapped while being worked on. Most of us got a long with grounding straps, though.

Those piddly little jobbies you can buy probably won’t do much for you, though. Look at the size of the ionizer and consider the amount of air they can contact. Now consider the size of the room. Nah. Not much going to happen.

I wouldn’t be so quick to make that assumption. The EPA has some thoughts on the whole thing:

Reasons are given, check out the page. Basically at “safe” ozone levels there is no real help with odor/etc. And there are real health concerns.

Is an ionizer and an ozone generator the same thing?

Doesn’t that make his pants fit funny?

Yeah. And you oughta see the sparks that fly when he farts …

Not quite.

An ionizer places a negative charge on molecules.

An Ozone Generator combines Oxygen molecules, O2, to form Ozone or O3.

The tall tower ionizer air cleaners filter and collect a lot of fine particles in a month, BUT as mentioned above they are not very efficient, over-rated and over-priced.

Sorry, but what? Is this a regionalism that would mean like, well, “snake oil”? I only ask not to be a smartass, but rather I remember banana oil as being that stuff we were gassed with in the military.

Oh, yeah, per the OP, my new house has what I think maybe could be an ionizer, but there’s very little information about them on the web. It’s an electronic furnace filter. Are these worthless like those household air cleaner ionizers are? In this case, all of the return air passes through the metal veins. I washed it in the dishwasher once, and it’s been to recent to see if there’s too much muck on it to indicate if it’s something worthwhile, or whether the previous owner was duped.

1920s slang. “Ba-nanner oil,” “applesauce,” bunkum."

My sister also bought one of those little hook-on water purifiers, and a friend of mine who is a water-tester for NY State told me “the only way a water purifier would do any real good is if it were the size of a Volkswagen. Those little hook-on things will only filter out huge, chunky impurities.”

That’s enough to make it taste better, and it’s not like unfiltered tap water is going to kill you (at least in America, anyway), so I’d say they do their job just fine.

I based my purchase of an electrostatic air filter off that Consumer Reports article. The top performing air filter was an electrostatic (the one I bought), but the worst performing one was also an ionizer (an Ionic Breeze or a knockoff). The reason the Ionic Breeze did so poorly was because it had no fan to circulate air through it. It was, therefore, the quietest one tested (which was probably a major concern in its design).

Electrostatic air filters can get the job done, but don’t expect charged plates to generate wind very well. They can also be tough to clean, are very expensive, and occasionally make a crackling noise.

IMHO, if all you need is to remove a smell, any cheapo activated-charcoal filter will do just fine.

I had one of the first ones of these when they first came out ( I do not believe the company is even still in business).

Anyway they touted their product as creating the smell just after a thunderstorm (ozone), but also claimed its purifaction qualities were excellent.

Well, maybe…

The ozone smell was pleasant, yes, but did it do away with odors? I don’t think so. Covered them up, perhaps, but nothing more than the ozone smell was created.

I didn’t do a fart test, okay? :smiley:

This thing was called “Living Air” and I bought one from one of those “Amway-type” distributors. It looks like a bookshelf speaker, and it died on me about a year ago. You had to clean the glass panels inside of it with ammonia and if you ever broke one, you were screwed.

So I would agree that those things don’t work, but Clark Howard had some on his websipte recently that were supposed to stack up very well against those offered by Sharper Image (Quadra 4?).

So has anyone come across one you woulkd recommend?



From Consumer Reports. Note: this is not the original Oct. 2003 reports on air cleaners. That requires a paid subscription.

These work well in clean rooms, plastic film handling facilities and the like.