Air Purifier or Air Cleaner

Generally speaking the layman will use ‘air purifier’ as their description of what they are after and generally speaking suppliers of these machines will quietly assume that the layman may be looking for either an air cleaner or an air purifier, then ask a few questions in order to discover which.

Just in case you don’t know, air purifiers work at a molecular level and in broad terms tinker with the chemistry of the air, or indeed the DNA of micro organisms, and air cleaners move air through a filter medium or mechanism to remove particles and or droplets.  Basically;

  • Air cleaners – remove lumpy stuff and droplets.
  • Air purifiers – alter chemistry and biology

I nearly fell off my chair when I read a brand new manufacturers brochure (old expensive paper type) where consistently air cleaners were being described in print, as air purifiers. Now as one of the biggest manufacturers in the market this may be viewed as a surprising error. Actually no. The surprising thing is that it was a printed mistake. If it had been a webpage or pdffile then no mistake. You see this is one of the many examples where web search traffic is driving the development and meaning of language.

I mentioned the layman earlier. If fault has to be laid down somewhere, it is at the layman’s door. Because people search for ‘air purifier’ more than 10 times more often than ‘air cleaner’, irrespective of what they are actually looking for, suppliers keen to have their products found in the market, wrestle with the problem for a few moments and then relabel their air cleaners as air purifiers. This over time reinforces the use of language as browsers are rewarded with the numerous  air cleaners (labeled as air purifiers) and actual air purifiers.

So whats next? There is no doubt that ‘air cleaner’ is becoming a term of the past, and it will come to pass that air purifiers will be subdivided into air cleaners, Ionizers, UV air purifiers etc.  As pig headed traditionalists we will continue to buck the trend and refer to air cleaners as air cleaners, but whether our market will know what we are on about is another matter.